Report: Here are the latest projections for nursing demand by state

Written by Kate Lopaze

The good news about a career in nursing right now is that demand is growing for registered nurses—and it’s not expected to slow down anytime soon. In fact, rumors about looming nursing shortages are a huge concern for the healthcare industry, given that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for registered nurses will grow by an eye-opening 19% by 2024. All of this means that if you’re thinking about a career as a nurse, now could be the best time to take that next step.

However, nursing careers aren’t growing at the same rate everywhere. Let’s look at how the demand and outlook for registered nurses are shaping up all over the country, broken down by region.

The Northeast

Includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

As a region, the Northeast has some of the most nurse-dense states in the country, likely due to the high concentration of the population and the number of major cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, both New York and Pennsylvania were in the top five states for registered nurse employment. Here’s how much the demand for registered nurses in northeastern states is expected to grow by 2024:

  • Connecticut: 29%
  • Maine: 32%
  • Massachusetts: 25%
  • New Hampshire: 28%
  • New Jersey: 28%
  • New York: 14%
  • Pennsylvania: 39%
  • Rhode Island: 29%
  • Vermont: 28%

This region also features some of the highest median registered nurse salaries, likely given the consistently high demand for qualified nurses. Massachusetts is the highest-paying state for nurses in this region, with a median annual salary of $89,060 (or $42.82 per hour) for nurses. In the Boston area, the pay is even higher, with a median salary of $98,040 (or $47.13 per hour). Throughout the region, nursing salaries are highest in the dense metropolitan areas.

The South

Includes the Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia.

In the South, the demand for nurses is concentrated most fully in cities and suburban areas, with more rural states featuring less nurse employment overall. In the region, Florida (with large population centers like Miami, Tampa, and Orlando) leads the way in nursing employment, with Georgia and North Carolina not far behind.

Here’s how much the demand for registered nurses in southern states is expected to grow by 2024:

  • Alabama: 28%
  • Arkansas: 10%
  • Delaware: 24%
  • Florida: 22%
  • Georgia: 30%
  • Kentucky: 25%
  • Louisiana: 23%
  • Maryland: 27%
  • Mississippi: 17%
  • North Carolina: 19%
  • Oklahoma: 29%
  • South Carolina: 26%
  • Tennessee: 23%
  • Texas: 33%
  • Virginia: 23%
  • Washington, D.C.: 21%
  • West Virginia: 23%

In the South, nursing is poised for major growth and Georgia and Texas are likely to see the biggest increases in demand over the next few years.

As for salary, the District of Columbia is the southern hotspot with the highest median salary for nurses, at $80,010 (or $38.47 per hour). At $68,680 and $33.02 per hour, Texas, too, is significantly above the national median salary for registered nurses ($68,450, or $32.91 per hour). The rest of the region is at or below the national median. However, the much-faster-than-average anticipated growth in demand for registered nurses makes this a region with significant future potential.

The Midwest

Includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

With such a broad range of states and economies, it’s not surprising that the outlook for nurses varies across the Midwest region as well. Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Ohio are currently the states with the highest registered nurse employment, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, demand is growing rapidly outside of those states, across the region.

Here’s how much the demand for registered nurses in midwestern states is expected to grow by 2024:

  • Illinois: 13%
  • Indiana: 27%
  • Iowa: 24%
  • Kansas: 25%
  • Michigan: 19%
  • Minnesota: 22%
  • Missouri: 18%
  • Nebraska: 12%
  • North Dakota: 22%
  • Ohio: 21%
  • South Dakota: 24%
  • Wisconsin: 24%

Even though Indiana is already leading the way in terms of existing nurse employment, it’s also expected to see some of the biggest growth in the region.

In terms of registered nurse salaries, Minnesota leads the way in the Midwest, with a median salary of $74,460, or $35.80 per hour. In line with national trends, the salaries are highest in the metropolitan areas.

The West

Includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

California is the unquestionable leader in registered nurse employment in this region (and in fact, the country), with a current employment of more than 274,000 registered nurses. Yet it’s not the western state with the biggest expected boom in demand for registered nurses—that honor goes to Idaho.

Here’s how much the demand for registered nurses in western states is expected to grow by 2024:

  • Alaska: 28%
  • Arizona: 31%
  • California: 22%
  • Colorado: 37%
  • Hawaii: 21%
  • Idaho: 40%
  • Montana: 39%
  • Nevada: 17%
  • New Mexico: 26%
  • Oregon: 26%
  • Washington: 22%
  • Wyoming: 26%

The growth in demand for registered nurses is so great in the West that of the 14 states with the highest growth rates, 7 of them are in this region (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Washington). The region also has a significant diversity in population and geography, with a range of opportunities open to registered nurses—from the rugged plains of Montana to the tropical beaches of Hawaii.

Along with the Northeast, the West also features some of the highest median salaries for nurses, with California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Alaska taking four of the top five spots nationally. In California, the median annual salary for nurses is $101,750 (or $48.30 per hour). And the highest paid nurses in California are in the San Francisco metro area, with a median annual salary of $136,610.

If you’re a nurse looking to relocate, or are thinking of getting started on a nursing career, the timing has never been better. The healthcare field in general is growing and hiring at an extremely fast pace, as the country deals with an ever-expanding (and aging) population with diverse health needs. The average age of registered nurses has also gone up by two years over the past decade, meaning that there will also be opportunities available as natural turnover plays out in the industry. And compared to all other jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that the overall demand for registered nurses will grow much faster–16% for nurses, 7% for everyone else.

And if you’re not sure where to get started on your nursing path, we’ve got you covered:

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse

Why Men Should Consider Becoming a Nurse

14 Things You Need to Know as a New Nurse

Create A Winning Registered Nurse Resume!

What You Need to Become a Stellar Nurse

10 of the top nursing programs in the United States

Good luck, and happy roaming to find your new nursing job opportunity!

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.