Despite an Expected Shortage of 193,000 Nurses, Colleges Reject More Than a Third of Qualified Applicants, Georgetown University Finds

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Through 2020, the demand for nurses will grow substantially.

Nursing: Supply and Demand Through 2020

Even with the mounting demand, crowded nursing schools continue to reject qualified applicants

The economy will create 1.6 million job openings for nurses through 2020. The problem, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, is that there will not be enough nurses to fill those openings: the report projects a shortage of 193,000 nursing professionals in 2020.

“Even with the mounting demand, crowded nursing schools continue to reject qualified applicants,” said Anthony Carnevale, the lead author of the report. “Colleges and universities reject one out of three qualified applicants to Bachelor of Nursing programs and over half of qualified applicants to Associate of Nursing programs.”

Through 2020, demand for nurses will grow substantially due to an aging population and the Affordable Care Act, which expands health insurance coverage to millions of Americans. Meanwhile, older nurses are retiring in large numbers, creating thousands of job openings, while some younger nurses are leaving the profession chiefly due to a stressful, demanding work environment that features long hours, erratic schedules, and high penalties for error. In addition, nursing schools lack the faculty, facilities, and training sites to match the growing demand.

“The nursing profession is one of the surest routes to the middle class for millions of women,” said Nicole Smith, a co-author of the report. “Now that we’ve increased barriers to immigrate nursing talent from outside the U.S., unless something changes, many rural communities will continue to be underserved.”

The report’s other major findings are:

  • Of the 1.6 million job openings in nursing, 700,000 will result from newly created positions, and 880,000 will result from retirements.
  • The 3.5 million nursing professionals account for three of every five jobs for healthcare professionals in the United States.
  • Of all nursing professionals with an active license, 31 percent work outside the profession.

The full report for Nursing: Supply and Demand through 2020 is available online at

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce is an independent, nonprofit research and policy institute that studies the link between individual goals, education and training curricula, and career pathways. The Center is affiliated with the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy. For more information, visit: Follow us on Twitter @Cntredwrkfrce and on Facebook.

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