Home to Wrigley Field, Millennium Park and the Magnificent Mile, living in Chicago has plenty to offer. For registered nurses (RNs), the prospect of increased earnings makes the city even more attractive than all its famous attractions. RNs tend to earn more in the Windy City than in nearby markets, and you could bump your earning potential even further if you have experience in an in-demand specialty. This guide provides in-depth RN salary data for Chicago and several other markets, making it easier to determine how your RN salary in Chicago stacks up against wages in other areas.
Average Salaries for RNs in Chicago
According to Vivian Health’s salary data for the week ending March 11, 2023, the average salary for staff nurses in Chicago was $37.22 per hour. This wage was 5% higher than the Illinois average of $35.34. If you work 40 hours per week, this weekly rate equates to an annual salary of $77,417.60, not including overtime, shift differentials or bonuses.
The salary for travel RN jobs in Chicago averages $2,359 weekly, working out to $30,667 for a standard 13-week contract. Working three 13-week contracts per year gives you the potential to earn an annual salary of $92,001. Chicago travel nurses may also qualify for sign-on bonuses and other forms of compensation above their weekly wage, making it possible to earn even more.
RN Salary in Chicago vs. Nearby Markets
For staff nurses, Chicago has one of the highest average salaries in the region. Only Des Moines, Iowa, has a higher average, and the difference between the two cities is just 2 cents per hour. Travel RN salaries differ, as Chicago falls near the middle of the pack. With a weekly average of $2,766, Springfield, Illinois, has the highest salary in the area. Indianapolis and St. Louis have the lowest, but the average wage in both cities is just $17 per week less than the average in Chicago.
The table below demonstrates how RN salaries in Chicago compare to average wages in five nearby cities.
|City||Average Weekly Travel Pay||Average Hourly Perm Wage|
|Des Moines, Iowa||$2,359||$37.24|
|St. Louis, Missouri||$2,342||$31.73|
Source: Vivian Health (March 11, 2023)
RN Salaries vs. Allied Health Salaries
Staff nurses earn much more than many allied health professionals working in Chicago, Illinois, as evidenced by salary data collected from Vivian Health on March 11, 2023. X-ray technicians earned an average of $30.34 per hour, $6.88 less per hour than staff RNs. Other allied health roles paying even less ranged from $23.57 to $28.66 per hour.
When reviewing the data for travel healthcare professionals during the same period, a mixed picture emerges. With an average salary of $2,359 weekly, travel RNs earned less than cardiac catheterization technologists, perfusionists and X-ray technicians but made more than other allied health travelers. The table below provides a breakdown of the salary data to compare compensation across multiple professions in Chicago.
|Job Title||Average Weekly Travel Pay||Average Hourly Perm Wage|
|Cardiac Catheterization Technologist||$2,477||$28.66|
|Certified Surgical Technologist||$2,195||$23.57|
Source: Vivian Health (March 11, 2023)
High-Paying Nursing Specialties in Chicago
One way to increase your RN salary in Chicago is to look for jobs in high-paying nursing specialties. Based on Vivian Health’s data for the week ending March 11, 2023, intensive care and operating room (OR) nursing offered some of the highest salaries for RNs interested in staff roles. Both specialties paid $30 to $50 per hour, depending on your experience and qualifications. Permanent positions in home health hospice paid between $38 and $49 per hour.
For travel roles, nurses with OR experience had the highest hourly wages during this period, particularly those with experience in cardiovascular OR (CVOR) nursing. Travel CVOR nurses earned up to $4,424 per week, while travel OR nurses earned up to $4,382 weekly. Contracts in the pediatric intensive care unit and pediatric postanesthesia care unit also had higher-than-average salaries. These travel roles paid between $4,010 and $4,054 per week.
Employment Outlook for RNs in Chicago
Illinois workNet Center expects the demand for RNs in Cook County, Illinois, to increase by 11.6% between 2021 and 2031. Cook County includes Chicago, Schaumburg, Evanston, Des Plaines and Chicago Heights. This increase corresponds to approximately 4,300 annual job openings. DuPage County has an expected increase of 23.9%, the highest in the state, but that only corresponds to about 870 new jobs. In contrast, it expects the Jacksonville-Carlinville-Litchfield area to have a 2.1% decrease in the demand for RNs.
Other states in the Midwestern Region are seeing similar employment growth for RNs. For example, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (IDWD) publishes employment data for each of the state’s economic growth regions (EGRs). Between 2021 and 2031, the IDWD expects an 8% increase in demand for RNs in EGR 5, which includes Indianapolis, adding just under 2,100 jobs to the market.
In Missouri, the Economic Research and Information Center (ERIC) collects employment data and organizes it according to occupational category and region. The most recent ERIC data indicates an expected increase of 8.64% in demand for RNs in St. Louis between 2020 and 2030.
Top Healthcare Employers in Chicago
Staff Nursing Opportunities
For staff RNs, Loyola Medicine, Cross Country Search and JourneyCare Hospice are some of the top healthcare employers in Chicago. Other top-performing Chicago hospitals where nurses find many employment opportunities include Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Rush University Medical Center and University of Chicago Medical Center.
- Loyola Medicine is an integrated healthcare system with three hospitals. Loyola University Medical Center is the flagship facility, but MacNeal Hospital and Gottlieb Memorial Hospital also offer employment opportunities.
- Cross Country Search specializes in recruiting nurses and other healthcare professionals to fill job openings throughout the United States. The staffing agency has four business units, including StarMed, AP Healthcare, Cejka Physician Search and Cross Country Staffing.
- As part of Addus Homecare, JourneyCare Hospice provides services to the residents of 13 Illinois counties. It’s the largest provider of supportive, palliative and hospice care in the state. The company also operates three licensed hospice centers for patients who need short-term care.
- Northwestern Memorial Hospital ranked as the best hospital in Chicago and among the best nationwide by U.S. News & World Report in 2022-23. Located in the heart of Downtown Chicago, the Northwestern complex also includes Prentice Women’s Hospital, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Stone Institute of Psychiatry.
- Rush University Medical Center is a teaching hospital ranked as the second-best hospital in Chicago and nationally ranked fourth in neurology and neurosurgery and fifth in orthopedics in 2022-23. Rush Children’s Hospital and Johnston R. Bowman Health Center are in the same health system.
- University of Chicago Medical Center ranked as the No. 3 hospital in Chicago in 2022-23 with the No. 2 children’s hospital, Comer Children’s Hospital. This teaching hospital also encompasses Bernard Mitchell Hospital and Chicago Lying-In Hospital, which specializes in radiology and internal medicine.
Travel Nursing Opportunities
LRS Healthcare, Planet Healthcare and SojouRN are some of the top agencies for travel nurses interested in working in Chicago.
- LRS Healthcare has a division specializing in nursing contracts, giving RNs access to experienced recruiters who handle everything from travel expenses to housing.
- Planet Healthcare employs expert recruiters who take the time to understand what candidates expect from a successful travel contract and places healthcare professionals with employers all over the United States.
- Owned and operated by experienced nurses,SojouRN ensures staff members understand each candidate’s needs. The agency has extensive experience placing RNs in travel jobs in Chicago and other parts of Cook County, Illinois. Between December 2020 and January 2021, SojouRN helped address the Cook County nursing crisis by placing more than 80 nursing professionals in local healthcare facilities.
Tips for Increasing Your Pay
If you want to boost your earnings, working endless overtime isn’t your only option. You can obtain a specialty credential, accept travel contracts, return to school or take a flexible per-diem job.
As noted previously, certain specialties offer higher salaries than others. Obtaining specialty credentials may help you qualify for higher-paying jobs. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center offers the Cardiac Vascular Nursing Certification (CV-BC), letting nurses demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills to provide high-quality cardiovascular care. With the CV-BC, you can advance your nursing career by moving from general OR nursing to CVOR nursing, one of the highest-paying RN jobs in Chicago.
If you’re looking for more flexibility, accepting travel contracts is another good way to increase your income. Staff roles in Chicago paying an average of $37.22 per hour equals $1,488.80 per week if you work a 40-hour schedule. That’s $870.20 less than the average weekly salary for a travel contract paying an average of $2,359. Over 13 weeks, that’s a difference of nearly $11,313, making travel nursing a rewarding way to increase your RN salary in Chicago.
In 2020, the Journal of Nursing Regulation released its National Nursing Workforce Survey results. Nearly 30,000 nursing professionals answered questions about their salaries, their highest level of education completed and related topics. The results indicate that advancing your education may help you increase your earnings and advance your nursing career. Respondents with bachelor’s degrees had a median annual salary that was $4,000 higher than nurses with associate degrees. Reported salaries don’t include sign-on bonuses, but they do include merit-based bonuses and overtime pay.
Per-diem nursing jobs are a great way to make more money without committing to loads of overtime or taking on a second job outside the healthcare field. Instead of working a set schedule, a per-diem nurse picks up shifts as needed. This type of scheduling makes it easier for hospitals and other healthcare facilities to adjust staffing levels based on demand.
Because per-diem nurses often pick up shifts at the last minute, these jobs typically pay more than staff nursing jobs. You also have the freedom to set your own schedule. Some nurses accept multiple shifts per week, but it’s possible to work just a few times per month, increasing your annual earnings without forcing you to work a crazy number of hours.
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