Figure 1 : Number of Men working on a Full Time Equivalent Basis Continues to Increase  

total male fte RNs

Analysis of Current Population Survey (CPS) data indicates the total number of male RNs continues to grow rapidly, with a sharp increase of about 70,000 male RNs from 2010 to 2013. This recent growth saw their representation in the nursing workforce increase from 8.7% to 10.7% in just three years. While these data do not allow us to explore reasons behind the recent increase, the continued attractiveness of nursing as a career (in comparison to other professions), particularly during an era of economic uncertainty, may account for a portion of this growth. Three decades ago, the number of men who were RNs was below 50,000, whereas today the number has increased to roughly 300,000.


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

Percentage of minority FTE RNs by gender

Analysis of the Current Population Survey (CPS) data suggests that male RNs are slightly more likely, in recent years, to be minorities, with closer to 25% of men being non-white compared to approximately 20% of female RNs. The proportions were similar from the mid-1990s though the early 2000s, but began to diverge around 2004.


Figure 3: Male FTE RNs Are Slightly Younger than Female FTE RNs

average age of fte RNs by gender

Using data since the late 1970s, analysis of Current Population Survey (CPS) data indicates male RNs are consistently younger than their female counterparts by about 2 years. Men comprise roughly 12% of new nursing graduates in recent years, but represent just over 8% of older RNs. This difference is due, in part, because women live longer than men, and partly because the nursing profession was even more female-dominated in prior decades than it is today. Thus, with the vast majority of older RNs being women, the average age of female RNs is higher.


Figure 4: Male FTE RNs Are Consistently More Likely to be Working in Hospital Settings

percentage in hospitals by gender

Analysis of Current Population Survey (CPS) data extending back to 1980 shows that male RNs are consistently more likely to be working in a hospital setting than their female counterparts. Male RNs may be particularly drawn to the types of nursing performed in hospitals such as in emergency departments and critical care units.


Figure 5: Combined Associate and Baccalaureate Degrees Awarded to Male RNs

new RN degrees awarded to men

The proportion of new RN Associate and Baccalaureate degrees awarded to men increased dramatically in the early 1990s, peaking at 12%, dropped thereafter for the next 10 years, and since 2004 has risen steadily to 13%. (Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System)


Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies Research Brief No. 4
September 2014
Peter Buerhaus, David Auerbach, Christine Friedman, and Douglas Staiger