To say nurses are in demand is an understatement. Their popularity is reflected in the job outlook for nursing professionals in 2021 and beyond. To understand why, one only needs to look to 2020 for plenty of reasons. If the past year has taught us anything, it is that nurses are indispensable. They are nothing short of medical superheroes. Working long hours and extra shifts, nurses have gone the extra mile to provide consistent care to their patients during a global pandemic.
Dedication to their profession is hardly a new quality among nursing professionals. Helping people is one of the reasons most nurses say they went into the profession. Still, shortages have plagued the nursing profession since 1998. Projections indicate the need to hire up to a million new nursing professionals by 2022 to meet the growing demand. This is good news for anyone considering becoming a nurse, as they are almost guaranteed placement.
Projected job growth for Registered Nurses (RNs)
RNs are in an excellent position for job growth between now and 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Employment Projections 2019-2029. Projections indicate the RN workforce will increase 7% during this period, adding 221,900 new RNs to the workforce. An additional 175,900 openings for RNs each year are anticipated when retirements and exits from the workforce are factored in, according to the BLS.
What is influencing this rapid job growth for RNs? An aging population is a number one reason more nursing professionals are needed in the workforce. The rise of people living with chronic health conditions like arthritis, dementia, diabetes, and obesity, is also attributed to the need for more RNs. Part of their job duties will be to care for and educate patients living with these and other lingering illnesses.
Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) are in even higher demand since they can deliver some of the same services as physicians. With their prescribing authority, APRNs can conduct healthcare screenings and prescribe medication to treat illnesses and injuries. In areas that lack access to qualified physicians, APRNs can fill the gap.
Projected job growth for Nurse Practitioners (NPs)
NPs coordinate patient care and are responsible for providing primary and specialty healthcare services in certain situations. Like RNs, NPs are in high demand and have been for more than two decades. Demand for NPs is expected to increase by 45% between now and 2029, according to the BLS. This is faster than the average rate of growth for all other professions during the same period. There are several reasons why qualified NPs will be sought-after in the coming years:
- Increased emphasis on preventative healthcare services
- Increased demand for healthcare services for an aging population
- Increased need for the efficient delivery of healthcare services
In 2019, there were an estimated 211,300 NPs employed in the U.S. By 2029, those numbers are expected to grow to 322,000.
How much do RNs and NPs earn?
As of May 2020, the average annual wage for RNs was $75,300, according to BLS data. RNs who work for government healthcare institutions and facilities have an average salary of $84,490. Local, state, and private hospitals pay RNs $76,840. The lowest RN wage earners work for local, state, and private educational services.
The average annual wage for NPs was $117,670, as of May 2020. The highest-earning sector of NPs is nurse anesthetists, who pull in $183,580 annually. NPs who work for local, state, and private hospitals earn on average $124,600. As with RNs, the lowest NP wage earners work for local, state, and private educational services.
Who is hiring RNs and NPs in 2021?
Hospitals and outpatient care centers will be the top employers for RNs and NPs in 2021 and beyond. Another area that is booming and in need of qualified RNs and NPs is telemedicine. Hospitals and healthcare organizations relied heavily on the remote medical service option during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many continuing to offer it as an option.
Another area of growth for NPs is psychiatric mental health. Even before a global pandemic placed focus on Americans’ mental health, psychiatric mental health NPs were in demand. As people struggle to cope with COVID-19 and other stressors in life, vacancies for this specialized NP position are expected to keep pace with demand.
Staying competitive in the workplace
RNs and NPs who wish to remain competitive in the workplace can enroll in continuing education classes (CEU) to sharpen existing skills while learning new ones. CEUs are required for nurses to maintain professional licensure in all but 13 states, but they can also be used to enrich learning at any time. RNs and NPs can take advantage of Incredible Health’s free CEUs for nurses. All courses are American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)-accredited and offered online.