Nursing is an extremely rewarding career, and it has the added benefit of being in high demand right now. But that doesn’t mean becoming a nurse is easy. Getting through nursing school takes a lot of hard work—and it can be fairly expensive. But because the need for nurses is on the rise, you’re likely to find good job prospects when you finish school.
The number of registered nurse (RN) jobs will grow to 3.2 million by 2022 as the demand for skilled nurses increases. Plus, the median annual salary for an RN in 2017 was $70,000 The rise in new jobs combined with an aging nurse workforce facing retirement means the need for new well-trained nurses will only continue to grow.
That makes it the perfect time to become a nurse, but there are a variety of nursing school paths and finding the right option for you can be confusing. You could be an RN (registered nurse), a CNA (certified nursing assistant), or an LPN (licensed practical nurse). And not only are there plenty of nursing school options, there’s a variety of costs that accompany those choices.
Understanding different nursing degrees, which nursing program makes sense for you, and what your payment options are will help set you up for success.
What Are The Various Nursing Degrees You Can Pursue?
There are a number of routes to becoming a nurse or nurse’s assistant.
To become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), you need a high school degree, and you typically need to take 4-12 weeks of courses and pass a vocational exam. A CNA assists the nurses and doctors with things like admitting patients and taking vitals.
A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is also known as a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). Both require a diploma from an accredited program, which can take 12 to 18 months to complete. You must then pass a licensing exam LPN work generally involves collecting samples, administering medications, and taking patients’ vitals and symptoms.
RNs (or registered nurses) need a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, and they must pass the NCLEX-RN exam . There are also opportunities for LPNs to continue their education and earn their RN credentials. RNs are responsible for a wider range of patient care and treatment, including assessing the patients and recommending prevention plans.
RNs with a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) are able to apply for higher-level jobs than those with associate’s degrees. A bachelor’s degree is also generally required for higher-paying nursing roles in specialty fields, and for managerial roles.
Becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), or getting a master’s or doctorate in nursing is also an option for those who want to work as nurse administrators, nurse midwives, or enter the field of nurse education.
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SoFi student loan refinancing could do for you.
The Average Cost of Different Nursing Degrees
Choosing the right nursing degree depends on what kind of nurse you want to be, and what you’re looking to get out of nursing school. You should also understand the time commitment and costs associated with each option.
The cost of becoming a CNA can range depending on the state you test in. States may also have different requirements just to apply. Researching your state’s particular requirements and costs will help you gauge how much you can expect to spend.
If you choose to become an RN via an associate’s degree, it can take two to three years and can cost around $31,000 , depending on the program. However choosing to go to a community college or an in-state versus an out-of-state school makes the costs vary widely.
If you choose to get a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) on your way to becoming an RN, it works much like any bachelor’s degree. A BSN typically takes four years to complete and costs about the same as most bachelor’s degrees.
Of course, the annual costs depend on where you go to school, and whether you attend a private or public college. For RNs who already have an associate’s degree but would like their bachelor’s, there are RN to BSN bridge programs available. Some of these programs are available online, and you pay per credit hour.
To compare nursing school costs, you’ll want to look at tuition, additional fees (housing, etc.), and how many credits you need. You’ll also want to look at exam pass rates and job placement rates.
Other Fees You’ll Encounter While Studying to be a Nurse
In addition to nursing school tuition and books, there are typically lab fees each semester. You’ll also need to buy scrubs ($30 to $50 a pair), a lab jacket, and miscellaneous gear like a stethoscope.
Many nursing schools will also require that you take out liability insurance and get all mandatory immunizations. There’s also licensing and exam fees, which vary by state but can cost as much as $300 for your initial license and $200 to take the exam.
How To Pay For Nursing School Without Going Broke
For those attending accredited nursing schools, taking out student loans is always an option to help pay for tuition, room and board, and other student expenses. You can also apply for financial aid and scholarships—start by filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). That will tell you what you are eligible for in terms of federal loans, as well as grant funding or work study.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing also maintains a scholarship database for nursing schools. In some cases, you can have your nursing student loans forgiven or repaid if you work in underserved communities with the Health Resources and Services Administration and meet certain criteria.
If you’ve taken out federal or private student loans for nursing school, but now find it difficult to make payments, you might be able to refinance your student loans with a private lender. Refinancing into one lower-interest loan can be particularly helpful if you have multiple student loans.
And that could definitely be the case if you’ve completed nursing school through more than one degree program. Refinancing your loans after graduation can help you manage repaying the total cost of nursing school, after the fact, by allowing you to pay your loans off at a lower interest rate.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment, Income Contingent Repayment, or PAYE.SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.