Recent AACN Data Shows Enrollment Surge in Nursing Education

Published August 23, 2013

A 2012 report from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing describes an enrollment surge in baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs. The data reflects an increasing market demand for highly-trained nursing professionals, coinciding with recommendations of the Institute of Medicine for heightened educational requirements. The report is based on responses received from 87.5 percent of U.S. nursing schools offering undergraduate or graduate degrees.

The report focused on statistics for 2011 and the relative changes from the previous year. The enrollment increases were both at the baccalaureate level and the graduate levels. Total enrollment in undergraduate nursing programs was reported at 259,100. Of that total, 169,125 were preparing for their first nursing positions. The other 89,975 were holders of associate degrees obtaining the baccalaureate for job advancement.

Graduate programs are essential for advanced specialties such as nurse anesthetist. A graduate degree is necessary for a neonatal nurse to advance to nurse practitioner. There were 94,480 students enrolled in master’s programs. Doctoral level enrollment focusing on nursing practice, as opposed to research, numbered 9,094.

Applications were up along with enrollment. Undergraduate applications increased by 5.1 percent to 259,100, of which 101,060 were accepted. Nursing schools were not able to accommodate the rising number of qualified applicants. Baccalaureate programs were unable to accept 61,233 qualified applicants. Schools offering master’s programs could not accept 13,198 qualified applicants, and 1,156 qualified applicants were not accepted into doctoral programs.

The schools granted 80,767 baccalaureate degrees. Of the undergraduate total, 27,845 held associate degrees and had prior nursing work experience. The remaining 59,922, termed entry-level, were starting their careers with a baccalaureate degree. Master’s level graduates numbered 24,311, and 1,595 graduated from practice-focused doctoral nursing programs.

Increases were reported in student diversity. The percentage of men in baccalaureate and graduate programs exceeded the percentage of men already employed as nurses. The report states that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects ongoing demand for 1.2 million additional degreed nurses through 2020.

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