Nurse Practitioners are the Fastest-Growing Occupation for the Second Straight Year

Joey Morris
Updated February 27, 2024
Edited by
    Discover the driving forces behind the rapid growth of nurse practitioners (NPs), the fastest-growing occupation in the U.S.
    Nurses laughing and talking togetherCredit: Getty Images
    • Nurse practitioner jobs are projected to grow 45% over the next decade.
    • Approximately 18,600 NPs are anticipated to enter the workforce from 2022 to 2032.
    • A growing need for accessible healthcare services, physician shortages, and the increasing autonomy of NPs contribute to the growing demand for NPs.

    In a year marked by tumultuous shifts in the nursing landscape, nurse practitioners (NPs) continue to solidify their position as one of the country’s most important and in-demand careers. For the second straight year, NPs are projected to be the fastest-growing occupation in the U.S., according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

    Sharing the top spot with wind turbine technicians, the BLS projects NP employment to increase by 45%, equating to more than 118,000 new openings from 2022 to 2032. Last year’s report from the BLS projected employment of NPs to increase by 46%.

    Among the list of 20 fastest-growing occupations, six are in healthcare or the health sciences. Other healthcare careers and occupations are projected to see significant growth include medical and health services managers, epidemiologists, and ,a href=””>physician assistants, each projected to grow by more than 27%.

    Further, NPs are among the highest-earning careers on the list of fastest-growing occupations. Nurse practitioners earned a median annual salary of $121,610 or $60.53 an hour in 2022, making them the highest-paid healthcare occupation on the list and the fourth highest-earning profession of the 20 fastest-growing occupations.

    Top Five Fastest Growing Occupations
    OccupationEmployment Growth (2022-2032)Median Annual Salary
    Nurse Practitioners45%$57,320
    Wind Turbine Service Technicians45%$121,610
    Data Scientists35%$103,500
    Source: BLS

    Why Demand for Nurse Practitioners Continues to Remain High

    The sustained demand for NPs can be attributed to a combination of ongoing factors and evolving healthcare trends. Many factors that contributed to the surge in demand last year continue to hold true today.

    NPs continue to see expanding autonomy, allowing them to fulfill a critical role in addressing the persistent nursing shortage, particularly in health provider shortage areas. This increased independence has allowed NPs to provide a greater range of healthcare services, including diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medications, and managing patient treatment plans.

    A recent study in the British Medical Journal highlighted the growing reliance on nurse practitioners to assume independent practice responsibilities for patient visits. The study, which collected data from approximately 276 million visits, revealed a significant increase in the proportion of healthcare visits delivered by NPs and physician assistants (PAs).

    In 2019, NPs and PAs accounted for nearly 26% of visits, compared to just 14% in 2013. Concurrently, primary care physician visits decreased from approximately 42% to 33%. This shift underscores the expanding role and impact of NPs in delivering quality and accessible healthcare services, particularly in primary care settings.

    To meet the increased demand for NPs, healthcare employers must first address the challenges posed by the nursing shortage. Recruiting and educating registered nurses (RNs) will play a crucial role in creating a steady pipeline of qualified NPs.

    The 2022 Nursing Workforce Survey reports that 21% of nurses held a master’s degree or higher, up from 19% in 2017, indicating a positive trend of RNs pursuing advanced degrees. These trends can be expected to continue as the nursing profession responds to the rising need for knowledgeable and experienced NPs.