What Is an Operating Room Nurse's Salary?

OR nurses prepare rooms for surgery and assist physicians during procedures.
OR nurses prepare rooms for surgery and assist physicians during procedures. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Operating room nurses generally have achieved a minimum of LPN status, licensed practical nurse, although some more-experienced nurses may be registered nurses. Nurses who are involved in emergency, critical-care or surgical care of patients typically make more money than other staff nurses, and OR nurses are no exception. Nurses who have advanced-degree training, such as nurse practitioners who specialize in acute and critical care, can earn even more money as OR nurses.

Path to OR Nursing

OR nurses usually are staff nurses at hospitals or other health-care facilities and normally have previous experience as an emergency-room or acute-care nurse. Most OR nurses are RNs and received their RN designation through an associate degree program, a two- or three-year diploma program, or by earning their BSN, or bachelor of science in nursing, degree. Some OR nurses may have advanced training, usually in a nurse-practitioner specialty like critical care or acute care. Whatever path is taken, OR nurses earn more money than many other staff RNs and are poised for promotions or advancement to management positions.

National OR Nurse Salary

Salary.com reports that the median salary for an OR nurse in the U.S. is $68,473. That compares to a median salary of $65,165 for a staff RN. A head nurse in the OR makes a median wage of $92,049. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median salary of $63,750 for all RNs. PayScale lists a salary range of $51,777 to $73,781 based on operating room RN salaries in the 25th to 75th percentiles.


OR nurses with less than one year of experience earn $32,556 to $49,451, again based on the middle 50 percent of salaries. Those with one to four years on the job make $41,386 to $62,234 and OR nurses with five to nine years of experience earn $51,266 to $71,545 annually. RNs with 10 to 19 years of experience make $55,728 to $77,004 a year and OR nurses who’ve been working more than 20 years make $58,138 to $79,995 per year.


The highest-paying states for RN salaries, regardless of specialty, are California at $85,080, Massachusetts at $81,780, and Hawaii at $80,020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All five of the highest-paying cities and metropolitan areas for RNs are in California and include the Visalia-Porterville area at $111,030, the San Jose area at $110,080, and the San Francisco area at $98,900. The median salary for New York City OR nurses is $81,277, according to Salary.com, and in Huntington, West Virginia, the median salary is $61,899. A head nurse in a Boston OR makes a median salary of $102,819.

Job Postings

A sampling of online job listings for OR nurses conducted on April 13, 2011, revealed two jobs at the Veterans Health Administration through the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System for operating room RNs. The salary range was $53,225 to $96,046 and included health and life insurance, long-term-care insurance and a federal pension plan. A Raleigh, North Carolina, hospital was seeking a recent nursing-school graduate — diploma, associate’s degree or BSN — to work full time in its operating room. The position paid $20.92 to $27.21 an hour.

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