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The Best States to Live and Work as a Nurse Practitioner

by Carson-Newman … on March 29, 2022
The Best States to Live and Work as a Nurse Practitioner

The best states for nurse practitioners are those with high salaries, plenty of job opportunities, and a great cost of living. Additionally, some nurse practitioners prioritize the ability to practice independently or to live in a certain geographic area.

Some states allow nurse practitioners (NPs) to work with greater independence and autonomy, while others require NPs to practice with physician supervision. There are also some states that attempt to lure NPs with financial incentives, like New Mexico, which offers tax incentives for NPs who serve in rural and underserved areas. Another financial consideration includes the option to have educational loans repaid after serving in areas that need more providers.

Finding the right place for your NP career will naturally depend on many personal factors as well. Your choice may be impacted by family needs, preferences for city versus suburban living, or even the types of weather.

As you plan your NP career, it can be helpful to consider salary and cost of living, scope of practice laws, and job growth potential in different areas. We've crunched the numbers to help you sort through your options. 

This guide is for new and aspiring NPs who are curious about what life might look like in different parts of the United States. We've broken down wage statistics, the potential for growth, and current job openings to help you make an informed choice about the best states for nurse practitioners to live and work.

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

An NP is a nurse who has completed graduate-level education and training in an advanced practice nursing specialty area. This education allows NPs to work with greater independence and a more extensive scope of practice than registered nurses.

Their advanced training and broader range of responsibilities allow them to earn higher salaries and, in some states, to practice independently.

NPs specialize in a particular population or clinical specialty, such as pediatrics, women's health, or family practice. On average, NPs complete 1-3 years of graduate-level education and training.

The scope of practice for NPs varies based on state. In some states, NPs work under the supervision of a physician. In others, NPs work independently.

What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?

NPs perform many of the same duties as physicians, such as assessing patients, diagnosing illnesses, managing chronic disease, prescribing and administering treatments and counseling and educating patients. Most NPs also emphasize health promotion and disease prevention through patient education and counseling. 

NPs work in a variety of hospital and outpatient settings based on their educational backgrounds and board certifications. As health care needs shift, these options are growing by the day. 

NPs have many opportunities for practice away from the bedside, including outpatient clinics, telehealth, and urgent care clinics. These positions generally offer more regular hours and can provide better work-life balance compared to hospital-based work. Some NPs also appreciate that these positions allow for more autonomy compared to hospital-based practice.

Some possibilities include: 

  • Private Practice: NPs often work in primary care offices.
  • Hospitals: NPs in the hospital usually obtain additional certification for their chosen clinical area, such as acute care, pediatrics, or emergency care.
  • Retail Clinics: Some NPs work in retail clinics, where they serve patients during regular business hours, often on a walk-in basis.
  • Urgent Care: Many NPs work in urgent care clinics where they might handle minor illnesses and injuries, including fractures, mild lacerations, allergic reactions and common illnesses like the flu.
  • Telehealth: Due to shifts in patient demand, some NPs provide care to patients over the phone or by video conference.

It's a Great Time to Become an NP 

There's no better time to become an NP. In a 2022 report, U.S. News & World Report ranked NPs as the #1 job in health care and the second-best job overall.

NPs also enjoy enormous job stability and security. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that employment of NPs will grow more than 50% by 2030 due to labor shortages, increased demand for health care and greater emphasis on preventative health.

Other reports suggest that NPs enjoy high job satisfaction due to increased autonomy, potential for upward mobility and generous earning potential.

Discover more reasons to become a nurse practitioner today!

How Much Do NPs Earn?

NPs are some of the best-paid professionals in health care. According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary for NPs is over $111,000 per year. For comparison, the average salary for registered nurses is $75,330 per year. Salaries can vary by specialty or practice setting.

Average annual wages for advanced practice nurses by setting (2020) 



Outpatient care centers


Physician offices


Offices of other health practitioners


Educational services


From The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Salaries can also differ by state. On average, NPs in California earn the highest salaries ($145,970), while NPs in Alabama earn the lowest ($95,970). 

Example State Salaries for Nurse Practitioners:


Annual mean wage


$ 99,370


$ 101,060

North Carolina

$ 108,370


$ 109,660


$ 116,700

From The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do Nurse Practitioners Vary By State?

State boards of nursing determine NP scope of practice, and this varies by state. In some states, NPs can practice independently. In others, they require physician supervision or collaboration.

Job opportunities and cost of living also differ by state.

When choosing the best place to work as a nurse practitioner, it's important to consider:

  • Independent vs. restricted practice: In some states, NPs can work independently. In other states, NPs work as part of a multidisciplinary team headed by a physician.
  • Prescription privileges: NPs can independently prescribe and dispense medications in some states, while other states require physicians to oversee all prescriptions before they are released to the patient.
  • Job opportunities: Some states are hiring more NPs than others. For example, long-term occupational projections suggest that Arizona, Utah and Oklahoma will hire more than 2,000 NPs per year by 2028.
  • Local cost of living: A high salary might look great on paper, but it won't go as far in some areas with a high cost of living, like Hawaii, the District of Columbia, or California.

The Best States for Nurse Practitioners

The best places to work as a nurse practitioner are those with high salaries, lots of job opportunities and a reasonable cost of living. Some NPs also value the ability to practice independently without physician oversight.

These states provide exciting opportunities for nurse practitioners:

  1. California: Not only does California offer the highest average wage for NPs, but it also offers an abundance of job opportunities. On average, there are almost 1400 new openings for NPs in California alone. In a positive turn of events, new legislation will grant NPs full practice authority after they meet certain conditions.
  2. New Jersey:* The demand for NPs in New Jersey is skyrocketing, with an expected growth of more than 28% by 2028. NPs in this state also earn a healthy salary. One potential downside is that NPs in New Jersey must work under a collaborative partnership with a supervising physician. 
  3. Tennessee:* Employment of NPs is expected to grow over 34% by 2028, and there are currently 730 job openings per year. This makes Tennessee one of the fastest-growing states for NPs nationwide.
  4. Washington: NPs in Washington state enjoy the third-highest average salary and plenty of job opportunities (more than 480 annually). Data compiled by The Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) suggests these jobs will grow more than 28% in the next ten years. Even better, NPs in Washington have full practice authority.
  5. New York: NPs in New York earn well above the average salary. More so, New York boasts the highest number of job opportunities for NPs, with more than 1640 new jobs available annually. One potential downside is that NPs in this state must practice under a collaborative agreement with a physician.
  6. Massachusetts:* NPs in Massachusetts enjoy one of the highest annual salaries ($126,050) as well as full practice authority. Additionally, there are 540 anticipated job openings per year with room to grow. In 2021, the governor of Massachusetts signed a bill that expanded the scope of practice for NPs. 
  7. New Mexico:* New Mexico ranks well above average in terms of salary, at $117,050 per year. The cost of living in New Mexico is relatively low, meaning NP salaries can stretch even further. Other benefits include full practice authority and eligibility to receive a yearly $3,000 tax benefit.
  8. Illinois:* NPs in Illinois enjoy a healthy annual salary ($112,060) combined with a great cost of living. While Illinois is technically a reduced practice state according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the limits on practice apply primarily to the prescription of certain benzodiazepines or Schedule II narcotic drugs, which require a consultation relationship with a physician. Illinois is also experiencing a huge amount of job growth, with 760 new positions available every year and more than 31% anticipated growth over the next ten years.
  9. Maryland:* NPs in Maryland enjoy high salaries ($115,240) and many job opportunities (390 openings per year). Trends also suggest these job opportunities will grow by nearly 35% in upcoming years. In addition, NPs enjoy full practice authority.
  10. Texas:* NPs in Texas appreciate the low cost of living and higher-than-average salaries ($116,700 per year). The 10-year job outlook is excellent, with more than 1,170 job openings per year and expected growth of almost 32%. On the downside, NPs must operate under a restricted practice authority.
  11. Arizona: Arizona grants NPs full practice authority. On average, nurses here earn well above average ($117,480 per year), and demand for NPs in this state is exploding. Long-term projections suggest this field will grow by an astonishing 50.90% in the next ten years.

Carson-Newman University currently accepts applications from BSN-prepared applicants in more than 30 U.S. states, including those marked with an asterisk above. Click here to find out if you're eligible to apply.

How Do I Get Started?

Now that you know the best states for nurse practitioners, you're ready to take the next step in advancing your career.

After obtaining your Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) and becoming a Registered Nurse, the next step is to earn your Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) specializing as a nurse practitioner. 

If you're ready to move up the career ladder and increase your earning potential, consider Carson-Newman University's accredited Online MSN-FNP program. 

The Carson-Newman program is 100% online (with the exception of a 3-day on-campus residency), making it easy for working nurses to obtain their MSN. Best of all, they make clinical placements simple, so it's easier than ever to get the training you need to succeed.

Worried about tuition costs? The streamlined program at Carson-Newman is extremely affordable, saving students up to $200 per credit hour compared to the competition.

Ready to Advance Your Career?

If you're ready to take the next step in your career, Carson-Newman can help. After you download the program guide, an admissions advisor will reach out to discuss your personal career goals.

Contact one of Carson-Newman's enrollment advisors to find out how you can increase your income and expand your professional opportunities today!

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