Whether you’re already a nurse or studying to be one, there are many avenues you can take to earn more money as a nurse and become more specialized. So how much do nurses make? It all boils down to specialization, location and experience.
In this nursing salary guide, we take a look at nursing jobs, sub-specialties and how much you can make as a nurse in Canada.
Go ahead and read the entire guide for a thorough overview of what your earning potential could be, along with your daily tasks or skip to the chapter/section of your choice:
What kind of nurse do you want to be? For new nurses, you want to make sure you choose a nursing specialty that is both in demand and aligns with your strengths. Remember the perfect nursing job doesn’t only mean a high-paying nursing salary; it needs to fit with your lifestyle too.
In this chapter:
Nursing is a rewarding career – and one that has endless avenues. Whether you’re on your way to becoming a nurse or you’re already studying to be one, there are many specialties and sub-specialties that can change the course of your career. Before we look at nursing salaries, here’s a general overview of the different types of nurses and specific areas you can specialize in.
Rns have a deep knowledge in clinical practice. A typical day consists of clinical and administrative tasks like history taking, monitoring patients and symptoms and assisting physicians. An RN is considered a generalist and can look after patients in a variety of different settings, although they usually specialize one specific area.
To become an RN, you need:
NPs have higher education than RNs as their roles focus more on diagnosing patients and creating complete treatment plans. Unlike RNs, and more comparable to doctors, NPs can prescribe medications, and work closely in disease prevention and health management.
While NPs are not doctors, their roles are meant to complement a doctor’s role as they allow doctors to focus more on complex treatments and health diagnoses, while NPs stick to providing primary care and act more as the main source of healthcare information and preventative plans. In Canada, to be an NP, you need to have an advanced diploma in nursing or a nursing master’s degree.
LPNs and RPNs work in acute care, long-term care or even palliative care. They often take blood and pressure readings, change bandages, bathe patients and insert catheters. They don’t have as much responsibility as RNs, and it’s more common that they work with less complex patients whose cases are more predictable.
If you live in Ontario then this role is called an RPN whereas anywhere else in Canada you’ll be referred to as an LPN. There’s no difference in the roles – as they both require the same education (a two-year practical nursing diploma from an accredited college).
No matter what type of nursing you’re interested in, you can change directions throughout your career. The above specialties are just some of the most common career paths, but there are plenty more to choose from. For example, you could start your own nursing youtube channel, be a medical nurse writer or even work abroad.
Odds are, if you’re looking at a career in nursing, you’re looking to help people. While helping anyone and everyone is an excellent goal, dig deep and think about why you really want to become a nurse.
Is it because you want to support people in old age because you had a close relationship with a grandparent? If so then maybe becoming a geriatric nurse is the right path for you. Or, do you want to help children on their road to recovery? If so, a pediatric nurse is a better fit. If you truly want to help everyone – then maybe working as a general RN will do – that way you’ll get a variety of cases and patients. If you prefer fast-paced environments then working in the ER is another option.
Whatever you narrow down your options to – try to think about what type of patients you’ll be working with. If you can’t handle fatal illnesses then stay away from long-term care facilities. If you prefer a long-term relationship with a patient then a clinical setting might be best. Whatever you’re thinking about, make a list of the pros and cons and try to narrow down the options that you’re most drawn to and always list your why.
Whether you’ve already studied to be a nurse, you’re currently studying, or you’re thinking about what to study, look back at any previous schooling you’ve done (even high school) and think about what you loved and hated.
Once you get a clear idea of what you loved and hated, you can compare different nursing specialties to that. For example, if you loved science and studying anatomy then maybe becoming an ER nurse will be rewarding. However, if you preferred social studies then maybe working in a long-term care facility or a doctor’s office will be a better fit because you’ll see regular patients.
If you have any experience whatsoever, what did you do? If you’ve volunteered in a healthcare center, hospital or any medical setting, try to remember whether you liked it or not. Really analyzing your experience will help you decide what you like or dislike so that you can stay clear of certain nursing specialties while going after others.
While money isn’t everything, if you’re looking to pay off student debts or support a family, it does play an important role. If you’re looking at a specific specialty just because it pays well, make sure it ticks off all the other questions in this section. Typically higher-paying nursing jobs also mean more education so check out the nursing salary for specific specialties and weigh it against your interests and the demand.
Once you’ve narrowed down a few options, you might like, pop over to youtube and look for nursing vloggers who do a ‘day-in-the-life.’ This will give you some insight into whether or not you could picture yourself doing the same thing.
Here are some great nursing vlogs we’d recommend:
If you have a few career options in mind, think about what comes next. What is the role above it? Or something you could branch out into?
For example, could you become a head nurse or branch out into a similar specialty? It’s a good idea to think of where you might want to be in 5, 10 and even 15 years, so you don’t get stuck staying in the same position.
Now that you’ve taken a look at the major nursing areas, and have possibly thought about what interests you most, the next step is looking at the demand for each specialty. You want to make sure you’ll be able to find a job in the area you’re trained in once you finish your studies.
Here are the top 20 nursing specialties that are currently in demand. Keep in mind that you’ll need at least a generalist nursing education before specializing in a specific area.
Determining how much you will make is an important part of planning your career. It’s a good idea to get a general idea of how much you’re going to earn so you can assess your lifestyle and how quickly you can pay off debts on a specific wage.
While most nurses don’t choose a nursing career purely based on money (you need to align it with your passion and strengths) it’s still nice to know (and compare) how your specialty holds up. More so, it’s a good idea to know the averages across Canada so you can have some negotiating power if you find the job of your dreams but with a slightly lower paycheck.
In this chapter:
The average nursing salary across Canada
Head nurse salary expectations
***The following salaries are based on survey data collected directly from employers and anonymous employees via nurse avenue, indeed, talent and nurse unions.
When looking at How Much is the Average Nursing Salary in Canada you have to keep in mind that while we’re listing the ‘averages,’ they vary greatly depending on what role you’re in. For example, Nurse Practitioners will always make way more than LPNs because of their qualifications and job duties. That being said, this should give you a good insight into the average nursing salary based on your location.
Highest hourly wage
Lowest hourly wage
Average nursing salary
$55.93 (Clinical Nurse Specialist with 9 years’ experience)
$27.68 (undergraduate nurse)
$53.14 (Level 6, or an RN or RPN working for over 9 years)
$27.20 (Level 1, or an LPN working for 1 year or less)
$67.13 (weekend worker, Class 5 with over 20 years’ experience)
$30.58 (LPN in early career)
$52.21 (Class D Registered Nurse with experience level F)
$31.32 (Class A RN starting out or a graduate nurse)
$56.50 (class 37 Nurse Specialist with Level 6 experience)
$31.82 (unregistered or student nurse)
$55.47 (specialty or primary health NPs with over 25 years’ experience)
$20.15 (LPN or Graduate Practical Nurse starting out)
$46.11 (nurses working for over 25 years)
$32.21 (RNs just starting out; excluding overtime/weekend/ holiday premiums)
$56.38 (NP with over 25 years’ experience)
$32.48 (Level 1 RN in early career)
$53.49 (specialty NP with at least 18 years’ experience)
$20.73 (child or baby nurses just starting out)
$58.69 (Step 5 Nurse Practitioner)
$31.07 (unlicensed grads)
What does is all boil down to? Exactly how much do nurses make in Canada? It really depends on where they’re located, what nursing qualifications and licensing they have, any specialties and their years of experience. Let’s take a further look:
As a registered nurse, you can expect to make anywhere from $65,000 to $85,000 annually. Just exactly how much depends mostly on your location and your experience.
The minimum/starting RN salary in Canada is $33 an hour while the highest-paid is around $44/hour. The average RN salary sits at $39 an hour, based on a standard work week of 37.5 hours.
Average RN salary
$70,000 ($35 an hr)
Newfoundland & Labrador
Licensed Practical Nurses work underneath RNs, NPs and doctors. As an LPN you’ll make sure your patient is comfortable and likely be the one administering their medication. While LPNs don’t have huge salaries it’s still competitive and you can increase your hourly rate by working nights or overtime. So how much do LPNs earn as new grads? Here’s a breakdown:
Average Annual Salary
Average Hourly Salary
$52,541 – $55,381
$28 – $35
$26 – $29.
$61,406 – $62,961
$30 – $35
$49,156 – $51,000
$23 – $24.5
Newfoundland & Labrador
$49,424 to $51,541
$23.70 – $24.70
$25 – $30
$80,000 – $83,000
$40 – $46
What’s the difference between RPN vs. RN? Registered Practical Nurses are the same as Licensed Practical Nurses, just with a different name. RPN is what is commonly used in Ontario to describe the work of an LPN. If you live in Ontario your official title will be RPN but anywhere else in Canada you’ll be referred to as an LPN. Just remember – same schooling – same duties – same pay.
Here’s a breakdown of how much RPNs make across Ontario:
Average RPN Hourly Salary
Toronto RPN salary
Ottawa RPN salary
Windsor RPN salary
Hamilton RPN salary
Sudbury RPN salary
Thunder Bay RPN salary
Working as a Nurse Practioner your salary is anywhere from $88,000 to $110,000, that’s around $39.08/hour to $56.62/hour.
Keep in mind that if you’re a newbie, you’ll be earning $10-15K less per year than the below averages.
Average NP Annual Salary
Average NP Hourly Salary
Newfoundland & Labrador
$109,04 – $120,198
Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, you may be thinking about a senior role. A head nurse is just that – a nurse that supervises and coordinates nursing teams. It’s largely an admin role where you will:
Hourly Nursing Salary
Annual Nursing Salary
Newfoundland & Labrador
While a personal support worker is not a licensed nurse, it is a great introduction into the world of nursing and may be suitable for anyone who would like to gain more experience before committing to schooling or who simply cannot afford to attend a nursing school or program.
PSWs may be called something different depending on where in Canada you live. Here’s a breakdown:
Annual PSW Salary
Hourly PSW Salary
Newfoundland & Labrador
However, as mentioned for other nursing roles, if you’d like to work overtime, you can earn a whole lot more. Ty[ically, a PSW can earn an extra $325 to $500 in bonuses. For example, if you only make $19.50/hour but work overtime, you’re hourly wage increases to $29.25 (19.50 x 1.5 = $29.25)! That makes a difference!
If you have at least an RN qualification, then there’s plenty of room to expand your practice by specializing. To give you a bit of insight into what type of career path you can expect, here’s a breakdown of the top nursing specialties in Canada and their earning potential.
Average Annual Nursing Salary
Community Health Nurse
Critical Care Pediatric Nurse
Critical Care Nurse
Enterostomal Therapy Nurse
Hospice Palliative Care Nurse
Occupational Health Nurse
Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse
If you’ve made it this far in the guide, chances are you’re not yet a nurse and are weighing your options on what nursing specialty is best for you. Hopefully, chapter 1 helped you narrow down your own likes and dislikes, while chapter 2 gave you an idea of how much money you can earn as a nurse in Canada.
This last chapter sums up the best nursing programs in Canada so you can get an idea of the top schools and the studying options out there.
In this chapter:
Here are our top-rated nursing programs based on nursing salary, demand, hands-on
experience and overall reputation.
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing program runs for 3 years and equips graduates to deal with complex and contemporary nursing issues
The McMaster University Baccalaureate Nursing Programs (Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program: Basic, Accelerated and Post Diploma RPN Stream) runs for four years and focuses on person-centered learning within a problem-based approach.
Queen’s Bachelor of Nursing Science program is a four-year, full-time program. This is a great option for students who want smaller classes or more personalized education.
The U of A’s Faculty of Nursing offers undergraduate programs leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) degree in a 4-year full-time program. All four years can be taken at Red Deer College, Keyano College (Fort McMurray), or Grande Prairie Regional College.
Students in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing can complete the program in an accelerated 2-year period. Classes are taught by leading academic scholars with the latest technology.
U of C’s Bachelor of Nursing program offers classroom and clinical experience and lasts for 4 years.
UNB has a four-year Bachelor of Nursing program with hands-on clinical experience in its first year.
The U of O’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a four-year nursing degree that prepares students to provide top-notch bedside manner along with courses in leadership.
You can complete U of T’s Faculty of Nursing program in only 2 years! Not only that but it is renowned internationally for its quality and hands-on experience.
Western-Fanshawe Collaborative Program is a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) degree. This is a great option for mature students or anyone who already holds a degree since you can accelerate the program in 19 months.
While you don’t want to complete a nursing degree completely online (you need to have clinical experience), some nursing programs offer distance education where you can study a portion of it from home. Although this isn’t very common in nursing, you can do it through programs like Laurentian University’s BScN program.
There are 15 doctoral programs in nursing and around 30 master’s programs across Canada. By furthering your education, you’ll be more likely to scale the ladder and get a leadership nursing role that has you managing other nurses or working in nursing specialties or as a researcher or educator.
You’ll want to choose a nursing program that gives you lots of hands-on experience. This will help you feel more prepared to enter the workforce as you’ll have more confidence from obtaining real-life exposure to working with a variety of patients.
While the above list of nursing programs in Canada is just our personal pick of the best programs, you always want to evaluate the location and reach out to other nurses for specific recommendations. Plus, make sure you speak with other nurses who have taken the program before signing up.
How much do nurses make in Canada? While most nurses don’t go into nursing for the paycheck, it is important to get an understanding of how much you can earn based on what type of nurse you are. It’s not only good for budgeting and paying off loans but you can also get a sense of how much you can earn in your senior years or whether or not you’d like to branch out into different specialties. On average, a typical nursing salary is $65,000 to $85,000 annually $33 – $44/hour.
There are so many options in the field of nursing that you should be able to change and develop your career on a regular basis. And the best thing about nursing salaries in Canada is the option to work overtime, doubles and holidays.
One of the best things to do as a new nurse or as a student nurse is to connect with other nurses. If you’re interested in asking questions and getting career advice don’t hesitate to join our free networking group – see you in there!