Registered nurses made an average of $62,480 in 2007, ranging from a mean of $78,550 in California to $49,140 in Iowa, according to government statistics. Including overtime, usually abundantly available, the most experienced nurses can earn more than $100,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts about 233,000 additional jobs will open for registered nurses each year through 2016, on top of about 2.5 million existing positions. But only about 200,000 candidates passed the Registered Nurse licensing exam last year, and thousands of nurses leave the profession each year.
Several factors are in play: a lack of qualified instructors to staff training programs, lack of funding for training programs, difficult working conditions and the need for expertise in many key nursing positions. Some hospital departments where experience is vital, such as the emergency room or intensive-care unit, simply cannot hire newly minted nurses. So managers in those areas have even fewer staffing choices. Nurses qualified to teach aspiring nurses are scarce chiefly because they can make at least 20 percent more working at a hospital, experts said.