Personal Finance

Best Cities for Registered Nurses

Best Cities for Registered Nurses

If you aspire to be or already are a registered nurse, then head west — or east. Cities in California and Massachusetts dominated this latest best-city-for-a-profession study, taking up 10 slots in the top 25 of our rankings (full list below).

At ValuePenguin, we believe that the quality of professionals' work life can vary depending upon their field and their city. The better cities for a particular field are those that score well in three categories that affect all registered nurses: median salary, cost of living and location quotient.

5 best cities for nurses

Of the 377 cities reporting data, these five earned our best score, comprising the factors of median salary, cost of living and location quotient.

Speaking of salary, the 2.7 million nurses employed in the U.S. in May 2014 earned $69,790, on average, or an hourly wage of $33.55, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

1. Redding, CA

With strong, top-50 scores in every category we analyzed (full methodology below), Redding took the top spot in our rankings. It's no wonder: two of the city's top four employers are expansive medical centers. Redding is already anticipating even more growth in the attractive job sector.

2. Lawrence, MA*

The first of three Massachusetts cities to rank in the top 10, Lawrence is the least populous city among our top five, but recorded a top 20 location quotient to make up for it.

Statistical region includes: Methuen, MA, and Salem, NH.

3. Hanford, CA*

Despite having just 1,180 nurse positions in its metro area, Hanford checked in at No. 3, in part because its annual average salary ($91,340) was 40% higher than the study's average. The second of four California cities to crack our top 10, it includes the city of Corcoran in its metro area.

Statistical region includes: Corcoran, CA

4. Worcester, MA

Overcoming the fact that it's 16% more expensive to live there than it is in the average American city, Worcester improved from its sixth-place standing in our 2013 study for nurse practitioners. A dozen miles south of Worcester, the most populous city among the top five is Oxford, Mass., the birthplace of pioneering nurse Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross.

5. Ann Arbor, MI

Recording the study's eighth-best location quotient (1.96), a metric that speaks to the demand for a given profession's demand within the city, Ann Arbor rounded out our top five. It doesn't hurt to have the University of Michigan's nationally-ranked nursing program within the city limits. The university's health system had the country's 32nd-largest largest hospital in 2014 — it had 931 beds. There will be another new clinic in the area, thanks to federal grant money stemming from the Affordable Care Act.

Top 100 cities for nurses

Here are the top 100 cities for registered nurses to work and live:

Average Salary
Location Quotient
Cost of Living
1Redding, CA$89,9601,7801.55103105
2Lawrence, MA$78,3702,1901.77103107
3Hanford, CA$91,3401,1801.56103110
4Worcester, MA$90,3506,6701.34116112
5Ann Arbor, MI$69,5807,9901.96112118
6Chico, CA$77,3102,2401.58103127
7New Haven, CT$79,3807,4601.36139129
8Boston, MA$90,88043,4601.22145134
9Rochester, MN$65,6506,7203.24117153
10Durham, NC$67,1608,6101.5285159
11Napa, CA$100,2101,6901.26103159
12Charleston, SC$66,5109,4401.5486160
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These were the three key questions we asked in coming up with the list.

1. What can nurses earn in the city?

We ranked the best cities for nurses based on the median annual pay. Income is likely the most important factor people consider when starting their career or relocating elsewhere. A high salary in an expensive city, however, may be less attractive than a lower salary in an affordable town. Our next metric takes affordability into consideration.

2. How affordable is it to live in this city?

Now that we have the median salary, we’ll look next at the cost of living. The cost of living is a measure of how far earnings can be stretched. Cities with lower cost of living index numbers ranked higher in our study. For example, the average city is benchmarked at 100. A city with a cost of living index of 188, such as Honolulu, would mean that generally speaking, living expenses are 88% more expensive compared to the average city.

3. What is the location quotient for nurses in the city?

A place with a high median salary and low cost of living may seem perfect, but job opportunities may be limited. Our third factor accounts for this by favoring cities with high location quotients. Location quotient measures the concentration of nurses in an area as a percentage of all occupations, and then compares that to the national average. We interpret a higher location quotient to mean a relatively higher demand for a nurse's services.