It seems that everywhere I turn, I encounter an RN returning to school for a nurse practitioner degree. Working in the emergency department the other day, I heard from more than one nurse out of the handful on my shift that they were planning to return for a master’s degree. The same holds true for PAs. The paramedics in the emergency department where I work seem to be applying to physician assistant programs in greater numbers. This prompted me to wonder, just how many NP and PA students enter the job market each year?

Although some job markets are saturated when it comes to nurse practitioners and physician assistants, overall the demand for healthcare providers is high. An aging population in our country means a requirement for more healthcare services. In addition, with healthcare reform, millions more Americans have received health coverage and are using the healthcare system more readily than in previous years. In turn, a greater number of MDs, NPs and PAs will be required to meet these demands.

Curious about the supply of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, I checked out surveys from organizations for each profession. Here’s what I found:

The number of nurse practitioner graduates is steadily increasing by 3,000 to 4,000 students each year. The number of physician assistant graduates, in contrast, remains relatively steady from year to year. This is likely do to the increasing number of programs offering online nurse practitioner education which can accommodate more nurse practitioner students. Physician assistant programs haven’t jumped onboard the online trend to the same extent.

Once demand for healthcare providers is met, the number if NP graduates will likely stabilize to balance supply with demand. We have seen this with the ebb and flow of nurses over the past several decades. Waves of nursing shortages hit, then the tide turns, and the supply of nurses begins to outpace demand.

How have you seen the number of nurse practitioner graduates affect the job market in your area?


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5 thoughts on “How Many NPs and PAs Graduate Each Year?”

  • Over supply of NP’s causes salaries to be compressed. In some urban areas, NP jobs are so rare that a NP earns less than a 2 year RN.
    It is a shame that the online NP programs, and some on campus program, ‘churn’ out so many NP’s as to cause this depressed market.

    One does not notice the PA schools or physician schools shooting themselves in the foot in this manner.

  • PA schools only admits a certain number of students each year. The goal is to accept the best candidates, thus, having stellar graduates. PAs are sought after, and are offered higher salaries by potential employers, because of this.

    Contrary, many of the NP programs, are just out there to make as much money as possible from any student. There’re new programs; some very expensive, and with poorly planned curriculums, popping up everywhere.

    However, with chronic diseases on the rise, even among young people, the need will be for more primary care NPs/PAs in the future.

  • Why do we have to bash other people’s professions in an attempt to build up our own? As an NP, I received a quality education. the PAs I work with were also equally prepared.

  • I believe the number of NP schools that are graduating NPs are admitting too many people. I graduated n early 2016 and the competition is so bad I am still seeking a position in late 2017. I have worked for the same organization for almost 20 years and I am still getting the cold shoulder for an NP position. I have spent many hours applying for jobs and still I have no job. Having regrets about the time, effort and money spent to get an education that has brought me nothing but tears of anguish. I never thought I would have this difficult a time finding a job.

  • Robert Charles Bowman says:

    NP expansions are moving annual graduates past 40,000 at an annual growth rate of about 6 to 7% since the 1990s – a rate 10 – 12 times the annual population growth rate. PA is not stagnant and is nearing 9000 and will be past 10,000 soon at a 4% – 5% annual growth rate about 7 times pop growth. US DO graduates are approaching 10,000 also at about 4 – 5% growth rates.

    A common justification is expansion for the purpose of resolving shortages. The financial design is worsening and preventing increases in primary care, rural location, and underserved locations. Stagnant revenue and major increases in the costs of delivering care and designs that pay less and penalize more where care is most needed – will do that.

    A class action lawsuit would be a very good idea and the sooner the better.

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