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How Much Does Nursing School Cost?

April 10, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Prospects are looking bright for future nurses. The employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 7% from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth for registered nurses will occur for a number of reasons, including an aging population, an increased emphasis on preventative care, and increased rates of chronic conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. And while the future is always unknown, it’s safe to say that aging is a trend that is destined to continue. 

So, while it may be that now more than ever is an ideal time to enroll in nursing school, there are several aspects to consider before deciding to dedicate your life to serving others in the field of nursing. One of the most important aspects being, how much does nursing school cost?

Types of Nursing Degrees and Certifications

If you have yet to enroll in nursing school, you may not be aware that there are different kinds of nursing degrees and certifications you can receive, which can be narrowed down based on the nursing specialty you would prefer to work in. 

Of course, there are different educational and work experience requirements to be eligible to be accepted into each diploma, degree, and certification program. It’s important to note that several options are available to complete each program, including bridging programs, full and part-time course load options, and online options. Let’s take a look at the types of nursing degrees and certifications available:

Nursing Assistant

If you wish to simply work in the field of nursing but do not wish to participate in years of training and licensing requirements to become a registered nurse, then a career as a Nursing Assistant may be right for you. 

While a nursing assistant’s career only requires a few weeks to a few months to complete, students must still complete a state test to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or a Registered Nursing Assistant (RNA). 

Nursing assistants most often work in long-term care facilities assisting patients in everyday living activities, including bathing, feeding, and dressing.

Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN) Degree

A Licensed Practical Nursing or Licensed Vocational Nursing Certification is the quickest way to achieve a licensed certification in nursing. An LPN/LVN works under the management of RNs and physicians to perform basic nursing care and often works in hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, nursing homes, and in patient’s homes. 

Education to become a Licensed Practical Nurse generally takes one year to complete before passing the NCLEX-PN, which is a state-administered nursing exam.

Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN)

An Associate of Science in Nursing Degree program (ASN) provides graduates with hands-on training and didactic coursework, while an ADN Degree is focused solely on nursing core classes and clinicals. This program is an ideal stepping stone for those who wish to complete a BSN and are not currently working as an LPN or an LVN. An ASN generally takes two years to complete.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

It’s important to note that while a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is only one way to become a certified registered nurse (RN), this is the preferred educational pathway for employers. The completion of a BSN followed by RN certification will provide the most career opportunities and the most opportunities to further your nursing education than any other foundational degree or diploma. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing will take four years to complete.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program allows nurses to specialize in different nursing types through advanced clinical training and research. Specializations include but are not limited to midwifery, gerontology, and orthopedics. An MSN typically takes 18-24 months to complete.

Doctorate Nursing Degree Programs

A Doctorate Nursing Degree practice emphasizes higher-level nursing practice skills. It allows graduates to seek positions such as a psychiatric mental health nurse, a family nurse practitioner, an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, a neonatal nurse, or a psychiatric nurse practitioner. A Doctorate in Nursing may be completed as a Doctorate of Nursing Education and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). 

Doctor Nursing Degree Programs

Nurses may also obtain a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc). A nurse may wish to further their education in this way to gain advanced practice knowledge and/or gain knowledge in advanced theory and academic research. This program will take approximately five years full-time and will prepare nurses for careers in healthcare administration, clinical research, and advanced clinical practice.

Nursing Certifications

Nursing certifications are available at multiple nursing levels and are pursued by Registered Nurses (RNs) and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), as well as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). Certain nursing certifications are also available for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). 

Nursing certifications are available in the following training areas:

  • Wound care
  • Dialysis
  • IV care
  • Pediatrics
  • Geriatrics

Depending on the state, certifications may be available for additional training in drawing blood and/or dispensing medication.

Why Do You Need Both Nursing Degrees and Certifications?

A diploma or degree in nursing will provide you with all of the fundamental knowledge, skills, and training necessary to successfully find employment in the field of nursing. However, certifications allow graduates to pursue one or more nursing specialties that suit their own skill sets and interests. 

Benefits of Attending Nursing School

Working in the field of nursing gives you not only an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others on a daily basis, but it allows you to make a great living for yourself at the same time. Since it is impossible to work in the field of nursing without certification, attending nursing school is the first critical step in your new career.

What Is Nursing School and How Does It Work?

Nursing school is an intensive vocational school, college, or university level program that requires a minimum of two years of full-time commitment in the case of registered nurses (RNs). A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will include a selection of generalized courses in the first two years of the degree that have been known to be beneficial in the field of nursing. 

These courses include sociology, nutrition, ethics, humanities, and social sciences. In the last two years of a BSN Degree, the curriculum will shift to focusing on nursing sciences and will largely move to health care facilities. Students will then be provided with a hands-on learning experience that includes nursing theory, different roles in the healthcare system, and clinical skills. 

Nursing School is designed to thoroughly prepare you for your licensing exam to become a Registered Nurse (RN) and to lay a solid foundation for a rewarding career in nursing. Nursing school is known to be a hands-on, intensive experience and requires serious commitment and dedication.

What Prerequisites Does It Take To Get Into Nursing School?

To begin your nursing school journey, you must first have the prerequisites to get accepted to your school of choice. If applying as a recent high school graduate, your SAT scores and grade point average will highly be considered in your acceptance, as well as course selection. 

While some nursing programs will accept students based solely on these factors and begin a professional nursing curriculum right away, others will still have to wait until they’re juniors to begin nursing classes. In this case, students will have to achieve certain grade point averages in their post-secondary education in their third year to advance into professional nursing classes. 

In order to advance into the last two years of professional nursing classes, students will often require a minimum grade point average of 2.5 in their pre-professional nursing classes. However, this can vary with each program.

What Are the Benefits of Attending Nursing School?

Want to know the benefits of attending nursing school? Let’s take a look at why attending nursing school may be the best move that you make for your career: 

In-Demand Employment

Of course, gainful employment is one of the top benefits of attending nursing school. Nursing is the fastest-growing career on the job market today, standing at a 7% projected growth from 2016 to 2026 – this is more than double the national average for job growth across all occupations! 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we can expect a growth of more than 438,000 new RN jobs by the end of this time period. Nurses are also most often able to find employment soon after they earn their nursing degree, as there is nearly always a shortage of nurses in today’s job market.

Flexible Hours

A career as a nurse leads to flexible hours, with a wide variety of employment options available at different medical facilities. Choosing employment at a hospital means working in an environment that is open 24 hours a day, seven days per week. 

Many hospitals allow their employees to choose from working eight, 10, or 12 hours shifts, as well as day shifts, evening shifts, or overnight shifts. A career in nursing can allow for flexible working hours that can fit your and your family’s needs or suit a schedule to accommodate additional nursing training and certification. 

Financial Benefits

Not only does nursing school provide a competitive base salary of an average of $65,641 per year for Registered Nurses (RNs), but a career in nursing will provide you with additional financial benefits. A nursing career also provides its employees with employee-subsidized health insurance, frequent pay raises and paid vacations. 

In some cases, nurses will also receive a sign-on bonus. While nursing school does require you to pay for your education before earning your salary, financial aid and nursing scholarships are available for students who cannot afford the tuition upfront. 

Variety of Employment Options

As mentioned, a career in nursing offers a wide variety of employment opportunities and the opportunity to work at different types of medical facilities. Additional education and certification allow nurses to specialize in a field that suits their own personal nursing interests and strengths. 

You may also wish to seek a career that combines nursing and another field or seek employment that satisfies your need to travel. A career as a Registered Nurse (RN) allows you to work in various settings, which are not limited to different hospital wards. Nurses often work in physician’s offices, schools, private homes, nursing homes, outpatient care centers, the military, and hospice centers.

What Nursing School Includes

It’s no secret that nursing school is rigorous and intensive when it comes to its coursework. However, nursing school involves much more than sitting in a classroom and achieving a high-grade point average. Let’s take a look at what to expect in nursing school:

Nursing Core Classes

While coursework is only a part of what nursing school entails, becoming a Registered Nurse requires you to participate in a variety of medical and science classes to lay the full foundation for what is required as a practicing RN. Nursing core classes will include all or a combination of the following topics:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Dosage calculations
  • Psychology
  • Pharmacology
  • Nursing principles
  • Nutrition
  • Maternal and newborn nursing
  • Parent and child nursing
  • Clinical nursing 
  • Medical-surgical nursing
  • Acute care nursing

Learning to Communicate Effectively

In addition to these nursing core classes, nursing school also teaches students to communicate effectively. Learning to communicate effectively comes in the form of the following academic courses:

College Composition

A College Composition course allows students to improve their writing processes and writing skills and develop critical thinking skills. The ability to communicate effectively when it comes to written processes is important for nurses, not only as they compose academic essays for nursing school but in their real-life nursing practices.

Principles of Communication

Principles of Communication is an incredibly valuable course for aspiring nurses. Nurses must communicate with doctors and other medical professionals and patients and families as well. Communicating effectively means having the ability to clearly get information across and communicating in a compassionate manner. 

Exam Preparation

All Registered Nurses (RNs) must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) exam. This exam has one purpose: to determine if it’s safe for applicants to begin practice as an entry-level nurse. While the NCLEX-RN exam is significantly different from any test you took in nursing school, your nursing school should still help its students prepare for this important exam. The NCLEX-RN exam tests both application and analysis using the nursing knowledge you learned in nursing school and whether applicants possess the critical thinking skills necessary to make nursing judgments.

Job Placement

Job placement is a valuable part of any college or university degree. And while most nurses have no issues whatsoever with finding a work placement soon after graduation, job placement is one of the many benefits that accompany nursing school. School counselors are also available to help students create effective resumes and conduct job searches. Job fairs are often held for students to meet with prospective employers in the healthcare industry.

Additional Pathways

Your nursing school will educate you on additional educational pathways you can take to accelerate your career, including information on accelerated nursing programs, bridging programs, certifications, and further diplomas.

Average Cost of Nursing School

When typing in “how much does nursing school cost?” on Google, you’re ideally looking for a straightforward answer. However, the cost of nursing school is not a straightforward number, with many factors influencing the final cost. And even though Registered Nurses earned a median annual salary of $73,300 in 2019 and Advanced Practice Nurses can bring in an average salary of $115,800, the price of nursing school may still seem steep. 

Total tuition costs for nursing school may range from as little as $6,000 to $100,000 or more, depending on how far you wish to take your education. This does not include the cost of lab and technology fees, scrubs, insurance, and immunizations.  Let’s take a look at the average costs per nursing program:

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Program Cost

An Associate Degree in Nursing or another two-year college nursing program is the most affordable path to becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). Public universities will charge anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000 for the entire two-year degree, while private universities may charge up to $40,000 for an Associate Degree in Nursing. 

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program Cost

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing will cost you a minimum of $40,000 at a public school, with private schools charging upwards of $80,000-$100,000. Universities often charge per credit, with BSN degrees comprising 120 credits.

Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program Cost

Although a master’s degree only lasts 1-2 years, this relatively short time frame, unfortunately, does not reflect in the price. The total cost for a Master of Science in Nursing can run you as much as a four-year Bachelor’s Degree, ranging on average from $35,000-$70,000.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program Cost

Students who wish to complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program who have already completed a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program will find tuition to range from $40,000-$70,000. This is because students only need an additional 35-50 credits in addition to their master’s degree to earn their DNP. However, students enrolling in a BSN-to-DNP program should expect to pay more in tuition, as they will need to complete a total of 60-80 credits.

How Tuition Cost Can Vary

As you can see from the above ranges in tuition costs per program, there are a number of factors that contribute to this variation in final costs. The variation in tuition costs includes factors such as online versus offline format, location of the nursing school, and the institution type. 

Online vs. On-Campus Program Cost

In today’s world, more and more students are completing their coursework by means of virtual tools and online classrooms. Students can gain all of the practical knowledge they would gain from an in-class experience, with the ability to watch lectures online, participate in class discussions, and turn in assignments through course management systems. 

However, those who choose an online nursing program delivery option must still complete in-person supervised clinical experiences and laboratory requirements.

Because operating expenses are generally not as high for online programs, this program delivery option is usually not as high as courses that are offered on-campus. Online students can also save on other costs that result from an in-class experience, such as transportation and childcare.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Program Costs

When researching nursing schools that are out of state, you’ll notice two very different tuition costs: one cost for students who live in state and one cost for students who are coming from another state or an international location. You’ll also notice that this cost is substantially different, with tuition rates often costing 50-75% more for students who are out of state. 

If you are determined to attend a nursing school that is out of state, it’s useful to check if your school offers scholarships or financial aid that is targeted towards non-resident students receiving in-state tuition. In some cases, schools may participate in tuition reciprocity agreements with neighboring states.

Public vs. Private Nursing School Programs

It’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of attending a public nursing school versus a private nursing school. Attending a private nursing school does not necessarily mean that you are receiving a higher-quality education than a public nursing school, with several top-ranking nursing schools in the public sector. 

Public nursing schools can offer more affordable tuition rates than private nursing schools because public education institutes receive taxpayer money from the state government. Private universities may become more affordable for students if they can obtain scholarships. 

Additional Costs of Nursing School

Although tuition fees will usually add up to the bulk of the cost you will incur in your nursing education; additional costs also need to be factored in. Textbooks alone may add up to thousands of dollars over the course of a 2-4 year program, with nursing outfits and supplies costing another $1,000. 

It’s also important to consider costs such as transportation, room and board, and meal plans, and/or daycare for students with children. The $200 cost of the NCLEX exam must also be considered, and the cost of any background checks needed for the licensure application.

Paying for Nursing School

While your nursing job will eventually come with a higher-than-average salary, you will not see this salary until after completing nursing school. This can discourage potential applicants from pursuing their degrees or encourage them to opt for a two-year program instead of the four-year BSN program widely preferred by employers. And while graduate programs will further increase your salary, these programs come at a significant price.

Student Loans & Grants

While many students require student loans to begin their undergraduate studies, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports in a 2017 survey that nearly 70% of degree seekers have taken out loans at the graduate level. Survey respondents also estimated an average of $40,000-$55,000 as a result of these student loans. 

Federal student loans are available in the form of direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS loans, and direct consolidation loans. Unlike student loans, grants are not required to pay back and are received by students who demonstrate significant financial need. 

You can find out more information on grants here. Former or active military members are also usually eligible for grants or discounted tuition.

Work-Study

Work-study is a federal work program that allows undergraduates and graduate students at participating schools to earn money to help pay for school. In the case of a work-study program, the student is responsible for applying the funds directly to their tuition and fees, which do not automatically come out of their earnings.

Is Nursing School Right For Me?

While nursing school is an investment, nobody can argue that nursing school is an investment worth making. While nursing students are required to put forth tuition fees to pay for their education, the salary they will earn as a result will quickly assist in paying off the student loans they may accrue. 

Nursing school can be a lengthy endeavor that requires hard work, determination, and commitment. However, with perseverance, nursing school will be one of the greatest investments you will ever make.

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