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New York City Nurses Make Less than You Think | NYC Cost of Living
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New York City Nurses Make Less than You Think | NYC Cost of Living


Scrubs is a nursing magazine with an online blog that posted the “Top U.S. States to be a Nurse in 2012” by Linda Lampert.  Linda, using salary data from a 2012 staff survey published by Physician’s Practice, includes New York as one of the top three states to be a nurse.  I agree that the numbers might look good to an outsider, but the reality is that most nurses in New York State work in Manhattan hospitals and compared to the cost of living, nurses don’t make as much money as you think.

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I was recently offered a critical care position at a major New York City hospital while I was working as a contract employee.  The hospital is unionized and the salary is non-negotiable.  Here is the breakdown:

.          Base pay:                                 $68,812

.          BSN pay:                                  $1,600

.          7 years experience:            $2,831.13

.          ———————————————-

.          TOTAL (gross)                       $73,243.13 per year (equivalent to $37.56 per hour)

In order to be approved for an apartment in Manhattan, rental applicants must provide tax returns that indicate their gross income is FORTY times the cost of one month’s rent.  According to a June 2012 Bloomberg report, the median cost for a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan is $3100/month.  In a March 2012 article by the NY Post, $54.46 per square foot (annually) is average.  MNS reports that the current mean rental rate of a one bedroom apartment (no doorman, no elevator) is $2986/month.  NY Habitat reports the range for a midtown one bedroom (no doorman, no elevator) is between $2200-$3000/month.  From personal experience, a one bedroom for $2500 (no doorman, no elevator) is reasonable.

Let’s do the math:

.          $2500/month X 40 = $100,000 minimum annual income.  Application DENIED.

.          $1825/month X 40 = $73,000 minimum annual income.  Application APPROVED.

After a $1825 broker’s fee and a $1825 deposit, $1825 per month will afford a tiny 402 square foot studio (no doorman, no elevator) in Manhattan.  Now let’s consider all annual expenses combined using conservative estimates.

.          Rent                      $21,600

.          Utilities                $960  (electric)

.          Food                      $7000

.          Transpo               $3648 ($200/month taxi fare, $104/month unlimited MetroCard)

.          Cell Phone           $1200 (Verizon smart phone service)

.          Laundry                $850

.          ——————————

.          TOTAL                   $35,258

Remember, New York City residents pay some of the highest city, state and federal taxes in the country.  On average, one-third of gross pay will be deducted.

.          $73,243.13 – 1/3 ($24,170.23) = $49,072.90 annual net income

.          $49,072.90 annual net income – $35,258 basic living expenses = $13,814.90 remaining

The remaining $13,814.90 must be used to make student loan or credit card payments, join a gym, budget entertainment or hobbies, purchase household incidentals (extra roach spray and mouse traps), pay for medical costs, buy uniforms, clothes/shoes, gifts, pets, and possibly a vacation.  One word:  Impossible.

According to the Scrubs article, the magazine conducted a poll to rate nurse’s happiness levels.  Only 4% of local respondents indicated that they were happy or extremely happy.  Lynda Lampert writes, “I think we can all guess that this number is a low ball figure, right? I mean, really, what self-respecting New Yorker admits to being ‘extremely happy’?”

I can assure you that 4% is not “a low ball figure.”  The lives of New York City hospital nurses are compromised by the high cost of living.  Living with roommates, moving to an outer borough, and getting a second job can alleviate financial stress but will make for a stressful life.  Seeking employment at a non-union hospital (New York Presbyterian Cornell, Hospital for Special Surgery, Memorial Sloan Kettering) can allow some negotiation in salary.  But in general, nurses choosing to live and work in Manhattan must truly enjoy New Yorkers, the city, and nursing because there is nothing to love about the pay.


For additional reading:

New York City Nurses Don’t Get Paid to be Nice

East Coast Vs. West Coast Nursing

Internationally Educated Nurses in New York

Lack of Education Among New York City Nurses

We are a health and wellness website, but to see more behind-the-scenes nursing posts, click HERE.


  • Avatar mrs fringe says:

    Nicely done. Many people don’t understand the cost of living in New York. Most professions don’t yield anywhere near the same standard of living as they would just about anywhere else in the country.

    • Avatar Nurse Gail says:

      Thank you Mrs. Fringe! Nurses move to NYC thinking they’ll be making $85,000 per year with the same cost of living as their hometown. THANKS for reading!

  • Avatar dave waldrop says:

    Pediatricians in Manhattan make 120K

    • Avatar Nurse Gail says:

      Thanks for reading, Dave. I like the extra info you shared but I’m not sure how you feel about it. I think $120K for a pediatrician in Manhattan is NOT enough. I have a friend who makes $300K as an interior decorator. Her worst days involve late furniture deliveries.

  • Avatar Nurse Gail says:

    Here is a great breakdown for the cost of one and two bedroom apartments by Manhattan neighborhoods posted on Nov 18, 2013.

  • Avatar Nurse Gail says:

    I love the “Curbed Comparisons.” Here is what $2200 will get you in NYC:

  • Avatar Teneil says:

    This is a bit inaccurate I pay 2500 for a 2 bedroom utilities included and my brokers fee wasn’t as high as this one in the example , and the same for cell phone bill , and Laundry , groceries , and yes I do live In manhattan and transportation is about correct

    • Avatar Nurse Gail says:

      Thanks for reading. Congratulations on getting a good deal with your apartment! They are out there for people who want to look. My neighbors in midtown converted a one-bedroom into a two-bedroom and they share the rent which I think is around 2300-2500/month. It took a little construction work but they are able to save a lot of money (well, comparatively speaking). The standard broker’s fee is close to one month’s rent. I’m wondering what your square footage is and what neighborhood you live in? Might be helpful to readers. Thanks for your comment!

  • Avatar charlene says:

    Interesting article. I live in NY but in Queens and I get to Manhattan within 15-20 mins. You don’t HAVE to live in Manhattan the cost is way too high. You can get a larger place for a much cheaper price elsewhere. And your money will go much further. Just a thought!

    • Avatar Nurse Gail says:

      Thanks for reading and offering another perspective for readers. I have some friends who adore Queens and wouldn’t live anywhere else. They like the pace and the community feel. Restaurants are great, too. For me, I attend NYU (Wa Sqr Park), am a concierge nurse making house calls (usually upper east side), and my social life is also in Manhattan. But living across the river is certainly a great option for folks with other situations. Again, thank you for commenting!

  • Avatar Cammie says:

    This article reads like my friend’s (BSN at Presbyterian Hospital L&D) life. Her outter borough home was foreclosed upon and now she lives in Arizona.

  • Avatar nycnn says:

    Definitely not enough to live well in NYC. Still, it is decent money compared to some other professions. A NYC teacher starts at 45,000 with a bachelor’s (same amount of education as the nurse in this article). And a teacher actually works FOR the city. How the hell are they supposed to afford to live in the city they serve? Plus, the amount of work teachers take home during the year they average closer to 55 hours which more than makes up for the time off. After seven years of experience and even a masters degree a teacher STILL wont make what a nurse does.

    • Avatar Nurse Gail says:

      You are so right and my heart goes out to teachers. I have done some substitute school nursing and have a huge amount of respect for the teachers that I have met and witnessed working with kids here in NYC. It is truly a labor of love. I think your point about the master’s degree is a good one. Nurses can get a master’s degree and dig themselves out of a financial hole here in Manhattan, but even teachers with master’s degrees struggle. From what I understand, it is very difficult to get a teaching job at many private Manhattan schools without one. Thank you for your comment and sharing your perspective.

  • Avatar Nicole says:

    Just because one works in NYC does not mean one has to live there. Commuting from an area which has a lower cost of living just makes better sense. Both my parents, now retired, commuted for 28 years from upstate NY to Manhattan everyday to go to work and they live very comfortably.

    • Avatar Nurse Gail says:

      You are so right Nicole! I mentioned this in a previous comment, “For me, I attend NYU (Wa Sqr Park), am a concierge nurse making house calls (usually upper east side), and my social life is also in Manhattan. But living across the river is certainly a great option for folks with other situations.” It would take a big life change (having kids, etc.) to inspire me to move off the island but upstate is tempting. It is BEAUTIFUL! Thanks for your comment and perspective.

  • Avatar krystal says:

    Did it ever occurr to anyone to live in brooklyn or queens and make the commute to manhattan. Just brcause you work there you dont have to live in the same borough. Which also happens to be the most expensive borough in nyc.

    • Avatar Nurse Gail says:

      Krystal, thanks for reading the post. The comments have a lot to offer as well. The issue you bring up has already been addressed by other readers and I have responded to them. I hope you take a look. Again, thanks for commenting on the post.

  • Avatar colin says:

    hey Nurse gail,i am from the caribbean ,i wud like to know if the NYC is the best place to start out if i migrate to the usa. i am about to do my NCLEX but i do not have a SSN. how do i get one? i have 10 years experience as an RN and7 years experience as a pediatric nurse

  • says:

    Hello Colin,

    Thanks for checking out Your asking questions that I don’t have the answers for, however, I do have a colleague who might be able to help. Her name is Joyce and she runs this blog: Please reach out to her as she is a wonderful resource.

    Best to you and your future plans!

  • Avatar ETHAN says:

    This article is RIDICULOUS.

    I live just under 7 miles from Manhattan (26min drive) and for a $2,400/month rent you get here a really beautiful apartment with 3 large bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bathroom, hallway, lots of closets. Say 2 people are splitting the rent, then that comes out to be just $1,200/month rent.

    Of course RNs can’t live in Manhattan.
    But Brooklyn is great and close.

    • Gail Ingram NP Gail Ingram NP says:

      Ethan, thanks for the comment. I have to defend the article as being much less ridiculous than the cost of Manhattan rent. Rent in Manhattan is really RIDICULOUS and we’ve seen the greatest annual increase in almost a decade. It is true, Brooklyn is an option and appealing to many nurses. All the best!

  • Avatar Briana says:

    Thank you for posting this, I’m a nursing student and everyone has been saying once I get a few years experience I should move to the city to make more money. However it seems the pay is about the same or lower than my current city. My aunt makes has 6 years experience and makes $88k. NYC doesn’t seem to be the best idea for me, I will still enjoy visiting though

  • Avatar Sara says:

    Well reading these comments and article makes me change My mind about moving back to new York with my bsn degree I thank you all this helped my decision.

  • Avatar Rylie says:

    Hey Nurse Ingram, I like the factors you pointed out here. I myself really want to go into a Master’s program once I am done with my BSN. In your own opinion and experience, what do you think the most enjoyable Master’s (or Doctor’s) degree in, in terms of nursing?

    Thanks so much!

    • says:

      A note from Gail Ingram NP: Hi Rylie! First, please consider if you want to be the boss or if you want to be an MD’s backup dancer. I have a degree in Adult/Geri NP and can practice autonomously in New York state (legislation allowing autonomy is determined state by state). Personally, I wouldn’t work in California or Texas where I would be considered a “physician extender” after having the same responsibilities as a medical doctor in New York. It would mean taking a step backward and practicing below my potential. But many NPs are happy working under an MD rather than being equal to an MD. This is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. Second, becoming an FNP (family nurse practitioner) opens more doors for you and you’ll have more flexibility within your scope of practice because it includes kids. The MOST doors open with an FNP DNP or FNP PhD degree. I will likely get my DNP soon because I want to teach in addition to providing primary care. As for “most enjoyable,” this is variable. It depends a lot on the professor, your cohorts, the school, your energy level, etc. I will say that any Masters in Nursing is easier and makes more sense after a couple of years working as an RN. The experience will also help you decide which direction you’d like to go. Best of luck to you! Gail

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