Financial Aid for Nurses

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses earn $70,000 per year, nearly twice the median salary for all other occupations. In addition, the BLS projects that employment for nurses will grow by 15% from 2016 to 2026, which is significantly faster than the average growth for all other fields.

Students can finance their nursing school tuition in a number of ways. Because of a shortage of nurses, many states offer grants or loan forgiveness programs in order to draw more individuals into the profession. Students can also apply for a variety of scholarships, federal and private loans, and work-study opportunities.

Many online nursing programs allow students to take classes and complete assignments on their own schedule, making it easier to balance other professional and personal obligations. Some online programs also allow students to complete coursework at their own pace, taking breaks as needed. However, all nursing programs do require some sort of in-person and supervised clinical experience.


The cost of nursing school depends on a number of factors, including where you are going to school and what kind of degree you are pursuing. On top of tuition, students also need to consider school fees and the cost of books and other course materials. Online students may be able to avoid paying for room and board, but this can be a considerable expense for students on campus. It is important to understand the full cost of your nursing education as you begin to research scholarships and other funding opportunities.


Associate Degree in Nursing

In addition to passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), you will likely need at least an associate degree in nursing to become a registered nurse. Through courses in anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and other sciences, associate programs provide an introduction to the knowledge and skills needed in the medical field. Most students earn their associate degree in two or three years, allowing them to enter the profession more quickly than other degree options might allow.

In addition to graduating sooner, associate programs are also significantly less expensive than bachelor’s or master’s programs. While tuition varies considerably, students can expect to pay between $100 and $400 per credit for an associate degree in nursing. By paying in-state tuition at a community college, students may be able to earn their degree for as little as $6,000. At a larger university, prospective nurses may pay upwards of $20,000.

Because more and more employers are seeking out nurses with bachelor’s degrees, many graduates of associate programs choose to continue their education in an RN-to-BSN bridge program. By applying credits from their prior college studies, students in these bridge programs can earn a bachelor of science in nursing in just one or two years.

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing

Like associate programs, bachelor’s in nursing programs combine instruction in biology and anatomy with supervised clinical experiences in healthcare settings. Bachelor’s programs also include coursework in social sciences and other general education subjects. Graduates of bachelor’s programs may be better prepared for supervisory and academic positions in nursing. Most full-time students complete these programs in four years.

Bachelor’s programs in nursing tend to be more expensive than associate programs. However, according to a study conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 77% of hospital and health care employers prefer to hire nurses with at least a bachelor’s degree. Because of this high demand, nurses with a bachelor’s typically earn higher salaries than those with just an associate degree. So while a bachelor’s degree does come with higher upfront costs, it often pays for itself by increasing your overall earning potential.

Students can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $1500 per credit for a bachelor’s degree. The total cost of a bachelor’s in nursing can range from $40,000 at a state college to $200,000 at an elite, private university.

Master’s Degree in Nursing

Earning a master’s degree in nursing prepares you to obtain more advanced roles in the field, such as nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and nurse practitioner. Master’s programs feature specialized coursework and rigorous field experiences to prepare students for these jobs. Students usually earn their master’s degree in about two years.

Pursuing a master’s degree in nursing can be expensive, but it can also qualify you for positions with significantly higher salaries. For example, the BLS estimates that the median salary for nurse anesthetists, midwives, and practitioners was $110,930 in May of 2017. The BLS also projects that employment for these occupations will grow a staggering 31% between 2016 and 2026.

An advanced degree in nursing can also open up opportunities in administration and teaching. According to the BLS, medical and health services managers earn roughly $98,350 per year, and postsecondary nursing teachers earn approximately $71,260 annually.


  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing: AACN is a national professional association for those working in the field of nursing education. It helps to accredit nursing schools and offers a variety of nursing scholarships.
  • Bureau of Health Workforce: BHW, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, administers scholarship and loan repayment programs for nurses. It also identifies areas of the country experiencing a shortage of qualified health professionals.
  • National Student Nurses Association: NSNA brings together and promotes the development of students preparing for nursing licensure. It also provides resources on selecting a school, financing your education, and finding a job after graduation.
  • Johnson and Johnson’s Discover Nursing Project: In addition to resources on choosing a school and program, this site features a searchable database of 370 nursing scholarships in the United States. Students can search by state, education level, or academic requirements.
  • Bringing together the American Nurses Association, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and the American Nurses Foundation, this organization offers scholarships, fellowships, and research grants. It also has a career center and resources on credentialing.

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