Best 15 States to Work in as a Nurse: Top Opportunities for a Rewarding Career

by | Nov 2, 2021 | Nursing Jobs & Interviews | 0 comments

Nursing is a rewarding and fulfilling career, but finding the best place to work as a nurse can be a daunting task. With the right information, however, you can make a well-informed decision. In this blog post, we’ll explore the top 15 states to work in as a nurse, taking into account factors like salary, job opportunities, and overall quality of life.

15 states

Affordable Living and Job Opportunities

These three states offer a great balance between the cost of living and job opportunities for nurses. With lower housing costs and an abundance of hospitals and medical facilities, Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina are excellent options for nurses looking to build their careers.


Texas Medical Center (Houston) – The largest medical complex globally, Texas Medical Center is home to several world-class hospitals, research institutions, and medical schools.

UT Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas) – This leading academic medical center is renowned for its innovative patient care, medical education, and groundbreaking research.

Baylor University Medical Center (Dallas) – As part of the Baylor Scott & White Health System, this facility is known for its comprehensive care services and commitment to medical research.


Emory University Hospital (Atlanta) – Affiliated with Emory University School of Medicine, this top-ranked hospital is recognized for its medical research, teaching, and specialized patient care.

Piedmont Atlanta Hospital (Atlanta) – Part of the Piedmont Healthcare System, this facility offers a wide range of medical services and is known for its commitment to patient-centered care.

Wellstar Kennestone Hospital (Marietta) – This hospital is part of the Wellstar Health System and offers a broad spectrum of services, including emergency care, maternity services, and cancer care.

North Carolina

Duke University Hospital (Durham) – Affiliated with Duke University School of Medicine, this prestigious hospital is consistently ranked among the best in the nation for patient care, medical education, and research.

University of North Carolina Hospitals (Chapel Hill) – As the flagship facility of UNC Health, this hospital offers a comprehensive range of services and is known for its commitment to medical research and education.

Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center (Charlotte) – This facility is part of the Atrium Health System and offers a wide array of medical services, including a Level I Trauma Center and a world-class cancer treatment center.

Exceptional Healthcare Systems

Massachusetts, Maryland, and Connecticut are known for their top-notch healthcare systems. Nurses working in these states can gain valuable experience and have access to cutting-edge medical technology and research.


Massachusetts has long been recognized for its exceptional healthcare system, which includes some of the top medical institutions in the United States. The state is home to prestigious hospitals such as Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, all of which are affiliated with Harvard Medical School. These hospitals consistently rank highly in national and global hospital rankings, and they are known for their commitment to cutting-edge medical research and innovative treatments.


Maryland’s healthcare system is also highly regarded, thanks in part to the presence of the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital and University of Maryland Medical Center. These institutions are leaders in medical research and education, and they provide top-quality care to patients from around the world. Additionally, Maryland’s proximity to Washington, D.C., offers nurses the opportunity to work in government-related healthcare organizations and contribute to shaping healthcare policy.


Connecticut boasts a strong healthcare system with several outstanding medical facilities. Yale New Haven Hospital, part of the Yale New Haven Health System and affiliated with the Yale School of Medicine, is one of the state’s most prestigious institutions. Other notable hospitals include Hartford Hospital and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. Connecticut’s healthcare system is known for its emphasis on patient care and access to advanced medical technology.

Educational Opportunities and Networking

Nurses in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois can benefit from numerous educational and networking opportunities. With prestigious medical schools, conferences, and professional events, these states are perfect for those looking to further their nursing careers.

New York

Educational Opportunities: New York boasts a variety of top medical schools, such as Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Weill Cornell Medicine, and New York University Grossman School of Medicine. In addition to medical schools, the state is home to numerous nursing programs and continuing education courses that can help nurses advance their careers.

Networking: With numerous healthcare conferences, seminars, and workshops taking place throughout the year, nurses in New York can connect with healthcare professionals from various fields. Events like the New York State Nurses Association’s Annual Meeting and the Greater New York Hospital Association’s Healthcare Symposium offer excellent opportunities for professional networking and learning.


Educational Opportunities: Pennsylvania is home to several renowned medical schools, including the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The state also offers many nursing programs, such as those at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Villanova University’s M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing.

Networking: Pennsylvania hosts various healthcare events, such as the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association’s Annual Summit and the Pennsylvania Health Care Association’s Annual Convention. These events allow nurses to connect with other professionals, learn about the latest advancements in healthcare, and explore new career opportunities.


Educational Opportunities: Illinois offers numerous educational opportunities for nurses through prestigious institutions like the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Additionally, nurses can benefit from various nursing programs at schools like the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing and Rush University College of Nursing.

Networking: Illinois is home to many healthcare events and conferences that provide networking opportunities for nurses. Examples include the Illinois Nurses Association’s Annual Conference and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association’s Annual Meeting. These events allow nurses to connect with peers, learn about the latest healthcare trends, and share best practices.

By taking advantage of the educational opportunities and networking events in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, nurses can continue to develop their professional skills, expand their knowledge, and create valuable connections within the healthcare industry.

High Salaries and Quality of Life

California, Hawaii, and Oregon are known for their high average nursing salaries and exceptional quality of life. Nurses in these states enjoy competitive pay and access to some of the country’s best healthcare facilities.


High-Quality Medical Facilities: California is home to some of the nation’s most prestigious healthcare institutions, including Stanford Health Care, UCSF Medical Center, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Nurses working in these facilities have access to state-of-the-art technology and can gain invaluable experience in various specialties.

Mandated Nursing Ratios: California has implemented mandated nurse-to-patient ratios, which contribute to a lower burnout rate among nurses. These ratios help ensure that nurses can provide the highest level of care without being overwhelmed by excessive workloads, leading to improved job satisfaction and patient outcomes.

High Quality of Life: California offers a diverse range of recreational opportunities, from exploring national parks like Yosemite and Joshua Tree to relaxing on beautiful beaches or skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains. This variety allows nurses to enjoy a well-rounded lifestyle outside of work.


High-Quality Medical Facilities: Hawaii is home to several top medical facilities, such as The Queen’s Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center, and Straub Clinic & Hospital. Nurses working in these institutions can benefit from their commitment to providing high-quality patient care and professional development opportunities.

High Quality of Life: Living in Hawaii provides nurses with an unparalleled quality of life, thanks to its stunning natural beauty, pleasant climate, and unique cultural experiences. Nurses can enjoy outdoor activities like surfing, hiking, and snorkeling, making it easy to maintain a healthy work-life balance.


High-Quality Medical Facilities: Oregon boasts several top-tier medical facilities, including Oregon Health & Science University Hospital, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, and Salem Hospital. Nurses working in these institutions have access to cutting-edge medical technology and the opportunity to work with a diverse patient population.

High Quality of Life: Oregon offers a wide range of outdoor activities, such as hiking in the Columbia River Gorge, skiing on Mount Hood, or exploring the scenic Oregon Coast. The state’s focus on environmental sustainability and a strong sense of community contribute to a high quality of life for nurses.

Emphasis on Work-Life Balance

If work-life balance is a priority, consider Colorado, Washington, and Minnesota as your next nursing destination. These states have an emphasis on outdoor activities and offer a range of options for nurses to relax and recharge during their time off.


Work-Life Balance: Nurses in Colorado can take advantage of the state’s stunning landscapes, making it easier to relax and recharge after work. Popular outdoor activities include hiking, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and exploring national parks like Rocky Mountain National Park and Mesa Verde National Park.

Top Medical Facilities: Colorado is home to several highly regarded medical facilities, such as UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and Denver Health Medical Center. These institutions offer nurses the opportunity to work in a variety of specialties while enjoying a strong work-life balance.


Work-Life Balance: Washington State offers nurses a diverse range of outdoor activities to unwind and stay active during their time off. Nurses can explore the lush forests and stunning coastline, hike in the Cascade Mountains, or visit iconic sites like Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park.

Top Medical Facilities: Some of the top medical facilities in Washington include the University of Washington Medical Center, Swedish Medical Center, and Virginia Mason Medical Center. Nurses working in these institutions can gain valuable experience while enjoying the natural beauty and recreational opportunities the state has to offer.


Work-Life Balance: Minnesota, known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, provides plenty of opportunities for nurses to enjoy outdoor activities like fishing, boating, and swimming. Additionally, the state offers various hiking and biking trails, as well as winter activities like ice skating, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.

Top Medical Facilities: Minnesota is home to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, one of the top medical facilities globally, and other highly regarded institutions like the University of Minnesota Medical Center and Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Nurses working in these facilities can benefit from the state’s emphasis on work-life balance while providing top-quality care to their patients.

By working in Colorado, Washington, and Minnesota, nurses can find the perfect balance between their professional responsibilities and personal interests, ensuring a rewarding and fulfilling career in these picturesque states.

Bonus Deep Dive: Top Paying States for Registered Nurses

When it comes to salary, some states stand out as offering the highest pay for registered nurses (RNs). To help you make an informed decision, we’ve compiled a list of the top paying states for RNs, based on average salaries, as well as some additional information about each state’s nursing industry.


Average RN Salary: $120,560

California takes the lead as the top-paying state for RNs. With its high cost of living, it’s important to consider the trade-offs when deciding to work here. However, California is home to several prestigious healthcare facilities and offers plenty of opportunities for professional growth.


Average RN Salary: $104,830

The Aloha State is known for its stunning scenery, and it also happens to be one of the highest paying states for RNs. Nurses in Hawaii can enjoy a fantastic work-life balance, but keep in mind that the cost of living is also quite high.


Average RN Salary: $96,250

Massachusetts offers competitive salaries for RNs and boasts an exceptional healthcare system. With numerous top-ranked hospitals and medical facilities, Massachusetts provides an excellent environment for nursing professionals to thrive.


Average RN Salary: $96,230

With its breathtaking landscapes and commitment to work-life balance, Oregon is a great place for RNs to live and work. Nurses in Oregon can enjoy competitive salaries and access to some of the best healthcare facilities in the country.


Average RN Salary: $95,270

Alaska might not be the first state that comes to mind when considering nursing opportunities, but it actually offers one of the highest average salaries for RNs. The state has a high demand for healthcare professionals, and those who are willing to work in this unique environment can enjoy a rewarding and well-paying career.

New York

Average RN Salary: $92,290

New York is a hub for healthcare and medical innovation. RNs working in New York can benefit from competitive salaries, as well as ample educational and networking opportunities.

Remember that while salary is an important factor, it should not be the sole determinant of your decision. The cost of living, work-life balance, and professional growth opportunities should also be taken into account when choosing the best state for your nursing career.

Make the Right Choice for Your Nursing Career

When choosing the best state to work in as a nurse, consider factors like salary, cost of living, job opportunities, and overall quality of life. It’s essential to find a state that aligns with your personal and professional goals. The states listed in this blog post provide a great starting point for nurses looking to maximize their career potential.

No matter where you decide to work as a nurse, the opportunities for growth and advancement are endless. By researching the best states for nursing and considering the factors most important to you, you can make a well-informed decision that will set you up for success in your nursing career. Good luck, and happy job hunting!

More Resources on Nurse Jobs

Are you done with the guess-work of applying and interviewing for nursing jobs?

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Hired from FreshRN is a self-paced, online course for ambitious nurses who want to be the ideal candidate for their dream job. Amber Nibling, MSN RN-BC, and Kati Kleber, MSN RN have interviewed hundreds of nurse applicants and they give you the inside scoop of what interviewers are thinking. Learn everything you need to know to impress potential employers (and yourself) by learning what the hiring team expects from you, so you can not only meet, but exceed those expectations.

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Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

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