Bringing your career in nursing to a new country can be an exciting and challenging experience. Knowing what salary range a nurse can expect to receive in different countries with high demand for skilled nurses is critical to making the choice to immigrate. As the cost of living, healthcare systems, and benefits can vary greatly internationally and within different regions of the same country, these factors must also be considered before deciding to transition one’s career to a new location. Below, we’ll compare salary ranges and benefits for nurses in the United States, the UK, Ireland, Canada, the Middle East, Ireland, and Australia.* All salary estimates have been converted to US dollars for easy comparison.

Nursing Salary Range in the United States

The average salary for a registered nurse in the US varies significantly by region and years of experience. As of May 2021, the average registered nurse salary is $82,750, and the median (50th percentile) is $77,600, per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. While nurses in the Midwest and Southern states, such as Kansas, Indiana, Louisiana and Mississippi, can likely expect to make less than nurses in coastal states, the cost of living in Midwestern and Southern states is often much more affordable. California is known for being the highest paying state on average for nurse salaries, but when adjusted for cost of living, the average RN salary of $124,000 drops to $106,529. A cost of living index, which measures the relative purchasing power of a dollar for things like groceries, housing, and transportation, is a valuable reference point when considering different opportunities in nursing in the United States. It’s also worth noting that while US taxes are low relative to those in other high-income countries, those countries generally provide more extensive government services than the US, particularly regarding healthcare services and higher education.

Nurse Compensation and Benefits in Canada

The average salary for a nurse in Canada is $71,886 per year, with entry-level positions beginning at $55,212 per year. The most experienced nurses can make up to $91,371 per year. Alberta and the Northwest Territories generally offer the highest-paid wages, while nurse salaries in Manitoba, PEI, and Nunavut run lower in comparison. Similar to the US, how much nurses make in Canada depends on their nursing specialty or type, qualifications, and years of experience. In regard to the cost of living, food, gas, and consumer goods are all more expensive in Canada, but healthcare and higher education are more affordable.

Nursing in the UK and Ireland

In the UK, National Health Service (NHS) nurse salaries are determined by a banding system (while private institutions exist, most nursing jobs in the UK are part of the NHS). This system allocates specific roles and levels of seniority to specific bands and salary ranges within those bands. As an NHS nurse, your salary increases as you gain experience within your particular pay band, but there is a limit. Once a nurse has reached the top tier of their banding, the only increase they can expect is in response to inflation. At present, the average salary for a nurse in the UK is estimated to be around $38,500.

The average salary for a nurse in Ireland is between $34,000-$38,500 and varies based on years of experience and areas of specialization. Much like in the UK, nurses can work in both the private sector and the Health Service Executive (HSE), and salaries vary between the two. Unlike NHS pay scale bandings, HSE pay scales are built around specific roles. Increased responsibilities, education, and certifications all positively influence one’s earning potential. Ireland’s areas with the highest cost of living include major cities such as Dublin, Limerick, and Cork, Smaller cities, and rural areas, especially in the west of Ireland, have a lower cost of living.

Nurse Salary Range in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The average salary of a nurse in Saudi Arabia is $42,700. Pay varies considerably based on experience, education level, city or region, and whether your employer is part of the private or public sector. Housing and even transportation costs are often included in hiring packages, making it difficult to accurately compare salary and benefits between Saudi Arabia and the US. Overall, the cost of living is lower in Saudi Arabia compared to the US.

The average salary for a nurse in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is $46,400. Pay varies greatly based on years of experience, location, and education level. For example, in Dubai, the average salary of a staff nurse is $68,000, with a range beginning at $42,500 and the highest salaries topping out around $133,000. That said, most nurses receiving the high-end of that salary range hold a master’s degree and over 20 years of experience. While the overall cost of living is lower in the UAE compared to the US, expect to pay more in housing and entertainment costs.

Nursing Career Salary Expectations in Australia & New Zealand

In Australia, registered nurses (RN) earn an average salary of $73,000 per year. This number can vary greatly depending on a nurse’s experience, location, qualifications, and seniority. Unlike many of the other countries considered above, Australia’s rural areas are some of its highest-paying locations. As many of Australia’s recent university graduates have opted to remain within major cities, finding nurses who wish to work in rural areas has become more difficult. This scarcity has created a dynamic where healthcare providers usually pay a premium for nurses willing to work in more remote locations. Australia is also a popular destination for its extra-hours earning potential. Working overtime, weekends, and public holidays all offer additional pay opportunities.

In New Zealand, the average registered nurse’s salary is around $46,234 per year. Entry-level positions start at $32,534 per year, while more experienced nurses can expect to make up to $78,410 per year. While the pay is lower than salaries in neighboring Australia, New Zealand is known for its slower pace, less grueling work hours, and lower patient loads. The average cost of living in New Zealand is 21% less expensive than in the United States. 

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