How Much Does Nursing School Cost?
Although nursing school is most certainly an investment in your future that will more than pay itself off, paying for your education as a nurse could present an initial challenge.
The cost of nursing school can vary quite a bit depending on the type of school you choose - private school or community college - and whether you are enrolled in an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN).
How Much Does Nursing School Cost?
There is no one set cost for nursing school, but you can expect to spend anywhere from thousands for a shorter degree program to as high as over $80,000 and even sometimes $100,000 for longer or grad school programs.
How much nursing school tuition costs will depend on a number of factors like what educational level you already have, whether you're attending full-time or part-time, and what degree you are pursuing.
If you already have a Bachelor’s degree and are now pursuing your RN through an accelerated BSN program or if you’re going directly from an ADN to a BSN through an RN-to-BSN program, the cost will be different. If you attend a community college, the cost will most likely be much lower than a private university.
Typically, a community college will provide the most affordable route for nursing students, followed by a state university, and lastly, a private one. However, that can really depend on what kind of financial aid and scholarships you have, so there is no way to predict exactly how much your degree will cost you.
Nursing School Cost by Degree
Keeping those differences in mind and knowing that costs can vary by quite a bit, below is what you can expect to pay for different types of nursing degrees. But you should always check prices in your area and with your own prospective school.
Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) Cost
Earning your ADN means that you will have an Associate’s degree and after successfully passing the NCLEX you will become a Registered Nurse (RN). An ADN program is typically thought of as the more affordable and even faster route to becoming a nurse than a Bachelor’s program, but costs can still vary widely.
In some programs, an ADN program can take as little as 18 months, but for others, it can take as long as several years, depending on what prerequisites you need, if there is a waitlist, and if you will be moving through it full- or part-time. Those factors will determine the final cost, but you can expect to pay anywhere from around $10,000 to closer to $40,000.
Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) Cost
A BSN degree is widely becoming the standard for RNs, and earning your Bachelor’s will allow you a lot of flexibility in your career, as well as the ability to advance further in the nursing field if you choose and increase your earning potential.
Much like with an ADN, the cost of a BSN degree can vary. For instance, some people enroll directly into a BSN program, while others may choose an RN-BSN route.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from the 2020-2021 academic year, the average cost of a Bachelor’s degree ranges from $37,600 for a public university to over $150,400 for a private institution, with room and board and fees included.
Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) Cost
Earning your Master’s in Nursing will run a wide variety of costs. An MSN in Nursing Education may be different from an Advanced Practice Registered Nursing degree like a CRNA or a CNM, for instance.
On average, the most recently available statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics show that the average cost for a graduate degree is around $49K for a public institution and over $113K at a private, non-profit school.
Additional Nursing School Expenses
Outside of the direct costs of your school’s tuition, you will also want to anticipate some of the “hidden” costs of nursing school. From the cost of scrubs to the income you might lose, here’s a look at what you can expect to budget for during nursing school.
1. Uniforms and accessories
You will be required to purchase your own uniform for your nursing school clinicals, as well as the accessories you need, such as your stethoscope, scissors, and penlight. Most school programs have a package you can purchase through them directly, but a standard-issue professional stethoscope—such as a Littmann—can run you about $100.
A set of scrubs can be as cheap as $23, but if you have back-to-back clinical days, you might also consider purchasing an extra set or two. It’s important to remember that most nursing schools require specific scrubs for students that are the color of the nursing program and are embroidered with the program’s logo.
2. Health costs
You will most likely accrue some health-associated costs as part of your nursing program. These may include,
- Drug screening test
- Background check
- TB test
- Booster shots
You may also be expected to purchase your own malpractice insurance as a healthcare professional.
Nursing books can be a hefty price tag, especially once you get into the core nursing courses. One book alone may cost several hundred dollars. Check with your nursing school’s bookstore as there might be a book buyback program that can help you save money. Unfortunately, there is no way around textbook costs.
4. Transportation costs
All nursing programs require clinicals which means you will need a way to get there. I’ll never forget my first day of nursing clinicals in the winter weather—I blew a tire as soon as I got down the road, right in front of someone’s driveway, blocking their way to get to work, too. I remember sitting in my car, just sobbing because I didn’t even have money to pay for a new tire.
So, whether you’re driving and have to account for extra mileage, gas, and vehicle maintenance, or have to find a new public transportation route that works for you, don’t forget additional transportation costs in your budget.
If you’re a parent, you will most likely need additional childcare not only for your classes and clinical hours, but for your studying outside of school as well.
6. Decreased income
In addition to the increased costs you may accumulate during nursing school, you may be faced with decreased income as a result of cutting back on your regular work hours. Although many people have to work during school, most have to reduce their workloads in order to free up time for classes, clinicals, and studying.
7. NCLEX exam and test prep
In order to become an RN, you'll have to take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. That means paying for the exam itself, which runs approximately $200. As well as paying for any additional NCLEX review courses which can cost anywhere from $25 to upwards of $400.
Ways to Pay For Nursing School Costs
The hidden costs of nursing school may seem discouraging at first, but as a future RN, you’re resourceful—so, here’s how you can help pay for nursing school.
Many people think of scholarships as something you can get at the start of your college journey, but in actuality, you can apply for scholarships as you earn your education too.
Remember that sad scene of me crying in the snow with a flat tire that I couldn’t afford? Well, the very next day, I got a check in the mail from a random nursing scholarship that I had applied for—it was just enough to cover the cost of a new tire!
Student Loan Forgiveness
There are lots of student loan forgiveness programs available to nurses where either all or a portion of your student loans can be forgiven. Not all nurses will qualify, but for those that are lucky enough, they are definitely worth applying for.
The top 5 student loan forgiveness programs for nurses are:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)
- Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program (NCLRP)
- State-Level Loan Forgiveness
- Perkins Loan Cancellation
- Military Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses
Employer tuition assistance
If you are currently employed in a healthcare setting, be sure to check with your HR department about any tuition assistance that is available to students.
And, if you know where you would like to work after graduation, don’t be afraid to ask if they would be willing to work with you in advance—they may be able to offer you some kind of assistance in exchange for a job guarantee at graduation.
Buy secondhand and used
The unfortunate part about required school uniforms is that once you graduate, you probably can’t use those scrubs again—but that does mean that every semester, there is a new crop of new grads who can supply you with scrubs at a discounted (or free!) price. Check if your school offers a Facebook group or used scrub sale at the end of the semester.
You can also do the same for books, and be sure to check your school’s bookstore for used books before buying them new. When I couldn’t afford my nursing school books, I actually used the syllabus to figure out which pages I specifically needed, and copied pages in the library. It’s not a strategy I necessarily recommend, but it costs dollars instead of hundreds of dollars. A lot of books can be purchased as e-books for much cheaper than physical books, too.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask your instructors what books they would recommend that you purchase—and which ones could be skipped. I employed this strategy all throughout nursing school and found that almost all of my professors were more than willing to help me save money by helping me prioritize my purchases.
Work-study jobs are really an ideal situation for a student nurse, because they allow you a set compensation and usually provide you with plenty of time for studying, as well as valuable experience in your field. You may get a work-study position with a nursing professor, for instance, assisting a professor in their duties while studying in your downtime.
Work-study positions are provided through your financial aid package, so don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA and make sure to update it if anything changes over the course of your education.
Working the nightshift
You might have to experiment with what works best for you and your schedule (as well as your sanity!), but depending on the clinical area, working the night shift might free you up to still earn money—oh, and hey, night shift differential—and still make it to class. I speak from experience here and found that the quiet early AM hours also let me squeeze in some studying as well.
The costs of starting your nursing career can be very different based on your own individual circumstances and although at times, you may have your “flat tire” moment too, just keep in mind—when it comes to investing in a degree that will not only change your own life, but the lives of so many you care for—the work you are putting in now will definitely be worth it.