By Kenneth Michek
In a profession where women comprise 88% of the workforce, one might assume nurses would be largely unaffected by the gender wage gap.
But the nursing profession is not, in fact, immune to disparities in pay, finds the newly released Nursing Salary Research Report conducted by OnCourse Learning.
According to the study, on average, men who are nurses out-earn women nurses by $6,000 annually.
"Even taking into account total hours worked, years of nursing experience, age, education level and certification status, men still are making more money than women," says Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN, executive vice president and chief clinical executive for OnCourse Learning.
"And from our robust research, salary is the most important job factor for nurses across all demographics," Hess adds.
Consistent Pay Gap
Just over 4,500 nurses from all 50 states took part in the survey.
Among the notable findings regarding average annual earnings:
Male nurses earned $79,688.
Female nurses earned $73,090.
Men who were chief nursing officers earned an average salary of $132,700.
Women CNOs had an average salary of $127, 047.
Male staff nurses earned $75,833.
Female staff nurses earned $68,521.
Brent MacWilliams, PhD, MSN, RN, APNP, APN-BC, president of the American Association for Men in Nursing, would like to see this change.
"Based on this survey, it seems clear men are being paid significantly more than women in the profession doing comparable work," he said. "I would call on employers to assess their current workforce for gender gaps and raise salaries to create parity."
Narrowing the Gap
Two actions nurses can take to close the pay gap are negotiating salaries and pursuing certification.
The survey found that men are more likely to negotiate their salaries, with 43% of men reporting that they negotiate salaries "most of the time or always," while only 34% of women do so.
"I want to see an equitable solution," she said. "My main takeaway from this survey is that women need to learn to negotiate for everything," says Millicent Gorham, MBA, FAAN, executive director of the National Black Nurses Association.
The pay gap between men and women appeared to narrow with additional certification or education. The survey showed that men with specialty certifications only made $1,252 more than certified female nurses, a significant improvement compared to the overall numbers.
50% of overall respondents reported pursuing higher education, certification or training to boost salary was a consideration or goal.
"It is heartening that the survey found many nurses are planning on pursuing higher levels of education, which is what the Institute of Medicine called for in its 2010 report on the future of nursing," said Susan C. Reinhard, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior vice president and director, AARP Public Policy Institute and chief strategist, Center to Champion Nursing in America.
"Research has linked greater levels of education for nurses with safer, high-quality care," Reinhard added. "Higher degrees also give nurses more career choices and can lead to better-paying jobs."