Are Registered Nurses Middle Class?

Most registered nurses are considered part of the middle class.

However, I’ll compare the average U.S. income to a registered nurse’s median salary to further answer this question.

According to the U.S census bureau, the average income for U.S. citizens aged 15 in over in 2020 was roughly $41,535.

However, the average income of full-time workers was higher, with men earning $61,417 and women earning $50,982.

The average household income achieved a somewhat higher annual revenue of approximately $67,521.

CNBC estimated a higher household income of approximately $76,442 in 2016.

Comparatively, registered nurses earned around $78 500, with some reaching over six figures!

The income grows further when considering the entire registered nurse household earnings.

For instance, a two-registered nurse household earns roughly $157,000, assuming they make the average annual salary.

Nonetheless, the average household income for registered nurses varies depending on the careers of each family member.

As you can see from these estimates, one registered nurse makes around $10,979 more than the average household.

World Population Review examines the average household size by the state if you need additional information.

You can also read, How Much do Registered Nurses Earn to learn more about their median annual salary.

Given these numbers, registered nurses make an excellent income compared to most U.S. professions.

What About Upper-Class Registered Nurses?

PEW research center defines the middle class as those whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median.

Investopedia refers to the upper class as groups or individuals who occupy the highest place or status in society. 

Registered nurses in high-paying specializations and states earn significantly more than other professions.

Some registered nurses in high-paying states also earn significantly more than those in low-paying ones.

For instance, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) earn one of the highest incomes in the united states.

Depending on their location and work experience, CRNSAs may earn more than $200,000 annually!

As a result, many certified registered nurse anesthetists are part of the upper class.

Numerous nurse practitioners earn six-figure salaries regularly due to their education, background, and expertise.

Even ordinary registered nurses make six figures under the right circumstances.

Registered nurses can make up to 300k in rare cases.

However, it requires operating in the proper discipline and state and accepting financially advantageous assignments.

Career Specialization, Location, and Experience

Numerous factors influence how much money registered nurses earn annually.

It includes their location/state of employment, education, job experience, and career specialization.

  • Location
  • Education
  • Career Experience
  • Specialization

The following section explores each element determining a nurse’s yearly salary and compensation.

State of Employment | Location

Some registered nurses in high-paying states earn tens of thousands of dollars more annually than those in low-paying states.

For instance, registered nurses in Alabama earned approximately $59,470 in 2018, according to

Comparatively, those working in California earned roughly $106,495 during the same period.

The demand for registered nurses in specific areas/cities also determines their salary.

High-demand areas like metropolitan cities typically pay more than low-demand locations like rural communities.

As a result, some registered nurses commute to busy cities and metropolitan areas to earn higher wages.


A registered nurse’s education correlates directly with their earning potential.

Most nurses possess either a two-year ADN or four year BSN degree.

Nevertheless, many healthcare institutions prefer/require a BSN due to their compressive education and training.

Registered nurses with an ADN can quickly enter the healthcare field and obtain entry-level positions.

However, those who want to pursue more specialized carers like nursing informatics require a BSN.

Registered nurses who possess a BSN also earn a pay differential.

The pay differential for registered nurses varies depending on the state and healthcare institution.

Some institutions offer 4.75% more pay for those with a BSN or several dollars more per hour.

Work Experience

The more experience a registered nurse has, the more opportunities they have to obtain higher salaries and pay raises.

Healthcare facilities prefer registered nurses with several years of experience in their specialization.

It ensures they have sufficient knowledge and training to provide excellent patient care and perform duties effectively.

Registered nurses with years of experience also understand how to work efficiently with teams and manage patient needs.

Finally, registered nurses must regularly take continuing education courses to improve their knowledge and skill set.

As a result, they earn more money over the years due to raises, learning new skills, and expanding their expertise.

Nurses who want to maximize earnings obtain relevant certifications for their field and accept special work assignments.

Career Specialization

As previously mentioned, a registered nurse’s specialization significantly impacts their income.

Some registered nurses earn high incomes from working in high-paying states and gaining work experience.

Nevertheless, specialists like certified registered nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners earn excellent compensation.

These specializations offer advanced practice registered nurses six-figure salaries with exceptional work/health benefits.

Registered nurses in high-paying states with promising professions, education, and training also join the upper class.

What is Middle Class?

The middle class describes individuals and households who generally fall between the working and upper classes.

It’s a socio-economic hierarchy that exceeds the lower class but dwells below the upper class, according to Investopedia.

According to the Power Research Center, approximately 52% of U.S. adults lived in the middle class in 2018.

This class makes up approximately half of the United States, with an average household income of $67,52.

Comparatively, the upper class maintained a household income greater than $145,500 in 2018.

Some registered nurses and CRNAs fit into the upper class by that metric.

Investopedia offers an excellent analysis of middle-class income ranges for those who want to learn about income brackets.

Registered Nurse Supply and Demand

Most registered nurses make an excellent annual income.

Nevertheless, most agree that a registered nurse’s work is often challenging and demanding.

In some cases, registered nurses work a lot of overtime due to nursing shortages at their hospitals or healthcare facility.

They’re required to take on additional responsibilities that make completing tasks more difficult and time-consuming.

They must also take continuing education courses regularly to stay updated with their profession.

It ensures these healthcare providers deliver the best healthcare possible to their patients.

Continual nursing shortages and work demand negatively affect hospital staff.

It creates burnout, which sometimes leads registered nurses to change specializations or leave healthcare altogether.

In turn, it further deepens the nursing shortage forcing healthcare professionals and institutions to make compromises.

Educational limitations, burnout, and nurse retirement produce a nursing demand for hospitals and healthcare facilities. 

The increased demand leads to higher wages, better healthcare benefits, and job security.

However, it also stresses nurses and the healthcare system.

Why Nurses do What They do

For most registered nurses, it isn’t just about the pay.

The ability to help others in need and save lives drives their motivation to work in this field.

Registered nurses in direct care understand that a passion for healthcare and patient well-being is necessary.

Otherwise, it isn’t worth going into this profession for money.

Those who pursue nursing entirely to make a good income will quickly become disappointed in their work and realize this type of career isn’t for them.