Nurse Salaries From High to Low Around the World
If you’re a registered nurse looking for a good place to work, you might want to consider looking outside the boundaries of your own country.
Especially for the younger (or even older) RN who doesn’t have family responsibilities, a job overseas offers many opportunities to learn about other people and cultures while doing work you love.
Many countries currently have a nursing shortage and in most cases, the shortage is projected to get worse due to an aging population, nursing retirements and high demand, so the options abound.
Here are the five highest paying and lowest paying countries, as well as some other considerations for working abroad.
Data on salaries and job opportunities is available from a variety of sources.
It’s important to recognize that you may not be able to readily get current information and the information that is available may be five or more years old.
While the US and many larger and more developed countries typically collect and publish detailed salary data, the same may not be true of smaller, less developed countries.
Information on the highest paying countries is more likely to be recent.
Look for multiple sources of information to help you make a decision.
The same applies to political, social and safety considerations, job opportunity information, housing conditions and living expenses.
If you can afford it, consider a quick exploratory trip to the top one or two countries on your list or talk to someone who’s worked there recently.
Embassies and consulates may also have information available.
The Lowest Paying Countries
Countries with the lowest salaries are often those with the greatest nursing shortages, as qualified nurses who can emigrate for better wages often do so.
This can have a considerable impact on working conditions.
Many of these countries don’t have the financial wherewithal to raise salaries, so even though demand is high, salaries may remain low.
The flip side of that equation is that jobs may be more readily available.
However, that’s not always the case.
For example, in the Philippines, wages are low but nursing jobs are scarce; the Philippines is a net exporter of nurses, as is India.
Many of those nurses travel to the UK and US.
In 2016, 13 percent of nurses in the UK were Filipino and 28 percent were Indian, according to an article in TechTimes.
According to PayWizard.org, in 2012, the hourly wage in US dollars (USD) in the following countries was as follows: Russia $1.97, Indonesia $1.99, Belarus $2.62, Hungary $5.39, Colombia $5.96.
PayWizard data is obtained by aggregating information from various employment websites.
Although information on compulsory deductions was not available, the annual salaries for those hourly wages (based on a work year of 2,080 hours) were: Russia $4,098, Indonesia $4,139, Belarus $5,450, Hungary $11,211 and Colombia $12,397.
Colombia and Indonesia are respectively the 19th and 30th of the top 30 countries in the world that need nurses, according to the website TopRNtoBSN.com.
Internal conflict and political instability have created many problems for the country of Colombia, yet the life expectancy was 79 in 2012, which is a remarkable achievement in a country with 5.5 nurses per 100,000 population.
High quality health care does attract medical tourism in Colombia, which is one reason the need for nurses is high.
Densely populated Indonesia, with a population numbering in the hundreds of millions, offers a wide variety of health care services but the ratio of all health workers (including nurses) to population is well below the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) at 9/10,000 population.
The extremely low wages in Russia mean bribery is common in health care despite ethical strictures against taking bribes, according to an article in the Moscow Times.
WorldSalaries.org obtains gross income data on nursing salaries from the International Labour Organization.
The site also reports compulsory deductions, which include additional insurance, income tax, medicare or similar state insurance programs, municipal tax, provincial or state income tax and social security and/or pension plans.
These figures are for a single earner of either gender who is married but does not have children.
Unfortunately, the salary data is not current; this information was from 2005.
All figures are in comparable US dollars.
In the Philippines, the average monthly salary was $144.
That works out to $1.80 per hour based on an 80-hour work week.
In the Philippines, the average compulsory deduction was 10 percent.
In terms of annual salaries and with an estimated work year of 2,080 hours, Filipino nurses earned $3,744.
In China, the monthly salary was $187 and the hourly wage $2.34 with 8 percent compulsory deductions.
Chinese nurses earned $4,867 annually based on a 2080-hour work year.
In Lithuania, nurses earned $203 a month, for an average hourly wage of $2.54 with 27 percent compulsory deductions.
Lithuanian nurses earned $5,280 annually.
Romania offered an average monthly salary of $268 and an average hourly wage of $3.35.
Compulsory deductions in Romania averaged 30 percent.
Nurses in Romania earned $6,968 annually.
Latvia nurses earned an average of $397 a month, which is an average hourly wage of $4.96.
The average compulsory deduction in Latvia was 29 percent in 2005. RNs in Latvia earned $10,317 on an annual basis.
The Highest Paying Countries
PayWizard.org data from 2012 indicated the five highest paying countries for nurses (in US dollars) were Belgium at $16.97 an hour, Sweden at $17.27 an hour, Germany at $19.17 an hour, Spain at $21.97 an hour and The Netherlands, which topped the list at $22.08 an hour.
The US, at $16.44 an hour, was not among the top five.
An article in Euspert, which drew data from sources like Insider Monkey and different nursing surveys, rated the following countries in the top five for 2016: Denmark, Australia, Ireland, the US and Luxembourg.
Average annual salaries in those countries were $54,000, $56,000, $64,000, $70,000 and $82,000, respectively, according to Euspert.
Average wages per hour based on a 2080-hour work year were $25.96 for Denmark, $26.92 for Australia, $30.77 for Ireland, $33.65 for the US and $39.42 for Luxembourg.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average annual salary for RNs was $71,000 as of May 2015.
Interestingly, the Euspert article noted that none of the highest paying countries in its survey were among those countries that offered the highest job satisfaction ratings.
Those honors went to Finland, Poland, Sweden/Belgium (tie), Switzerland/Norway (tie) and The Netherlands. Euspert notes that factors like experience can affect salaries.
In Norway, for example, experienced nurses can earn as much as $100,000 in US dollars each year.
A country’s size is not necessarily an indicator of salaries.
Luxembourg is a very tiny country which offers top pay – as high as $125,000 a year for experienced nurses, according to Euspert – but there are very few job openings because the health care system and country are so small.
Salaries for staff nurses may vary according to the specialty in which the RN works.
Salaries for advanced practice nurses are considerably high than those for the average RN.
WorkAbroad.ph, a website that provided information for Filipino nurses who want to work in other countries, reported salary data by specialty and position for 2008.
A critical care nurse in Bahrain earned an average of $500 a month in US dollars while a pediatrics nurse earned $750.
Private duty nurses in Qatar earned an average of $415 a month (USD), while staff nurses earned an average of $1,400 a month.
In the United Arab Emirates, the average monthly salary was $450 (USD) for a CCU nurse and $800 for an operating room nurse.
You should remember that salary information may not be entirely accurate or up to date, depending on the source.
It’s also wise to consider that even within a country, salaries can vary widely according to factors such as a demand and whether the institution is located in a metropolitan or rural area.
Generally speaking, metropolitan areas pay more than rural areas.
In the US alone, the state of California offered both the top-paying metropolitan and rural RN salaries.
In the Mother Lode region, the average hourly wage was $48.84.
In the San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco area, the average hourly wage was $64.26 – the highest in the nation for a base salary.
Annual salaries in the two regions were $101,580 and $133,650 respectively, according to to the BLS.
In Northwest Kansas, however, the average hourly wage was $26.19 and the average annual salary $54,480.
According to PayScale, an RN in Manchester, England, in the far north of the country, could expect a salary of £23,194 (about $29,106 in USD) in January of 2017.
However, PayScale notes an RN in London earned an average of £25,236 (about $31,687 in USD).
As of January 2017, the minimum wage for a nurse in West Germany (including Berlin) was 10.40 euros and in East Germany it was 9.50 euros, according to WageIndicator.org.
In USD, those wages would be $10.16 and $11.13, respectively. (Note: these are minimum wages, not average wages).
Countries and organizations offer a wide range of benefits to nurses and other workers.
These benefits are often not considered in calculating wages, but may offer significant financial advantages.
For example, benefits might include pensions with a generous employer contribution, fully paid health and dental care, free or discounted child care, paid sabbatical leave, extended vacation periods, free food while working or sign-on bonuses.
In the US, for example, benefits typically add 31 percent to whatever the annual salary cost is for a worker.
However, in Russia, pension plans are rare, according to The School of Russian and Asian Studies.
In some counties, such as Saudi Arabia, salaries may not be subject to US income tax, which can make them comparable to countries in which the salary is $10,000 a year or more higher.
Where the Need for Nurses is Highest
Some countries desperately need nurses but cannot offer high wages.
Haiti, for example, is one of the poorest countries in the world.
In the city of Jacmel, in southern Haiti, the informational website Haitian Business notes an RN can earn $775 a month, significantly more than the $60 a month many Haitians earn.
Political instability, frequent natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes, a high population density and few local industries combine to increase health care needs, but money for infrastructure and salaries is lacking.
Paraguay, Bolivia, Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic are also ranked in the top five of countries badly in need of nurses.
Most of the countries in this category are small and poor, but there are exceptions.
Brazil is one of the few large countries on this list; the population of nurses in the country is approximately one quarter of the WHO recommended minimum ratio.
Argentina and Peru are two other large countries on the list, as is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Most, however, are small countries like Nepal, Sierra Leone and Costa Rico.
Before You Go
If you plan to retain your citizenship in the US (as opposed to emigrating permanently) you’ll need a work visa in nearly all other countries.
Most countries also require that you become licensed in that country; you may need to take a licensing exam and pay licensing fees.
Of course, you’ll want a current passport and you should make all necessary health preparations such as updating immunizations before you go.
You might also want to brush up on conditions you wouldn’t normally encounter in a US hospital, such as yellow fever or trachoma.
Although English is spoken in many countries, a basic knowledge of the most common language(s) and customs is sure to be helpful.
You should also find out about taxes and mandatory wage deductions, which can vary widely depending on the country.
The State Department or local embassy or consulate may be helpful in getting you information about the countries you’re considering.
Beyond the Salary
Living conditions overseas may be considerably different from what you are used to.
In some areas, a very high cost of living can negate any salary advantages.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to live as the average citizen does, you may be able to keep more money in your pocket and also immerse yourself in a new culture.
Another major consideration may be your personal safety; some countries – such as those in areas of the Middle East or South America – may not be very stable.
Consider also whether cultural expectations may be a problem.
In some countries, for example, wearing pants is not considered acceptable for a woman. In other countries, nursing is not considered an acceptable career for a male.
Wages may also differ (sometimes significantly) depending on gender.
Options for Working Overseas
If you decide you want to work overseas, you have essentially three options.
The first is to go it alone, researching job opportunities and requirements for working in different countries.
The second is to work for a US-based company that supplies traveling nurses to organizations outside of the US.
The third is to contract directly with a company overseas that supplies groups of healthcare professionals to organizations in a given country.
The primary disadvantage of going it alone is lack of knowledge, which you may or may not be able to rectify through your research.
You will also need to perform your own salary negotiations.
If you choose to work as a traveling nurse, your salary may be closer to US wages, but your assignment options may be limited.
In this case, you work for the traveler’s agency rather than the hospital or healthcare organization in which you are assigned.
If you choose the third option, you will typically go for an extended tour of several months to two years or longer.
Saudi Arabia, for example, often hires nurses in this way.
One advantage of working through an agency is that the agency is knowledgeable about and will handle such issues as visa, health preparation, taxes and salary negotiations.
Being a nurse offers unparalleled opportunities to explore the world.
Whether you want to roam from one country to another or spend an extended period in a particular place, you have many options.
Of course, you might also decide to emigrate permanently.
No matter what you choose to do, it’s always helpful to have salary information, whether it’s for the highest paying or the lowest paying countries.
Written by 3rd independent party
2017-34823 Exp. 10/17