2020 Elite Nursing Salary Survey: Major Demographics


After covering COVID-19 questions, we look into specific categories and the salary you can expect based on varying demographics

As with most things these days, Elite’s 2020 Nursing Salary Survey coverage started with two weeks of coverage on the coronavirus and how it has impacted nursing practice and the attitudes of professionals towards their careers.

This week, we begin discussing the numbers and responses the survey was originally intended to produce – salary information for nurses in different demographics, age ranges, areas of practice and levels of education.

(At the end of this article, please be sure to see our question about the information you’d like to see us research for future articles.)

Age and Salary by Professions

It might be our simplest question, but past surveys have found age ranges to be one of the most predictive factors for determining salary ranges.

The ranges are getting closer, however, as this year our youngest age range (RNs between ages 20-30) reported receiving an average salary of $61,411. The highest average salary was reported by RNs between ages 51-60 at $75,378. That’s a 22 percent difference, which no professional would ignore, but the difference between age ranges is much closer than past surveys have indicated.

The question is whether this is just a one-year phenomenon or a sign of something more within the profession? Are starting salaries on the rise in hopes of attracting new professionals into a profession in sore need of some new blood? About two-thirds of our RN responses came from professionals age 51 or older, with our single greatest age range being nurses age 61 and older. The oft-mentioned ‘nursing shortage’ that’s been threatened for years is upon us, and it makes sense that hospitals and health systems would want to entice young adults to make nursing their profession of choice.

For NPs, the salary gaps by age were also fairly tight. We received a limited number of responses from NPs under age 30, but they reported average salaries of $97,315, less than $15K annually behind our highest-paid age range (51-60) at $112,126. The age factor of late-career professionals wasn’t as big a factor in this group, with about 60 percent of our responses coming from the 31-40 and 41-50 age ranges.

Age range is a non-factor for APNs, with each group reporting an average annual salary within $1,500 of $110K. APNs over age 61 reported a slightly lower salary of about $97K annually, but this can be partially attributed to the lesser number of hours many of these professionals report working.

Finally, LPNs fall within a tight range of salaries by age, as the youngest professionals (those under age 30) make about $43K annually, with the highest-paid age range (51-60) reporting annual salaries just over $49K. LPNs are fairly evenly distributed through our four oldest age ranges, with 51-60 the largest range (31 percent of responses.) 20-30-year-olds comprised less than 4 percent of our total replies.

Racial Identity and Salary

The best and most important thing we can say for this category is that race does not appear to play any role in holding a person back from earning high salaries. African-American/Black professionals reported higher average salaries than their white counterparts in two of our five categories (RNs, DNPs, APNs, NPs, LPNs), with no single racial group falling more than 7 percent below the average in any category.

With such tight numbers, it’s possible any discrepancies can be attributed to coincidence or simple quantity (each group was at least 62 percent White by representation.) We did find professionals claiming Asian/Pacific Islander heritage to have the highest average salaries among RNs, NPs, and LPNs, which may owe to levels of education, setting, or other factors.

African American/Black was the second-most common racial identity behind White, with Hispanic/Latino and Asian/Pacific Islander just about equal for third. Native American was lightly represented with 71 total professionals. Just under 300 respondents (about 2.5 percent of the total survey) identified as ‘other’ or did not specify a race.

Gender and Salary

In our largest group, RNs, males make up just under 6 percent of the responses, but command annual salaries about $8,500 greater than their female counterparts ($78,145 to $69,624). Representation was similar among APNs and NPs, with neither group having greater than 7 percent males, but salary discrepancies grew as high as a $27K gap among NPs ($131,238 to $104,076). The gap was almost nonexistent among DNPs (only a 3 percent difference) but grew to about $7,500 again among LPNs ($53,674 to $46,308).

Those who identified as a gender other than male or female didn’t see much difference in salaries except for RNs, where the average salary for those declaring “other” fell to $8,500, more than $20K lower than the overall average. The number may seem alarming but it must be noted that this is only representative of the eight total responses we received.

Next Week: A look at some geographical and regional differences in salary.

What salary comparisons are most interesting to you? Work setting? Education levels? Let us know what you’d like to see covered in future articles by emailing [email protected].

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