Why Nursing Is a Solid Career for Men

lisa jaffe

Written and reported by:

Lisa Jaffe

Contributing Writer

male nurse comforting female patient
male nurse meeting with patient

Despite the many reasons to consider nursing—including solid pay and opportunity for growth—many men don’t pursue a career in the field. But they are needed in a profession where many patients want to see themselves in the healthcare workers who care for them.

Number of Males Nurses Inches Up

According to the Journal of Nursing Regulation, there were an estimated 4.1 million registered nurses and another million licensed practical nurses in the United States in 2020. In each category, 9.4% were men, an increase of 2.8% since 2013.

Michael Ward, MSN, APRN, AGACNP-BC, is a hospitalist nurse practitioner in Texas and vice president of the American Association of Men in Nursing (AAMN). He promotes nursing as a career in talks to male junior high and high school students as part of the association’s FutuRN campaign. “The guys are almost always surprised to find out what nursing can give them,” Ward says.  He says this is because many guidance counselors don’t talk to boys about careers in nursing.  

Jason Mott, PhD, RN, a professor of nursing at the University of Wisconsin and the incoming president of the AAMN, says research confirms this.

9.4%

Percent of Men in RN and LPN Positions in the US 2020

“One of the main reasons that young men don’t go into nursing as frequently is because of career counseling,” Mott says. “When boys in high school and middle school take the tests to see what career fields they might be good at, and when that comes up as a medical career, they are typically directed towards physician, physician assistant, physical therapy, etc. Very rarely are they told about nursing as a career. “

Mott says this omission is one of the main reasons the AAMN created the FutuRN campaign a few years ago. “With this program, our chapter members go into local middle and high schools and talk about nursing as a career for both men and women. We hope that this continued effort will pay dividends.”

Male nurses are needed in a profession where many patients want to see themselves in the healthcare workers who care for them.

Initially, Ward thought he’d follow in the footsteps of his family and join a long line of physicians. His goals were to make a good living and help people.

He says nursing was something he did “just in case” his plans didn’t pan out. But when he became a nurse, Ward says, he decided the profession was a better fit for him, and the money was still good: “As soon as I started nursing in practice, I knew it was exactly the right thing for me.”

As the number of nurses needed in the United States continues to grow, now is a great time for interested men to consider nursing as a career, or even a second career.

A Stable Profession with lots of Opportunities

Nursing is a stable profession with opportunities for many levels of education, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN)/Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN)

These positions require completion of an LPN program, most of which are about a year. LPNs provide basic patient care under the supervision of registered nurses and physicians. They earn a median annual salary of $48,820, with job growth of 9% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS.

Registered Nurses (RNs)

Registered nurses need an associate degree, which takes two years to complete, or a bachelor’s, which takes four years. RNs provide more care than LPNs and often supervise other nurses. The BLS says they earn a median annual salary of $75,330, with job growth projected at 9% from 2020 to 2030.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)

APRNs have at least a master’s degree and serve in one of four specialty roles: Nurse practitioner, clinical nurse leader, nurse anesthetist, and certified midwife. These nurses sometimes work with a great deal of autonomy and have many of the same responsibilities as physicians. Their median salary is $117,670, and the BLS says jobs for APRNs are expected to grow by a massive 45% from 2020 to 2030.

Room for Advancement and Specialization

With so many places to work, including hospitals, clinics, physician’s offices, and research labs, nurses can choose from a variety of roles and specialize after they get some general experience. Nurses who thrive in a fast-paced environment can choose to work in an emergency room, while others can opt for a role in a physicians’ office.

As nurses gain experience, they may move into supervisory and management roles. They can also specialize in a range of medical fields, from oncology to geriatrics, trauma, pediatrics, forensics, and many more.

With so many places to work, including hospitals, clinics, physician’s offices, and research labs, nurses can choose from a variety of roles and specialize after they get some general experience.

Male Nurses Bring Needed Diversity

male nurse looking at electronic notepad

Studies have shown that people who have healthcare professionals who are like them are more likely to report satisfaction with their care. Inclusivity is a goal for many industries, and it’s just as important in nursing, where men can help make some male patients more comfortable while receiving care.

“I’ve been a nurse since 2008 and had lots of experiences where men don’t want to open up to a female as readily as they will to me,” Ward says. Often male patients “don’t want to talk about some things or won’t be as divulging with women.”

Ward wears cowboy boots to his Texas workplace to signal to male patients that he is one of them. “You can see them visibly relax,” he says.

Mott says he’s also been in situations where being a male nurse made a difference.

“I have had a few male patients who had Alzheimer’s disease,” he says. “They would often be hostile towards my female colleagues, but I was able to interact with them and get them to calm down. I’ve also had several male patients ask for me to provide care for them, especially dealing with intimate areas, as they felt uncomfortable with females doing it for them. This was especially true when I worked with post-operative urological patients who had catheters that needed to be cared for or changed.”

Inclusivity is a goal for many industries, and it’s just as important in nursing, where men can help make some male patients more comfortable while receiving care.

Mott, a leading researcher on male nurses and how they perceive caring for others, says there is a gender difference in how men and women view this concept.

“The nursing profession is based around the concept of caring,” says Mott. “Men view caring behaviors as being competent in providing care as well as looking out for their patients and the profession,” he says. “While women value these traits, they view care more as being professional rather than as caring behaviors.“

Scholarships for Male Nurses

Men interested in checking out nursing as a career can find scholarship opportunities specifically for them. There are lists available at College Scholarships, Nurse Journal, and AAMN.

FAQ for Men in Nursing

What percentage of nurses are male?

Almost one-tenth, 9.4%, of nurses are men.

Is there a stigma to being a male nurse?

There are no real stigmas, but there are misconceptions. The main one is that nursing isn’t a viable option for men. This misconception likely stems from the fact that many guidance counselors don’t talk to boys about nursing.

What are the most popular nursing specialties for men?

Men are more present in specialties such as nurse anesthetists, intensive and critical care, and administration.

Do male nurses make more money?

There’s no evidence of a gender-based pay difference.

What is a male nurse called?

There are no special names for male nurses. Mott says to call a male nurse what he is—a nurse.

Some research has shown that distinguishing nurses by gender can be a barrier to men entering the field, he says.  “As long as this form of ‘othering’ exists and we use the term ‘male’ when a nurse isn’t female, there won’t be equal numbers of men and women in the profession.”


With professional insight from:

michael ward

Michael Ward, MSN, APRN, AGACNP-BC

Hospitalist Nurse Practitioner, Medical City Healthcare, Fort Worth, Texas
Vice President, American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN)

jason mott

Jason Mott PhD, RN

Associate Professor of Nursing and Prelicensure Program Director, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh
President-Elect, American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN)



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