Men on the Rise in Nursing…and They’re Getting Paid More Than Women

Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing, famously said “men are not suited for nursing”.  Her words and views shut men out of the field encouraging women to be primary caregivers for the ill.  Since Nightingale’s time, men have been slow to adopt the nursing profession but today they are doing so in increasing numbers.  And, they’re being rewarded with higher salaries than women.

Of the 3.5 million registered nurses in the United States, 9.6 percent are men.  While this number seems small, it is up from 2.7 percent in 1980 and 6.6 percent in 2008.  Growth of men in nursing has been slow, especially compared to the rate of women entering medicine (7 percent in 1969 to 48 percent today), but men are entering the field in increasing numbers.

It’s not surprising that men are beginning to take advantage of the nursing profession.  Thanks to growing demand for healthcare services, the unemployment rate for nurses is low with just 0.8 percent of nurse practitioners and 1.8 percent of registered nurses unemployed in 2011.  Men are taking advantage of advanced nursing opportunities upping their income.  41 percent of nurse anesthetists are currently men, a disproportionate number considering the overall rate of men in the field.

Even when accounting for differences in seniority and type of nursing position, men are paid more than women in nursing.  Among registered nurses, women earn 93 cents to every dollar earned by men, 89 cents to the dollar for nurse anesthetists, 87 cents to the dollar among nurse practitioners and 91 cents to the dollar among vocational nurses.  A phenomenon known as the “glass escalator” which refers to how men in female-dominated careers rise higher and faster than women in male-dominated fields, is likely responsible for the salary disparity among women and men in nursing.

The pay differences among male and female nurses sound reminiscent of the 1950’s but surprisingly this wage gap is less significant than other professions.  Overall in the United States, women across all occupations earn 77 cents to the dollar compared to men.

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As opportunities in nursing increase given our aging population and physician shortage, more and more men are likely to continue entering the field.  Stereotypes of nurses as females are slowly disappearing ending the stigma against male nurses.

Are you seeing an increase in the number of male nurses in your workplace?  What about pay differences?


Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau

1 thought on “Men on the Rise in Nursing…and They’re Getting Paid More Than Women”

  1. How much of this disparity can be attributed by area of specialty? The percentage of men nurses increases dramatically in critical care and EDs compared to the overall nurse profession. These areas often pay more owing to increased acuities and advanced certifications. I’ve even seen this to some extent in NP work. One local ED has 2:1 m:f NPs, and my PCP office doesn’t have a single male NP. The one that boggles me is the CRNA difference. I have no stats for that at all, but I’ve noticed many of the male CRNAs jump at trauma call and high risk, long surgeries. Not familiar with their billing, so not sure if that makes a difference in income. I know in my dual-FNP house, my wife makes a lot more per hour, but I work more hours and my yearly income is higher. I truly hope these are just results of surveys being too general in determining differences in income among gender.

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