Best Places to Live and Work: Which Cities are Best for Registered Nurses Right Now?

The healthcare industry is in the middle of a massive growth spurt. In particular, registered nurse positions are increasing at a supersonic rate. By 2022, there will be far more registered nurse jobs available than any other profession, at more than 100,000 per year. With more than 500,000 seasoned RNs anticipated to retire by 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new RNs for expansion and replacement of retirees, and to avoid a nursing shortage.

While challenges lie ahead in relation to staffing levels, this is an exciting time for nursing. Registered nurses earn an average of $62,304 annually, according to data from PayScale, and RNs are in a unique position to work together to lay solid foundations for the future of healthcare.

To help RNs find the right job in this rapidly growing profession, SpareFoot teamed up with online employment marketplace ZipRecruiter to find the best cities for registered nurses right now.

Finding the Best Cities for Registered Nurses

When it comes to finding a job as a registered nurse, some cities have better opportunities than others. ZipRecruiter provided us with exclusive data limited to the past 30 days to create an up-to-date and accurate list.

ZipRecruiter compared the number of registered nurses positions available in each MSA (metropolitan statistical area) and divided that by the number of active job seekers in that same MSA. This determined the opportunity index for each MSA. The MSAs with the highest opportunity indexes were used for our analysis. They are the places where you’ll probably have the best chance of landing a RN job, quickly.

The second component of our formula is real adjusted salary. Real adjusted salary is determined by looking at the ratio of each city’s local median registered nurse base salary (via PayScale) to its official cost of living figures from the federal government. To determine our final list, we combined both components, giving double weight to available jobs per job seeker (because it doesn’t matter if salaries and cost of living are favorable in an area if you can’t find a job there), to determine an overall ranking.

Here is our list of the best cities for registered nurses right now:

1. Providence, RI

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $67,156 (Ranked 2nd)
  • -0.3 percent below national average cost of living (Ranked 9th)
  • Median Base Salary: $66,955 (Ranked 6th)
  • Opportunity Index: 4.45 (Ranked 3rd)
  • Job Openings: 3,865

Providence holds the second highest number of available registered nurses positions, behind only New York. Its high opportunity index and real adjusted salary make it the most favorable city for RN positions right now.

2. Portland, OR

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $67,207 (Ranked 1st)
  • +1.7 percent above national average cost of living (Ranked 11th)
  • Median Base Salary: $68,350 (Ranked 3rd)
  • Opportunity Index: 2.23 (Ranked 10th)
  • Job Openings: 976

Registered nurses in Portland are keepers of the highest real adjusted salary in the country. It’s West Coast versus East Coast for the top two cities on our list.

3. Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN-WI (tie)

Minneapolis life coach

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $66,098 (Ranked 4th)
  • Cost of Living: +2.3 percent above national average  (Ranked 12th)
  • Median Base Salary: $67,618 (Ranked 5th)
  • Opportunity Index: 2.93 (Ranked 8th)
  • Job Openings: 2,114

The Twin Cities continue to be a hot market for a variety of professions. Of all eligible cities, they hold the seventh highest number of registered nurses job openings.

3. Toledo, OH (tie)

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $64,183 (Ranked 7th)
  • Cost of Living: -11.3 percent below national average cost of living (Ranked 1st)
  • Median Base Salary: $56,930 (Ranked 15th)
  • Opportunity Index: 5.85 (Ranked 2nd)
  • Job Openings: 884

Tied for third, Toledo is no slouch. Its affordable cost of living and high opportunity index make it an opportune spot for registered nurses.

5. Atlantic City, NJ

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $62,148 (Ranked 8th)
  • Cost of Living: +3.5 percent above national average (Ranked 13th)
  • Median Base Salary: $64,323 (Ranked 8th)
  • Opportunity Index: 4.25 (Ranked 5th)
  • Job Openings: 900

Atlantic City is known for its many casinos, wide beaches, and iconic Boardwalk. But opportunities for RNs here are hot, and cost of living for an East Coast city could be worse.

6. Buffalo, NY

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $62,011 (Ranked 9th)
  • Cost of Living: -5.6 percent below national average (Ranked 6th)
  • Median Base Salary: $58,538 (Ranked 13th)
  • Opportunity Index: 4.27 (Ranked 4th)
  • Job Openings: 2,037

Buffalo narrowly beats out Albany for sixth spot on our list, its real adjusted salary and cost of living more favorable than its neighbor to the west.

7. Albany, NY

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $59,914 (Ranked 11th)
  • Cost of Living: +0.4 percent above national average  (Ranked 10th)
  • Median Base Salary: $60,154 (Ranked 9th)
  • Opportunity Index: 6.25 (Ranked 1st)
  • Job Openings: 2,318

The state of New York shows up on our extended list five times, and Albany is not only the state’s leader in job prospects for registered nurses, but also the nationwide leader.

8. Louisville, KY (tie)

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $64,667 (Ranked 6th)
  • Cost of Living: -9.0 percent below national average (Ranked 3rd)
  • Median Base Salary: $58,847 (Ranked 12th)
  • Opportunity Index: 1.49 (Ranked 12th)
  • Job Openings: 628

While landing a job here may take a little more effort, those looking for an affordable place to live while earning an above average salary will find Louisville fits the bill.

8. San Francisco, CA (tie)

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $66,110 (Ranked 3rd)
  • Cost of Living: +24.7 percent above national average (Ranked 18th)
  • Median Base Salary: $82,439 (Ranked 1st)
  • Opportunity Index: 1.01 (Ranked 18th)
  • Job Openings: 1,853

Even with its highest cost of living in the country, San Francisco manages to make it into the top ten behind its respectable base salary and number of open RN jobs in the city.

10. Cincinnati, OH

  • Real Adjusted Salary: $65,914 (Ranked 5th)
  • Cost of Living: -10.4 percent below national average (Ranked 2nd)
  • Median Base Salary: $59,059 (Ranked 10th)
  • Opportunity Index: 1.25 (Ranked 16th)
  • Job Openings: 864

Last but not least, Cincinnati is the next Ohio city to make our list of best cities for RNs right now. Its real adjusted salary looks mighty fine when compared to corresponding salaries of major cities in the country.

The Best of the Rest

  1. Boston, MA
  2. New York, NY
  3. Seattle, WA
  4. Kansas City, MO
  5. Rochester, NY
  6. Syracuse, NY
  7. Pittsburgh, PA
  8. Denver, CO

Methodology: SpareFoot’s ‘Best Cities for Registered Nurses Right Now’ identifies U.S. cities with the highest real adjusted salary for registered nurses, indicating where a local registered nurse’s base salary stretches furthest when compared to local cost of living. Cost of living includes groceries, health care, housing (the main driver of living costs), transportation, utilities, and more. Real adjusted salary is determined by the ratio of median annual base salary to cost of living for each city. For simplicity of reporting, ‘cities’ refers to U.S. metros as defined by the U.S. Office of Management Budget, and cost of living refers to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Regional Price Parities (RPP1) Index (RPP1 compares the average price level in each metro to the national average, which is set at 100). This report takes into account job title normalization that groups similar job titles. Job openings represent active job listings on ZipRecruiter as of 6/1/18.

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