Analyzing the Gender Gap in the Nursing Field

Alt: Title graphic for a blog about analyzing the gender gap among nurses

Amidst challenges like worker shortages and burnout, the nursing profession also grapples with questions about the gender gap. While women have historically dominated this field, a pressing question remains: Are male nurses narrowing the gap, and what will contribute to a smaller discrepancy between male and female nurses?

Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program, deeply committed to the success and well-being of its students, has taken the initiative to find answers. In a collaborative effort with Orbis Education, we've meticulously analyzed data from the United States Census. Our research aims to shed light on the ratio of female to male nurses in every U.S. state and to unravel the dynamics that have led to the current status quo. As we delve deeper into this topic we'll provide a perspective on education and employment patterns, and the nuances of the gender gap within various nursing occupations.

Gender Distribution of Nurses Across States

To ascertain the ratio of female to male nurses in each state, we examined 2021 data from the United States Census. Given the common perception that women dominate the nursing field, we aimed to better understand the actual number of women versus men entering the profession.

The top five states with the highest ratio of female nurses to 1 male nurse are: 

  • Iowa — 19 to 1
  • Nebraska — 19 to 1
  • Vermont — 17 to 1
  • Wisconsin — 12 to 1
  • Illinois — 10 to 1
Alt: U.S. heat map showcasing gender distribution of nurses
  • In 2021, Iowa stood out as the state with the most pronounced ratio of female nurses to a single male nurse, registering a ratio of 19.1 to 1. Moving into 2022, hospitals in Iowa have been proactive, implementing measures like sign-on bonuses, retention incentives, and wage hikes, all in an effort to address and combat the challenges of nursing shortages.
  • In 2021, Vermont reported a nursing ratio of 17.4 female nurses for every 1 male nurse. As the year progressed, many states, including Vermont, turned to travel nurses to bridge the staffing gaps. Vermont allocated $75 million to travel nursing within that same year.
  • Based on 2021 data from the U.S. Census, Wisconsin presents a ratio of 12 female nurses to every 1 male nurse. This is approximately double the national average, which stands at 6.3 to 1 (or 15.8%). 

Breakdown of Full-Time Nurse Annual Salaries, by Gender

The question "Do male nurses get paid more?" doesn't have a straightforward answer, as the gender pay gap in nursing may exist for a variety of reasons like demand for a much smaller worker pool. While both male and female nurses can explore avenues to achieve higher salaries, such as joining a float pool, proactively negotiating for more substantial raises, or choosing to work extra hours during holidays, it's essential to recognize other underlying factors that might influence this disparity. 

To gain a clearer understanding of the pay landscape, we analyzed the most recent median annual salary data from the U.S. Census for 2021. Our focus was on three prominent nursing occupations: registered nurse, nurse anesthetist, and nurse practitioner, comparing the median salaries for both genders.

OccupationMedian Female Salary (2021) Median Male Salary (2021)Earning GapWomen’s earnings as a percentage of men's earnings
Registered Nurse (RN)$72,567$78,842$6,27592%
Nurse anesthetists$180,790$199,981$19,19190.4%
Nurse Practitioner$109,873$123,014$13,14189.3%
Alt: Bar chart showcasing full-time nurse annual salaries for men and women

Closing the Nurse Gender Gap

To transition the nursing field into a more equal future while providing the best possible care to patient populations, the field is looking to close the nurse gender gap. Looking to programs that are helping in this effort, Marquette University's Direct Entry MSN program boasts a male-to-female enrollment ratio that surpasses the national average of 6.3 to 1. Certain cohorts have achieved a 30% male-to-female ratio, with the percentage of male students in each Marquette cohort ranging from 9.4% at the lowest to 30% at the highest. Out of 13 measured cohorts, 10 were at or above 15% male enrollment. This potentially indicates shifting trends and a growing interest among males in pursuing a nursing career.

But what are some of the ways in which more programs can reach out and draw in more prospective male nurses to meet the need?

Closing Thoughts

Marquette University’s DE-MSN program is designed to mold both women and men into compassionate providers of care, visionary leaders within the healthcare sector, and esteemed members of the nursing profession.

Are you ready to start your nursing career? For those transitioning from non-nursing fields, our DE-MSN  program offers an accelerated route, enabling you to secure your nursing degree in as few as 18 to 21 months. Take the leap toward a brighter future in nursing and contact one of our admissions advisers today!


To calculate the difference in pay between male and female nurses, we analyzed the U.S. Census Bureau data on median yearly earnings for the full-time employee by gender between 2010 and the furthest available data in 2021, using the ACS 5-year estimates for each year. We analyzed the difference in earnings by gender for five different nursing occupations: registered nurse, nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, and nursing assistant/aide. Nurse midwives were excluded from this analysis due to insufficient male salary data. 

Additionally, we used state-by-state “sex by occupation” data to calculate the gender ratio of nurses in each state. The total number of male and female nurses in each state included the reported amount of “registered nurses” and the reported amount of “all other nurses”.