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A Look at Nursing in Alabama

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Alabama is one of our most beautiful Southern states, from the rolling hills and mountains around Cheaha Mountain in the Talladega National Forest to the white sand beaches of Gulf Shores.

Few people realize Alabama is the only state that has all the natural resources to make iron and steel. Or that the first rocket that put humans on the moon was built there. Or that the state introduced Mardi Gras to the western world. (No, it’s not Louisiana.)

If you were born and raised in any of the states from Texas to the Atlantic Ocean that fall south of the Mason-Dixon Line, then you will feel right at home in Alabama.

These are the strongest reasons to consider a nursing career in Alabama: the genuinely friendly people, the lush and varied geography, the quiet efficiency of the engines of commerce in each metropolitan area, and the great need for compassionate, effective healthcare — made sweeter by the significantly lower cost of living.

Nursing Employment

The call for highly educated nurses in Alabama is loud and growing stronger. Ranked 43rd in the nation by American’s Health Rankings for the quality of health in 2014, Alabama has the highest rate of diabetes in the country, the second highest infant mortality rate, and a high incidence of babies born at a low birth weight. This data speaks to the state’s pressing need for healthcare and healthcare providers.

About 44,000 registered nurses are employed in the state of Alabama, a third of whom work in the Birmingham metropolitan area, home to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, the area’s largest employer and a center of advanced biotechnology and medical research. When you add Mobile, Huntsville (where the moon rockets were manufactured), and Montgomery to the areas that employ RNs, these four cities account for almost two-thirds of the state’s nursing workforce. (Not surprisingly, these locations are also the cities with the most job openings.)

Nationwide, there are nearly three million employed RNs, meaning Alabama has about 1.5 percent of the national total. Of the 176,000 healthcare employees in Alabama, a quarter are RNs.

Salary, Growth and Cost of Living

Four Alabama cities — Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery, and Mobile — are among the Top 30 cities with the lowest costs of living in the U.S. Compared with Los Angeles, California, the cost of living in Huntsville is 45 percent less.

On that basis, every dollar nurses in Alabama earn goes further than it does on the West Coast or the East Coast and in major metropolitan cities. For the United States as a whole, RNs earn an average of just over $73,000 per year, while Alabama RNs earn $57,890, nearly 80 percent of the national average. RNs with BSN degrees, however, earn nearly $64,000 per year. Considering the lower cost of living, salaries for Alabama nurses are on par or better than nurse salaries in other states.

The U.S. annual growth for healthcare and social assistance workers is projected to be 1.82 percent, and the rate for Alabama is 1.64 percent. While demand for nurses is healthy in Alabama, it’s slightly less than that for the nation as a whole. Even at that slightly slower pace, nursing is still near the top in Alabama’s economy for growth.

Regional Variations

Nursing salaries are highly variable by metropolitan location in Alabama. The nearly 17,000 nurses employed in the Birmingham area earn just over $60,000 annually, while the 1,400 nurses employed in and around Florence and Muscle Shoals earn about $49,000.

Because the cost of living in Florence is higher than that in Birmingham, if you have a choice, the bigger city might be your best bet — unless, of course, you love small towns. With a population of about 40,000, Florence and “The Shoals” constitute northwestern Alabama’s industrial and cultural center.

A Welcoming Tribe

“Alabama,” means “tribal town” in the language of the Creek Indians who lived there. When you go there, you know that means “tribal” in the best of senses. People look you in the eye and nod at you on the street. They hold doors open for you. They welcome you and offer you a cool drink.

In short, a nursing position in Alabama would be deep in the heart of a very welcoming tribe.

Learn more about The University of Alabama in Huntsville’s RN to BSN online.

Sources: Alabama Facts and Trivia BSN Salaries in Alabama

Nurse Salary Guide: Nurse Salary in Alabama

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital Alabama Public Health Jobs, Careers & Salary Outlook

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016 – Registered Nurses

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2016 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates – Alabama

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation: Total Health Care Employment

Alabama NewsCenter: Three Alabama Cities Have Among Lowest Cost of Living in the Nation

Sperling’s Best Places: Cost of Living Comparison: Los Angeles, California – Huntsville, Alabama

American Nurses Association: The Nursing Workforce 2014: Growth, Salaries, Education, Demographics & Trends

Alabama Department of Labor: Employment Projections

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses

Sperling’s Best Places: Cost of Living Comparison: Birmingham, Alabama – Florence, Alabama

ANA Enterprise

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: The Future of the Nursing Workforce: National- and State-Level Projections, 2012-2025


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