Pay Equity? Comparing Female and Male Nurse Salaries
By Anita Wong, contributor
According to the U.S.Census
Bureau, there were 2.2 million female RNs in 2018, compared to
330,320 male nurses. Although most nursing positions are filled by women, their
earnings are less than a typical male nurse salary in almost every specialty
and setting. For each dollar a male registered nurse earns, a full-time female
RN earns only 93 cents.
Nurses comprise the biggest segment of the healthcare
workforce. As nursing jobs continue to outpace other occupations, this
difference in salary is a concern for millions of women.
According to Medscape's 2019
RN/LPN Compensation Report, the average male nurse salary is $83,000
per year, 4 percent more than female RNs earning an average of $80,000 per
About 70 percent of male nurses are paid hourly.
Medscape's study pegs a male RN's average hourly wage at $39 compared to $38
per hour for female nurses. While the gap isn't significant, over the course of
a year, male RNs who earn an hourly rate make an average of $82,000, which is
compared to $78,000 for full-time female nurses. The difference likely comes
from supplementing their hourly rate with overtime and shift differential.
Research from Montana State University shows that an
average male nurse is two
years younger than a female RN. Despite having more
experience, however, female nurses still earn a lower hourly rate.
The discrepancy between female and male nurse salaries
extends throughout all specialties and positions except orthopedics, according
to the Journal of the
American Medical Association. A 2015 study that reviewed RN salaries
from 1998 to 2008 found a range of salary gaps between male and female nurses:
- Ambulatory care: $7,678
- Hospitals: $3,873
- Chronic care: $3,792
- Cardiology: $6,034
- Middle management: $3,956
- Nurse anesthetists: $17,290
The study found there was no improvement in this
inequity over the ten-year period.
In 2015, 70%
of male nurses worked in a hospital, compared to 61% of females.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage of RNs
working in a hospital is
$77,730, higher than the average RN salary of $67,790 in primary care or a
physician's office, $71,850 in home health care and $67,370 in nursing care
A male nurse salary may be higher due to the type
of shifts men take on. According to Medscape's compensation report,
male nurses are more likely to work:
- Routine overtime
- More than 6 hours of overtime
- High differential shifts, including evening and
- Paid evening and weekend call
- As a charge nurse
While 53% of male nurses choose employment in urban
settings, only 44% of female nurses do. Nurses in cities typically earn a
According to the Journal of Rural Health,
registered nurses who work in rural areas tend to have less nursing education
and are more likely employed in public and community health instead of
higher-paying hospitals. The study found that the more rural an area a nurse
lives in, the more likely they commute and receive lower salaries.
Less than 1% of female nurses work as Certified
Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), compared to 10%
of male RNs. According to the Census Bureau, men occupy 41%
of nurse anesthetist jobs even though they make up about 12% of the
total nurse workforce.
CRNAs are one of the highest
paying nursing occupations. The average salary of $150,833 is more
than double the average of all nursing jobs. Male nurse anesthetists make about
$162,900 per year.
Male RNs also choose nursing jobs in emergency,
surgical and critical care units, which can pay better. For example,
salary for a registered nurse, according to PayScale, is $29.36 and
it reaches as high as $41.01. Emergency room nurses, by comparison, earn a
median salary of $32.56 per hour and up to $45.29 per hour.
As demand for skilled nurses grows, it's important for men
to enter the field to ensure diversity and help fill need. The challenge for
the healthcare system is to achieve pay equity.
Explore our open travel nurse
jobs to see the salary range for your specialty.