Nurse Practitioners: Ranked #2 for Top Jobs in 2017
By Keith Carlson, RN, BSN
The jury has reached its decision on nursing jobs in 2017; according to U.S. News and World Report Best Jobs Rankings for 2017 , nurse practitioners hold the #2 spot in terms of their pick for the best 100 occupations in the United States. Their corresponding list of the best healthcare jobs is equally enlightening, and nurse practitioners hold a top spot there, as well, of course.
To add to the boom of job growth for nurse practitioners (NPs), we also see nurse anesthetists at #6, nurse midwives with a berth at #15, and registered nurses coming in at a respectable #22 out of the top 100 jobs.
All in all, healthcare is a consistent growth industry that dominates the good news in terms of jobs in the United States, with pharmacists sailing above the rest at #1, and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) demonstrating a consistently strong showing in general.
Salary, Prospects, and Other Factors
In order to compile its jobs rankings, U.S. News and World Report reviewed the following categories of data for various industries and occupations, weighted in importance by their corresponding percentage:
Median Salary (30%); Employment Rate (20%); 10-Year Growth Volume (15%); 10-Year Growth Percentage (15%); Job Prospects (10%); Stress Level (5%); Work-Life Balance (5%).
In terms of nurse practitioners’ median salary in 2017, the report places this number at $98,190, with a 0.7% unemployment rate at significantly below the national average; the 25th percentile of NP salaries is $84,860, and the 75th percentile weighs in at $117,020.
For nurse practitioners, upward mobility -- or the ability to advance in terms of responsibility and salary -- was categorized as average, stress level was measured as above average, and flexibility ranked below average.
All in all, NPs ranked so well that there was no question that the numbers placed nurse practitioners in the #2 slot for 2017 according to the criteria chosen by U.S. News.
Nurse Anesthetists and Nurse Midwives
For nurse anesthetists -- generally the highest paid APRNs in the United States -- the median salary comes in at $157,140, with a 0.7% unemployment rate. The 25th percentile of nurse anesthetist salaries is $133,990, and the 75th percentile tops out at $185,620.
Meanwhile, nurse midwives show a median salary of $92,510, with an unemployment rate of 0.7%. Nurse midwives’ salaries garner a 25th percentile of $73,460, and a 75th percentile of $112,340.
From these numbers, we can see that nurse practitioners generally earn slightly more than their nurse midwife colleagues, but nurse anesthetists hold a large advantage in terms of earning power. Having said that, nurse anesthetists’ training is more intensive, with nurse anesthetists required to complete significantly more clinical hours in order to achieve licensure to practice.
Nurse Practitioners Are A Hot Commodity
Extrapolating from these numbers and the general buzz around the importance of nurse practitioners to the U.S. healthcare system, one can readily conclude that pursuing education and training as a nurse practitioner or other type of APRN is a solid career move for those interested in providing primary (and non-primary) healthcare to a wide variety of patients across the lifespan.
From pregnant moms and newborns to the aged and the dying, nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses provide necessary healthcare to those in need; and with NP autonomy of practice growing in both depth and breadth, opportunities are consistently expanding for the enterprising and savvy nurse practitioner.
Primary Care: Enter the Nurse Practitioner
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), a “significant physician shortage” is projected to grip the U.S. by 2025. While growth of the primary care physician workforce is earnestly called for by the AAFP, it is anecdotally difficult to recruit medical students into practicing primary care since medical specialties are so much more lucrative for new doctors who carry enormous educational debt and costly professional liability.
While some physician groups continue to push back regarding nurse practitioners’ increasing ability to practice autonomous primary care, The influential and evidence-based Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has weighed in about the value of nurse practitioners with statements like the following:
NPs are registered nurses who have completed Master’s degrees or higher level nursing degrees. Close to 90% of all NPs are prepared in primary care. Primary care NPs are significantly more likely than primary care physicians to practice in urban and rural areas, provide care in a wider range of community settings, and serve a high proportion of uninsured patients and other vulnerable populations. Studies show that NPs can manage 80-90% of care provided by primary care physicians. In addition, evidence from a substantial research literature shows that primary care outcomes, including disease-specific physiologic measures, improvement in pathological condition, reduction of symptoms, mortality, hospitalization and other utilization measures, and patient satisfaction, are comparable between patients served by NPs and patients served by physicians.
The Kaiser article referenced above also points out that producing nurse practitioners qualified to provide high-quality primary care involves an average of six years of education as opposed to the physician runway of up to 12 years. Thus, if a large number of qualified primary care providers must be churned out in the interest of our needy and expanding population of aged Americans, nurse practitioners offer a less costly and time-consuming educational cycle for the training of providers whose quality of patient care is clearly comparable to that of physicians.
Nurse Practitioners in the Mainstream
Many average American citizens have likely now encountered a nurse practitioner in the course of receiving healthcare. NPs abound in ambulatory surgical centers, physician group practices, community health centers, urgent care centers, and other clinical milieus. NPs are also found in various hospital-based roles; Americans are now increasingly likely to receive acute care from hospitalist nurse practitioners with specific training and qualifications.
With the cost of healthcare continuing to skyrocket, the containment of costs is on the minds of hospitals, insurance companies, and consumers alike; nurse practitioners are less expensive to train, more affordable to hire, and have been shown to provide equal quality of care when compared to their physician counterparts.
There is no doubt that nurse practitioners are entering more deeply into the mainstream when it comes to providing needed care to American healthcare consumers. With NPs ranking as the #2 top job in the United States in 2017, more nurses will begin pursuing the achievable goal of a career as a nurse practitioner; as that occurs, everyone -- insurance companies, hospitals, consumers, nurses, and American society -- will ultimately reap the benefits.
Next Up: 15 Highest Paying Nursing Careers
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN is a Board-Certified Nurse Coach (NC-BC), award-winning blogger, nurse podcaster, speaker, and author. Based in Sante Fe, New Mexico, Nurse Keith's work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications.