Salary, earnings, wages, compensation—however you put it, the money we’re paid in return for our work is important to us. We expect two people working in the same place—having the same amount of experience and the same educational background, and doing the same work—would be paid the same salary. After all, it’s only fair, right? Well, it may be fair, but it’s not always a given.
Unfortunately, even in the United States, women are still fighting for equal pay for equal work in many workplaces. Employment statistics show there’s still a discrepancy between male and female salaries, particularly in the upper echelons of the business world. But is it true for nursing? Are salaries higher for male nurses than for female nurses? Let’s see.
Median weekly earnings
According to a report published earlier this year by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that, among other things, monitors salaries and work conditions for women, men are still outpacing women in salary even when they first graduate from school, let alone after they have been climbing the ranks for a while. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published an article in 2006 which said that women’s “median usual weekly earnings were 81.0 percent of men’s in 2005 among full-time wage and salary workers.” So, we know that wage inequity still exists. But what about with nurses? There have been rumors of male nurses making more money than female nurses, but is there any truth to this? Well, that depends on how you look at it.
BLS numbers from 2008 show that female RNs earned a median weekly salary of $1,011, while the median weekly earning for male nurses was $1,168—meaning that women made only 86.6 percent of what men made. This isn’t much higher than the 81 percent noted in 2005. But—and this is important—is this because of actual wage differences, with Nurse Mary earning $24.50 per hour and Nurse John earning $26 per hour, or is there more to it?
There’s more to it
About 6 percent of nurses in the United States are men. However, men are represented in much higher numbers in nursing specialties that also pay higher salaries. For example, 49 percent of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) in the U.S. are men. In 2005, the average salary for CRNAs was $160,000, significantly higher than the average floor nurses, who are mostly women. Of course, a master’s degree is required for a nursing specialization such as CRNA, which also increases the take-home salary.
Men seem to go for higher education in nursing than women do, increasing their take-home earnings. There are more men in RN programs than in LPN programs, and more men in BSN programs than in RN diploma or ADN programs.
Military nursing is also a popular option for men. More than 30 percent of nurses in the Army, Air Force and Navy are men. Military nurses not only earn competitive salaries, but also benefit from financial incentives, such as help repaying student loans, special payments, housing allowances and affordable insurance options.
There’s no doubt that a large number of women are the sole or main supporters of their families. But men are still most often considered to be the major breadwinners and are thought to put this first, while women—although working full-time—may be primarily responsible for family and quality-of-life issues. This may result in more men working extra shifts or overtime. They may have the availability to do the extra work because their partners are the ones caring for the children after school or tending to other issues that arise on the home front.
And finally, there is another societal difference between men and women that may play a role in salary differences. Although women are becoming more assertive in the workplace, recruiters and people responsible for hiring staff report that men are more likely to try to negotiate better salaries or benefits. While this may not result in higher pay in unionized environments, it could make a difference in nonunionized positions, resulting in higher take-home pay.
So, are salaries higher for male nurses than for female nurses? It turns out that it all depends on how you look at it.
More articles that may interest you:
- Nurse Salaries
- Nursing Stats You’ve Never Heard Of (Infographic)
- Nursing Salary Map
- States Where Nurses Get the Best Pay