Career Opportunities and Trends
in the Field of Nursing

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If you are preparing to join the US workforce and are looking for a robust industry, the medical industry — specifically nursing — is a profession with seemingly unlimited opportunity. 

Not only are opportunities in the nursing profession skyrocketing, nurses have been ranked by Americans as the #1 most ethical and honest profession for an astounding 18 years in a row. This combination makes the nursing profession extremely appealing for those who feel a calling to help others.

When it comes to career outlook and industry trends there are a few things to consider:

Current Number of Nursing Professionals

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019:

721,500

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

3,096,700

Registered Nurses

263,400

Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

1,579,100

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Estimated Jobs Added Between 2019 and 2020

65,700

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

221,900

Registered Nurses

117,700

Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

119,500

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

This is a 9% estimated job growth for licensed practical/vocational nurses; a 7% estimated job growth for registered nurses; a 45% estimated job growth for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners; and an 8% estimated job growth for nursing assistants and orderlies. The next decade of growth in each of these nursing positions far exceeds the 3.7% total employment increase anticipated by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Contributing Factors to Increased Nursing Job Opportunities

There are multiple factors contributing to the rise in nursing opportunities. An aging workforce is faced with retiring nurses, increased emphasis on preventative care, an aging US population, a growing rate of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and obesity, advanced practice nurses’ scopes or practice continue to expand, and a marked shift towards the preference of BSN nurses in hospital settings — these factors (and others) have led to a job explosion in the field of nursing. 

If you are considering entering the nursing profession, regional factors will certainly come into consideration. Where do you live? Where do you want to live in the future? What states have the most opportunities? Here is a breakdown of the states with the current highest levels of employment:

Employment Level: Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse

76,590

California
Median income $60,240

70,290

Texas
Median income $47,370

46,320

New York
Median income $49,860

45,960

Florida
Median income $45,580

41,150

Ohio
Median income $45,020

Employment Level: Registered Nurse

302,770

California
Median income $113,240

218,090

Texas
Median income $74,540

181,670

Florida
Median income $67,610

178,320

New York
Median income $87,840

148,040

Pennsylvania
Median income $71,410

Industry Challenges and the Future

In 2010, anticipating an upcoming nursing shortage which would accompany an increasingly aging population, the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) issued a groundbreaking report known as The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.

In this report, several challenges for the future of nursing were addressed: a lack of nursing professionals to meet the upcoming medical demand, an aging nursing workforce, a lack of diversity in the nursing ranks, a lack of education and preparation, tension with other medical professionals, restrictions on scope of practice.

In a written overview and commentary on The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the National Council of Biotechnology Information (NCBI) highlights four “key messages” in the report that speak to the future of nursing: 1) Nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training. 2) Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression. 3) Nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other health professionals, in redesigning health care in the United States. 4) Effective workforce planning and policy making require better data collection and improved information infrastructure.

Supporting Research

NCBI National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2011). The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.

Reinhart, R. J. (2020, October 29). Nurses Continue to Rate Highest in Honesty, Ethics. Gallup.com.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, September 1). Nursing Assistants and Orderlies: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, July 6). 29-1141 Registered Nurses. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, July 6). 29-1151 Nurse Anesthetists. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, July 6). 29-1161 Nurse Midwives. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, July 6). 29-1171 Nurse Practitioners. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, July 6). 31-1131 Nursing Assistants. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, July 6). 29-2061 Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, September 1). Employment Projections — 2019-2029. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, September 1). Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, September 1). Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. Department of Labor. (2020, September 1). Registered Nurses: Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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