Male Nurses: No Longer A Rarity

Number of Male Nurses Tripled in the U.S.

One of the few brights spots in the economy has been the fast-growing health care field. As a result, more male workers are entering the booming sector, and an interesting phenomenon has emerged: The nursing profession is becoming more male.

The proportion of men who are working as nurses in America has tripled since 1970, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Ten percent of nurses are now male, compared to just 2.7 percent in 1970. And the newest entrants to the field are earning more and making on average about $10,000 more than their female colleagues, according to the study. Male nurses earn an average of $60,700 a year and female nurses just $51,100.

What's behind the wage gap: Of course, in all sectors, male tend to earn more than females. The wage gap has been attributed to various causes, from discrimination to women working fewer hours. But the study finds that more men are entering the higher paying nursing jobs, such as nurse anesthetist. That job comes with an average pay of $162,900 and 41 percent of nurse anesthetists are male.

In speaking to CBS News, co-president of National Nurses United, Karen Higgins, speculated that more men are going into management positions. "If there's a difference in pay, there's a difference in the job. We see men in a management position which is a higher paying job," she said.

What's behind the 'Greg Focker' phenomenon: Still, all of the nursing occupations are attracting more men as the field continues to grow. The American health care sector has been the single largest source for jobs growth since the beginning of the financial crisis and recession. ("Focker," as played by Ben Stiller, was a male nurse in the "Meet the Parents" movies.) Indeed, both long-term care and end-of-life services fields reportedly are suffering from a "shortage" of nurses, according to the study.

More:10 Great-Paying Nursing Jobs

But male nurses still face ridicule: As AOL Jobs reported last year, male nurses are routinely subject to hazing in hospitals, with even doctors "joking" about the sexual preference of male nurses. One Reddit user who claimed to be a male nurse wrote about experiencing teasing from co-workers. He claimed that he'd been called "murse" as a put-down, though he himself wasn't bothered by the term.

Growth doesn't necessarily translate into jobs: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for nursing and psychiatric aides will grow by 18 percent in the 10 years ending in 2018; and the need for registered nurses, who are required to have more education, will rise by 22 percent by that time. But the growth has not yet translated into jobs for new entrants. Roughly 4 in 10 of newly licensed RNs still do not have jobs within 18 months of graduation. Why? For starters, as CNNMoney reported, there's a bottleneck of nurses in hospitals, preventing newly certified nurses from gaining the experience needed to land a job.

"The process has become more and more discouraging, especially since hospitals want RNs with experience, yet nobody is willing to give us this experience," Ronak Soliemannjad, a 26-year old who's recently graduated with a nursing degree, told CNN Money.

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