Nursing By the Numbers

Nursing By the Numbers

Nursing By the Numbers
Nursing By the Numbers

As you think about taking your nursing career to the next level, you may have many questions. Who are your fellow nurses? Where do they work? What do they earn? How easy will it be to switch into a different type of nursing? Examining some basic statistics and nursing demographics can shed light on these queries.

Basic Demographics

As of June 2015, an estimated 3,852,881 persons held an active RN license in the United States and its territories. Respondents to a 2015 survey reported having been licensed for an average of 20.9 years.

While the nursing workforce is still predominantly white, the proportion of racial/ethnic minorities has been increasing. Black/African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics/Latinos make up greater proportions of the RN population, while the proportion of whites declined from more than 80% in 2000 to about 75% in data obtained from 2008 to 2010. Racial/ethnic minorities are better represented in younger age-groups and in more recently licensed RNs than in older RNs and those licensed prior to 2000.

Nursing remains a predominantly female profession, but the proportion of RNs who are male are increasing. Studies indicate the proportion of male RNs range from 8% to 9.2%. Data shows a substantially higher proportion of male nurses in the more recently licensed cohorts (12.7%) as opposed to those licensed prior to 2000 (4.7%).

The overall aging of the RN workforce has slowed. Due to a considerable increase in new entrants to the field, the number of RNs younger than 30 has increased. At this time, approximately one-third of the nursing workforce is older than age 50.


In a 2015 study, 65% of respondents indicated they had obtained a baccalaureate or higher degree, up from 61% in 2013. Approximately 39% of RNs obtained a BSN and 3% obtained a graduate degree as their initial credential. Newly licensed RNs, those licensed from 2013 to 2015, were more likely to have obtained a BSN as their initial education (48.6%) versus RNs licensed prior to 2000 (34.8%).

“RN to BSN” graduate data reveals that RNs are increasingly advancing their education. There has been an 86% increase in the annual number of RN-BSN graduates from 2007 to 2011. Nearly 28,000 RNs were awarded a post-licensure bachelor’s degree in nursing (RN-BSN) in 2011.

Research shows 8.6% of nurses hold an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license and, of those, 70.4% were licensed as a nurse practitioner. The annual number of nursing graduate degrees awarded has grown 67.4% from 2007 to 2011.


In 2015, 81.1% of RN licensees were actively employed in nursing with 62.9% of those nurses working full time. Nurses work an average of 37 hours per week no matter the age of the nurse. They find employment in a variety of settings with hospitals remaining the common employment setting for RNs, at 54%.

The settings with the highest concentration of employed nurses include: general medical and surgical hospitals (30.49%), specialty hospitals (24.01%), psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals (16.13%), outpatient care centers (15.37%), and home health care services (13.23%). Fewer nurses are being employed by physician offices (7.81%) and nursing care facilities (9.6%).

Nearly half of RNs surveyed in 2015 have provided nurse services using telehealth technologies. Of those, 39.4% of RNs provided these services across a state border and 7.7% across a national border.

Research shows that 78.6% of employers prefer nurses who have obtained a bachelor’s degree. Nearly 44% of hospitals and other healthcare settings require new hires to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Fifty-nine percent of graduates earning a BSN and 67% of those earning a MSN have job offers at the time of graduation.  Eighty-nine percent of new BSN graduates were employed in nursing 4 to 6 months after graduation.


The median annual wage for registered nurses was $68,450 in May 2016. The lowest 10% earned less than $47,120, and the highest 10% earned more than $102,990. Median salary of female RNs was approximately $64,000, while the median salary of male RNs was $72,000. Data indicates salary increased with higher levels of education.

For RNs, the highest paying states are (highest first): CA, MA, HI, OR, AK. The 10 states with the lowest median salaries are (lowest first): SD, IA, WV, AL, MS, AR, ND, NE, KS, TN. In May 2016, median annual wages for RNs varied across settings: government ($73,980), hospitals ($70,590), home healthcare services ($61,140), physician offices ($61,730).


Most nurses reside in urban areas, consistent with the distribution of the total population. Urban areas have a slightly higher number of RNs per capita than is true for the nation as a whole, whereas rural areas have a lower per capita supply of RNs.

Approximately 16% of the RN workforce live in rural areas. Nurses in rural areas are more likely to be female and white non-Hispanic/Latino and to hold an associate’s degree or less as their highest degree. They are slightly less likely to be work in hospitals and more likely to work in nursing care facilities than their urban counterparts.

The states with the highest employment level for RNs are (highest first): CA, TX, NY, FL, PA.

Job Outlook

The RN workforce grew by 24% over the last decade, outpacing growth in the U.S. population. The number of RNs per capita increased approximately 14%. With an estimated 16% growth, nursing workforce is projected to grow much faster from 2014 to 2024 than the average for other occupations.

Although most healthcare settings have experienced increases in their RN workforces, recent data shows decreased numbers of RNs are employed in medical offices and residential care facilities. The largest employment gains have occurred in outpatient care centers, administration positions, and “other healthcare services.” The number of RNs working in hospitals has increased by approximately 25%.

What Do the Numbers Mean?

Nursing demographics show that nurses as an occupational whole, are an educated professional population. Working RNs who wish to advance their career while maintaining their personal as well as professional life should consider the RN-BSN program at Our Lady of the Lake College Online. With courses 100% online, you can complete classes at your own pace on your own schedule. Learn more at



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Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017, March 31). Occupational employment and wages, May 2016: Registered nurses. Retrieved from

Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015, December 17). Registered nurses [Occupational Outlook Handbook]. Retrieved from

Health Resources and Services Administration (2013). The U.S. nursing workforce: Trends in supply and education. Retrieved from

National Council for State Boards of Nursing (2015). The 2015 National Nursing Workforce Survey [Executive Summary]. Retrieved from: