There are three basic routes to becoming a registered nurse, or RN. Diploma programs are available, normally through hospitals and health systems. Associate degree programs typically result in an Associate of Science in nursing degree (ASN) or an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Bachelor’s degrees are awarded in the form of a BSN, or Bachelor of Science in nursing. For most staff and floor RN positions, there is little or no pay difference among two-year and four-year degrees.
Education and Training
Associate degrees in nursing, including ASN degrees, generally take two to three years to complete. BSN degrees are four-year endeavors, although many RNs who hold associate degrees or diplomas enroll in RN-to-BSN programs that take less time to complete. Nurses possessing RN-to-BSN degrees are often viewed more favorably by employers because they tend to have much more clinical and practical experience than some BSN holders who complete a bachelor’s degree directly out of high school. The advantage to a BSN degree in terms of salary is mostly in the RN’s ability to move into managerial and administrative positions, which typically require bachelor’s or master’s degrees and pay higher salaries. Employers also tend to prefer BSN degrees when hiring.
National RN Salaries
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, using May 2010 data, reports a median salary of $64,690 for all RNs. The middle 50th percentile salary range is $52,980 to $79,020. The 10th percentile salary is $44,190 and the 90th percentile figure is $95,130. The average hourly wage is $32.56. The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t discriminate between ASN and BSN degrees when reporting RN data. PayScale reports virtually no difference in pay rates among ASN and BSNs, with ASNs earning a wage in the range of $19.53 to $35 an hour. These May 2011 figures are based on salaries within the 10th to 90th percentile range. BSNs make $20.26 to $35.75 an hour.
Advantages of BSN Degree
Obtaining a BSN degree makes a registered nurse more attractive for promotions, including managerial and administrative jobs. RNs who hold BSN degrees also are a step closer to earning a master’s degree, which often is a prerequisite for some management positions and for nurse practitioner jobs, which pay much higher salaries than typical staff nursing posts. A clinical nurse manager, for example, earns a salary in the range of $44,042 to $85,423 with less than one year of experience, and $57,612 to $112,125 a year with 20 years or more on the job, according to PayScale. A head nurse earns a median salary of $88,435, according to May 2011 data provided by Salary.com. The 10th percentile salary for a head nurse is $70,633, and the 90th percentile figure is $108,751.
A hidden salary factor is the difference in the cost of an ASN degree compared with the cost of a BSN degree. The web site Blotted Ink estimates the cost of an ASN degree at $6,000 and a BSN price tag of $55,000. In addition, there’s the issue of money earned by an ASN after obtaining her degree, which is money not earned by a BSN while still in school. The total cost difference is estimated to be $109,000.
The job-growth rate for all RNs is expected to be high through 2018 — about 22 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prospects for RNs with bachelor’s degrees are even brighter, especially for those with experience in the care of older adults and for those willing to work in rural and inner-city areas.