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It's the best time to be a nurse in the U.S.

More men are entering the nursing profession. The industry continues to see higher demand with aging baby boomers who are living longer.
More men are entering the nursing profession. The industry continues to see higher demand with aging baby boomers who are living longer.

Being a nurse in the U.S. is a lucrative gig.

In the U.S., a nurse earns an average annual salary of $63,000, more than double the global average of $26,698, according to CapRelo, a firm that specializes in global relocation. The U.S. led in average salary for nurses among 43 countries. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) earn, on average, $140,934 per year, making it the top paying nursing speciality, according to PayScale.

It may very well be the best time to be a nurse in the U.S.. The job’s strong demand, relatively high pay, rewarding nature and low-risk of automation are all compelling incentives to pursue the career.

The demand for health care workers

The landscape looks rosy for anyone looking to become a nurse. A recent study by HR consulting firm Mercer found that the U.S. needs to hire 2.3 million new health care workers by 2025 to aid the country’s aging population.

While the U.S. added fewer jobs than expected last month, health care employment grew by 286,000 over the year. Hospitals added 7,000 jobs in July, according to BLS numbers.

The business services sector added 51,000 jobs and the manufacturing industry added 37,000 jobs in July, coming in distant second and third for top industry job creators.

“If you look at the employment projections, health care occupations in general are going to be high in demand over the next decade. Nurses do appear to be really satisfied with their jobs — more than one might expect,” said Martha Gimbel, research director for Indeed’s Hiring Lab.

While the nursing field has a wide range of professions, registered nurses make up the largest segment of health care workers.

Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. In addition to Baby Boomers’ higher demand for health care services as they live longer, BLS cites an increased emphasis on preventive care and growing rates of chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity as core reasons that are fueling the nursing industry’s growth.

Passion-driven profession

Nurses often work three 12-hour days (which translates into 13- or 14-hour shifts). The difficult hours, especially the “graveyard” shifts, are emotionally and physically draining and take a toll on the body. But nursing is the standout profession when it comes to career longevity, according to Indeed.

After java developers, nurse practitioners and registered nurses are the least likely to leave their jobs. Of the top 10 jobs that have the lowest turnover rate, four are in the field of nursing: nurse practitioner, registered nurse, charge nurse and licensed practical nurse.

Overall, the higher salary leads to less career-switching. But many nurses pursue the profession because they want to be a caregiver and value meaningful interactions and outcomes that they can offer patients.

In analyzing clicks on jobs site Indeed, Andrew Flowers, the company’s economist, found that only 29% of clicks by licensed practical nurses were searches for jobs outside of health care. Only 23% of clicks by registered nurses were to look for jobs outside of the medical field.

“But even when nurses search for jobs outside the specific category of health care delivery jobs, they’re still interested in jobs that could be health care related, such as a case manager, administrator, or educator,” Flowers noted.

Pathway from nursing school

The path to becoming a nurse is fairly straightforward and streamlined. Nursing resource portal NurseChoice reports that a nursing degree represents job security in the current labor market.

“There are lots of positions out there,” Meredith Wallace Kazer, dean and professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut, told NurseChoice. She said 100% of the university’s new grad nurses find jobs.

Laura Author, director of career services at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore, also told the publication that the school’s graduates are having no trouble finding jobs.

There is such high demand for nurses that hospitals and private medical practices are offering five-figure signing bonuses and perks like free housing and college tuition.

Overall, nearly anyone who wants a job in the U.S. has a job. So it’s that much tougher for medical employers to lure talent. According to CNN, West Virginia’s WVU Medicine will start offering tuition reimbursement for employees and their children.

Male nurses & the threat of automation

While nurses have long been stereotyped as a job for females, men have been steadily infiltrating the industry over the past decade. According to a 2017 paper from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, more men are becoming nurses in their 20s and early 30s.

Elizabeth Munnich of University of Louisville and University of Notre Dame’s Abigail Wozniak list educational attainment, rising health care labor demand, and liberal gender role sentiment as the primary drivers of men gravitating toward nursing.

“Men and women make up nearly equal shares of some specialized subfields, like nurse anesthetist. This shift has unfolded over a period in which workers in traditionally-male occupations have faced increasing competitive pressure from automation and
trade,” they write.

The nursing industry remains unscathed amid a wave of automation that threatens to swallow jobs across every sector of the economy — from construction to retail.

“Given these long-run trends, there have been calls to encourage young workers – men in particular – to move into high growth occupations that require some post-secondary training but less than a four-year degree. We view the movement of men into registered nursing as a useful case study from which much can be learned about how young workers in the middle of skill distribution choose non-traditional occupational paths,” they add.

As the industry sees more demand, we could expect more men — and women — to pursue a career in nursing.

Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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