Nursing News

Male Nurses Becoming More Commonplace, Census Bureau Reports


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February 28, 2013 - The nursing profession remains overwhelmingly female, but the representation of men has increased as the demand for nurses has grown over the last several decades, according to a U.S. Census Bureau study released February 25, 2013.

The new study shows the proportion of male registered nurses has more than tripled since 1970, from 2.7 percent to 9.6 percent, and the proportion of male licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses has more than doubled from 3.9 percent to 8.1 percent.¹

The study, Men in Nursing Occupations, presents data from the 2011 American Community Survey to analyze the percentage of men in each of the detailed nursing occupations: registered nurse, nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, and licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse. The study, and accompanying detailed tables, also provide estimates on a wide range of characteristics of men and women in nursing occupations. These include employment status, age, race, Hispanic origin, citizenship, educational attainment, work hours, time of departure to work, median earnings, industry and class of worker.

"The aging of our population has fueled an increasing demand for long-term care and end-of-life services," said the report's author, Liana Christin Landivar, a sociologist in the Census Bureau's Industry and Occupation Statistics Branch. "A predicted shortage has led to recruiting and retraining efforts to increase the pool of nurses. These efforts have included recruiting men into nursing."

Men typically outearn women in nursing fields but not by as much as they do across all occupations. For example, women working as nurses full time, year-round earned 91 cents for every dollar male nurses earned; in contrast, women earned 77 cents to the dollar men earned across all occupations.

Because the demand for skilled nursing care is so high, nurses have very low unemployment rates. Unemployment was lowest among nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists (about 0.8 percent for both). For registered nurses and licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, these rates were a bit higher, but still very low, at 1.8 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.

Other highlights:

  • There were 3.5 million employed nurses in 2011, about 3.2 million of whom were female and 330,000 male.
  • Of the employed nurses (both sexes), 78 percent were registered nurses, 19 percent were licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, 3 percent were nurse practitioners, and 1 percent were nurse anesthetists.
  • While most registered nurses (both sexes) left home for work between 5 a.m. and 11:59 a.m. (72 percent), a sizable minority (19 percent) worked the evening or night shifts.
  • The majority of registered nurses (both sexes) worked in hospitals (64 percent). The majority of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses worked in nursing care facilities or hospitals (about 30 percent each). The percentages for hospitals and nursing care facilities are not significantly different from each other.
  • In 2011, 9 percent of all nurses were men while 91 percent were women. Men earned, on average, $60,700 per year, while women earned $51,100 per year.
  • Men's representation was highest among nurse anesthetists at 41 percent.
  • Male nurse anesthetists earned more than twice as much as the male average for all nursing occupations: $162,900 versus $60,700.


¹The difference between the 2011 estimate and the 2000 and 2006 estimates for percentage of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses who are men is not statistically significant. 


Source: The U.S. Census Bureau