While a nurse can have a successful career in most any area in the U.S., some states are friendlier than others when it comes to the nursing profession. In May, the online financial services business WalletHub released its annual list of the best states for nursing professionals to live and work in. WalletHub’s research, combined with data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), suggests that the following are some of the top states for nurses who are looking to grow their career:
Nurses who are looking for a change — and trying to advance their professional life — should consider a move to the West Coast. According to the WalletHub study, Washington is the top state for nurses based on both “opportunity and competition” and “work environment.” Consequently, nurses in this state are more likely than most to find a workplace that has a pleasant environment as well as plenty of opportunities for rewarding positions. Known for its rainy days and scenic forest views, Washington has its fair share of metropolitan areas — such as Seattle — and rural towns, providing plenty of variety for any nurse’s taste.
The state ranked seventh in the survey’s two categories, which WalletHub based on 14 relevant metrics. Among the metrics for the opportunity and competition category were “monthly median starting salary,” “projected competition” and “educational opportunities based on quality of nursing schools.” The work environment category included metrics such as “mandatory overtime restrictions,” “average number of work hours” and “average commute time.”
If a nurse is searching for a state with plenty of positions available, Washington is not the only West Coast option on the list. According to the BLS, California employs more nurses than any other state in the country. In fact, the BLS reported that as of May 2015, 255,010 nurses were employed in the state. While California is known for its relatively high cost of living, nurses who work in this area will be compensated for those extra expenses. The BLS reported that these professionals make an annual mean wage of $101,260.
The state also ranked well on the WalletHub list, coming in at the sixth spot overall thanks largely to ranking fifth for opportunity and competition, a promising metric for a nurse seeking employment. In the work environment category, California came in at #18. WalletHub further reported that California has the third lowest rate of competition in the U.S., making it an appealing option for a nursing professional who wants to grow a career either through a new position or promotion.
Whether a nurse wants to live in a metropolitan area such as L.A. or San Francisco, or look for a position in the more rural northern mountains or Central Valley, California offers more variety within its borders than some countries do. Vacation days can be spent in national parks, coastal towns, movie studios or just about anything in between, and the sunny weather will supply plenty of good days for exploring.
Though it may be geographically small, Massachusetts has plenty of opportunities for nursing professionals. According to WalletHub, the state ranks fourth in terms of most nursing jobs per capita, meaning that its small size does not translate to few nursing positions. This fact makes sense, as the state is home to some of the most prominent hospitals in the country. Massachusetts has two hospitals on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Top 20 hospitals for 2016–17: Massachusetts General Hospital at #3 and Brigham and Women’s Hospital at #13.
Massachusetts also is home to the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, which U.S. News & World Report ranked as the fourth best adult cancer hospital, and the Dana-Farber Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, the top-ranked pediatric cancer hospital in the nation. To preserve these reputations for excellence, the organizations need to employ the highest-caliber nurses and maintain staffing levels. Consequently, qualified professionals likely will have a number of prestigious options when it comes to applying for a position.
Massachusetts — and the Boston area in particular — is also a great option for nurses who enjoy history in their free time. The state was one of the original 13 colonies and features numerous significant sites from the Revolutionary War, as well as many other historical events, such as the Mayflower’s landing at Plymouth Rock and the Salem Witch Trials.
Coming in at #2 overall on WalletHub’s list is the state of Illinois. The Land of Lincoln nabbed a top spot on the ranking largely as a result of its positive work environment, which the organization put at #5. While the atmosphere of a health care organization always is important to its staff members, finding a workplace that creates a positive environment for employees is especially critical for a nurse who is looking for a long-term position.
If a nurse is interested in moving to Illinois, Chicago may be a promising choice. The BLS reported that the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights metropolitan area has one of the nation’s highest levels of employment for nurses. According to the organization, there were 67,030 nurses employed in the region as of May 2015, making an annual mean wage of $74,800. During days off, the Chicago area offers a number of enjoyable recreational activities for nurses, such as the multiple museums and sports teams, thriving theater scene and, of course, the Windy City’s famous deep dish pizza.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes opportunities for nurses. According to WalletHub’s study, Texas is the third best state for “opportunity and competition” and the 19th best for “work environment,” giving it an overall rank of #3 on the list. WalletHub also found that Texas has the fifth highest annual nursing salary once the payment is adjusted for cost of living, which means that a nurse’s dollar will go further here than in most states in the nation.
The BLS additionally reported that Texas employs the second highest number of nurses, with nearly 200,000 working in the state as of May 2015. It is second only to California, so whether a nurse wants to indulge in country living or seek employment in one of the major metropolitan areas, a move to Texas could be advantageous. The friendly people, low taxes and warm weather are also major draws that will make time outside work enjoyable.
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