Historically, men held the majority of physician positions and women held the majority of nursing positions. These dynamics are changing, however, as men have found more nursing opportunities that align with their strengths and career goals.
To learn more, check out the infographic below, created by Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program.
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Men in Nursing: By the Numbers
While women continue to dominate the nursing industry, male nurses are becoming more common in healthcare facilities everywhere. Men’s participation has become particularly more prominent in the 21st century.
The Expanding Presence of Male Nurses
In 1960, men accounted for just 2.2% of the nursing workforce. However, the healthcare industry has witnessed a dramatic upswing from this number in recent years. Men accounted for 9.4% of the registered nurse (RN) workforce in 2020, in contrast to:
- 1% in 2017
- 8% in 2015
- 6% in 2013
The following shows the range of male nurses by age:
- 1% — Ages 35 to 39
- 13% — Ages 50 to 54
- 2% — Ages 45 to 49
- 7% — Ages 40 to 44
- 6% — Ages 65 and older
- 7% — Ages 55 to 59
- 6% — Ages 30 to 34
- 6% — Ages 60 to 64
- 6% — Ages 19 to 29
The racial and ethnic demographics of the male nursing workforce provide a unique disparity. As a whole, male nurses account for a disproportionately high percentage of all non-white Caucasian racial groups.
- 3% — Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
- 1% — Middle Eastern/North African
- 7% — Asian
- 6% — More than one race
- 13% — Classified as “other”
- 11% — Black/African American
- 3% — White/Caucasian
- 2% — American Indian or Alaska Native
- 4% — Hispanic
From an academic standpoint, male nurses hold a wide range of degrees.
- 9% — Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
- 9% — Master’s degree
- 1% — Associate degree
- 1% — Bachelor’s degree
- 3% — PhD
- 1% — Diploma
California leads the way in terms of states with the most male RNs, with 307,060 as of 2020. The following states make up the rest of the top five in the category:
- Texas (219,330)
- Florida (183,130)
- New York (178,550)
- Pennsylvania (146,640)
Nursing vs. Other Healthcare Roles
Women occupy 76% of all healthcare professions; however, there is a big caveat to this percentage. While men are a minority in nursing, they’re in the majority in other healthcare roles, highlighting gender inequality in the industry. For example, men account for:
- 58% of VP healthcare roles
- 69% of senior VP healthcare roles
- 70% of C-suite healthcare roles
Why Are Men Choosing Nursing Roles?
Nursing offers many career opportunities. Men seeking a well-paying job in healthcare are turning to the nursing field to achieve their professional goals.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 9% growth in the registered nursing field between 2020 and 2030. As of 2021, the BLS reported the median annual salary in this field was $77,660. There’s an even greater opportunity for advanced practice registered nurses, as the BLS sets that field’s projected job growth at 45% between 2020 and 2030. The role’s median annual salary was $123,780 as of 2021, per the BLS.
There are several reasons for this opportunity. The prime mover is an ongoing nursing shortage. The BLS projects that 276,800 additional registered nurses and 121,400 additional advanced practice registered nurses will be needed by 2030. The factors driving the nursing shortage include the aging population in the U.S., a substantial segment of the existing nursing workforce approaching retirement, and nurse burnout. Burnout is a noteworthy factor among younger nurses, as 24% of nurses ages 20-29 and 15% of nurses ages 30-39 feel their commitment to nursing has decreased.
COVID-19 is another component fueling the nursing shortage, as the pandemic has accelerated feelings of burnout. This led to 21% of nurses intending to leave their positions in 2021. The exodus could conceivably lead to more opportunities for male nurses.
The employment opportunities in nursing could translate to numerous benefits for men seeking a nursing career. The benefits include being in high demand, enjoying competitive pay, and becoming positive role models for men in nursing. Pursuing a nursing career could also open men to several nursing specialties, including family nurse practitioner (FNP), nurse educator, adult-gerontological acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP), and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP).
What Do Men Bring to Nursing?
Men bring a unique perspective and skill set to the nursing profession. They also have to meet a few challenges that may not be as common in other professions.
Benefits of Men in Nursing Roles
Male nurses can provide numerous benefits for a facility. In addition to mitigating the effects of the nursing shortage, bringing on male nurses gives facilities the chance to promote diversity in care delivery. This, in turn, could inspire equality in other professions.
The Stigma of Male Nursing
Male nurses must overcome a few hurdles as part of their professional path, such as gender stereotyping. They must also quell assumptions about their career path. Fortunately, organizations like the American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN) can help male nurses overcome these hurdles.
Nurse educators can also play a key role in helping male nurses move past this stigma. They can work with policymakers and other public officials to mitigate stereotypes associated with the nursing field. They can also turn inwardly by working to overcome their own biases.
A Crucial Component of Care
Men entering the nursing field can help healthcare facilities great and small deliver quality care that can improve patient outcomes. While men face challenges in the role, the many benefits of a nursing career make it a worthwhile profession for them to pursue.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Are You Considering a Career as an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner?”
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Are You Considering a Career as a Family Nurse Practitioner?”
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Are You Considering a Career as Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?”
American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing, “4 Reasons Men Should Consider a Career in Nursing (And Where to Start)
American Nurse, “How to Avoid Gender Bias in Nursing Education”
ANA Enterprise, Mental Health and Wellness Survey 3
Incredible Health, Why We Need Male Nurses
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Male Nursing Practitioners and Nursing Educators: The Relationship Between Childhood Experience, Social Stigma, and Social Bias”
Johnson & Johnson Nursing, Nurse Educator
Journal of Nursing Regulation, The 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey
McKinsey & Company, “Women in the Healthcare Industry”
Minority Nurse, “Shattering Male Nursing Stereotypes”
Trusted Health, 2021 Frontline Nurse Mental Health & Well-Being Survey
United States Census Bureau, “Women Hold 76% of All Health Care Jobs, Gaining in Higher-Paying Occupations”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021, 29-1141 Registered Nurses
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses
Washington Center for Equitable Growth, “What Explains the Rising Share of U.S. Men in Registered Nursing?”