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.

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Best Five 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, Calif.

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, Mass.

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 this fact. The University of Kansas' nurse residency program, which is one year long, reported that job retention rates for its nurses have been higher than 95% for the past five years.

Statistical region includes: Methuen, Mass., and Salem, N.H.

3. Hanford, Calif.

Despite having just 1,180 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, Calif.

4. Worcester, Mass.

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, Mich.

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:

Rank

CityAverage SalaryJobsLocation QuotientCost of LivingScore

1

Redding, CA$89,9601,7801.55103105

2

Lawrence, MA$78,3702,1901.77103107

3

Hanford, CA$91,3401,1801.56103110

4

Worcester, MA$90,3506,6701.34116112

5

Ann Arbor, MI$69,5807,9901.96112118

6

Chico, CA$77,3102,2401.58103127

7

New Haven, CT$79,3807,4601.36139129

8

Boston, MA$90,88043,4601.22145134

9

Rochester, MN$65,6506,7203.24117153

10

Durham, NC$67,1608,6101.5285159

11

Napa, CA$100,2101,6901.26103159

12

Charleston, SC$66,5109,4401.5486160

13

Providence, RI$75,65013,7201.2590168

14

Kankakee, IL$71,5301,3401.67103169

15

Barnstable Town, MA$79,7302,5401.29103169

16

Vineland, NJ$71,3201,8101.54103178

17

Peabody, MA$73,1402,7601.36103179

18

Cleveland, OH$65,43029,0801.4493185

19

Brockton, MA$84,4502,2201.22103188

20

Waterbury, CT$69,8301,8401.46103190

21

Bangor, ME$66,2002,1201.67103192

22

Killeen, TX$66,5003,6301.4085192

23

Bend, OR$82,9601,6201.24103193

24

Detroit, MI$69,65017,9401.2698194

25

Saginaw, MI$66,0302,6401.58103195

26

Duluth, MN$66,7803,4301.3893197

27

Tacoma, WA$77,5106,3001.1899198

28

Wenatchee, WA$74,2901,0801.36103199

29

Greenville, NC$63,1303,0702.0286202

30

Flint, MI$64,9204,2101.5791202

31

Spokane, WA$73,0805,0001.2490204

32

Philadelphia, PA$74,17043,0401.1692204

33

Jackson, MS$63,2508,0701.6289207

34

Wilmington, DE$71,4308,2401.2395209

35

Augusta, GA$65,1505,8601.44103210

36

Eau Claire, WI$66,5002,2301.42103211

37

New Bedford, MA$73,5801,6801.29103212

38

Camden, NJ$76,37011,4601.1498213

39

Springfield, MA$73,4706,8901.1988215

40

Bay City, MI$69,3609901.42103216

41

Carson, NV$78,0206701.27103219

42

St. Cloud, MN$79,7002,3201.17103220

43

Jackson, MI$64,5302,0001.73103221

44

Modesto, CA$104,3503,3601.0580223

45

Oakland, CA$122,75020,3101.0084225

46

Baltimore, MD$72,69029,7401.16168227

47

Leominster, MA$80,2001,1301.19103229

48

Winston-Salem, NC$61,0008,1101.95106231

49

Asheville, NC$62,0305,6401.6295235

50

Medford, OR$78,3101,7901.16103235

51

Albuquerque, NM$66,7208,9601.2286236

52

Manchester, NH$67,6502,6101.27103239

53

Pueblo, CO$62,7902,0001.79103241

54

Charlottesville, VA$64,1902,8901.48103242

55

Gainesville, FL$60,6605,6102.30103243

56

Milwaukee, WI$67,56018,9401.16102246

57

Allentown, PA$66,0608,3501.2394247

58

Kalamazoo, MI$64,2003,5601.3696247

59

Anchorage, AK$86,2303,6601.0484249

60

Iowa, IA$60,4703,3201.87101256

61

Steubenville, OH$62,8701,3601.69103258

62

Eugene, OR$80,3202,9801.06103260

63

Johnstown, PA$62,1201,8101.69103262

64

Santa Rosa, CA$102,6603,5800.9895262

65

Columbus, OH$65,09023,3901.2190262

66

Miami, FL$63,90026,3401.26112265

67

Florence, SC$60,4703,0001.85103266

68

Salem, OR$77,8603,1101.0586269

69

Hartford, CT$74,16011,7801.0594271

70

Newark, NJ$81,31018,7700.98140276

71

Madison, WI$74,7307,2101.0486281

72

Cumberland, MD$65,0109701.36103282

73

Atlantic City, NJ$73,9802,8601.09103282

74

Springfield, IL$62,4802,9501.36103283

75

Sacramento, CA$105,39015,7500.92125285

76

Dayton, OH$60,77010,2101.39111287

77

Billings, MT$65,1802,0301.26103287

78

Tucson, AZ$66,0508,0301.1491287

79

Grand Junction, CO$67,5301,4001.19103291

80

New Orleans, LA$65,28012,4501.16167292

81

Edison, NJ$77,51019,4400.98110292

82

Buffalo, NY$68,52011,3701.0691294

83

Honolulu, HI$90,2608,2000.9294296

84

New York, NY$86,01098,3300.92152297

85

Gary, IN$64,3406,3401.20152298

86

Little Rock, AR$60,3309,3001.39134298

87

Trenton, NJ$70,0604,7501.07107298

88

Harrisburg, PA$65,9907,0501.14108299

89

Portland, ME$66,8504,4501.12109301

90

Vallejo, CA$114,2902,2600.94103302

91

Sherman, TX$60,1301,4501.74103302

92

Topeka, KS$62,4302,8801.32103303

93

Lubbock, TX$60,5403,6301.3791305

94

Birmingham, AL$58,58015,2401.5593305

95

Missoula, MT$64,1701,4601.28103305

96

Alexandria, LA$59,0702,3001.89103306

97

Stockton, CA$89,4303,8400.9391307

98

Richmond, VA$63,77014,3501.17115308

99

Lewiston, ME$60,6301,4701.55103309

100

Cincinnati, OH$63,34023,5701.17108309

Methodology

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 percent 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.

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