An aerial photo of San Francisco.
An aerial photo of San Francisco.

Best Places for Nurses to Live and Work

Nursing is a rewarding profession with career opportunities around the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 6% growth in positions for registered nurses (RNs) between 2021 and 2031. Those who are interested in pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing degree can find even more opportunities, with positions for advanced nursing roles such as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives expected to experience a significant growth of 40% between 2021 and 2031.

Finding the best places for nurses to live and practice isn’t as simple as picking an appealing spot on a map. Factors to consider include local salary ranges, opportunities available in the area and the city’s cost of living. It’s important to take the time to weigh the pros and cons of any potential move to ensure the best fit possible. 

This list of the best cities for nurses, both personally and professionally, highlights locations that offer different advantages in and outside of work that make them unique. 

What Makes These the Best Cities for Nurses to Live and Work?

The country is full of interesting places to live and work, and moving to a new city or state can lead to a better salary and the opportunity to achieve professional goals, such as working within a specific specialization. The best cities for nurses offer the chance for a well-paying job with plenty of room for an upward career trajectory. They also offer incentives to maintain a healthy work-life balance, with a wealth of attractions ranging from cultural points of interest to outdoor adventure. 

The 7 Best Places for Nurses to Live and Work 

Below are some of the best places for nurses to live and work in. These cities can provide nurses with terrific opportunities to advance their careers and enrich their lives away from work.

1. Cleveland, OH 

Ohio’s stature as a major health care center makes it a prime location for nurses to live and work. Cleveland is home to Cleveland Clinic, a globally renowned health care facility that has been host to scores of medical breakthroughs over the years, including the country’s first face transplant and coronary artery bypass surgery. There is plenty of opportunity in this dynamic market: the BLS lists the location quotient for the Cleveland-Elyria area at 1.37 — a 37% higher share of employment for RNs than the average. The BLS reports that the 2021 mean annual salary for RNs in the Cleveland-Elyria area was $74,900, but the area enjoys a low cost of living — 6% lower than the national average, according to Payscale.

2. Durham, NC 

Durham is nicknamed the “City of Medicine” in part because of the remarkable opportunities available for health care professionals. The BLS reports the location quotient for RNs in the Durham-Chapel Hill area to be 2.25, which translates to a whopping 125% higher share of employment for RNs compared to the national average. This could allow nurses additional opportunities to expand their skill set and knowledge, such as learning how to incorporate technology in nursing practices. Durham’s unique mix of outdoor activity, historic sites and bucolic setting makes it a great alternative to the full-blown metropolitan lifestyle. While the BLS lists the mean annual salary for Durham-Chapel Hill at $73,000, that salary goes a long way with its low cost of living.

3. Boston, MA 

Boston boasts a high nursing salary and ample career opportunities, making it one of the best places for nurses to live. BLS data show that the mean annual RN salary in the Boston-Cambridge-Nashua area in 2021 was $99,950. The BLS gives Boston a location quotient of 1.18, meaning there is an 18% higher share of employment of registered nurses compared to the national average. Boston’s rich history and Revolutionary War landmarks make it a fascinating city to explore off the clock.

4. San Diego, CA

San Diego is another one of the best places for nurses to live. According to the BLS, RNs in the San Diego-Carlsbad area earned a 2021 median annual median salary of $113,150. The San Diego area offers 70 miles of beautiful coastline and plenty of sunny weather to enjoy on your days off. California nurses also benefit from mandatory minimum patient RN-to-patient ratios.

5. San Francisco, CA

RNs fare especially well in San Francisco. The BLS lists the 2021 mean annual salary for RNs in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area at $151,640. Busy nurses will find themselves in their element, as there’s never a shortage of activities in this area. There’s also no shortage of patients; San Francisco is home to a diverse population of nearly 1 million, and the greater Bay Area includes almost 8 million. Although the cost of living is one of the highest in the country, high salaries and a wide array of convenient transportation options can help mitigate the city’s price tag. 

6. Honolulu, Hawaii 

Hawaii is a great location for nurses. In the urban Honolulu area, the BLS lists the 2021 mean annual salary for RNs at $107,680. RNs can enjoy tropical island life, with plenty of beautiful beaches to kick back and relax on. Plus, several island-hopping options make it easy to explore other islands when their schedules allow for a quick getaway.

7. Anchorage, Alaska

Nurses who enjoy adventuring in the great outdoors will feel right at home in Alaska. The famous Denali National Park has its home in Alaska, and the state holds a host of other great parks. Whether you prefer hiking, camping, kayaking or skiing, Alaska has it. RNs in Anchorage earned a mean annual salary of $96,160 in 2021, according to the BLS. Anchorage has a location quotient of 1.19, a 19% higher share of employment for RNs compared to the national average.

Live in the Best Cities for Nurses with an MSN From Walsh

Sometimes a change of location provides all you need to gain a new mindset. Moving to a more lucrative location can put saving for your dreams, such as becoming a Nurse Practitioner or earning your Master of Science in Nursing, within reach. While the best places for nurses to live can provide new opportunities to grow your career, your mission of providing care that can have a positive impact on a patient’s life will remain the same.

Walsh University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program and its Family Nurse Practitioner concentration can prepare you to advance your career with confidence, wherever you practice. Our affordable online tuition rates make reaching your career goals even more attainable, and students can continue to work full time while studying. Find out how to take your first step toward higher education by reaching out to our dedicated enrollment advisors. Walsh University’s online MSN program can set you on the path to success, no matter where you call home.

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