These Are the Best Places to Get a Nursing Job

Around the time President Obama was sworn in for the first time, there was a lot of talk of a “nursing shortage.”

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“Shortage” isn’t a word any of us would care to hear as patients, but for job seekers, it’s an engraved invitation.

Talk of a shortage has quieted somewhat over the past decade, but nursing remains a growth field. After a bit of a slowdown following the economic meltdown of 2008, hiring in nursing is picking up again, experts say.

The need never dipped; rather, many nurses who had planned to retire kept working when their nest eggs hit the skids. With the economy seemingly on surer footing now and even more of an aging workforce reaching retirement age, there are more openings for new graduates.

“Because people are living longer and living longer with chronic illnesses, there are many opportunities for nursing,” said Deborah Zimmermann, DNP, RN, assistant dean for clinical Programs and chief nursing officer at the Virginia Commonwealth University Health School of Nursing.

By 2030, when the last of the baby boomers will turn 65, nearly one in five U.S. residents will require healthcare. Health reform has also increased the number of people of all ages who have insurance coverage.

We dove into our database of millions of active jobs to find out where most of the hiring is happening.

These are the best big city nursing markets

Among major metropolitan areas, the jobs are mostly in known medical hotspots. One surprising absence: New York, which is home to at least six major medical centers. It seems they’re balanced out by all of the other major industries in the Big Apple.

1. Boston, Mass.

Hospitals are the biggest, though not the only, source of jobs for nurses. With its slate of prestigious hospitals, Boston has the most open nursing jobs per resident. And wages are among the best in the nation. (The national median salary for a nurse was $66,640 in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

2. Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is another hiring powerhouse, thanks to giants like Medstar and Inova as well as the Veterans Affairs Administration.

3. San Francisco Bay Area

Known for the medical-focused University of California in San Francisco, the Bay Area is also home to West Coast HMO giant Kaiser Permanente. The area is growing fast, creating more need for health care providers. Nurses earn more here than anywhere else, but it’s mostly a function of cost of living.

4. Houston, Tex.

The biggest city in the Lone Star State is home to several big medical centers, including Houston Methodist and Memorial Hermann as well as the renowned cancer center MD Anderson.

5. Los Angeles

A list of hospitals in the SoCal city shows that every one is experiencing a shortage of registered nurses. UCLA’s medical school also helps make L.A. a more deeply healthcare-oriented city than its reputation for celebrity lets on.

The enormous cohort of new nurses is an extremely diverse bunch, noted recent Emory University School of Nursing grad Nicole Makris, FNP-BC. Not all want to live and work in major metropolitan areas. ZipRecruiter also looked into medium and small metro areas with the most open nursing jobs per resident.

These are the cities with the highest number of nursing jobs per resident

Among smaller cities, nurses can find more geographic and cultural variety. Here are the biggest per-capita job markets.

1. Columbus, Ohio

Here, too, a major university medical center helps set the stage: The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. Grant Medical Center and Mount Carmel contribute to this Midwestern city’s reputation as a health hub.

2. Hartford, Conn.

Connecticut has a long history in medicine, from hospitals to health insurance. Hartford and Saint Francis Hospitals are both regionally ranks, and between them have 1,350 beds.

3. Nashville-Murfreesboro, Tenn.

The massive Vanderbilt University Medical Center has a national-caliber reputation, and gets company from a host of smaller hospitals. Nearby Murfreesboro is home to several hospitals, as well, which serve rural areas throughout central Tennessee. 

4. Baltimore-Towson, MD

Johns Hopkins plays a big role in creating the density of healthcare providers in this otherwise economically depressed area. Some gentrification watchers say Baltimore may be the next hot thing.

5. Richmond, Virginia

Like Nashville and Murfreesboro, Richmond is a city that sits amid a large suburban and rural area from which it draws patients.

“Richmond is an interesting place because we have at last count about 11 hospitals,” said Teri Kuttenkuler, MPH, RN, NE-BC, the HR Service Line Director at the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, which also has a major nursing program. “We’re all competing for the same nurses, but we are also lucky in that we have several schools of nursing right here in our own backyard.”

Smaller cities have great nursing jobs, too

What about nurses who crave smaller-town life, or want to be near family? Well, we hope Ohio suits you, because it dominates this list.

1. Binghamton, NY

This former Rust Belt city in Upstate New York brings patients from a larger rural area, and those patients need nurses. While other industries continue to struggle, health is growing. Among Binghamton’s hospitals is a big one owned by the chain UHS.

2. Barnstable, Mass.

If Cape Cod sounds good for year-round living, then Barnstable is a dream location for nursing. There are 25 hospitals within 60 miles of the central Cape location, according to Livability. Other than tourist-driven industries, healthcare is a significant economic driver.

Tied 3-5. Toledo and Canton-Massilon, Ohio, and the YoungstownWarren-Boardman area on the Pennsylvania border

With Toledo at the northwestern tip of the state, bordering Lake Erie, and Canton-Massilon and the greater Youngstown area in the Eastern Central part of the state, much of northern Ohio offers ripe job pickings for nurses. Heck, live across the river in Pennsylvania and commute if you don’t want to vote in a swing state.

Toledo has one of the stronger economies in Ohio at present, and its medical industry also benefits from the presence of the University of Toledo.

Canton is home to two major hospitals, including Mercy Medical Center, with two smaller ones in Massilon.

The University of Pittsburgh, just 60 miles away from Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, helps bolster healthcare as a pillar of its economy, which was blown apart by the collapse of the steel industry.

Two bits of advice experts shared for those pursuing careers in nursing.

Nursing is a great career, but it’s not all roses. It’s quite hard to get into nursing school, because schools also have a shortage of nurses who are available to teach the next generation. Kuttenkuler also emphasizes that would-be nurses have to seek out a program with CCNE or ACEN accreditation.

At the other end of nursing school, it won’t be all smooth sailing, either. According to Makris, “Even though there are many nursing jobs, it can be difficult to land a first gig because employers have to invest a lot of money to train new grads.” Just 1 in 10 nurse executives believed that new grads were ready for hospital practice.

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A former contributor to the ZipRecruiter blog, Cameron Scott is a science writer living in San Francisco, California.

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