No matter where you are in your life, it’s never too early to plan for your future. Thinking about your finances 20, 30, or even 50 years ahead is more than just asavvy move for retirement planning. In our current economy, it’s essential.

If you’re planning a future in nursing, you may be wondering, “do nurses get pensions?” The answer is yes, but not always.

To help you navigate your future, we’ve created this short guide to walk you through everything you need to know about nurse pension benefits and retirement benefits.

Which Nurse Roles Receive Pensions?

Depending on where you live and work, your experience with health care pensions may vary. But, in general, there are three ways to earn a pension as a registered nurse:

  • Work for the government – Nurses who work for the federal, state, or local government are almost always eligible for a pension. Government nursing job positions include school nurses, public hospital staff, and military nurses.
  • Join a nurses union – Because unions work hard to negotiate benefits for members, union nurses are far more likely to receive retirement benefits. For example, retiree health benefits begin at 55 for National Nurses United members.1
  • Work for a large company – Sometimes, organizations with hundreds of eligible employees will extend pension plans to their nurses.

With around 42% of registered nurses expected to receive pension payments after retiring, nursing remains a terrific investment in your future.2 Learn more about the differences between a nurse practitioner vs registered nurse.

What Type of Pension Do Nurses Get?

Most of the time, nurses are part of defined benefit (DB) pension plans. When you think of a “traditional” pension plan, you’re probably picturing this type of agreement.

In short, a defined benefit plan guarantees workers a specific allowance after retirement. Using a predetermined formula, your employer will calculate your retirement income, which can be paid out monthly or in a lump sum depending on your contract.

Because the amount you’ll receive at retirement is promised in advance, a defined benefit plan is considered the “gold standard” of pensions. As such, most nurses will have an excellent retirement plan.

High quality traveller jobs with flexibility. Learn more!

Is a Pension Fund the Same as a 401(k)?

It’s more common that a nurse will receive a pension rather than a 401(k) plan. However, some nursing roles will include both a 401(k) and a pension.

Pensions and 401(k) plans are both designed for retirement planning, but they function differently:

  • Pension – Pensions are usually untouchable until retirement, and the employer contributions are the source of a majority of the funds.
  • 401(k) – A 401(k) plan usually offers an early withdrawal option, and they must be predominantly funded by the employee’s contribution.

How Much Do Nurses Make from Pensions?

Because pension payments depend on several factors, it can be challenging to give an average allowance amount. Calculations vary state to state, but your employer will usually take the following three details into account:

  • Your salary at retirement age
  • Your length of service
  • Your age

A typical formula you can use to calculate your annual pension payments is:

Years of service x Benefit multiplier x Final average salary3.

The “multiplier” is a percentage defined by your employer—which is usually around 1-2.5%. In most cases, your “final salary” is an average derived from your last 3 to 5 years of work.

For example, let’s say you worked at a hospital for 35 years, made an average of $100,000/year in your final three years, and have a multiplier of 2%. Your formula would look like this:

35 x 2% x $100,000 = $70,000.

Based on these figures, you can expect to receive $70,000 per year after retiring.

What Happens to Your Pension if You Leave?

When you quit a nursing position with a pension, you’ll generally have three options:

  • You can take your current pension amount as a lump sum
  • You can opt for an “annuity” (guaranteed regular payments later on)
  • You can choose a combination of both

Keep in mind that you’ll only receive the total amount of your pension if you are fully “vested” upon leaving. To become fully vested, you’ll often have to work with an employer for five to seven years.

Build a Brighter Future as a Travel Nurse

One of the best ways to guarantee a comfortable retirement is to start planning your finances during the early stages of your nursing career. Earning an above-average salary can also help to increase your pension amount.

To that end, travel nurses typically make more than their stationary colleagues, with the potential to earn up to $100,000 per year.4 Interested in a career in travel nursing? Learn more about the pros and cons of being a nurse and the different types of travel nurses to see what paths you can take.

When you work as a travel nurse with Host Healthcare, you’ll receive a range of benefits, including a matching 401k to help you prepare for retirement. Start building your future and apply with us today. Browse our extensive list of travel healthcare jobs.



  1. National Nurses United. A Secure Retirement with dignity.
  2. US News. 10 Jobs That Still Offer Traditional Pensions.
  3. Equable. Pension Basics: How Pension Benefits Are Calculated.
  4. Host Healthcare. The Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing.