Registered Nurses (RNs) are the largest healthcare occupation in the US with about 3 million persons employed as registered nurses. By virtue of their sheer number and their adaptive capacity, the nursing workforce provides ample scope for a plethora of changes to improve the health-care system.
The demand for nurses in present-day healthcare scenario continues to be mind boggling despite the fact that initiative to enhance nursing education while also importing nursing staff from abroad have reached saturation point. This has created a formidable pool of nurses with basic nursing credentials. Being a nurse with a basic diploma or certification is a respectable job and pays well, but acquiring a higher degree or qualification could help increase your salary exponentially, while also increasing your stature as a health professional.
Salary of a Nurse in the US
As on 09 June 2013, the average annual income of a Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) is $53,000 in the United States, while it is $76,000 for a Registered Nurse (RN) and $98,000 for an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) as per latest nursing salary data. As you can see from these figures, it is clear that a higher educational status demands higher salary when it comes to healthcare, just as it is in any other field.
Educational Requirements of a Registered Nurse
Specializing is a way of life in today’s modern, fast-paced and highly professional world. A nurse with a BSN/MSN draws a much higher salary compared to a RN without added credentials. There is also the increasing demand for specialized nursing professionals with skilled knowledge in specific areas of nursing, and this can be highly profitable for those acquiring specialized training in that particular field.
A nurse possesses any of the following diploma or degrees to practice as a Registered Nurse in the United States:
- Diploma in Nursing (DN): This is a 3-year certification programme accorded by a Hospital-based school of nursing and as per current data, it is a dying trend.
- Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN/ADN): ASN or ADN in Nursing is a degree nursing program involving two to three years of college level study.
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BN/BSN): BN or BSN is a University-granted four or five year program with a focus on leadership, research and clinical proficiency.
- Generic-entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): MS or MSN is a University-granted one to three year post bachelor’s degree with mastery in leadership, research and clinical specialization.
- General-entry Master of Nursing: Any individual wanting to become a nurse after having completed a non-nursing bachelor’s degree can pursue this Master Degree.
The Fine Art of Nursing Education
When it comes to nursing education, there is a looming faculty shortage considering the increasing demand for nursing professionals and majority of nursing faculty having reached the fag end of their careers. Graduate preparation is the bare minimum for most faculty positions in the US, while most vacant high-paying nursing faculty positions require a completed doctorate degree or a masters’ degree with a doctorate preferred. This provides a tremendous opportunity for nurses who have completed graduate and post-graduate degrees to provide a positive impact on the health care systems, while providing themselves with an opportunity to enhance their financial freedom, knowledge as well as job satisfaction.
Of course, opportunities for nurses in research jobs are increasing exponentially in tandem with that of managerial or faculty positions in a hospital or academic setup. Hence, enhancing your nursing education should become a prerogative to achieving financial and professional efficiency.
Enhancing your Nursing Education
One of the key messages in the “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) is that Nurses should achieve higher levels of Education and Training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.
It also recommended that nursing education should therefore include opportunities for seamless transition to higher degree programs – from Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)/Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) degrees to the Associate’s Degree in Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and to PhD and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
Due to the drastic change in the nursing requirements of the 21st Century, there is a growing call for an all-BSN workforce at the entry level. This ensues from the increasing need for nurses to possess knowledge of public health, leadership skills, geriatrics, health policy and evidence-based practice. The increasing load on doctors has pressured policy-makers to consider nurses to take the role of primary care providers, and hence the emphasis on a bare-minimum of BSN to fulfil the role.
So, here is a rundown of the various nursing education options that will increase your salary as a nurse:
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) to Registered Nurse (RN): There are various programs that will upgrade a LPN with an annual salary of around $28,461 – $50,618 to a RN. This means an annual financial gain of approximately $23,000 annually on completion of the process.
- Associate Diploma in Nursing (ADN) or Diploma in Nursing (DN) to (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) BSN: A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is touted to become the bare minimum to practice as a Registered Nurse. Until that becomes a reality, another impetus that would push you to acquire a BSN is the financial benefit. A nurse with ADN/DN earns from $37,627 – $75,876 while a BSN earns anywhere between $39,990 and $79,416.
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): A nurse with a Master of Science in Nursing has an annual income of around $46,978 – $90,362 which is significantly higher than those with ADN or BSN. They are highly specialized nurses and perform primary health care services, diagnose and prescribe, carry out research, educate the public and other healthcare professionals.
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): Most faculty positions are held by this category of nurses and they are also the highest paid nursing professionals. They practice as Faculty of Teaching Institutes, Members of Nursing Societies, Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) or Nurse Practitioner (NP). Their Annual Income ranges from $71,334 to $121, 469.
A Final Note
More often than not, the current trend in selecting a Registered Nurse is more academic oriented than just raw experience. Hence, acquiring a BSN is the minimum standard you must set to be considered for a high-paying nursing job. Nurses with a BSN, MSN or DNP are the only ones who will be considered for faculty teaching positions, higher-level administrative roles in healthcare establishments as well as state and federal government nursing jobs.
[box type=”note”]Various Accredited Universities like Drexel University Online offer online nursing degree programs that assist nurses with regular jobs to upgrade their nursing credentials without the drawback of forgoing their regular income. Such programs can increase the number of highly qualified nurses without compromising on quality.[/box]