Determining the average cost of an education for a nurse is a bit more complicated than just looking up tuition costs. There are multiple pathways to becoming a nurse, and how much you pay will depend on which path you choose.
Some nurses go to school for four years to receive a bachelor's degree, while others start work after finishing a diploma program. Those who want to start working more quickly can get an Associate's Degree in Nursing, or ADN. All of these educational pathways can lead to work as a registered nurse, or RN, but the combination of experience and education will determine the job opportunities available and the earnings potential. Working with healthcare staffing agencies can help you find the best placement for the combination of your education and experience.
Here is a breakdown of the average cost of an education depending on which pathway you choose:
Associate's Degree Program
This is the least expensive route to starting your career as a nurse. The average cost for tuition is between $6,000 and $40,000, depending on the school you choose and the state where the school is located. Private schools can cost even more.
An associate's degree program only lasts two years, which helps to keep costs down, and it is usually offered by a community college or trade school, which usually has lower tuition that a four-year university.
Getting an associate's degree will help you get your foot in the door, but you will not get the complete, specialized training that you need. Either your career options will be limited, or you will have to return to school at some point.
Those who complete a nursing diploma typically start their careers as licensed practical nurses (LPNs). The program can take 12 months to three years, depending on the school offering it, and the cost can range from $5,000 to $25,000.
LPNs provide entry-level care and administrative support, so they do not have high earnings potential. You will have to get more education if you want to advance in your career.
Some of these nursing diploma programs are offered as bridge programs between the LPN and RN designation, and they cost about the same.
Most RNs get their four-year bachelor's degree, which can cost between $40,000 and $200,000 depending on the school. The cost includes text books and fees, and the costs go up when you attend a private university.
Though you may balk at the price of a four-year degree, just remember that it will provide the best opportunities for career advancement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that nurses make an average of $65,470 per year, and that demand for jobs is rising faster than average for other industries. The more educated you are, the more competitive you will be for those jobs.
Also remember that you can get financial aid to attend an accredited nursing program. Most students will be able to get enough aid to cover the cost of their education, and their earnings potential should more than compensate for the cost.