For many people, nursing feels like a calling — but when you start looking into the cost of tuition and books, you might start to wonder if nursing school is worth it.
The short answer? Yes. Nursing school is absolutely worth your time and money.
- The United States is experiencing a massive nursing shortage, and it’s only going to get worse. That means one thing: job security.
- Nurses earn high salaries after they get out of school
- There’s plenty of room for advancement in the nursing field
- Your nursing school degree can be used in other careers if you decide that nursing isn’t for you.
How Much Does Nursing School Cost?
As you’re deciding whether or not nursing school is worth it, one of the biggest things to consider is the cost of your degree. This can vary dramatically based on a variety of factors, including location, type of school (community colleges are considerably cheaper than four-year universities), type of nursing degree, and your individual living situation.
To decide whether or not nursing school is worth it, consider the following:
- How much is tuition?
- How much can you expect to spend on books?
- Will you be living in the dorms or at home?
- Can you save money by getting a cheaper LPN degree first, and then going to school part-time while working to get your RN?
- Can you save money by going to a community college, or by taking prerequisites at a lower-cost college?
How Much Money do Nurses Earn?
If you’re like most students, you’re going to nursing school to get a good job. But how much money do nurses actually earn?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses in the United States earn an average salary of $71,730 per year (as of 2018). That’s nearly double the average salary in the U.S., which was just $38,640. That means that after you get out of nursing school, you can expect to make a decent salary.
Naturally, there’s some variation in how much money nurses earn. Usually, this depends on where you live and where you work. BLS data states that California is the state with the highest-paid registered nurses; the average salary is $106,950. Nurses make the least money in South Dakota, where the average RN salary is $57,295.
Does that mean that nursing school isn’t worth it in South Dakota or other lower-paying states? Not at all. The cost of living is significantly lower there, which means that you’ll be able to achieve a similar quality of life even at a lower salary. In fact, nursing school is usually worth it, no matter where you live.
Nursing Job Outlook in 2021 and Beyond
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 9% between 2020 and 2030 — every year, there are 194,500 new nursing jobs. What does that mean for you as a nursing student? You probably won’t have any trouble finding a job after graduation. In terms of job security, nursing school is worth the investment of time and money.
There is also a flip side to this rapid job growth in the nursing profession: the United States’ serious nursing shortage. Nursing schools have a limited number of faculty, which means that they can only enroll a certain number of students and still maintain a quality education. What’s more, the Baby Boomer population is starting to retire in large numbers, leaving many nursing jobs open.
What does this mean for nurses? You might need to work short-staffed, which means busier, more chaotic shifts. In some facilities, it might mean that you get mandated — required to work a double shift or come in on your off day. Since these factors can affect the quality of your life, it’s important to go into nursing school with open eyes.
Of course, you can avoid much of this stress by choosing nursing jobs with set hours rather than shift jobs. Usually, these positions are in doctor’s offices, urgent-care facilities, and other offices with specific business hours.
How To Decide if Nursing School is Worth it For You
At the end of the day, the decision about whether or not to go to nursing school is highly personal. Some factors are intrinsic — if you can’t imagine doing anything but nursing, or if you want to become a nurse to enjoy a rewarding and challenging career, that may be motivation enough. If not, use the following steps to figure out the cost of nursing school and the time it will take to get out of debt.
- Add up the costs of nursing school at your top 3 schools
- Find out whether or not you can find a cheaper option
- Look at LPN and RN job listings in your area and figure out the average starting salary
- Subtract the cost of living from the starting salary
- Use those costs to figure out how long it will take you to pay back nursing school loans
Once you have a solid financial picture, your nursing school options will start to become clearer. Will your loans be too high for your current area? Consider moving to another location or focusing on a higher-paid specialty.
If local schools are too expensive, consider taking some or all of your classes at a community college. After all, most employers don’t care about where you got your nursing degree — they care if you have a solid grasp of nursing principles. When you understand all of the options, it’s easier to decide if nursing school is worth it.