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Press Release

Employers’ educational preferences for registered nurses have softened recently, says Cleveland Fed researcher in follow-up to 2015 report on opportunity occupations

In 2015, the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Atlanta published an analysis of “opportunity occupations,” jobs that are generally accessible to an individual without a four–year college degree and that pay a wage higher than the national median. Registered nursing was identified in that report as one of the most prevalent and highest–paying opportunity occupations. The report also noted that employers’ educational preferences for RNs in the top 100 metro areas had been steadily moving toward a bachelor’s degree.

Those educational preferences have softened recently, according to Kyle Fee, a regional community development advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. “Online job postings for RNs have increased markedly from 2014 to 2016 and have far outpaced the postings for all other jobs,” says Fee. “Yet most of the increase in online RN job postings is attributable to employers who do not require their candidates to have a bachelor’s degree.”

Using online job posting data to examine the labor market for registered nurses, Fee also finds that:

  • The level of increased online job postings for RNs varies across metro areas
  • While regional differences remain, there appears to some be some convergence on employers’ educational preferences for RNs
  • The type of employer often dictates the amount of education they prefer.

“This analysis shows that despite assertions that a bachelor’s degree is required for employment as a RN, there is yet to be a consensus on what the educational requirements should be,” says Fee. “Moreover, even if industry standards do shift to favor RNs with bachelor’s degrees, some employers may want to consider preserving multiple career pathways into the RN profession, both to accommodate industry staffing needs and as a source of opportunity for those who do not have a four–year degree.”

Read Opportunity Occupations: Exploring Employers’ Educational Preferences for Registered Nurses Using Online Job Posting Data

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Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.455.4479