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The State of the Nursing Workforce in North Carolina

Nursing in the United States is facing many changes. On the one hand, healthcare has experienced a massive increase in demand since the early 2000s, with more than half a million new nursing jobs available today. On the other hand, there has been a paradigm shift regarding the education requirements for entry-level nurses.

Journals and studies continue to tout the benefits of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) for patients, hospitals and taxpayers. This information has begun informing policy changes and hiring practices, which now favor nurses with a BSN. North Carolina is no different and has experienced its own measure of transformation.

North Carolina Nursing Jobs

The push toward nurses with a BSN is occurring across the nation. Between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of nurses with BSNs increased from 50 percent to 55 percent. These changes suggest that North Carolina nursing jobs also favor applicants with a BSN. There are about 122,000 registered nurses (RN) in North Carolina at an average age of 53.

Between 2014-2016, around 80 percent of first-time test takers in North Carolina passed the NCLEX-RN exam and became licensed. In 2016, there were 1,403 BSN students in North Carolina who, according to statistics tracked by the North Carolina Board of Nursing, passed the NCLEX-RN on their first try at a rate of 90 percent.


Fortunately there are options for those without a BSN. One of the most popular is to enroll in an RN to BSN program. In North Carolina, educational institutions turn away several thousand potential nursing students (including doctoral students) per year due to limited capacity. This has made options like online RN to BSN programs quite popular. In fact, nationwide, nearly 28,000 RNs earned a post-licensure bachelor’s degree in nursing via an RN to BSN program in 2011, an estimated 86.3 percent increase from annual graduates in 2008.

With the number of North Carolina nursing jobs keeping pace with national growth, and the trend toward mandatory BSNs for entry-level positions, the only bottleneck in this scenario is the number of available faculty to run these RN to BSN programs. In fact, a lack of nursing faculty has become a factor driving state funds, with six North Carolina congressional districts earmarking more than $6.3 million into nurse education.

Learn about the University of North Carolina Wilmington online RN to BSN program.


AACN: State Profile: North Carolina

BLS Occupational Handbook: Registered Nurses

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services: The U.S. Nursing Workforce: Trends in Supply and Education

BLS: Occupational Employment and Wages: Registered Nurses


NCSBN: NCLEX Exam Statistics

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U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs: Become a VA Nurse


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