Nursing Degrees And Salary: Does Education Effect Earnings?

Nursing Salaries

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In some industries, obtaining a degree or certification can make all the difference in your compensation. However, is there a connection between nursing degrees and salary?

According to a Gallup poll, nurses are the most honest and trusted professionals in America for the 18th year in a row.

Despite this responsibility, nurses are not the highest paid profession in the medical field. If you’re a nurse, you’re likely looking for ways to make more money.

In this post, you’ll learn how getting a nursing degree can impact your earning potential, so you can take steps to getting the pay you deserve!

Registered Nurse Degrees and Salary

Registered nurses, also called RNs, obtain a license from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) in order to practice in the United States.

For example, registered nurses work in hospitals, physician offices, home health care services, nursing care facilities, and outpatient centers.

What Do Registered Nurses Do?

Registered nurses main job duties include:

  • Assessing patient conditions
  • Notifying the healthcare provider of any changes or issues in the patient’s condition
  • Recording and documenting patients’ medical history and symptoms
  • Measuring and recording vital signs
  • Observing patients and recording observations in the medical record
  • Administering patient medications and treatments as prescribed
  • Delivering patient care and consulting with providers
  • Operating and monitoring medical equipment including IV pumps, heart monitors, etc.
  • Teaching patients and their families how to manage illnesses or injuries
  • Planning discharges, including what to do at home after treatment

What Education Do Registered Nurses Need?

Registered nurse education includes a diploma program or Associate Degree in Nursing from a community college.

Associate of Science in Nursing or Associate of Applied Science in Nursing are typically the degrees offered from community colleges.

These nurses are called ADNs, and the programs typically take 20-24 months to complete.

Registered Nurse Salary Statistics

Registered Nurses’ mean hourly wage is $35.24, which is $73,300 annually.

The lowest 10% of mean hourly wages for Registered Nurses is $25.04.

The highest 10% of mean hourly wages for Registered Nurses is $53.47.

Here are the percentile wage estimates for this occupation, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics:

Percentile10%25%50%
(Median)
75%90%
Hourly Wage$25.04$28.90$35.24$43.64$53.47
Annual Wage $52,080$60,110$73,300$90,760$111,220
Percentile Wage Estimates


Registered Nurses that work in general medical and surgical hospitals receive the highest pay.

Bachelor Of Science In Nursing Degrees And Salary

BSN nurses are Registered Nurses that also have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Hospitals are moving towards requiring BSN nurses for employment.

BSN nurses have more leadership classes and are more prepared for nursing supervisor or management roles. Leadership development is based around BSN nurses.

What Do BSN Nurses Do?

BSN nurses main job duties include the same duties as ADN nurses, but add the ability of adopting leadership, administrative, and management roles. Some leadership roles of BSN nurses include:

  • Clinical Nurse Manager
  • Director of Nursing (DON)
  • Clinical Project Manager
  • Nurse Administrator (various departments)
  • Legal Nurse Consultant
  • Quality Management Nurse Consultant
  • Health Coach Consultant
  • Pharmaceutical Representative
  • Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)

What Education Do BSN Nurses Need?

BSN nurses’ education includes a Bachelor of Science degree from a 4-year university.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing is the only Bachelor level nursing degree offered across the United States, and these programs typically take 4 years to complete if the student attends full-time classes.

ADN vs BSN Nurse Salaries

There is not much of a pay difference for entry-level ADN and BSN prepared nurses.

However, BSN nurses have more opportunities to move up within the organization due to having a BSN degree.

Master Of Science In Nursing Degrees and Salary

MSN-prepared nurses are Registered Nurses with advanced practice, graduate level degrees. There are clinical and non-clinical options for advanced practice nurses.

Clinical options mean that the MSN-prepared nurse is still directly involved with patient care. Meanwhile, non-clinical MSN-prepared nurses are away from the bedside.

Both offer valuable contributions to the nursing profession.

What Do MSN Nurses Do?

MSN nurses can conduct research, educate at the university level, diagnose various health problems, analyze test results, prescribe medications, and perform and order diagnostic tests.

Nurses with Master of Science in Nursing degrees have both clinical and non-clinical options.

Clinical options include:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Anesthetists

Non-clinical options include:

  • Nursing Education
  • Clinical management and leadership
  • Informatics
  • Forensic Nursing

Clinically-focused advanced practice nurses have prescriptive authority, meaning they can write prescription medication and supplies for patients under the supervision of a physician.

What Education Do MSN Nurses Need?

MSN nurses’ education requires a Master of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited university.

These programs typically take 2-3 years to complete after obtaining a BSN degree.

Clinical vs Non-Clinical MSN Nursing Degrees And Salary

Overall, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners make the most out of all nursing career paths. Non-clinical MSN nurses do not make as much as the top 10% of BSN prepared nurses.

Non-clinical MSN jobs, such as nursing instructors, do not make as much as their clinical counterparts. This is part of the reason for nursing shortages, as there are not enough nurse educators to teach nursing students.

To further complicate this problem, bedside nurses with some years’ experience can make almost as much, if not more, than MSN-prepared nurse educators.

Therefore, nurses remain close to bedside in order to make more wages. This is also why we have seen a 45% projected growth for clinical MSN-prepared nurses compared to a 15% projected growth for nurse educators.

BSN vs MSN Nursing Degrees And Salary Statistics

The difference between BSN and MSN pay is significant.

A MSN-prepared nurse practitioner makes $55.67 per hour, which is $115,800 annually. MSN-prepared nurse anesthetists’ median pay is $174,790, while nurse midwives make $105,030 annually.

To give a little perspective, the median annual wages for all occupations is $39,810. Overall, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners make the most out of all nursing career paths.

Here are the wage estimates for MSN-prepared occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics:

Nurse AnesthetistsNurse PractitionerNurse MidwifeNon-clinical MSN
Hourly Wage$84.03$52.79$50.49$40.01
Annual Wage $174,790$109,820$105,030$83,240

Which Nurses Make The Most Money?

Nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives that work at hospitals make the highest pay, followed by outpatient care centers.

Nurse educators who work at colleges, universities and professional schools make the highest pay followed by junior colleges.

Which Nursing Degree Should You Choose?

To start your career in nursing, a BSN would be beneficial, because more hospitals are leaning toward all nurses having BSN degrees.

This is due in part to evidence showing that hospitals with high levels of BSN-prepared nurses have better patient outcomes, decreased patient mortalities and improved job satisfaction.

Some bridge programs offer LVN to BSN or ADN to BSN programs.

Obtaining a BSN is the starting point to a great nursing career.


References

  • Blegen, M., Goode, C., Park, S., Vaughn, T., $ Spetz, J. (2013). Baccalaureate education in nursing and patient outcomes. The Journal of Nursing Administration. Doi:10.1097/NNA.0b013e31827f2028
  • National Council SBN. (2020). NCSBN. Retrieved from https://www.ncsbn.org/index.htm
  • Reinhart, RJ. (2020). Nurses continue to rate highest in honesty, ethics. Gallup polls. Retrieved from https://news.gallup.com/poll/274673/nurses-continue-rate-highest-honesty-ethics.aspx
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2019. Occupational employment and wages, May 2019. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2019. Occupational employment and wages, May 2019. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-5
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2019. Occupational employment and wages, May 2019. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes251072.htm

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