More Men Becoming Nurses—With Higher Pay

Feb 28, 2013, 12:00 PM

Though it remains a predominantly female profession, a new study from the U.S. Census Bureau finds that the percentage of nurses who are male more than tripled from 1970 to 2011, from 2.7 percent to 9.6 percent.

The Census Bureau’s Men in Nursing Occupations also finds the proportion of male licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses increased, from 3.9 percent to 8.1 percent. Men's representation was highest among nurse anesthetists (41%).

“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, said in a news release about the study. “A predicted shortage has led to recruiting and retraining efforts to increase the pool of nurses. These efforts have included recruiting men into nursing.”

The study also found that men typically earn more in nursing fields than women, but not by as much as they do across all occupations.  Male nurses earned an average of $60,700 in 2011—16 percent more than the average earnings for female nurses, which was $51,100. The difference in earnings is due partly to the concentration of men in higher-paid nursing occupations, like nurse anesthetics. “Men have typically enjoyed higher wages and faster promotions in female-dominated occupations,” the study says, a phenomenon known as the “glass escalator” effect.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.