How much does a Intensive Care Nurse (ICU) make? (2023)

An intensive care unit nurse, also known as a critical care nurse, is a nurse who works in the intensive care unit (also known as an intensive care unit or critical care unit). The intensive care unit is a 24-hour facility usually located in a hospital for the most vulnerable patients.

Patients in the ICU are often critically ill and need to be closely monitored as their condition is likely to suddenly deteriorate. Here's what you need to know about average critical care nurse salaries.

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A note about our data. We use median data collected by The BLS at and other salary data sources such as, and We believe this is the best average to follow, not average or mode. Median finds the average of all salaries in each state; The mode will favor the most commonly reported wages. However, the median finds the middle. All of the data in this report favors the median salary across all categories, which means that 50% will be under and 50% will be over the salary data below. In a separate note, we removed data for Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands from the data we received because we focused on the 50 US states plus the District of Columbia.

How much does a Intensive Care Nurse (ICU) make? (1)

Salary for critical care nurses in USA

A critical care nurse is typically a registered nurse who takes care of patients in the hospital's intensive care unit. These nurses require special skills that help them earn a higher salary than nurses working in other areas of the hospital.

How much does a critical care nurse earn per year?

On average, an ICU nurse earns approximately $84,281.06 per year. This amount ultimately depends on the nurse's experience and the salary of nurses in your city or state.

How much does a critical care nurse earn per hour?

ICU nurses earn an average of $40.52 an hour. This number may be higher for nurses who work off-shifts (e.g. night shifts) or when they work holidays or weekends.

This high average hourly wage means a critical care nurse can earn a full-time income by working part-time, making them a great career choice for people looking for a healthy work-life balance.

Critical Nurse Salary by State

The average annual and hourly salary of a critical care worker varies from state to state. Take a look at this chart compiled from information, which examines pay disparities for ICU nurses. Data updated February 2022.


average hourly salary

average annual salary

Compared to the national average


34,99 US-Dollar

$ 72.785,00



$ 37,49

$ 77.978,00



$ 43,31

$ 90.092,00



$ 37,96

$ 78.948,00




$ 103.483,00



$ 34,83

$ 72.454,00




$ 103.841,00




$ 99.731,00


direct current


$ 93.793,00



$ 35,25

$ 73.326,00



$ 36,09

$ 75.075,00




$ 90.874,00



$ 36,28

$ 75.458,00




$ 91.083,00



$ 36,43

$ 75.779,00



$ 36,91




$ 35,45

$ 73.739,00



$ 37,79

$ 78.598,00



$ 36,41

$ 75.737,00




$ 90.832,00



$ 40,02

$ 83.252,00



$ 46,37

$ 96.457,00




$ 84.396,00




$ 99.781,00



$ 28,45

$ 59.184,00



$ 36,84

$ 76.626,00



$ 41,12

$ 85.527,00



$ 27,31





$ 90.243,00


New Hampshire

$ 46,85

$ 97.452,00


New Jersey

$ 48,36

$ 100.584,00


New Mexico

$ 43,50

$ 90.483,00


New York


$ 94.407,00


North Carolina

$ 37,90

$ 78.836,00


Dakota do Norte

$ 48,60

$ 101.098,00



$ 37,06

$ 77.094,00



$ 34,62

$ 72.007,00




$ 95.574,00




$ 84.816,00


Rhode Island

$ 44,65

$ 92.871,00


Caroline all on

$ 36,64

$ 76.209,00


Dakota del Sur

$ 36,02

$ 74.917,00



$ 37,36

$ 77.716,00



$ 37,41

$ 77.822,00




$ 93.060,00



$ 36,47

$ 75.857,00



$ 37,14

$ 77.245,00




$ 93.476,00


West Virginia

$ 38,92

$ 80.960,00



$ 44,27

$ 92.084,00




$ 91.117,00


national average


$ 84.281,06

The salary of an ICU nurse varies depending on the cost of living in the state and the demand for nurses in that region.

Where are ICU nurses paid the most?

ICU nurses have the highest average salaries in California and Connecticut; In both states, they earn 23% more than the national median salary for ICU nurses.

In North Dakota, ICU nurses earn an average salary that is 20% higher than the national average. In New Jersey, ICU nurses earn an average salary that is 19% higher than the national average.

The District of Columbia and Minnesota are also the states with the highest salaries for ICU nurses, with ICU nurses earning 18% more than the national average.

Factors that affect how much an ICU nurse earns

Several factors affect how much an ICU nurse earns, including:

  • Years of experience -The longer a nurse works as a caregiver in the ICU, the more money she can expect.

  • Location -Large metropolitan areas generally pay higher salaries for critical care workers, although these cities also tend to have higher-than-average costs of living.

  • Obtaining an ICU Nurse Certification -An ICU nurse certification such as CCRN or CMC allows an ICU nurse to earn more money

How Soon Can You Become a Critical Care Nurse and Start Earning?

An ICU nurse is usually a type of registered nurse.

To become an ICU nurse, you must earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing and pass the National Council for Registered Nurses Licensing Examination (NCLEX-RN). This process usually takes between two and four years.

If you already have a CNA certification or other nursing training, you can get credit for proving you have mastered these skills. This credit will help you become an ICU nurse faster and earn an ICU nurse salary.

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How much does a critical care nurse make compared to other nursing jobs?

The average intensive care unit nurse salary of $84,281.06 per year means that intensive care unit nurses make more than many other nursing jobs.

On average, an RN has an average annual salary of $76,944.90, making the average intensive care unit nurse salary the highest. This higher salary is due to the specialized skills required of intensive care unit nurses.

Emergency room nurses earn an average annual salary of $78,451 per year, while neonatal nurses earn an average salary of $71,267 per year; The average salary for a critical care nurse is higher than that for these two nursing positions.

A CNA has an average annual salary of $32,501 and an LPN has an average annual salary of $51,098, both lower than the average critical care nurse salary. With an average annual salary of $75,192, a labor and delivery nurse's salary is also less than a critical care nurse's salary.

However, a CRNA nurse anesthesiologist has an average salary of $140,357 per year, which is higher than the salary of an intensive care unit nurse. A CRNA nurse job as an anesthetist requires more education, training, and highly specialized skills.

A Registered Nurse (NP) has an average annual salary of $116,358.04, a salary that is higher than the average salary for an ICU nurse. NPs are required to earn college degrees, making the training and education more intensive than what is required for a Registered Nurse.

Flight nurses earn an average annual salary of $89,579.22, which is higher than the average salary for intensive care unit nurses. A flight nurse provides care in a medical transport helicopter and may need to work 24-hour shifts.

What is the highest paying nursing job?

A CRNA Nurse Anesthetist is the highest paying nursing job with an average median salary of $140,357 per year. In addition to the doctorate with a focus on anesthesia, you must meet the requirements for an RN.

Are the intensive care unit nurses busy?

Although nurses in intensive care units generally see fewer patients than nurses in other hospital departments, they are busy during their shift. Most intensive care patients require a lot of care; Just administering medication and helping with personal hygiene takes up a lot of time. A nurse in the intensive care unit is on her feet for most of her shift.

How much does ICU nurse salary increase with each year of experience?

As a critical care nurse gains more experience, her salary increases. Simply continuing to work as a critical care nurse and gaining more experience is an effective way to increase your salary.

An entry-level critical care nurse with less than a year of experience makes an average of $27.81 per hour, while a critical care nurse with one to four years of experience makes $30.42 per hour. Intensive care unit nurses with five to nine years of experience make $34.11 per hour.

Once an ICU nurse has ten years of experience, she earns an average of $39.18 per hour. ICU nurses with more than 20 years of experience make approximately $42 an hour.

Frequently asked questions about critical care nurse salary

Here are some frequently asked questions about critical care nurse salary.

Am I being paid fairly as a critical care nurse?

Getting paid fairly as an ICU nurse depends on several factors, including your experience, location, and whether you have any certifications.

If you only have a year or two of experience, your salary will not be the same as a critical care nurse with 10 or 20 years of experience.

Some states have below-average critical care nurse salaries due to the lower cost of living or low demand for critical care workers.

For example, in Mississippi, the median hourly wage for an ICU nurse is $28.45 and the median annual salary is $59,184, 30% less than the national average.

However, the median household income in Mississippi is fair46.511 $, and the state has a low cost of living. Taking these factors into account, the average Mississippi ICU nurse salary seems much fairer.

If you feel your salary is not reasonable, you can negotiate your pay rate. While some hospitals follow a fixed pay scale, there may be room for a pay rise.

Another option is to work for another nursing facility or agency that is willing to pay you a fair wage for your experience and education.

Are ICU nurses paid primarily by the hour or annually?

Nurses in the intensive care unit are usually paid on an hourly basis. This compensation structure means that you are paid based on the number of hours worked rather than a fixed amount.

Are ICU nurses paid?

Yes, many ICU nurses are paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. Critical care nurse overtime pay is typically an hour and a half. So if you earn the median wage of $40.52, your overtime pay is $60.78.

Some hospitals pay overtime for hours you work outside of your scheduled hours, even if they don't exceed 40 hours per week.

Occasionally, ICU nurses are required to work overtime due to staffing needs at the hospital.

Are intensive care nurses better paid privately or in hospitals?

Typically, ICU nurses who work in hospitals earn more than those who work in private practices, but this depends heavily on the area and the experience of the nurse.

Intensive care unit nurses can also work as traveling nurses by applying to an agency that connects nurses to hospitals in urgent need of intensive care unit nurses. Working as a traveling nurse in the ICU usually requires a higher salary than working in a hospital.

Can you live on a critical care nurse's salary in the US?

Even entry-level critical care nurses can comfortably live on their paychecks in the US.The average annual salary in the US is $51,168, and the average salary of the intensive care unit nurse exceeds this amount in all states.

Not only can you live on the salary of a critical care nurse, but you can live a comfortable lifestyle in most areas of the country.

How can you increase your income as a nurse in the intensive care unit?

If you're looking to increase your ICU nurse salary, there are a few things you can do to increase your income and maximize your earning potential.

Be prepared to work the night shift (usually 7pm to 7am) as hospitals and nursing services will pay a shift differential for nurses wishing to work these hours.

This is another opportunity to increase your income by being able to work as a traveling critical care nurse. Traveling ICU nurses earn a higher median age to attract nurses to areas of need, and you also get grants and reimbursements to cover your living expenses.

Many positions in travel nursing are also eligible for awards. All of these elements add up to a good compensation package for intensive care nurses.

Get your CCRN or ACCN certifications if you don't already have them, as many employers charge a higher fee for certified critical care nurses.

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