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Va Nurse 1 Level 3 Pay Scale: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re interested in pursuing a nursing career with the Department of Veterans Affairs, you may be wondering about the pay scales – specifically for a Nurse 1 at the level 3 grade.

If you’re short on time, here’s the key takeaway: The VA Nurse 1 Level 3 pay scale is a salary schedule for registered nurses (RNs) who work for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The pay scale is based on the RN’s step within their grade level and the locality pay rate for the area where they work. As a registered nurse at this level, you can expect a competitive salary along with robust federal government benefits.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down exactly what the VA’s Nurse 1 level 3 pay scale entails. We’ll look at the basic salary table, discuss details on annual raises and locality pay, outline promotion potential, and summarize the full compensation package.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand the ins and outs of the Nurse 1 level 3 pay scale so you can determine if a VA nursing career aligns with your goals.

Basic Nurse 1 Level 3 Salary Table

Nurse 1 Pay Scale Overview

The Nurse 1 pay scale is used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to determine the salaries of its registered nurses. The pay scale has a range of 10 steps, from Nurse 1 Step 1 being the lowest to Nurse 1 Step 10 being the highest.

The Nurse 1 level applies to entry-level nurses with an Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN).

Nurse 1 Pay Scale

Level 3 Salary Range

The Level 3 designation indicates a nurse has 3-5 years of nursing experience. On the Nurse 1 pay scale, a Level 3 nurse would typically start at Step 4 or Step 5. Here is an overview of the Level 3 salary range:

Step Salary
4 $76,400
5 $79,573
6 $81,960

Starting Salary

A VA nurse with 3-5 years of experience would likely start at the Nurse 1 Step 5 level, which currently offers an excellent starting salary of $79,573 per year. However, based on their specific background and qualifications, some nurses may start at Step 4 or Step 6.

Salary Increase Steps

VA nurses receive step increases annually based on performance. Therefore, a Level 3 nurse starting at Step 5 could progress as follows:

Step Salary
4 $76,400
5 $79,573
6 $81,960
7 $84,347
8 $86,734
9 $89,121
10 $91,508


The step increases provide a clear path for steady salary growth year after year for VA nurses. 

Annual Raises and Locality Pay

When it comes to the VA Nurse 1 Level 3 pay scale, understanding the various components that contribute to annual raises and locality pay is essential. These factors not only determine the salary growth of nurses but also reflect the cost of living in different regions.

General Schedule Annual Raises

One crucial aspect of the VA Nurse 1 Level 3 pay scale is the annual raises provided under the General Schedule (GS) system.

The GS system consists of 15 pay grades, each with 10 steps. As nurses gain experience and move up the steps within their pay grade, they become eligible for annual raises. These raises typically range from 1% to 3% and aim to recognize the growth in skills and expertise of nurses over time.

Locality Pay Adjustments

Locality pay adjustments account for the differences in the cost of living across different regions. The VA Nurse 1 Level 3 pay scale takes into consideration the geographic location of nurses’ duty stations.

Nurses working in areas with a higher cost of living, such as major cities, may receive a higher locality pay adjustment compared to those working in areas with a lower cost of living. This adjustment helps ensure that nurses are fairly compensated based on the expenses they incur to meet their basic needs.

COLA Adjustments

In addition to annual raises and locality pay adjustments, VA nurses may also receive Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) adjustments.

COLA adjustments are given to employees working in locations with significantly higher costs of living, such as Alaska and Hawaii. These adjustments aim to bridge the gap between the expenses incurred by employees in these areas and those in the rest of the country.

It’s important for VA nurses to keep track of these various components of their pay scale to understand how their salary may change over time. For more detailed information and specific salary calculations, nurses can refer to the official VA website.

Promotion Potential for Nurse 1 Roles

For nurses starting at a Level 3 on the VA Nurse 1 pay scale, there is a clear promotion potential to higher levels. This allows nurses to progress in their careers and take on more responsibilities, while also earning a higher salary.

The promotion process is designed to reward nurses for their experience, expertise, and commitment to their profession. 


From Level 3 to Level 4

One of the key milestones for nurses at the Nurse 1 Level 3 pay scale is the opportunity to advance to a Level 4 position. This promotion usually comes with an increase in responsibilities and a higher salary.

Nurses at Level 4 are typically assigned more complex patient cases, have supervisory duties, and may be involved in training and mentoring junior staff.

The promotion from Level 3 to Level 4 is not automatic and requires meeting certain criteria, such as demonstrating clinical competence, leadership skills, and a commitment to continuous learning and professional development.

Nurses may need to go through a performance review process and submit an application for promotion, which is evaluated by a review board or committee.

Timelines for Promotion

The timelines for promotion from Level 3 to Level 4 may vary depending on individual performance, experience, and organizational needs.

Some nurses may be eligible for promotion after a certain number of years of service, while others may need to meet specific performance goals or complete additional training or certifications.

It’s important for nurses at Level 3 to have regular discussions with their supervisors or nurse managers to understand the expectations for promotion and to receive guidance on how to progress in their careers. This can help nurses set goals and develop a plan for professional growth.

Higher Nurse Levels and Salaries

Aside from the promotion from Level 3 to Level 4, there are higher nurse levels within the VA system that nurses can aspire to. These higher levels come with increased responsibilities, advanced clinical practice, and higher salaries.

For example, nurses at the Nurse 1 Level 5 pay scale may be involved in advanced practice nursing, research, education, or management roles. They may have specialized certifications and may be recognized as experts in their field.

The salaries for nurses at higher levels are typically higher to reflect the increased responsibilities and expertise required.

For more information on the promotion potential and career progression for nurses within the VA system, you can visit the official VA website. The website provides detailed information on the different nurse levels, pay scales, and the requirements for promotion.

Full Compensation Overview

When considering a career as a VA Nurse 1 Level 3, it’s essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the compensation package. This article aims to provide a detailed overview of the various components that make up the VA Nurse 1 Level 3 pay scale.

Base Salary

The base salary is the foundation of the VA Nurse 1 Level 3 pay scale. It is determined by factors such as education, experience, and location. VA Nurses 1 Level 3 are eligible for yearly salary increases based on performance evaluations.

The base salary is a crucial component of the overall compensation package and can vary depending on the geographical region and local cost of living.

Shift Differentials

VA Nurses 1 Level 3 may be eligible for shift differentials, which are additional payments for working non-traditional hours. These differentials typically apply to evening, night, weekend, and holiday shifts.

The exact amount of the shift differentials can vary based on the specific VA facility and the shift worked.

Overtime Pay

In certain situations, VA Nurses 1 Level 3 may be eligible for overtime pay. Overtime pay is provided for any hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek. The rate of overtime pay is typically time and a half, meaning the nurse will receive 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for each hour worked beyond 40 hours in a week.

Overtime Pay

Health and Life Insurance

As part of the compensation package, VA Nurses 1 Level 3 are eligible for comprehensive health and life insurance benefits. These benefits can include medical, dental, and vision coverage, as well as life insurance policies that provide financial protection for the nurse and their family.

Retirement Benefits

VA Nurses 1 Level 3 are eligible for retirement benefits through the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). This system provides a pension plan, as well as access to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a retirement savings plan similar to a 401(k).

These retirement benefits ensure financial security for nurses during their retirement years.

Paid Leave

VA Nurses 1 Level 3 receive paid leave as part of their compensation package. This includes annual leave, sick leave, and federal holidays. The amount of paid leave varies based on the nurse’s years of service and the specific policies of the VA facility.

For more detailed information on the VA Nurse 1 Level 3 pay scale and benefits, you can visit the official website of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is important to note that compensation packages may vary slightly between different VA facilities, so it’s advisable to research the specific benefits offered by the facility you are interested in.


In summary, the pay scale for a VA Nurse 1 at level 3 provides a competitive salary between around $60k-$70k, with guaranteed raises over time and ample promotion potential.

With exceptional federal government benefits factored in, Nurse 1 roles offer a very attractive overall compensation package.

Hopefully this guide has helped you gain clarity and confidence around the level 3 pay scale. Best of luck as you consider whether a VA nursing career is the right move for you!

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