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Nurse Leader Salary Compensation Varies Widely

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   July 09, 2019

A survey by AONL finds C-Suite members are more likely to be satisfied with their compensation than other nurse leaders.

Nurse leaders' salaries and compensation vary according to title and geographic region finds a the recently released Salary and Compensation Study for Nurse Leaders by the American Organization for Nursing Leadership.

In 2019, an online survey was sent to nearly 17,000 email addresses of AONL members and nonmembers for the third edition of the study. 2,145 respondents completed or partially completed the survey for a response rate of 13%, according to the study's executive report.

The data collected gives insight into nurse leaders' salary ranges, compensation, and job satisfaction.

Below are some of the study's findings.

Where they work

  • 39% of respondents work at acute care hospitals (long-term or short-term)
  • 27% work in academic institutions
  • 5% work in a system/corporate office
  • 29% work in other settings

Job Titles

The three most common job titles among the respondents are:

  • Director (35%)
  • Manager (21%)
  • Chief Nursing Officer/Chief Nursing Executive (18%)

Experience and Demographics

  • 67% of respondents have worked in nursing for more than 20 years
  • 70% have been in their current position for five or fewer years.
  • 7% are 35 years old or younger.
  • 86% of respondents are white.
  • 88% are female.

Salary Data

When it comes to the range of overall salaries among nurse leaders:

  • 57% make between $90,000 and $169,999
  • 33% make $170,000 or more  
  • 10% earn less than $90,000

Nurse leaders with senior-level titles earn higher salaries than other nurse leaders.

  • The majority of non-system CNOs/CNEs, system CNOs/CNEs, consultants, presidents/vice presidents, and respondents with other c-suite titles earn more than $150,000 per year.
  • 71% of directors fall between $100,000 and $169,999 annually.
  • 72% of managers report an annual salary of $80,000 to $129,999.

AONL has nine geographic regions and salary varies according to location.

  • Nurse leaders in Region 9 (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) have the greatest percentage of respondents (69%) earning $150,000 or more.
  • Region 6 (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) has the lowest percentage of nurse leaders making $150,000 or more (30%).

Bonuses and Incentives

  • 70% of respondents say they are eligible for an incentive or bonus award.
  • 55% of respondents not eligible for a bonus award earn less than $130,000 per year.
  • 61% of respondents received an incentive or bonus in 2018.

Bonuses were received for factors such as an organization's financial performance (75%), clinical performance measures (66%), and customer or patient satisfaction (54%).

Job satisfaction

On a five-point scale, with 5 being "very satisfied” and 4 being "somewhat satisfied":

  • 42% of respondents rated job satisfaction as very satisfied  
  • 40% rated job satisfaction as somewhat satisfied

Respondents were less satisfied with the benefits and compensation portion of their jobs.

  • 39% say they are very satisfied with their benefits
  • 29% say they are very satisfied with their compensation

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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