icu nurse salary

ICU Nurse Salary Guide – 2024

No one can walk around with a life jacket, but some professions do come close to it – like that of an ICU nurse. While in crisis, their value cannot be overstated, an ICU nurse’s salary does have a range – $92,287 to $152,942 on average in 2024[1]. Compared to the national annual average salary of US professionals at $74,738[2], an ICU nurse makes around 60% more. Additionally, the growth rate of ICU RNs is twice the rate of all US occupations[5].

Average entry-level ICU nurse salary $47,010 per year [3]
Median ICU nurse salary $84,791 per year[4]
ICU RN salary growth projection @6% from 2022-2032[5]

An ICU nurse’s salary is a bundle of cash and non-cash benefits which on average can be topped by overtime of $12,375 per year[1]. In general, the overview of the ICU nurse wage looks decent but to paint the full picture one has to take into account all the factors that impact their salary, including location, certification, work-setting, and more. Then whether “ICU nursing is worth it” (or not) would also depend upon your career stage, lifestyle choices, and some luck as well.

Do note, in terms of the surveys on ICU nurse salary, there’s no one true source – not even the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. So one has to collect, collate, and make sense of the numbers from reliable sources. And, this is what we do in this guide on ICU Nurse Salary for 2024. We also cover various factors, actionables, and tips that field experts believe can help more money as an ICU nurse.

ICU Nurse Salaries across In-demand Locations in the US

As location arguably plays the most important role in determining an ICU nurse’s wage, let’s see the salaries of most in-demand locations for ICU nurses in the US. We take that this is where most aspirants of ICU nursing would start off given their flexibility of movement.

In California, particularly in Palo Alto and San Francisco, salaries are notably higher, ranging from $141,595 to $200,996 annually. On the other end, in Florida and Texas, salaries range from $80,647 to $137,999, reflecting regional disparities in pay scales – despite projecting high demand for ICU nurses.


Lower End
Average Salary
Upper End
ICU nurse salary in California $104,363 $137,387


ICU nurse salary in Florida

$80,647 $101,850 $128,629
ICU nurse salary in Texas $83,279 $107,203


ICU nurse salary in New York

$110,814 $139,836 $176,458
ICU nurse salary in NYC $106,797 $143,348


ICU nurse salary in Palo Alto

$141,595 $187,013 $247,001
ICU nurse salary in Los Angeles $65,794 $99,807


ICU nurse salary in San Fransisco

$136,348 $165,546 $200,996

*source: indeed[1]

ICU Nurse (Intensive Care Unit) Job in US

ICU nurse stands for Intensive Care Unit Nurse. As the name suggests, these are the nurses who provide specialized care to critically ill patients. Their duties range from administering medications, conducting diagnostic tests, and collaborating with medical teams to develop patient care plans to even educating patients and their family members in times of stress. It’s considered one of the high-stress jobs in the nursing profession.

To start your career as an ICU nurse, you need to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, and obtain state licensure. Then you can work with a hospital to gain experience in critical care through residencies or fellowships.

Salary for entry-level ICU nurses varies by location and skill but typically they can expect anything from $65,000 to $110,000 annually.

To discuss the starting salary of an ICU nurse, you can join a community of nursing experts.

How Much Do ICU Nurses Make in a Year, Month, and Hour in the US in 2024

ICU nurses in the US earn varying salaries for various factors that we touch upon later. However, in a bird’s eye view, we see a trend that at the lower end, they make approximately $53.61 per hour, totaling around $92,287 annually. The average base salary is $69.01 per hour, equating to $118,805 yearly. And the salary of a high-end ICU nurse can go as up as $88.84 per hour or $152,942 annually.

ICU Nurse Salary

Per Hour Per Week Per Month Per Year
Lower end salary $53.61 $1,689 $6,534


Average base salary

$69.01 $2,174 $8,412 $118,805
Higher end salary $88.84 $2,798 $10,829


*source: indeed[1]

Median ICU Nurse Salary

For a nuanced overview of ICU nurse salary, instead of average, looking at the median distribution offers understanding of how many ICU nurses are earning what. Because a big dip or peak in a region (for whatever reason) can significantly distort the average from the reality of their salaries.


Average ICU RN Annual Salary









Looking at the data above, the lower end, the 10th percentile earns under $68,766 annually. Conversely, only the top 10 percentile of ICU nurses earn above $98,811; thus, making the median salary of an ICU nurse: $84,791 annually.

ICU Nurse Salary & Benefits Breakdown

In the US, professionals generally receive more than just their base salary as compensation – they get non-cash benefits as well. Similarly, ICU nurses enjoy various additional benefits that contribute to their total income. Although these offerings are at the discretion of the employer they typically include employer contributions to retirement plans like 401(k), health insurance coverage, and tuition reimbursement for new or mid-level nurses.

These supplementary compensations enhance the attractiveness of the overall pay package for ICU nurses.

Break-down of the salary components of an ICU nurse

Core Compensation


% of Total

Base Salary


Bonus $0


Value of Benefits


% of Total

Social Security

$6,487 5.5%




Disability $1,357



$6,371 5.4%
Pension $3,561


Time Off

$10,762 9.2%
Total Compensation $117,483



Other Common Benefits for ICU Nurses


Employee stock purchase plan Paid time off
401(k) matching Flexible schedule

Pet insurance


Flexible spending account Prescription drug insurance
AD&D insurance Health insurance

Referral program

Adoption assistance

Housing stipend Relocation assistance
Continuing education credits License reimbursement

Retirement plan

Dental Insurance

Life insurance Travel reimbursement
Disability insurance Loan repayment program

Tuition reimbursement

Employee assistance program

Opportunities for advancement Vision insurance
Employee discount Paid housing

Wellness program


ICU Nurse Salary by State

Now at the core of the ICU nurse salary stats – the state-by-state salaries of ICU nurse salaries. As mentioned earlier, it fluctuates significantly across the country arising from region’s the influence on living costs, employment rate, career opportunities, etc. The figures on average can go as high as $126,301 in New Jersey to as low as $81,793 in Florida.


Average ICU Nurse Salary










































New Hampshire


New Jersey

New Mexico


New York

North Carolina


North Dakota







Rhode Island


South Carolina

South Dakota











West Virginia





Source: [7]

To get a more realistic estimate of the ICU nurse salaries in each state, connect with ICU nurses from across the US.

Reviewing the extensive list of state-wise ICU nurse salaries can be confusing to pick a pattern. Therefore, we’ve filtered the list of top-10 highest-paying and lowest-paying states for ICU nurses below. Do keep in mind that high-paying states need not necessarily mean a big saving – as they usually are offered in costly cities. With the same reasoning, one can say that even the low-paying states can prove to be better given your lifestyle preferences.

Top 10 highest-paying US states for ICU nurses

Among the highest-paying states for ICU nurses, New Jersey comes on the top with an annual salary of $126,301. Right behind it are Rhode Island and Maine – both offering salaries exceeding $125,000.



Annual ICU Nurse Salary


New Jersey $126,301
2 Rhode Island



Maine $125,035
4 New York



Massachusetts $122,199
6 Hawaii



Alaska $120,807
8 Wisconsin



California $119,643
10 Connecticut


Source: [7]

Lowest-paying US States for ICU Nurses

From the same list above, among the lowest-paying states for ICU nurse pay, Florida is placed at the bottom. It has an annual average salary of $81,793. The states following it are Mississippi and Colorado where the average ICU nurse salary is below $80,000.


State Annual ICU Nurse Salary
1 Florida



Mississippi $85,699
3 Colorado



Tennessee $90,043
5 Texas



Arkansas $95,014
7 South Carolina



Louisiana $95,698
9 Minnesota





Source: [7]

Highest Paying US Cities for ICU Nurses

If you’re looking to narrow down your search from state to city level, below we list cities reported to be top-paying ones for ICU nurses in the US. Again, various factors come into play but a dataset[1] reveals that New York City, NY reigns on top with $83.27 as ICU nurse salary per hour. Another city, Phoenix, Arizona where on average the hourly wage of ICU nurses is $74.85, is considered a lucrative spot for ICU nurses.

City, State

Average ICU Nurse Salary

per Hour

New York, NY

$83.27 per hour

Phoenix, AZ

$74.85 per hour
Baltimore, MD

$72.59 per hour

Indianapolis, IN

$71.11 per hour
Houston, TX

$70.48 per hour

Newark, NJ

$64.14 per hour
El Paso, TX

$61.61 per hour

Los Angeles, CA

$57.98 per hour
San Antonio, TX

$57.36 per hour

*source: Indeed [1]

Popular employers for ICU nurses and their offered salaries

Given ICU nurses always work in stress-environment, consideration for job satisfaction often extends beyond mere compensation. After selecting a location, you can explore various job boards to find employers that align with your values, flexibility, and career opportunities.

Below we’ve compiled a list of reputable employers known not only for their competitive salaries for ICU nurses but also for their brand reputation.


Employer Rating Average ICU Nurse Salary
per Hour
Providence 3.6


Innovis Health

2 $46
Mayo Clinic 3.8


Health First

3.4 $45
Mercy 3.6


HCA Healthcare

3.3 $44
Mercy Health 3.6


Baptist Health Care

3 $43
Emory Healthcare 3.7





*source: glassdoor [7]

Suggested Watch: Navigating Work and Life as a Nurse

Search the best ICU Nurse jobs from the top employers in the US – Sign Up!

ICU Nurse Salary by Job Title

In the field of ICU nursing, job titles correlate with salary variations. A nurse in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) earns an average of $84,800 annually, while a Staff Nurse – RN – ICU garners a similar salary of $84,791. Head Nurses in the ICU receive significantly higher compensation, averaging $125,988 yearly. PICU Nurses earn comparatively less at $76,365 annually.

ICU Nursing Job Title

Average Salary
Head Nurse – Intensive Care Unit


Nurse, Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

Staff Nurse – RN – Intensive Care Unit


PICU Nurse


*source: [8]

Suggested Reading: Navigating Career Paths in Healthcare: How to Choose Your Specialization

ICU Nurse Salary vs CCU Nurse Salary

It’s not uncommon to confuse between an ICU nurse and CCU nurse. But they are different. While ICU nurses tend to all critical patients, a nurse in the coronary/cardiac care unit (CCU) specializes in the care unit for cardiac issues. The table below compares the annual salaries of ICU and CCU nurses across different percentiles.


Average ICU RN

Annual Salary

Average CCU RN

Annual Salary

10% $68,766



$76,403 $74,000
50% $84,791



$92,130 $97,800
90% $98,811


*source: [9]

Generally, at each percentile, ICU nurses tend to earn slightly more than CCU nurses. However, the difference in salaries varies across percentiles, indicating nuances in compensation levels between these critical care specialties.

Suggested Watch: Top 10 Highest-paid Nursing Jobs

ICU Nurse Salary by Career Progression

Once you start in the field of ICU nursing, you’ll grow in your career and take on various roles with increasing responsibility and salaries. ICU nurse salaries across career stages have significant potential for progression – from new graduates to senior directors, salaries range from $69,000 to $226,000 annually.

ICU Nurse Career Stage

Most Likely Annual Salary Range
Assistant Manager of Nursing

$69K – $118K /yr

New Grad Registered Nurse

$82K – $127K /yr
Registered Nurse

$87K – $135K /yr

Assistant Director of Nursing

$88K – $137K /yr
Adjunct Registered Nurse

$92K – $140K /yr

Senior Registered Nurse

$93K – $139K /yr
Registered Nurse V

$98K – $147K /yr

Director of Nursing

$104K – $160K /yr

Senior Director of Nursing

$118K – $191K /yr

Chief Registered Nurse

$129K – $226K /yr

*source: glassdoor [10]

Factors Influencing ICU Nurse Salaries

Location-based difference in wages of ICU nurses

Dissecting the salary difference for ICU nurses across the 50 states of the US – the lower and upper end vary for as much as over $50,000[6] annually.

Associating the figures and regions one can derive that coastal states (on either end) and states with higher costs of living tend to offer higher salaries, while some Midwestern and Southern states offer lower average salaries.

Experience-based difference in wages of ICU nurses

As with most professions, the average hourly salary for ICU nurses correlates directly with their years of experience. An entry-level ICU nurse can earn $30 per hour, while mid-level nurses earn around $35 per hour on average. Experienced nurses can expect to earn $35 to $45 per hour, while senior-level nurses with over 10 years of experience may earn upwards of $50 per hour.

Experience Level

Years in Profession Salary Range
Entry-Level ICU Nurses 0-2 years

$25 – $35 per hour

Mid-Level ICU Nurses

2-5 years $30 – $40 per hour
Experienced ICU Nurses 5-10 years

$35 – $45 per hour

Senior-Level ICU Nurses

10+ years

$40 – $50+ per hour

*source: [12]

Work setting-based difference in wages of ICU nurses

ICU nurses are primarily employed in intensive care units or emergency departments of medical facilities, whether operated by private entities or the government. They may specialize in various ICUs including:

  • Surgical ICU
  • Psychiatric ICU
  • Coronary ICU
  • Pediatric ICU
  • Neonatal ICU
  • Medical-surgical ICU
  • Neuro Trauma ICU
  • Transplant ICU

Typically, ICU nurses earn the highest salaries when working for state or local governments, and benefiting from increased pay, benefits, and overtime opportunities.

In the private industry, ICU nurses earnings can be an average annual salary of $70,100, with total compensation reaching $99,716, including benefits such as paid leave, insurance, and retirement savings. State and local government employment offers higher total compensation at $116,268, with more substantial benefits.


Private Industry State and Local Government
Paid Leave $7,379


Supplemental Pay

$3,490 $1,163
Insurance $7,778


Retirement and Savings

$3,390 $14,417
Legally Required $7,578


Total Benefits

$29,616 $44,298
Average Annual Salary $70,100


Total Compensation



*source: nursingprocess [12]

However, it’s worth noting from the other tables in this guide on ICU nurse salaries is that those in private hospitals in larger cities can command higher remunerations due to the higher cost of living and the flexibility of the employer’s offerings as well.

All said, for the salary you manage to fetch as an ICU nurse, one important life skill that can come in handy is – your negotiation skill. The better you are at it, the better your chances to project yourself as a perfect ICU nurse candidate to the right employer and make the most of the job opportunity at hand.

Suggested Tool: Nurse Resume Builder

ICU Nurse Salary Trajectory in 2024 in US

In the United States, the demand for nurses has been persistent for over five decades. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics[5] anticipates a 6% increase in registered nurse jobs between 2022 and 2032, surpassing the average growth rate for all professions. This surge is attributed partly to the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to elevate the need for critical care services. Analysts project a need for 1.2 million new nurses by 2030 to address this shortfall[13]. Notably, 28% of hospitalized medicare patients are baby boomers who require ICU admissions[14].

Safe to assume the increasing demand for ICU nurses can correlate with higher salaries. In fact, per a Zippa report[15], in the last five years, critical care nurse salaries have risen by 10% indicating a promising trajectory for ICU nurse compensation in 2024 and beyond.

Suggested Read: Nurse Practitioner’s Salary Trajectory


It’s evident that among many factors, from location to specialization certifications and even shift differentials would play a role in deciding an ICU nurse’s salary. As you progress in your ICU nursing career, opportunities for career advancement become apparent. But it is worth remembering at career any stage that your commitment contributes to the job not only to the well-being of your patients but also to the financial success of your own journey.

So, keep honing your ICU nursing skills, stay informed, and always keep an eye out for career growth opportunities. To do so from your fingertips, connect with a community of like-minded ICU nursing professionals right away!


What is the highest-paid ICU Nurse?

Highest-paid salaries for ICU nurses can be different when looking from different lenses. State-wise, New Jersey pays the highest average at $126,301. As a Chief ICU RN you can make as high as $226K /yr.

Where are ICU Nurses paid the most?

Palo Alto, CA is considered the most lucrative location to be an ICU nurse. Here you there are reports of offers in the range of $247,000 on the upper end[1].

Whose salary is higher – CCU or ICU nurse’s?

While their salaries overlap at different criterion, at most percentiles, the average annual salary for ICU nurses tends to be slightly higher than that of CCU nurses[9].

Does ICU nurse salary justify ICU Program costs?

In general, professionals believe that ICU nurses are placed in a good position to make money following their tuition to cover their nursing school fees. For example, ADN programs of two years typically cost $6000 – $20,000 from community colleges. And as an entry-level ICU nurse, you make in the range of $50,000.

How much do travel ICU nurses make in the US?

While an accurate number on this is tricky to find, but on average an ICU travel nurse’s salary is $143,210 a year[16] – meaning, $68.85 an hour or $11,930 a month.




Related Guides

delivery nurse salary
Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary Guide – 2024

Intro While we Americans take pride in all honest-paying jobs, we’d still ...