Though the average annual salary for registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S. has jumped more than $1,600, the salary gap has grown in favor of men in the profession by more than $7,200 per year compared to women, according to the new 2020 Nurse Salary Research Report, conducted by Nurse.com from Relias. The report also uncovered the underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic nurses compared to U.S. Census data.
The nationwide survey of more than 7,400 nursing professionals representing all 50 states includes information about nursing salary, compensation, benefits, education, and demographics of the profession. The survey included RNs, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). LPNs and LVNs were a new addition to the 2020 survey.
"In a year in which nurses have been at the forefront of care during the global COVID-19 pandemic, their dedication, professionalism, empathy, attention to detail, and numerous other skills have shone bright," Relias Vice President of Marketplaces, Darius Matthews, said. "The findings of our survey tell the story of what nurses need so that administrators can ensure equity in the profession, as well as key tools that can level gaps in salary, education, and representation among genders, races, and ethnic identities."
"We hope nurses will use these survey results to examine their individual career paths and how they can make an even bigger impact — from caring for their patients to connecting with their families at home to expanding their educations and career horizons," he said. "For employers, this data is a valuable look into how they can create and support a more equitable environment for nursing staff."
Gender pay gap
While the overall annual RN salary rose $1,630 since the 2018 Nurse.com salary report, men reported that they make an additional $7,297 then women.
That gap is up to $699 from the 2018 survey despite male RNs reporting that they have less education and are less likely to achieve professional certifications.
Among the factors aiding in the increased gender pay gap are secondary pay and negotiation among RNs. Men reported a higher secondary nursing salary ($22,000) than women ($14,000).
Only 34% of female RNs said they negotiate salary "most of the time" or "always," compared to 46% of male RNs. For female and male APRNs and LPNs/LVNs, there was no statistical difference.
Advanced education and certifications also have a positive impact on nursing salaries.
Two specific regions — as defined by the American Hospital Association U.S. regional map referenced in the report — saw a rise in salaries.
Region 3, which consists of Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and North Carolina — saw a $5,565 median salary increase to the current level of $72,000. Region 6, a seven-state grouping of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota, experienced a jump of $1,846 to a median salary of $64,480.
Among all APRNs, men ($120,000) reported a higher salary than women ($104,000), but also said they worked four more hours per week. The highest salary was among certified registered nurse anesthetists ($184,000), of which approximately 57% are males.
Black nurses make up the second-largest group, according to the survey, with 11% of APRNs and LPNs/LVNs and 9% of all RNs.
Hispanic and Latinx nurses make up 8% of APRNs, 7% of LPNs/LVNs, and 6% of RNs, according to the report, though the U.S. Census says Hispanics make up 18% of the population.
Five percent of RNs are Asian, the report states, along with 4% of APRNs and 3% of LPNs/LVNs nationally, which aligns with the U.S. Census report that Asians make up 6% of the U.S. population.
More than 38% of all nurses surveyed said they are considering additional training, education, or certifications, led by 43% of LPNs/LVNs.Among all respondents, 28% said they are considering additional degrees, with 12% of RNs seeking an MSN, 8% a BSN, and 3% a DNP.
Nurses said cost, flexibility, and online options were the three most important factors when choosing a nursing program.
"Going back to improve your education has never been a bad idea," said Kristi Feutz, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, Associate Dean for Online Graduate Programs at Baylor University's Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSON), which sponsored the Nurse.com report. "With the current pandemic, flexibility in schedules and allowing students to continue to work is even more paramount for many applicants. This is where higher education is heading, and it will stay, especially for students seeking a second degree."
What benefits nurses have vs. want
The most common benefits that all nurses receive, according to survey respondents, are medical insurance, dental insurance, and 401(k) plans.
The least likely benefits nurses are receiving include profit sharing, bonuses, and health savings accounts.
According to the survey, 30% of all nurses said their most desired benefit is bonuses, while 27% would like employers to provide reimbursed or paid continuing education.