Nurse Practitioner Market Saturation: Should You Worry?

It seems like everyone has their own opinion about saturation in the nurse practitioner job market. If you're a NP student, your professors are probably talking about the demand for providers and how employers are eager to hire you post-graduation. If you talk with recent nurse practitioner school grads, they're saying you're totally screwed once you kick off your job search. Who's right?

To get to the bottom of the conundrum, let's look at a few real-life scenarios. 

New Grad # 1 and New Grad #2 

A new grad NP and San Antonio resident I recently spoke with graduated a full year before locking down a job. Her inexperience and inability to relocate worked against her in her job search. But, with persistence, she was successful in locking down a primary care position that pays the bills. 

Another new grad I spoke with here in Nashville, TN was successful in landing employment within a few months of graduation...but with an 80-minute commute each way. While some nurse practitioners would understandably find this unreasonable, she decided that getting some experience under her belt would serve her well in finding a closer job in a year or so. 

Experienced NP

A cardiology NP I know with 10 years of highly specialized experience moved to Houston for her husband's job. Rather than scour job boards, she simply emailed cardiology groups in the area and let them know of her recent move and that she was looking for a job. Given her level of expertise, one of the cardiology groups created a position for her when one was not even posted. Boom. 

Employer 

Last year here at MidlevelU headquarters, we posted a job opportunity for an experienced primary care NP. Within a week or so we had 45 applications sitting on our desk. That's a lot. However, all but a handful of applicants did more than submit a job application on Indeed taking the effort to email us personally. Not to mention, most did not meet the qualifications listed on the job posting. 

Alright, so what's going on here? There's more at play in the market saturation equation than the simple question "Is the nurse practitioner job market saturated?". Talking with hundreds of job-seeking nurse practitioners every year, here's what we find matters: 

Level of Experience

Sorry, but it's true. Most employers prefer to hire NPs with a little experience (or a lot) under their belts. Fewer open positions are open to new grads than to experienced NPs which can lend itself to a sensation of (or actual) job market saturation, especially for inexperienced NPs. Some of these employers will end up accepting new grads and some won't, but you may have some challenges ahead if you're a recent grad. Hang in there and see some advice below. 

Timeline 

Do you live in a city with a number of nurse practitioner schools? Are you looking for a job immediately after graduation? Welcome to the club. It seems that graduation season yields a flood of new grads into the job market each spring and summer, especially in cities that are home to a number of universities. Here in Nashville, for example, we have at least 4 or 5 NP programs. Students fall in love with the city, hope to stay, but there simply aren't enough new grad friendly jobs to accommodate them all. This market is saturated, particularly for new grads in graduation season. 

Geography 

If you're a reasonable person, I can probably find you a job in rural New Mexico tomorrow. If you want to work in Nashville, TN like I mentioned above, I can't make any promises. Or, rather, I can promise you're probably in for a lengthy job hunt. The geographic location where you want to work makes a major difference as far as job market saturation. Desirable cities are far more likely to be chock-full or NPs while there are other areas of the country in significant need. Aside from your level of experience, location is the biggest determinate in your job search. 

Specialty / Practice Setting  

Some specialties are in higher demand than others which factors into market saturation. The job market for psych NPs is decidedly not saturated. If you're a specialized NP looking for a job in a small town, it may not take more than a few other similar local providers to make the job market feel full. Practice setting also plays a role. Clinics working with certain patient populations perceived as 'difficult' like the homeless, for example, may struggle to retain nurse practitioners while private practices may seem like more attractive employment options and fill more quickly. 

Application Quality

Finally! A factor you control. A caveat to all of the above information you didn't want to hear. Most of the applications we receive or review here at MidlevelU are crap. Out of the 45 applicants for our open position, for example, we called about three back. Why? Incomplete applications, misspellings, poorly formatted resumes, lack of reformatting a cover letter to match the job posting - you name it, we see it. Applying to jobs online can feel quick and easy (and in some ways it is), but you absolutely must complete the application and required components specifically for each job to which you apply - neatly and professionally. If the market you live in is saturated, you may not be able to control the quantity of applicants employers receive but you can control the quality of your own application. More on this to come! 

Many job markets across the U.S. are saturated for nurse practitioners. Many are not. Regardless of the situation in your area, if you're a new grad you may need to be determined and flexible as you look for that coveted first position. And, don't forget - you always control your ability to submit a job application that's up to par

Do you feel like the job market in your area is saturated? How have you overcome this in your job search?

 

You Might Also Like: 10 Things To Do if You Haven't Landed a NP Job by Graduation 

 

Comments

The biggest reason I see for NP's having trouble getting a job is lack of experience as a RN. The VAST majority of RN's applying and getting into NP schools have a lot less than 10 years experience as a nurse. The majority have less than 5 years. Why do they apply for NP school? Is is the money? The thought of being the boss? Independence? All are great goals, but the lack of experience will get you none of the aforementioned. To add insult to injury, because of the influx of "new" NP's without experience, salary offers are much lower (as low as $45/hr). This dilutes the pot for all NP's who have put in their time as a RN at the bedside. Most experienced RN's make north of $45/hr. Why would one accept a job with more pressure, responsibility and exposure for less money? Practitioner applicants would do well to really think about what they can bring to the table as a provider before blindly applying for NP school. Anybody can study a book and learn what to do, but it is a far cry from knowing how to do. Do yourself and the NP field a solid and get your experience before going to NP school. Believe me, it will positively affect your practice and paycheck.

Damon Spears, FNP-C

Nurse Practitioner jobs are available. You may have to be willing to relocate. The largest local NP employer in my hometown downsized several NP positions due to a lack productivity. It was devastating to the NP's who moved to the area, signed leases for houses, and put down local roots. Many of the NP's who were experienced this downsize found positions in neighboring towns and states.

You may also have to be willing to work for less than others. Federally Qualified Health Centers sometimes pay less but jobs can be found. I attended a virtual job fair, identified the employers for whom I was willing to work and the area to which I was willing to relocate. Getting experience is the key to landing a better, higher paying position in the future. 

Richard Smith

Great article and spot on. A new NP must have some willingness to move and to accept some aggravation-lengthy commute or night shift- toward the goal of becoming experienced and proficient.
I graduated 4 years ago in Kentucky from a Indiana university and it has been a struggle to obtain employment. I am a late 50's NP and that does not work for me in the interview. One doctor even commented to me-"So how old are you?" as he moved to the side to look at my forehead and lateral eye skin. I've been asked "how fast can you type?" "Have you worked with any computer programs?" as if I emerged from the 18th century .
Ageism is alive and well- legal if the company has not employed the applicant yet. No need to say why "Not a good fit."
Its been a spotty frustrating roller coaster ever since graduation. I am just trying to hold on till retirement without losing my income. Thank God I paid for school as I went along and worked at the same time so no student debt.

Sonja Griffith

I see physicians comment that nurse practitioners aren’t truly filling the need for patient care in needed areas like we are constantly taught in school. Seems like this may be true after all if the majority are settling in the most desired cities...

Jenny Reid