Can nursing certification help close the gender pay gap?

By | 2018-10-01T16:39:56-04:00 June 20th, 2018|1 Comment

Editor’s note: Author, Jennifer Mensik, does not endorse, recommend or favor any program, product or service advertised or referenced on this website, or that appear on any linkages to or from this website.

To certify or not to certify, that is the question.

Likely you have asked this question yourself. Your organization may be on the Magnet journey, and increasing certifications is part of that journey for your unit. You also may want to expand your job prospects or increase and demonstrate your expertise with a certification. However, there are costs, time and stress involved in becoming certified. Is it worth it? Yes! For many reasons, but one in particular may surprise you. Certification may help close the gender pay gap in nursing.

Men in nursing make more money

In the 2018 Nursing Salary Research Report, I found, like other researchers have, that men make more money than women. Understandably, many individuals feel they know why that is the case. So by OnCourse Learning conducted a salary survey to help sort through the weeds to get a clearer picture.

How did we do that? Statistically speaking, I controlled for hours worked, education and length of time as an RN. Guess what? None of those variables could explain why men made more.

Men worked a little more than one extra hour on average per week, they were less educated, fewer were certified and they had a shorter tenure in nursing yet made significantly more ($79,688) than women ($73,090). Men were more likely to negotiate salary, but it had no statistical significance either on salary.

What did impact equalizing salary for women? Certification! When comparing salaries between men and women who had or didn’t have a professional certification, women still made less, but it was not statistically different. See below.

Yes they have a certification:

Men (M = 137) with an average salary of $81,672

Women (M = 1,632) with an average salary of $80,420

If they answered no, they don’t have a certification:

Men (M = 255) with an average salary of $78,342

Women (M = 2,475) with an average salary of $68,227


Certification helps to close the salary gap for women in nursing. But why is there a pay gap in nursing? I still can’t answer that for you, and there is a lot of stipulation out there. I still am venturing to say there is an unconscious bias that influences offering pay regardless of human resource controls.

This has implications for men and women. Even if you are a man, who might make more, why should you care? Salary should be equal regardless of gender identity, different only for education, tenure in nursing and certification.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate your salary

The salary report did demonstrate men are more likely to consider changing positions than women. Research shows anyone who sticks with the same employer for more than two years costs the employee 50% or higher in their lifetime wages.

Does this mean head to the internet now to search for your new job? No! What it does mean, is know your worth going into a job search, and don’t be afraid to negotiate salary.

Even though it didn’t show an impact in the salary report, men were more likely to negotiate salary than women. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an individual affect.

Additionally, when I talk with women going through an interview process, many have said they don’t know the salary range for the jobs for which they have applied and are interviewing. Quite often they are afraid to ask, or feel that they don’t want to give the new employer the feeling that money is the most important factor.

Money is an important factor, and it is okay to ask.

Never move forward in a job interview process if you do not know up front what the salary range is, are comfortable with that range and where you may fit. No one is going to pay you over the top of the range.

Also, go get certified! Both men and women had a higher average salary with certification.

Lastly, if you are a hiring manager, or in a position to offer salaries, check your bias. Are you unconsciously offering a higher salary to men? Someone is offering higher salaries to men!

These FocusedCE series courses can help you earn certification:

Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification Review
(12 contact hrs)

get-ticksThe demand for ambulatory care nurses will continue to increase over the next several years. In addition, the scope of ambulatory care nursing is expected to broaden. Becoming certified in ambulatory care nursing will enable RNs to meet increasing expectations by increasing confidence, developing new skills and taking on additional responsibilities. Participants will become proficient in role and responsibilities topic areas such as clinical practice, care management, patient education, telehealth, communication, and legal issues within ambulatory care nursing.

This multi-week self-paced program combines online education with recorded webinars to provide you with a study choice that fits your learning needs and schedule and is aligned with the core elements of the certification exam. Complete the series and earn 12.0 contact hours and a certificate of completion..

Care Coordination and Transition Management Review/Certification Prep
(30.5 contact hrs)

carecoordtrueLeadership and management roles are highly stressful, and the more we take care of others, the less time we take care of ourselves. Lack of self-care can lead Nurses are integral and influential for helping patients navigate within and between healthcare systems. There is a significant need for nurses who can concentrate on care coordination and transition management (CCTM) activities due to the risk of negative outcomes (due to incomplete information exchange, misunderstanding, and missing key factors of strategic plans of care).

Coordinating patient care and managing patient transitions are part of different job responsibilities within nursing (e.g., navigators, care managers, discharge planners, or coordinators). All nurses have some connection to coordinating care or managing transitions of care for patients.

Oncology Nursing Review and Certification Prep
(30 contact hrs)

carecoordThe Oncology Nursing Review and Certification Prep Focused CE Series will provide a targeted review of oncology concepts. This series is intended to help you understand the specifics of this specialty and to prepare you for certification.

This self-paced program combines online education and webinars to provide you with a study choice that will fit your schedule and is aligned with the core elements of the exam outline. Learn about cancer prevention and screening, palliative and end-of-life care, treatments and therapies used in cancer care, physiological changes seen during disease progression and/or treatment, professional issues and exam strategies, and much more. Interact with certified experts in the field. Complete the entire series and earn 30.0 contact hours and a certification of completion.


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About the Author:

Jennifer Mensik, PhD, RN, FAAN
Jennifer Mensik, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, is division director of care management at Oregon Health and Science University and instructor for Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation DNP program. She also is treasurer for the American Nurses Association. Formerly, Mensik was vice president of CE programming for published by OnCourse Learning. A second-edition book she authored, "The Nurse Manager's Guide to Innovative Staffing," won third place in the leadership category for the American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Awards 2017. Author, Jennifer Mensik, does not endorse, recommend or favor any program, product or service advertised or referenced on this website, or that appear on any linkages to or from this website.

One Comment

  1. Avatar
    TAD June 24, 2018 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    It is true. According to the study, on average, men who are nurses out-earn women nurses by $6,000 annually. It seems clear men are being paid significantly more than women in the profession doing comparable work.

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