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RN Salary Guide – Washington, D.C.

Although money isn’t the primary driver of job satisfaction, salary should be one of your first considerations when looking for a new job. You must ensure the position offers a sufficient wage to meet your basic needs and represents fair compensation for the vital work you do as a registered nurse (RN). If you’re an RN searching for a career in Washington, D.C. or the surrounding area, you’ve come to the right place.

RNs in the District of Columbia earn significantly more than the national average. Travel RNs have the potential to earn even more, making it worth your while to consider travel roles the next time you’re in the market for something different. This guide covers the average RN salary in D.C., factors that impact this salary and ways to boost your earnings.

What Is the Average RN Salary in D.C.?

According to Vivian Health’s salary data for the week ending March 4, 2023, the average wage for staff RNs in D.C. was $45.59 per hour. If you work 40 hours per week, that’s a weekly salary of around $1,824 or $94,827 for the year, which is 18% higher than the average wage for RNs nationwide.

Conversely, the average travel nurse salary in D.C. during this same period was $2,708 per week or 10% more than the average travel RN salary nationwide. If you accept three contracts lasting 13 weeks each, you potentially earn $105,612 annually. This salary is even higher than staff RNs in Washington, D.C., and you have 3 months of free time.

Average Salaries in Nearby Markets

Washington, D.C., has the highest salaries for RNs in permanent roles compared to nearby markets. For example, the average salary for Staff RNs in Alexandria, Virginia, was $40.08 per hour on March 4, 2023, about 12% less than the average RN salary in D.C. Likewise, the average travel RN salary in Alexandria during this period was $2,628 per week, 3% lower than the average for Washington, D.C. The following table offers insight into the average travel nursing salaries in other nearby cities.

City Average Weekly Travel Rate
Fairfax, Virginia $2,711
Arlington, Virginia $2,558
Bethesda, Maryland $2,296
Silver Spring, Maryland $2,236

Source: Vivian Health (March 4, 2023)

The average salary for RN jobs in the District of Columbia is also much higher than the average for several nearby states. For example, Virginia had an average of $35 per hour for permanent RN jobs during the first week of March, $10.59 per hour less than D.C. If you work full-time, 40 hours weekly, that’s an annual difference of about $22,027. Here’s a table showing how salaries in D.C. compared to salaries in other nearby states.

State Average Hourly Wage for Perm RN Jobs Percent Change Average Weekly Wage for Travel Nursing Jobs Percent Change
Delaware $37.24 -18.3% $2,570 -5%
Maryland $37.46 -17.8% $2,439 -9.9%
Pennsylvania $34.33 -24.7% $2,581 -4.7%
West Virginia $37.24 -18.3% $2,506 -7.5%

Source: Vivian Health (March 4, 2023)

High-Paying RN Specialties

Specialty Care - Surgery

Location isn’t the only factor that affects your salary as an RN. The specialty you choose has the potential to increase your earnings significantly. For RNs living in Washington, D.C., some top-paying specialties during the first week of March included critical care, emergency department nursing, operating room (OR) nursing and postanesthesia care. Here’s what you can expect regarding average salaries for these specialties.

Specialty Potential Hourly Pay for Permanent Positions
Critical Care $57 to $70
Emergency Department $57 to $70
Postanesthesia Care Unit $53
Operating Room $50 to $60

Source: Vivian Health (March 4, 2023)

If you prefer travel nurse jobs in D.C., cardiovascular OR, pediatric intensive care, neonatal intensive care and OR nurses had some of the highest-paying opportunities during the same period. This table provides the weekly salaries for each specialty.

Specialty Potential Weekly Pay for Travel Jobs
Cardiovascular Operating Room $4,352
Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) $4,320
Operating Room $4,159
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) $3,844

Source: Vivian Health (March 4, 2023)

Top-Paying Healthcare Employers in Washington, D.C.

Some employers offer higher average salaries to attract experienced RNs. For permanent positions, George Washington University Hospital (GWUH) was the highest-paying employer in Washington, D.C., according to Vivian Health’s salary data for the week ending March 4, 2023. GWUH paid an average RN salary of $47 per hour, 3% more than the city average. BridgePoint Healthcare and Core Medical also offered high RN salaries in D.C., although their rates were slightly lower than the city average. Both employers had an average of $42 per hour.

LRS Healthcare, The Judge Group and Lancesoft offered some of the highest average salaries for travel nurses in D.C. LRS Healthcare specializes in nursing and allied health staffing, while The Judge Group staffs positions in healthcare, finance, communications and other industries. Lancesoft matches talented workers with companies across a wide range of industries, including healthcare, aerospace, telecommunications and engineering. The table below shows these three agencies’ typical weekly salaries for D.C. travel nurses during the first week of March 2023.

Agency Typical Weekly Salary for a Travel RN Position
LRS Healthcare $5,041
The Judge Group $4,627
Lancesoft $4,543

Source: Vivian Health (March 4, 2023)

Employment Outlook for RNs in the D.C. Area

The National Center for O*NET Development (O*NET) expects the number of opportunities for RNs in Washington, D.C. to increase by 5% between 2020 and 2030. This growth should bring the number of RNs employed in the city to 11,150. Comparatively, O*NET expects RN employment in Virginia to grow a little faster, increasing by 8% during the same period. Maryland should have the most growth of any state in the region, as RN employment should grow 17% by 2030.

RN Salaries vs. Allied Health Salaries in Washington, D.C.

When you compare the average RN salary in D.C. with the average wages for other permanent healthcare roles, RNs have some of the highest earnings. For example, medical assistants in Washington, D.C., earned an average of $28.95 per hour. This wage was 36.4% less than the average of $45.59 hourly for RNs. Here’s how RN salaries compared to the salaries of other allied health professionals in the D.C. area during the first week of March 2023.

Job Title Average Hourly Perm Rate
X-Ray Technician $30.34
Surgical First Assistant $28.95
Cardiac Catheterization Technologist $28.66
Certified Surgical Technologist $24.09
Endoscopy Technician $19.01

Source: Vivian Health (March 4, 2023)

There’s a bit more variation in the average salaries for travel RN jobs in D.C., with some allied health travelers earning more. As previously noted, the average travel RN salary in Washington, D.C., was $2,708 weekly on March 4, 2023. Here’s how that salary compared to the average salaries of several allied health careers during the same period.

Job Title Average Weekly Travel Rate
Cardiac Catheterization Technologist $3,185
Surgical First Assistant $2,688
Certified Surgical Technologist $2,327
X-Ray Technician $2,280
Endoscopy Technician $1,725

Source: Vivian Health (March 4, 2023)

Tips for Increasing Your Washington, D.C. RN Earnings

Earn more money

In some jobs, it’s almost impossible to increase your earnings unless you take on a supervisory role or stay with the company long enough to get annual raises and cost of living adjustments. That’s not the case for RNs working in D.C. and surrounding areas. If you need more money to pay your bills, save for retirement or just have a little fun, here are five ways to potentially boost your salary.

1. Obtain a Nursing Degree

If you went straight into nursing without obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), consider going back to school to increase your earnings. The New England Institute of Technology reported that BSN-prepared nurses earn more, citing Payscale’s average of $32.41 per hour for RNs with BSNs and $29.83 for those with only an associate degree. With a difference of $2.58 per hour, you potentially earn $5,366.40 more per year with your BSN, assuming you work 40 hours per week.

2. Earn a Specialty Certification

Earning a professional certification in a specialty area may help you qualify for higher-paying jobs. For example, nurses with the Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) credential have a competitive edge when seeking jobs in ICUs, PICUs and NICUs. As previously noted, critical care roles typically pay more than general nursing roles. The demand for nurses with critical care experience is high. As a result, you may increase your earnings just by obtaining the CCRN or similar professional certifications.

3. Accept Travel RN Positions

Traveling isn’t for everyone, but if you’re open to new experiences, accepting travel assignments can help you boost your earnings significantly. The average staff nurse salary in D.C. was $45.59 per hour during the first week of March 2023. If you work 40 hours per week, that’s a weekly rate of about $1,824. Travel nurses in Washington, D.C., earned an average of $2,708 per week during this period, a difference of around $884 weekly. When you think about what you could do with nearly $900 extra per week, it’s clear that travel nursing could be a worthwhile endeavor.

4. Try a Different Shift

Many healthcare employers in Washington, D.C., offer pay differentials to persuade RNs and other staff members to work unpopular shifts, such as nights from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. If one of your preferred employers offers these differentials, consider working the night shift, even if it’s only for a year or two. A shift differential of $1.50 per hour increases your earnings by $3,120 annually if you work 40 hours a week.

5. Get a Per Diem Job

If your current employer doesn’t offer shift differentials or other incentives, consider getting a per diem job with another healthcare organization. Many employers changed their policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, making per diem work more flexible. You can capitalize on that flexibility by getting a per diem job that may only require you to work one day per week.

Rachel Norton BSN, RN

Rachel Norton became an RN in 2007 and has been part of the Vivian team since 2019. She has always worked in critical care, and spent the first 12 years of her career working in a surgical neuroscience trauma ICU. She's also worked as a flight nurse, started travel nursing in 2010 and continued working in the ICU until joining Vivian full-time in 2022. As a user researcher, Rachel advocates for healthcare workers to help bridge the gap between employee and employer expectations.

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