Increasing numbers of men in the nursing workforce, who are younger than female RNs and continue to earn higher wages


Center investigators routinely update information from prior data briefs posted on the Center’s website.  In this data brief, we update information on the number of RNs who are men, including employment, education, earnings and other information.


Figure 1. Number of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Male RNs Continues to Increase

total men in nursing


Analysis of the Current Population Survey (CPS) data shows that the total number of male RNs continues to increase, reaching over 350,000 FTEs in 2016. Although they have increased in total numbers, the representation of male FTE RNs in the workforce has remained steady at 11% over the past 5 years, indicating that their numbers have been growing proportional to that of the entire RN workforce.


 Figure 2. The Relative Proportion of Male FTE RNs who are Minorities is Slightly Higher than for Female RNs

male minorities in nursing


The data points for men represent a 3-year moving average, due to a smaller sample size. Thus, the last year is 2015, which includes 2016 data.


The proportion of male, minority (non-white), FTE RNs has remained consistently above the proportion of female minority RNs since 2004. Prior to 2004, the proportion of male minority RNs had periods of increase and decrease compared to the female minority RN proportion.


 Figure 3. Male FTE RNs are Slightly Younger than Female FTE RNs

male female age


The Current Population Survey (CPS) data indicates that male RNs are, on average, about 2 years younger than female RNs. Male nurses, who compose about 12% of recent graduates, only account for 8% of RNs over age 60. This difference in average age can be explained by longer life expectancies for females compared to males, and the RN workforce in prior decades which was even more female dominated than it is today. Both male and female average age has increased since 1970, rising by nearly 10 years for males and 7 years for females.


Figure 4. Male RNs are More Likely to be Working in Hospitals than Female RNs

setting of male female nurses


The data points for men represent a 3-year moving average, due to a smaller sample size. Thus, the last year is 2015, which includes 2016 data.


Since the early 1980s, the percent of male RNs working in hospital has been consistently larger than the percent of female RNs in hospital. This gap, which narrowed in 2011-2012, has widened again with nearly 70% of male RNs working in hospital compared to 61% of female RNs in 2015. Male RNs may be more drawn to the type of nursing performed in hospitals, such as emergency departments and critical care units.


Figure 5. Male RNs Earn Higher Hourly Wages than Female RNs

male female wages


Since 1994, the Current Population Survey (CPS) data indicates that, FTE RNs continue to earn, on average, $2 more per hour than their female counterparts. Several possible explanations for this difference in earnings are discussed in the webinar given by Dr. Ulrike Muench, which can be accessed on the Center’s video library.


Figure 6. Combined Associates and Baccalaureate Degrees in Nursing Awarded to Men, 1984-2015.

degrees male female


The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data system (IPEDs) data show the proportion of Associates and Baccalaureate nursing degrees awarded to men has doubled from 6.6% in 1984 to 13% in 2015. The proportion peaked in 1996 at 12%, then decreased to 9.5% by 2004, and then began to increase again to 13% where it has remained since 2013.


Figure 7. Combine Masters and Doctoral Degrees awarded to Men and Women

masters degree male female


Data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data system (IPEDs) show that since 2003, the number of female RNs earning Masters or Doctoral degrees has increased from 7,600 to 37,000 in 2015, a 5-fold increase of nearly 30,000 annual Masters and Doctoral degrees awarded. For male RNs, the number of Masters and Doctoral degrees awarded since 2003 has increased from 1,000 to 4,000 in 2015 where they composed about 10% of all RNs with this level of education.


April 8th, 2017

David Auerbach, Ph.D

Peter Buerhaus, Ph.D, RN, FAAN

Douglas Staiger, Ph.D

Lucy Skinner