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The States With the Largest Nursing Faculty Shortage

Rebecca Munday
Updated November 10, 2023
    Find out why the nurse faculty shortage is happening, how it affects the nursing shortage, and how it's being addressed.
    Credit: FatCamera / Getty Images
    • Nursing schools struggle to find candidates with the right degree level and specialization who will work for the salary they can offer.
    • In 2022, the need for more nursing increased slightly across the country. Western states have the most need for more nursing faculty.
    • The nursing faculty shortage is being addressed at the national, state, and school level.

    In 2021, more than 91,000 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing programs at all levels because the programs did not have faculty, preceptors, classroom space, or clinical sites to accept them, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

    More than half of those applicants were denied entry into prelicensure bachelor’s programs. Yet, the AACN is most concerned about students turned away from master’s and doctoral programs. The already limited nursing faculty pool is further limited by students who have not yet enrolled in a nurse educator program.

    Learn more about the nursing faculty shortages across the country, the factors affecting them, how the faculty shortages are affecting the nursing shortages, and solutions to the faculty shortage.

    Nursing Faculty Vacancies Around the U.S.

    The nursing faculty shortage continues to increase across the country. Faculty shortages increased slightly to 8.8% in 2022 compared to 8% in 2021, according to AACN. More than half of the open full-time positions in nursing programs share many of the same features:

    • A doctoral degree is required or preferred.
    • They are nontenure track positions.
    • The candidate will teach bachelor’s nursing classes.
    • The candidate will teach clinical and classroom components.

    Full-Time Vacancy Rates by Region in Schools Supporting Vacancies for Academic Year 2022-2023

    RegionStatesVacancy Rate
    WestAlaska, Hawaii, California, Colorado10%
    SouthTexas, Florida, Maryland, Kentucky9.8%
    MidwestIowa, Kansas, North Dakota, Nebraska6.9%
    North AtlanticPennsylvania, Delaware, Maine, New York8.1%

    Factors Contributing to the Nursing Faculty Shortage

    Nursing programs have faculty shortages for two main reasons. The average age of nursing faculty is between 48.6 and 62.5 years old, depending on their job title and degree level, according to AACN in October 2022. One-third of nursing faculty who teach bachelor of science in nursing or master of science nursing programs plan to retire by 2025.

    Yet, nursing programs cannot find the new nursing faculty to fill these open positions because programs cannot:

    • Offer competitive salaries compared to clinical jobs
    • Find faculty with the right specialty mix
    • Find enough doctorally prepared faculty

    For instance, advanced practice registered nurses make tens of thousands of dollars per year more than nurse educators, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Programs also need faculty to train future nursing faculty. Enrollment in doctor of nursing programs dropped by 13 percentage points from 2013 to 2021, according to AACN in October 2022. More than 14,700 qualified applicants were turned away from advanced degree nursing programs in 2021 because the programs did not have enough faculty, preceptors, and clinical sites to accept them.

    Some schools need more full-time faculty, but they do not post their open positions for various reasons, such as:

    • Not enough money to hire new faculty
    • Not enough leadership willing to commit to more full-time faculty positions
    • Salaries not competitive with the private sector for qualified candidates

    How Nurse Faculty Vacancies Impact Nursing Staff Shortages

    Western states, from Colorado to California, including Alaska and Hawaii, are the only region where the nursing shortage and the nursing faculty shortage data match. With a 10% vacancy rate, they have the largest nursing faculty shortages. They also have low nurse-to-patient ratios. Most of the western states have less than 10 nurses per 1,000 people.

    The rest of the nursing faculty shortage data does not connect well to the state-by-state data for nursing staff shortages. Places like North Dakota and Iowa are in the region with the lowest average nursing faculty shortage. Yet, they still have less than 8 nurses per 1,000 people. Places like Idaho and Nevada have more than 10 nurses per 1,000 people. Yet, they are in the region with the most need for more nursing faculty.

    Nevada has the second-highest salary in the nation when adjusted for cost of living and is one of the best states for nurses to work. Other reasons for the disconnect may be that nurses:

    Addressing the Nurse Faculty Shortage

    Schools, states, and the national government all work to address the nursing faculty shortage. Leaders in the nursing field such as AACN and Jonas Philanthropies also work to decrease the nursing faculty shortage.

    Some universities, such as Florida State University, offer rolling admissions so you can start your nursing program in spring, summer, or fall rather than waiting until the next fall semester to begin.

    Nursing schools partner with hospitals to fill the nursing faculty gap that the nursing faculty shortage creates and increase availability of clinical sites. Universities partner with community colleges to allow you to complete your degree faster by allowing you to take classes toward your bachelor’s degree and associate degree in nursing at the same time.

    States like Maryland and Hawaii provided money to their nursing programs to hire more faculty and support the state’s nursing programs. Preceptors, who teach clinicals, can receive tax incentives in states such as Maryland, Hawaii, Georgia, Colorado, South Carolina, and Virginia. Similar legislation is pending or introduced in New York, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Oregon.

    The federal government offers loan repayment programs specifically for nurse educators. For example, the Health Resources and Services Administration offers up to 85% debt cancellation for nurse educators who agree to teach for 3-4 years with the Nurse Corps Repayment Program or the Nurse Faculty Loan Program.

    AACN created NursingCAS, an application system that allows you to apply to multiple prelicensure or graduate nursing programs in one place with one set of application materials. NursingCAS partners with over 250 schools to find and fill vacant seats in nursing programs. In 2021, they filled more than 14,700 seats in advanced degree programs alone.

    Jonas Philanthropies funds scholarships for nursing students pursuing doctoral degrees who show high potential and interest in research and clinical focus areas that meet the nation’s most pressing healthcare needs. Some of these healthcare needs include:

    • Veterans health
    • Aging
    • Palliative and end-of-life care
    • Psychiatric mental health
    • Global nursing