Is Your BSN Worth the Cost of Tuition?

is-your-bsn-worth-cost-of-tuitionWhile considering different nursing schools and programs, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of options available. You can become a registered nurse (RN) by obtaining either an associate degree or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), or by completing a certificate program. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field or enough college credits, you could also consider an accelerated BSN program or even an entry-level master’s nursing program. The only common requirement is that you must pass the NCLEX national licensing exam at the end of any of these educational paths.

All other things being equal, an associate degree or certificate nursing program costs less than a BSN. These options also take less time than a traditional four-year BSN program. So, if you haven’t yet, over the course of your journey you are likely to ask yourself, “Is a BSN worth the cost of tuition?” Let’s examine some considerations behind this question, remembering that worth isn’t always just about the price tag or the pay you get back in return.

Salary Potential

Typically there is not much, if any, difference in the starting salary for a new RN, whether you have a bachelor’s or an associate degree. That often changes with experience and increased opportunities for BSN-educated RNs. PayScale reports a median national annual salary of $58,491 for RNs with a bachelor’s degree, but $55,520 for RNs with an associate degree. While even that difference may not seem like much, over the course of 20 years it adds up to $59,420, or more than an extra year’s worth of pay. Similarly, an analysis of nurse job postings over three months in 2013 using showed an even larger mean pay difference between nursing job listings requiring a post-secondary or associate degree ($66,620) and those requiring a BSN ($75,484).

Job Opportunities

National Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections show that our country will need over one-half million more registered nurses by 2022. While second of the top 20 for the most projected new jobs, registered nursing is first among these 20 in 2012 median annual pay ($65,470). These projections include registered nurses of all education levels, but the aforementioned analysis of nurse job openings shows that 37% of the openings required a bachelor’s degree. In an October 2010 report, the Institute of Medicine called for increasing the number of BSN-educated nurses to 80% by 2020. Some states’ legislatures are even considering bills that would mandate RNs getting their BSN within 10 years of becoming a certified RN. In fact, enrollment in RN-to-BSN educational programs, where registered nurses educated at a lower level go back to school to receive their BSN degree at an accelerated pace, increased much more quickly than enrollment in entry-level BSN programs (12.4% since last year compared to 2.6%). The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) also reports that 78.6% of employers express a strong preference for BSN graduates. A full 59% of new BSN graduates had a job offer at the time of graduation compared to only 29% of new college graduates across various disciplines.

Career Options

A BSN degree offers career options and later paths that are not available to registered nurses with only a certificate or associate degree. For instance, nurse educators must have a BSN to even be considered for teaching positions. A BSN degree is also a pre-requisite to Advanced Practice Registered Nurse specialty education and other master’s degrees in nursing. The only exception to this is some entry-level MSN programs which allow students to earn their master’s degree in nursing if they have a bachelor’s degree in another field.

In summary, a BSN degree offers more flexibility, job opportunities and pay than an associate degree or certificate nursing program. Registered nursing also offers the highest pay of any of the 20 jobs with the most projected job openings. And if you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and want to make a career switch, why would you consider an associate degree in nursing when you can likely get a BSN just as quickly through an accelerated program? Your specific nursing school tuition will vary, depending on the school and program you choose.

If you’ve decided, like we have, that a BSN is clearly worth the cost of tuition, why not take the next step and find a nursing school to start your education today?


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