ICU Nurse Salary Guide in USA

ICU Nurse Salary Guide in USA

What is an ICU nurse?

ICU nurses or critical care nurses are highly specialized and trained healthcare personnel who provide nursing care to patients with life-threatening illnesses or conditions. They provide specialized experience, knowledge, and skills that patients need to survive or de-escalate care.

The majority of intensive care unit nurses work in hospital critical care units like ICUs, NICUs, PICUs, and CCUs. But some intensive care unit nurses work in specialty hospital wards like emergency rooms and surgical operating theaters while others work in physicians’ practices and specialty clinics.

ICUs, NICUs and PICUs use much the same types of equipment, treatments and medications, but because NICU and PICU patients are younger and smaller than patients in standard critical care units, equipment like ventilators and infusion pumps may be modified to deliver smaller volumes, and medication must be measured in far smaller dosages. In an ER setting, ICU nurses may be tapped to help stabilize patients who are brought into a hospital with life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

What are specific types of ICU nurses?

The following are the different types of critical care nurses:

Cardiothoracic or cardiac care ICU nurses – These nurses work with patients suffering from severe heart conditions. They handle a maximum of 2 patients.

Medical ICU nurses – Medical ICU RNs mostly care for patients that have a critical disease process not usually involving surgery, such as sepsis, critical cases of cirrhosis of the liver, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Diabetic Ketoacidosis/ Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic State, or critical cases of COVID.

Neonatal ICU nurses – Neonatal nurses work with newborn babies who face a life-threatening disease or condition.

Neuroscience ICU nurses – Neuro ICU RNs mostly care for patients that have had a stroke via a blood clot in the brain or a bleed in the brain. They also care for patients who may be detoxing from various substances (drugs/alcohol) or who have had new or prolonged seizures. They also work with patients with traumatic brain injuries who require ICU level care, acute/sudden trauma to the central nervous system (motor vehicle accidents, or tree limb falling on head), brain aneurysms (both ruptured and in-tact), or patients having a sudden onset of changes in their baseline neurological status.

Pediatric ICU nurses – These nurses work in pediatric intensive care units and provide care to critically ill or injured children.

Surgical/Trauma ICU – Surgical/trauma ICU RNs mostly care for patients that are critically ill and unstable as they are in emergent need of surgery. They also care for patients who are post-op from procedures like abdominal or urological procedures, procedures related to motor vehicle accidents, or procedures related to acute traumatic incidents or transplant patients (except for heart. Those patients go to a cardiac ICU).


How Much Do ICU Nurses Actually Earn?

Let’s take a closer look at how much you can expect to earn as an Intensive Care Nurse. Data regarding annual and hourly wages was gathered using the job platform ZipRecruiter. Since ZipRecruiter is a recruitment platform, the data is not only up to date but also in accordance with market reality.


Per ZipRecruiter data, the average salary of an ICU Nurse is $91,986. That is considerably above the mean salary for Registered Nurses. In 2020, the Bureau of Labour Statistics indicated that RNs earn a mean yearly salary of $80,010. However, due to the more specialized skill set and the slightly more complex duties Critical Care Nurses must fulfill, the higher salary they receive is righteously earned.


Want to know more about Registered Nurse Salaries across the US? Read our complete guide on RN Salary and find all the answers.


The highest paying states for ICU Nurses are New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Wyoming, and Maine. In New York, RNs working in intensive care can expect to earn up to $114,270. New Hampshire offers wages around $110,770, while in Vermont, an ICU Nurse’s earning potential can be as high as $104,700.


On the other side, among the states which pay the least are Michigan, Illinois, Texas, Missouri, and North Carolina. In North Carolina, Critical Care Nurses take home an average salary of $74,700. The wages for this specialty in Missouri round up to $80,220, while ICU Nurses working in Texas earn around $81,050 annually.


If you are interested in checking your earning potential but the state in which you live is neither in the top nor the bottom on the average salary scale, do not worry. We’ve got you covered. Below you will find a list of all 50 states listed in alphabetical order and their respective annual and hourly wages for ICU Registered Nurses.