Labor and delivery nurses are specialized in supporting the amazing miracle of childbirth. From educating mothers-to-be on what to expect throughout the process, monitoring and documenting vital signs, to coordinating care with obstetricians and gynecologists, labor and delivery nurses
guarantee a mother and child’s first moments together are as safe and comfortable as can be. This gratifying work has its challenges, but it also comes with a comprehensive salary, opportunities for career advancement, and fantastic job prospects.
What is the Average Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
, in 2018 the median annual salary for all registered nurses was $71,730 or $34.48 per hour. Labor and delivery nurses typically earn a similar salary. As of June 2019, PayScale
reported that nurses in labor and delivery departments earn between $43,000 and $88,000, with the median falling at $61,333. The wide range is due to a number of factors such as experience level, location, and type of institution.
Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary By Experience level
Coursework prepares nurses for a majority of their job, but there are some lessons that cannot be learned in the classroom. Some nurses can recognize their obstetrician and patient’s needs as if they’re telepathic, or predict how far dilated a patient is based off the sound of her groaning, but this takes years of experience. Practice is essential in making good nurses excellent.
Employers take this improvement in effectiveness into account. An entry-level labor and delivery nurse with less than a year of experience can expect an hourly wage of around $25.54. As their level of experience increases, their salary will follow suit. A mid-career nurse with 5-9 years of experience earns on average $30.75 per hour. Seasoned nurses with over 20 years of experience earn on average $37.67 per hour.
If you are just beginning your career as a labor and delivery nurse, don’t be discouraged by the relatively low starting salary. There are multiple ways to expediate enhancement of your earnings such as moving to a location with a high demand of labor and delivery nurses, choosing a lucrative institution to work for, or taking classes for additional labor and delivery nurse certifications
Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary By Location
Labor and delivery nurse salaries vary across the country—even within states—depending on the supply and demand of nurses. Densely populated cities may offer high salaries because their nurses are busy with a high volume of patients. However, if too many nurses live in the area, it can be difficult to find an open position. Small towns that lack a supply of labor and delivery nurses may provide better benefits to attract more nurses to their community.
To get a sense of where nursing is most lucrative, here are the states and cities with the highest average labor and delivery nurse salaries.
According to Ziprecruiter
, the states with the highest salary are:
1. New York-- $112,673
2. Massachusetts-- $ 111,980
3. Maryland-- $105,491
4. Hawaii-- $103,403
5. Connecticut-- $103,225
6. California-- $103,155
7. Vermont-- $103,106
8. Washington-- $103,039
9. North Dakota-- $103,019
10. Montana-- $103,019
The following are the cities with the highest salary, according to PayScale
1. San Diego, California
2. Los Angeles, California
3. Houston, Texas
4. Chicago, Illinois
5. Dallas, Texas
The lowest salaries can be found in Atlanta, Georgia and San Antonio, Texas, where the average annual salary is 7.2% and 4.0% lower
than the national average, respectively. Also note that It’s important to compare salary and benefits with a city’s cost of living expenses. Salary alone isn’t always the best indicator of a viable livelihood.
Labor and delivery nurses that aren’t sure where they want to settle down or have a desire to experience new places can turn to travel nursing
. Travel nurses work as short-term contractors, bringing their skill sets to labor and delivery departments in high demand of nurses. Travel nurses can find work in thousands of facilities around all 50 states, ranging from bustling metropolitan centers to serene rural communities. After 8-13 weeks, travel nurses can either choose to extend their visit or explore a new location.
Agencies like American Mobile
help coordinate job placement as well as provide competitive pay rates and comprehensive benefits package. Benefits include a housing stipend, health and dental insurance, partial expense reimbursements, bonus opportunities, and liability insurance.
Labor and Delivery Nurse Salary By Institution
Labor and delivery nurse salaries can also differ depending on the setting they work in. Most typically they work in hospital’s maternity wards, birthing centers, or attend home births. However, they can also be found in outpatient clinics and private obstetrics and gynecology practices. In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics
presented the average salary of registered nurses in these different work environments:
1. Outpatient care centers -- $79,230
2. General hospitals -- $77,730
3. Home healthcare -- $71,850
4. Private physician’s offices -- $67,790
Paths to Increase Salary
Even with the increase in pay that comes naturally with having more experience, labor and delivery nurses may discover they want to advance their careers and expand their earnings. At a minimum, labor and delivery nurses must be registered nurses. To be eligible to work, they must have earned a nursing diploma in either a 2-year associate’s program or a 4-year bachelor’s degree program and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination.
With further education and certifications, they can diversify their roles and qualify for higher salaries. Some employers will even provide financial assistance for nurses to continue their training.
Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) credentials
Advance Healthcare Network’s “2018 Nursing Salary Guide” states that non-certified labor and delivery nurse salaries average $76,614 a year while certified labor and delivery nurses average $82,992 a year. When labor and delivery nurses achieve certification, it broadcasts to employers that they are effective and dedicated in their field.
In order to obtain certification for inpatient obstetric nursing, candidates must have at least 2000 hours of experience in labor and delivery nursing practice, a minimum of 2 years of experience, and pass the National Certification Corporation exam. The exam is 3 hours long and consists of 175 questions testing knowledge and competence in obstetric nursing.
Travel Nurse Licenses
As mentioned earlier, travel nurses enjoy special benefits
such as housing stipends, travel reimbursements, and health, dental, and liability insurance. Some agencies even offer referral bonuses so they can work alongside their friends while earning extra cash on the side. Although there isn’t additional training necessary to become a travel nurse, the type of nursing license one holds may limit where they can work.
The Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) is an agreement between 25 states allowing nurses with one license to practice in multiple states. States not within the NLC, like California, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, require a unique license to work as a nurse there. Travel nurses can save time between contracts and money on license fees by applying for a multi-state nursing license and working within states that are part of the NLC.
Charge nurses in a labor and delivery ward have many of the same responsibilities as a labor and delivery nurse, however, they are also in charge of the other nurses. They perform managerial and supervisory duties such as delegating tasks, organizing schedules, and overseeing admissions and discharges. They can make up to $98,000 annually
Although there are no certifications required, nurses need 3 to 5 years of clinical experience before being qualified as a charge nurse. Employers may prefer candidates with certifications in basic life support, pediatric life support, advanced cardiac life support, and CPR.
Master’s Degree in Nursing
A master’s degree in nursing is required to become a nurse practitioner in obstetrics and gynecology (OGNP). OGNPs are specialized in handling high-risk pregnancy cases and are prepared to deal with special circumstances and complications. It can take 2 to 3 years to earn a Masters of Science in Nursing. However, it comes with a significant pay raise. OGNPs have an average annual salary of $88,473
Doctorate Degree in Nursing
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs open the door to greater opportunities and higher salaries. It isn’t for the faint of heart as it takes 4 to 6 years to complete. However, for studious nurses interested in delving deep into their fields it is extremely worthwhile. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 DNP-prepped nurse practitioners earned an average annual salary of $135,830.
With this terminal degree, DNP graduates can take greater control in directing patient treatment plans, conduct research to develop better health policies, hold public health office in local government, and even launch an independent practice.
Certified Nurse Midwife
Certified nurse midwives, or CNMs, are advanced-practice registered nurses who have completed either an MSN of DNP degree. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median salary for CNMs as $99,770.
CNMs take on a much more active role compared to labor and delivery nurses. Many of their responsibilities are similar to that of an OB/GYN doctor, however, they require a physician to be in the vicinity in order to carry out these tasks. In addition to delivering babies and assisting physicians with C-section births, CNMs can provide women’s healthcare checkups, counseling for family planning, and prenatal care.
The Future of Labor and Delivery Nurses
A shortage in nurses is predicted to hit in the next decade with many current nurses nearing retirement age. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15% growth in all types of registered nurse positions over the course of 2016-2026. The prospects for labor and delivery nurses is looking particularly favorable with steadily increasing salaries over recent years and strong job security on the horizon.
A Labor of Love
If you’re considering labor and delivery nursing as a career, salary is only one piece of the puzzle. This nursing specialty can be physically and emotionally demanding, requiring quick decision-making, critical thinking, empathy, and sensitivity. The environment can quickly become stressful, but labor and delivery nurses must maintain a level head and a calm demeanor.
Despite the challenges, labor and delivery nurses have an incredibly fulfilling role. Through a collaboration with patients, family members, and other healthcare providers, they aid with bringing new lives into the world. You’d be hard pressed to find a labor and delivery nurse that claims they chose their career based solely on the salary.
If a labor and delivery nurse ever decided they wanted a change in roles, they could smoothly transition to neonatal Intensive Care Unit nursing
or pediatric nursing
. Both these specialties support mothers and their children, and according to Payscale, they both make around the same amount as labor and delivery nurses. NICU nurses earn a median annual salary of $60,375, while pediatric nurses earn a median salary of $58,628.
NICU nurses care for infants who are born prematurely or with other medical complications by administering treatments and medication prescribed by doctors. They also provide support and education for the infants’ parents.
Pediatric nurses provide general health checkups for infants, late teens, and any child aged in between. Their tasks include performing physical exams, taking urine and blood samples, measuring vital statistics, and gathering health history information. Pediatric nurses can also be found working as school nurses.
Know Your Worth
Whether you are just considering if nursing is right for you, or already logging long hours in the delivery room, it’s crucial to understand what salary to expect and what opportunities you have to increase it. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics
reports the national average annual salary for registered nurses as $71,730, remember it’s just an average. Actual labor and delivery nurse salaries may be higher or lower depending on experience level, location, work environment, and certifications.