As a popular career path, nurse practitioners have been in the ascendant for some time now, and 2024 is no exception. Every time you turn around, it can seem like someone else you know is in NP school or considering applying. No matter how you slice it, the nurse practitioner career has been enjoying its day in the sun, and the trend is destined to continue for the foreseeable future.

U.S. News Chooses NPs

As the year begins, many publications like to make their predictions and prognostications for the coming 12 months, and one area always worthy of attention is where the hot jobs are. U.S. News is one such publication that offers comprehensive lists, and their crunching of the economic numbers is generally highly trusted.

Nurse practitioners are familiar with making headlines, and the U.S. News has not disappointed. When they published their list of the top 100 jobs and their Best Jobs in America in 2024 profiles earlier this month, NPs emerged wearing the crown, with nurse anesthetists also making a commendable appearance. NPs also made the list of the best STEM jobs and the best healthcare jobs to boot.

There are many factors to consider when weighing which jobs are the most viable at any given time, and no measurement can tell the whole story. In their measuring, U.S. News includes several key metrics, among others:

  • Projected job growth
  • Rate of unemployment
  • Wage potential
  • Job safety and stability
  • Work-life balance

While not all NPs may agree with the rosy picture being painted by these reports, the fact remains that the numbers tell us quite a bit about the state of careers in our country.

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What’s So Great About Being an NP? 

According to the editors at U.S. News, multiple factors have worked in concert to put NPs over the top.

Median salary: $121,610

Salary means a lot in these days of skyrocketing housing costs, not to mention the cost of most everything else, including food, transportation, consumer goods, education, travel, and healthcare.

The numbers show that nurse practitioners earn an admirable salary of $121,610, although not in the upper reaches of what’s possible. However, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting the mean annual salary for all occupations as $61,900, the fact that NPs earn about twice that amount might be a consolation for some nurse practitioners.

While the cost of living is something to consider when looking at salary data, the best-paying cities for NPs include the following:

  • San Jose ($199,630)
  • San Francisco ($190,070)
  • Napa, CA ($189,190)
  • Vallejo, CA ($180,990)
  • New York City ($170,320)

Unemployment rate: 0.6%

After spending money, blood, sweat, and tears on graduate school, no nurse practitioner wants to face the prospect of being unable to find work. U.S. News reports that NPs have an unemployment rate of 0.6%, which should encourage those entering the job market. Demand and jobs are there, and talented NPs with a solid work history, well-written resumes, and good interview skills should be able to find employment in the current climate.

Job growth: 44.5% or 118,600 jobs by 2032

As more and more people choose NP school as their career path, we want to see encouraging projections into the future. For quite some time, projected job growth for nurse practitioners has been positive, and the current numbers are just that: with the BLS projecting 6% job growth for RNs through 2032, we see a stark difference in the 44.5% for NPs.

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What Can We Conclude? 

In terms of the U.S. News data, nurse practitioners have much to be happy about regarding job growth and salaries.

Meanwhile, nurse anesthetists aren’t doing too badly either, with a median salary of $203,090 and unemployment of 1.9%. However, job growth is only projected as being 8.9% through 2032, which makes this a much more competitive career path, with only 4,400 new jobs that will be created between now and then.

On the not-so-bright side, the stress experienced by NPs on the job is characterized as high. NPs also have average job flexibility regarding work-life balance and alternative work schedules (although self-employed nurse practitioners who run their practices have more control over their schedules and may have yet to be included in the U.S. News data).

As the best overall job in the U.S., the best STEM job, and the best healthcare job, nurse practitioners have done well for themselves in 2024. While not all NPs might agree with these conclusions, the comparative picture is positive.

Only time will tell if job projections hold up, and we must also acknowledge that economic changes brought on by war, climate change, recession, and other factors can’t be predicted.

That said, the nurse practitioner career path is having its day as 2024 gets underway, and there is no doubt many NPs feel quite good about their career choice as they scan the horizon for a glimpse of a promising future.

Keith Carlson
Latest posts by Keith Carlson (see all)
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