ABSTRACT. This article analyzes education demand, competencies and credentials, earnings, and demographic distribution of the nursing workforce in the United States. It finds that nursing remains an oasis of opportunity for women, paying wages above the national average and offering well-developed career pathways for those who acquire the credentials necessary to practice and advance in the nursing career. Despite the fairly competitive wages in nursing compared to other occupations for workers with a baccalaureate degree, nursing remains highly segregated by sex, largely for social reasons. Furthermore, notwithstanding great progress in equity and racial and ethnic inclusion in the nursing professions, LPNs/LVNs (licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses) are still disproportionately minority women, while RNs (registered nurses) and APRNs (advance practice registered nurses) are disproportionately white women. Transitioning from the LVN/LPN to RN also proves to be much more difficult in practice than those starting off with the BSN degree, as evidence by length of time to graduation. Continuous up-skilling to the BSN (bachelor of science in nursing) as the new entry-level credential in the field, presents additional challenges, as low-income nurses and those from racial and ethnic minority groups face additional new educational barriers to upward economic mobility.

Keywords: nursing workforce; wages/earnings; nursing demographics; education; minorities; LVN/LPN; RNs; APRNs; nursing specialties; immigrant nurses; Obamacare; Affordable Care Act

How to cite: Carnevale, Anthony P., Nicole Smith, and Artem Gulish (2018). “Nursing: A Closer Look at Workforce Opportunities, Education and Wages,” American Journal of Medical Research 5(1): 29–66.

Received 3 January 2018 • Received in revised form 20 April 2018
Accepted 22 April 2018 • Available online 28 April 2018


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Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
(corresponding author)
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

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