Skip to content
Phone 800-985-7215 800-985-7215
(888) 905 1161 (888) 905 1161

A Look at Nursing in Kentucky

For registered nurses (RNs) in Kentucky thinking about earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), now is the time. The strong job outlook for RNs is one reason to consider a BSN. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also points out that nurses with a BSN will have better job prospects than those without one.

Another reason is the 80/20 goal, an initiative of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) — now known as the National Academy of Medicine. Higher levels of nursing education are linked to better health outcomes for patients, and the IOM has called for 80 percent of RNs to have a BSN by 2020.

Northern Kentucky University (NKU) offers an online RN to BSN program that helps busy nurses fit school into their schedule. Multiple start dates and affordable tuition are other attractive aspects of this program.

What Is the State of Healthcare in Kentucky?

Kentucky's healthcare crisis is seen in rankings and reports:

What Is the Job Outlook for Nurses in Kentucky?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are 71,638 professionally active nurses in Kentucky. Of these, 58,756 are RNs. Nationally, employment of RNs is expected to grow by 15 percent, much faster than average.

Although some reports show a nursing surplus, Kentucky hospitals report a nursing shortage. An April 10, 2017 article in the Northern Kentucky Tribune reports that larger hospitals may have a vacancy rate of 10 to 40 percent at any given time.

The 2012-2024 Kentucky Occupational Outlook report projects the state will need an additional 16,047 RNs by 2024. This represents a 36 percent increase over estimates for 2014. An aging population is cited as one reason for the high demand.

How Do RN Salaries Compare Within Kentucky?

Based on BLS data as of May 2017, RNs working in Kentucky earned a mean annual salary of $61,530, which translates to an hourly wage of $29.58. The lowest 10 percent earned $43,550, while the top 10 percent earned $80,310.

As in any state, salaries for RNs vary from one area to another, and in Kentucky this may mean a difference of over $10,000, depending on the location. BLS data as of May 2017 shows the following salaries for metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas.

Area Mean Hourly Wage Mean Annual Salary
East Kentucky $27.01 $56,190
West Kentucky $27.33 $56,840
Central Kentucky $27.54 $52,280
South Central Kentucky $27.76 $57,740
Bowling Green $28.61 $59,520
Evansville IN-KY $28.66 $59,600
Clarksville TN-KY $28.99 $60,310
Elizabethtown-Fort Knox $29.14 $60,600
Huntington-Ashland WV-KY-OH $29.47 $61,290
Owensboro $29.68 $61,740
Lexington-Fayette $30.07 $62,530
Louisville/Jefferson County KY-IN $30.57 $63,580
Cincinnati OH-KY-IN $32.14 $66,850

How Do RN Salaries in Kentucky Compare With National Wages?

National BLS estimates show that RNs earn a median hourly wage of $33.65, or $70,000 annually. The lowest 10 percent of RNs earned less than $48,690. At the top end, RNs earned more than $104,100. See how Kentucky compares to a few other states.

State Mean Hourly Wage Mean Annual Salary
Mississippi $27.74 $57,700
Iowa $27.85 $57,930
Kentucky $29.58 $61,530
Oregon $42.68 $88,770
Massachusetts $42.95 $89,330

RNs working in rural or underserved areas may be eligible for loan repayment programs. For example, the National Health Service Corps funds a 50/50 matching loan repayment program. Kentucky also has a Nurse Incentive Scholarship Fund which provides $3,000 per year for school and cost of living expenses.

RNs can play an important role in providing quality care to patients in Kentucky's rural and underserved areas. Whether for professional growth or personal satisfaction, earning a BSN can open the door to new opportunities.

Learn more about NKU's online RN to BSN program.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses

National Academy of Medicine: The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education

America's Health Rankings: Welcome

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps: Kentucky

HRSA Data Warehouse: MUA Find

Kentucky Center for Economic Policy: 2 Gen Approach to Kentucky's Opioid Epidemic Needed

KFF: Total Number of Professionally Active Nurses

Northern Kentucky Tribune: Kentucky Hospitals Struggling to Find Enough Nurses; Colleges Working Toward Finding Solutions

Kentucky Department of Workforce Investment: Kentucky Occupational Outlook to 2024

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: May 2017 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates

Kentucky Office of Rural Health: Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program

Kentucky Board of Nursing: Nursing Incentive Scholarship Fund

Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.

Request Information
*All fields required.
or call 800-985-7215 800-985-7215
By submitting this form, I am providing my digital signature agreeing that Northern Kentucky University (NKU) may email me or contact me regarding educational services by telephone and/or text message utilizing automated technology or a pre-recorded message at the telephone number(s) provided above. I understand this consent is not a condition to attend NKU or to purchase any other goods or services.