Embarking on a nursing career can be exciting and rewarding, but with numerous nursing degrees and salary expectations to consider, it can be challenging to navigate the best path for you. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of nursing degrees and the salary ranges you can expect with each. This information will help you make informed decisions about the nursing career that best aligns with your goals and passions.
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
A CNA, also known as a nursing aide, assists patients with their basic daily needs under the supervision of a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN). To become a CNA, you need to complete a state-approved training program and pass a competency exam. Training programs typically last 4-12 weeks and can be found at community colleges, vocational schools, or healthcare facilities.
The median annual wage for CNAs in the United States is around $30,000, with entry-level positions starting at about $22,000 and experienced CNAs earning up to $39,000.
NCLEX Degree in Nursing
The NCLEX degree is a vital step for aspiring nurses to become Registered Nurses (RNs). This exam assesses candidates’ knowledge and competence in providing safe nursing care. To be eligible for the NCLEX, individuals must complete an accredited nursing program, typically a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), taking around two to four years.
Once the program is completed, graduates can take the NCLEX-RN exam, evaluating their nursing concepts, critical thinking, and decision-making skills. Passing the NCLEX-RN grants an official nursing license, allowing RNs to pursue various healthcare opportunities. Check the NCLEX study guide by Career Employer to learn more about the prerequisites and subjects.
NCLEX-qualified Registered Nurses earn competitive salaries. The median annual wage for RNs is approximately $75,000, with entry-level positions starting at around $60,000. Experienced RNs with additional certifications can earn over $100,000 annually. Actual salaries may vary based on location, experience, and additional qualifications.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) / Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)
LPNs and LVNs work under the supervision of RNs and provide basic medical care, such as administering medication, monitoring vital signs, and assisting with patient hygiene. To become an LPN or LVN, you must complete an accredited nursing program, which typically takes 12-18 months. After completing the program, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) to obtain licensure.
The median annual wage for LPNs and LVNs is approximately $48,000. Entry-level positions start at around $37,000, while experienced LPNs and LVNs can earn up to $63,000.
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
An ADN is a two-year program that provides a foundation in nursing and prepares you for entry-level RN positions. Graduates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed. While an ADN can get you started in the nursing field, many employers prefer candidates with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
The median annual wage for RNs with an ADN is around $60,000. Salaries can range from $52,000 for entry-level positions to $75,000 for experienced nurses.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
A BSN is a four-year degree that combines nursing coursework with general education classes. This degree is considered the minimum requirement for many nursing positions and is often necessary for career advancement. A BSN can lead to higher-paying job opportunities and is required for those looking to pursue advanced nursing degrees.
The median annual wage for RNs with a BSN is approximately $73,000. Entry-level positions start at around $58,000, while experienced nurses can earn up to $90,000.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
An MSN is an advanced nursing degree that typically takes two years to complete. With an MSN, you can specialize in areas such as nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), nurse educator, or nurse administrator. This degree can open doors to higher-paying positions and increased job responsibilities.
The median annual wage for nurses with an MSN varies depending on the specialization. For example, nurse practitioners earn a median salary of around $111,000, while clinical nurse specialists earn about $89,000. Nurse educators can expect a median salary of approximately $75,000, and nurse administrators earn a median salary of around $100,000. Salaries can range from $80,000 for entry-level positions to over $130,000 for experienced professionals in specialized roles.
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
A DNP is the highest level of clinical nursing education, designed for nurses seeking leadership roles in clinical practice, healthcare administration, or education. This practice-focused doctoral program typically takes 3-4 years to complete and emphasizes evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and systems leadership. DNP-prepared nurses work in various settings, including hospitals, private practices, and educational institutions.
The median annual wage for DNP-prepared nurses varies depending on their roles and work settings. However, they generally earn higher salaries than nurses with an MSN. For instance, DNP-prepared nurse practitioners can expect a median salary of around $125,000, while those in administrative or executive roles can earn up to $150,000 or more.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing
A PhD in Nursing is a research-focused doctoral program that prepares nurses for careers in academia, research, or healthcare policy. This degree usually takes 4-6 years to complete and emphasizes the development of research skills, knowledge generation, and nursing science. Graduates often work as faculty members in universities, researchers in healthcare organizations, or consultants in healthcare policy.
The median annual wage for PhD-prepared nurses depends on their chosen career path. Those in academia can expect a median salary of around $80,000 for assistant professors and up to $120,000 for full professors. In research or policy roles, salaries can range from $90,000 to over $150,000, depending on the organization and level of experience.
The nursing profession offers a variety of degrees and career paths to suit your interests and goals. As you advance your education and gain experience, you can expect higher salaries and increased job opportunities. By considering the different types of nursing degrees and their associated salary ranges, you can make a well-informed decision about the nursing career that is best for you. Keep in mind that factors such as geographical location, work setting, and years of experience will also influence your earning potential.