Article Content

In 2010, we ran our last salary survey report. How has nursing leadership faired since then? The 2010 results were a little bleak due to the shaky economy. This time around, responses have improved slightly following the economy's modest advancement.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

Over 1,000* readers responded to the survey revealing that the average salary has increased since 2010. The average salary of a female U.S. nurse leader is $83,355 and for males it's $89,913; in 2010 the averages were $79,390 and $87,630, respectively.


The past 3 years

Although salaries have increased, not much else has changed since the 2010 survey. Many of you shared that your organizations haven't provided raises or bonuses in over 2 years. "Raises are based on job performance. Although my performance has been excellent, I haven't had a raise in 6 years. I've actually lost $10,000 in pay cuts in the past 6 years as a cost containment strategy to help keep the company viable."


On the positive side, some of you have noted that your organizations are trying to create more incentive bonuses and clinical ladder programs for direct care staff and managers. "I have always believed that my facility's pay scale is very generous. Every few years they do a comprehensive study of regional wages and then adjust our base [pay]. We've received numerous, unexpected raises over the years as they seek to remain competitive in the region. We also have a clinical ladder program, which allows direct care nurses to earn up to 8% over their base pay. It must be renewed every year."

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

The majority of respondents were female (93.6%) and, as already noted, both male and female salaries have increased since 2010. However, female leaders still earn less than their male counterparts. Most of you are nurse managers (30.3%), followed by directors (18.3%), educators (12.4%), and supervisors (4.8%). Almost 23% of you listed "other" as your title, which included CNOs, informaticists, clinical nurse specialists, direct care RNs, and charge nurses. (See Average salary by title.) Most respondents have worked in nursing for over 30 years (32.5%) and only a few have been in the field for 1 to 2 years (2.3%). However, the majority of you have only held your current position for 1 to 2 years (34.3%) compared with the small percentage who've held the same position for over 30 years (0.9%). (See Average salary by years in nursing.) Over half of you (59.2%) indicated that you aren't certified in your clinical specialty. For those who are certified, some of the most common certifications include CCRN, CEN, CMSRN, CNOR, NEA-BC, and ONC.


Salary by system

Most respondents work in a hospital/health system (67.2%) in an urban setting (39.2%), although the suburbs and rural areas weren't too far behind (32.1% and 27.4%, respectively). Nearly half of you who work in a hospital are at community non-profits (48.8%). (See Average salary by work setting.) Most of your organizations have 101 to 300 beds (37.4%), 28.6% have less than 100 beds, and a small percentage have more than 1,000 beds (2.8%).


Almost two thirds of you manage 1 to 50 people and about one third are responsible for a budget of less than $101,000. Approximately one quarter of you handle a budget of $1.1 to $5 million. The majority of respondents manage one hospital (89.4%), one department (54.8%), and/or one unit (48.2%).

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

The top four regions in the United States where our respondents live and/or work are as follows: Eastern North Central (17.2%), South Atlantic (15.3%), West South Central (14.6%), and Middle Atlantic (12.3%). The salaries for these regions vary, but the highest average salary is found in the Pacific region at $103,658, which is higher than the 2010 average of $99,590. (See Average salary by region.)


Over half of you receive a yearly, flat percentage raise instead of a goal-based incentive, but nearly three quarters of you aren't entitled to incentive compensation or bonuses. Approximately 14% of you earn $100,000 to $119,000 yearly. Five percent of respondents make less than $40,000 per year and almost 7% earn more than $130,000 per year. Over half of you said that you received a 0% to 2% salary increase at your last pay raise. In 2010, the average salary increase was 2.3%. (See Pay raise by position and Pay raise by experience.)

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

Many of you average a 40- to 45-hour work week (37.3%) and, fortunately, only a small number of respondents work more than 70 hours a week (1.3%). (See Average salary by weekly work hours). Over half of you feel that you aren't appropriately compensated for your responsibilities and 78.7% of you asked for a raise in the past year. Unfortunately, 77.2% of our respondents didn't receive what they requested.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

Our future

As we all know, the groundbreaking Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, made many recommendations to improve the field of nursing. One such recommendation was to increase the number of nurses with bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees by 2020.1 The good news is that the majority of you already have a BSN (32%), followed closely by those of you with a master's of science in nursing (MSN) degree (25.8%). Only 3% have a doctoral degree-we'll have wait and see if that number grows in the coming years to match the IOM's goal of doubling doctoral-prepared nurses by 2020.1


According to research conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration, these numbers have increased in the past 5 years. MSN degrees increased from 653 in 2007 to 2,196 in 2011; doctoral degrees from 15,182 in 2007 to 24,311 in 2011.2 According to Dr. Richard Hader in 2010, higher education yielded a higher salary.3 That same statement remains true 3 years later. Those with doctoral degrees earn an average salary of $96,574, which is over $18,662 more than nurses with a BSN. (See Average salary by education.)

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

Another section of the IOM report focuses on transforming leadership through programs such as the Magnet Recognition Program.(R) We asked how many of you work at a Magnet(R) facility. The answer was 15.3%, a decrease from 18% in 2010. Following that, only 23.7% of you said that your organization is actively seeking Magnet recognition.


About three quarters of respondents said that their employers match their contribution to a 401 K and/or other retirement program, but also indicated that their employers don't offer health benefits after retirement.


The changing times

Most of you voiced dissatisfaction with your pay based on your responsibilities (56.3%). Research has shown that one way to improve your salary is to continue your education. Expanding your knowledge should be the goal of leaders everywhere, as evidenced by the IOM report recommendations.


As managers, let your voices be heard. Start programs within your institutions that reimburse nurses and leaders who pursue advanced education. Partner with schools of nursing for RN-to-BSN, BSN-to-MSN, and even MSN-to-PhD/DNP programs. As leaders, be cognizant of budgets within your organization; you may be able to implement changes that can financially help your facility, yourself, and your staff members.




1. Institute of Medicine. The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Report recommendations. [Context Link]


2. Health Resources and Services Administration. The U.S. nursing workforce: trends in supply and education. [Context Link]


3. Hader R. Salary survey 2010. Nurs Manage. 2010;41(8):26-31. [Context Link]


* Nursing Management's 2013 salary survey questionnaire was published in the March through June issues of the journal and online at from March 1 to June 6. Data were tabulated from 1,065 respondents. [Context Link]