Nursing is widely seen as an area where there will be strong employment prospects in the U.S. for many years to come. The aging of the American population has led to an expansion of many hospital systems and allied health services.
An associates degree in nursing (ADN) is generally a two-year program that will qualify you for the NCLEX-RN exam to become an RN or registered nurse in your state. This degree can allow you to start your nursing career at a high-quality entry point.
RN’s do a good deal of consulting with doctors about the patient’s care. And while they don’t generally get the kind of senior management positions that go to nurses that have a bachelor of science in nursing degree, an RN is a solid step up the ladder from a licensed practical nurse in the “pecking order.” Some major hospitals have actually stopped hiring practical or vocational nurses, which means that being an RN can be a necessity if you want to work in a particular hospital or other facility.
Nursing Salaries Vary A Lot
The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently pegs if the median salary for RN’s at about $73,000 per year, though there are wide swings depending on region and type of facility. Again, the nurses at the top end of this earnings scale are those who have bachelor’s degrees. But getting an ADN can make it possible for you to earn a fairly good living and get great job experience that can provide the foundation for a BSN later on.
The Range Of Nursing School Tuitions
ADN programs can cost anywhere from just $5,000. at a community college to over $20,000 at a private university. Some examples:
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College offers a nursing associate degree program for a total of $11,130. Blinn College, a community college in Texas, offers an ADN program for a total of Blinn $7,289. for in-state residents, though there are approximately $2,700. in additional fees for books, equipment and your nurse’s uniform. A real bargain can be had at little Mitchell Community College in North Carolina, where the nursing degree associates program costs just $9,500. inclusive of all costs. Larger and better known Ohio University’s ADN program is actually less than $6,000. The catch, however, is that all these fees are for in-state residents. If you go to a public school outside your home state, that cost could go far higher.
At the higher end, Purdue University Global’s online nursing associates degree program is listed at about $36,000 total. The number of pure online associate’s programs in nursing, however, is somewhat limited. Most of the elearning based degrees are at the higher BSN level.
Moorehead State University, in Kentucky, is an interesting example of the range of fees you can run into at a single institution, depending on where you come from. Moorehead, which has been called one of the best public universities in the south by U.S. News & World Report, calls their nursing associates degree an ADNP for “associates degree in nursing program.” Tuition for this two year degree will run you about $11,000. if you’re an in-state student, about $14,000. if you take all or some of your courses online, and almost $30,000. if you are a full-time student from out-of-state.
Keep in mind that you need to complete several liberal arts prerequisites before you can start the ADNP program here, as you do with most nursing associate degree programs. There’s considerable variation from state to state: SUNY, New York’s university system, charges tuition of about $33,000. for out-of-state students, but is over $21,000 for in-state students for the two-year nursing degree.
Salary estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Steps To Getting An ADN Degree
The ADN degree can help you to get an entry level job relatively quickly in many parts of the country, because demand for nurses has been strong in the US for many years. In fact, employment opportunities for registered nursing are predicted to grow “much faster than the average for all occupations” between now and 2018 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A drawback in this picture, however, is that nursing degree programs are becoming so popular that schools – particularly state universities and community colleges facing cuts in government support – can’t accept all the students to want to get an associates degree in nursing.
Courses You Take For An Associates In Nursing
The classic Associates Degree of nursing is a two-year program. However, many schools now offer faster track options if you want to move through a program quickly, or allow flexibility to get your degree over three years if you need to take a break in the middle to handle family or career responsibilities.
Once you get into nursing school, here are some of the typical core courses you’re likely to be choosing from:
- Nursing skills
- Math for medical personnel
- Disease processes
- Speech communication or communication
- Human growth and development
- Developmental psychology
- Maternal and newborn nursing or nursing care of the child-bearing family
- Fundamentals of communication
- Medical terminology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Mental Health Nursing
Should You Start With An LPN, Diploma or Nursing Certificate Program First?
The upside of and LPN program is that it costs less than an ADN degree program and is shorter (a year in most cases – though it may run as long as 18 months), which means you can get started with your nursing career more quickly and begin earning money, while you consider whether you want to move on to and ADN or BSN program later. LPN training is from well over 1,000 community colleges, technical schools and junior colleges across the U.S., and there are a wide variety of licensed practical nurse degree programs offered online.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for an LPN in the United States is about $47,480 per year, though some earn over $67,000. By comparison, USBLS reports that in the same year, the median salary for a registered nurse was about $73,000.
To build a long term career in nursing, it may be best to plan for a bachelor degree or even a postgraduate degree that can put you into one of the higher paying specialties. But every journey starts with a single step. If you’re just starting out and looking to get your very first qualification in nursing, it can be tough to figure out which way to go.
Online nursing degrees at the diploma or associate’s level have been a bit hard to find historically. But the choices have grown a bit lately. You’ll generally need a high school diploma or GED to start your career training as a nurse.
What’s The Cost of an LPN Certificate Or Degree?
Picking the right program to qualify you to be a licensed practical nurse or “vocational” nurse can be complicated. Key things you need to be aware of are
- Degree requirements and job rules for LPNs vary from state to state.
- LPN certificate (sometimes called “diploma”) programs are offered by large state universities, individual hospitals, community colleges, private education companies and even very small local technical schools.
- LPN programs are accredited by a variety of groups. You can double check on the accreditation status of a school by searching the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission’s (NLAC) search engine. If a school does not appear there, you might simply want to contact the hiring office at an area hospital and ask if the program you want to take is considered valid by that employer. As with other types of certificate programs, accreditation is less clear with LPN education than it is with associates and bachelors degree programs in nursing.
- There will be costs beyond your tuition. LPN students are generally required to buy their own medical “scrubs” or a uniform, a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and often more than $500. per year in books. You may also have to pay small fees for liability insurance and even cover the fee for a background check on yourself (most LPN programs will not accept anyone with a criminal record).
- If you’re currently working and have a family, you’ll need to factor in the cost of child care while you attend school and any travel expenses for a classroom program (an online licensed practical nursing program can obviously help cut down on these expenses).
You’ll want to evaluate whether the cost and the length of time involved in an LPN program makes sense when compared with a two-year associates degree in nursing. Many LPN programs take about one year. A program that takes two full years may not be a great option for getting you working and earning money quickly. On the other hand, you should probably be suspicious of any LPN certificate program that takes only six months, as it may simply be a diploma mill.
There are many LPN programs in large, affluent states like California, New York and New Jersey that cost over $20,000 in fees and tuition. In many states, however, you can reasonably expect to find a program with a total price tag running from $7,000 to $12,000, including your supplies.
Be aware that you may get a bargain from a community college near your home. Community colleges often give the same low tuition rates for local residents that state universities provide for in-state students. Just as an example, Mercer County Technical College in West Virginia has a practical nurse program which, for the 2008 – 2009 school year, will have tuition rates for local county residents of about $3,300, a rate for in-state but out of county residents of $6,600 plus, and over $13,000 for out of state residents. Studying close to home can clearly provide you with savings.
Typical courses you’ll take for an LPN certificate will include nursing fundamentals, medical mathematics, pharmacology, pediatrics, obstetric nursing and anatomy.
Many schools are a bit “cagey” about showing what their tuition rates are online. You can find out more, and get more individualized course information, but getting free information packets from nursing programs.