Is There a Nursing Shortage?

Nursing careers make up the most significant portion of healthcare professions in the United States. For example, there are over three times as many nurses in the country as physicians.

Are you interested in becoming a nurse? Do you have questions like “How much is nursing school” or “How much is a nursing degree?”

This guide will explain everything you need to know about the average cost of nursing school.

The Average Cost of Different Nursing Degrees

It’s understandable for someone to question, “how much does nursing school cost?”

However, it’s also important to note that the cost of nursing school varies based on a lot of factors, such as the type of nursing degree you choose to pursue.

Some different nursing degrees are described below, complete with information about the average cost of each degree.

CNA Costs

A CNA (or Certified Nursing Assistant) assists nurses and doctors with tasks like admitting patients and taking vitals.

CNA Cost and time

How long does it take to become a nurse assistant? First, you must earn a high school diploma, complete 4-12 weeks of classes, and pass a vocational exam before you can start working.

The average cost of CNA courses is around $1,500, and the vocational exam costs another $90-$105. 

LPN Costs

An LPN (or Licensed Practical Nurse) is also referred to as an LVN (or Licensed Vocational Nurse). In addition, they must earn a diploma from an accredited nursing program, which generally takes between 12 and 24 months to complete, and pass a test known as the NCLEX-LN exam.

LPN Costs and time

The average cost of an LPN program is between $10,000 and $15,000.  

RN Costs

An RN (or Registered Nurse) must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, typically taking around four years to complete. They must also pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

How much does it cost to become a registered nurse? 

According to the resource linked above, the price can range anywhere from $40,000 to over $200,000, depending on the cost of a particular university.

Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) Cost

An ADN (or Associate’s Degree in Nursing) is an option for those who want to become a registered nurse and only want to earn a 2-year associate’s degree.

Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) Cost and time

An ADN can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000, depending on the cost of credits. Nurses typically have to earn 60 credits to earn their ADN, and the cost of credits generally ranges from $100 to $400 each.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Cost

A BSN (or Bachelor of Science in Nursing) is an option for those who want to become a registered nurse and are willing to earn a 4-year bachelor’s degree. The source linked above reveals that a BSN can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing Cost and time

Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) Cost

An MSN (or Master’s of Science in Nursing) is an advanced nursing degree for those who want to obtain additional training and qualify for higher-paying nursing jobs. MSN programs typically last two years and cost between $35,000 and $70,000.

Master of science in nursing tuition costs and time

MSN students need to earn between 30 and 60 extra credits, depending on their specialization. For some universities, each credit can cost up to $2,000, so the cost of an MSN can add up pretty quickly.

How Tuition Cost Can Vary

The answer to the question “How much does it cost to go to nursing school?” varies based on the type of school you attend (online vs. on-campus, private vs. public, etc.). Here are some additional cost breakdowns:

Online vs. On-Campus Program Cost

Online nursing programs are often more affordable than in-person nursing programs because they have lower overhead costs. Online students can also save money on other things like transportation costs, room and board fees, and the cost of childcare. 

Some students may pay between $20,000 and $80,000 for an online nursing program. However, the cost of the same on-campus program could be anywhere from $32,000 to $100,000.

Nursing school tuition costs online vs in person

It’s important to note that nursing is a very hands-on profession. If you only attend online courses, you may struggle to perform during practical exams. It could also take you longer to complete your degree and earn a living as a nurse. 

In-State vs. Out-of-State Program Costs

In general, no matter where you attend college, in-state tuition is cheaper than out-of-state tuition.

According to George Washington University, the average cost of in-state tuition at a public university is $6,752 per semester. However, the average price of out-of-state tuition at a public university is $15,742 per semester, which results in an average cost difference of $8,990. 

Public vs. Private Nursing School Programs Costs

It’s important to note, too, that public universities typically charge less per semester and per credit than private universities.

Public universities are funded, in part, by taxpayer dollars that come from the state government. On the other hand, private universities are funded entirely by student tuition and donations from alumni or other organizations.

Because there is no government subsidization, credits often cost more at private universities than at public universities. Credits are usually less than $500 apiece at a public university, for example, but they may cost well over $1,000 each at a private university.

Ways to Pay For Nursing School Costs

Are you feeling a little intimated by the cost of nursing school? Are you starting to question how you’ll be able to pay your tuition?

Don’t let a lack of funds hold you back from pursuing your dream. The good news is that there are many ways to pay for your nursing education. Here are some of the best options to consider: 


Scholarships are an excellent way to pay for nursing school without going into significant debt. However, it’s important to note that not all scholarships are based on academics.

Even if you didn’t have stellar grades in high school or fantastic test scores, you could still qualify for many other scholarships. Some are based on need, for example, or are offered to members of underserved or underrepresented communities.

This resource features a long list of nursing scholarships worth considering.   

Student Loan Forgiveness

Approximately 79 million adults in the United States have used student loans. However, only 34.3 million have them off entirely.

If you decide to take out student loans, you can also apply for student loan forgiveness to minimize the amount you have to repay. This guide provides more insight into the application process.

Employer Tuition Assistance

Some employers are willing to cover the cost of your tuition if you’re earning a degree that will benefit their organization. This is known as employer tuition assistance.

For example, if you are a CNA or an LPN, your employer may offer a program that pays for your tuition or reimburses you at the end of the semester as you work toward earning a more advanced nursing degree like a BSN.

Work-Study Positions

Many universities also offer work-study positions. This allows you to work part-time and earn money to cover the cost of your tuition and other expenses.

These positions are often very flexible, and employers are willing to work with you to accommodate your school schedule. 

Working the Night Shift

If you find a job that allows you to work the night shift, you’ll be able to attend nursing school during the day while still covering your tuition and living expenses.

Many jobs pay workers who take the night shift more money per hour than those who work during the day. The trade-off, of course, is that you’ll be sacrificing some sleep.

This temporary lack of sleep may be worthwhile if it helps you pay for your degree. You’ll also get lots of practice working at night, which many nurses have to do throughout their careers. 

Additional Nursing School Expenses

“How much is nursing school per semester?” is the first question you’ll likely ask when you begin looking into a nursing career. However, there’s more to paying for nursing school than just covering the cost of your tuition.

Nursing School will have other expenses you’ll need to factor into your budget. The following are some of the most noteworthy ones:

Uniforms and Accessories

Nursing students typically have to pay for their uniforms (scrubs) and accessories. Scrub tops can range from $6 to $45 apiece, and scrub bottoms can range from $10 to $30 apiece. You’ll need to buy a few different sets, too.

In addition to paying for scrubs, you’ll also need to buy some supplies like a stethoscope, which can cost anywhere from $20 to $300, and nursing shoes, which can cost well over $100 per pair.

Health Costs

You need to stay healthy while you’re in nursing school, right?

If you don’t have a job that provides healthcare — and your parent’s health insurance plan does not still cover you — you’ll need to look into another option for health insurance.

Luckily, there are many low-cost plans available through the Healthcare Marketplace. These are viable options for students who aren’t bringing in a lot of money while attending nursing school.


You’ll have to buy books and pay for nursing school tuition.

In 2021, full-time students spent an average of $1,240 per year on books. That’s over $600 per semester.

You may be able to reduce the cost of your books by buying them used or renting them from the campus bookstore. However, prices can still add up quickly, so you need to budget appropriately.

Transportation Costs

Unless you attend an online college or university, you’ll need to factor in the cost of transportation to and from school.

This may include the cost of a bus pass — the average American pays over $58 per month — or the cost of gas — the average price per gallon is over $4.

Consider what you can afford based on your location, how long it takes you to get to school, and how many days per week you attend. 


Do you have kids? If so, you’ll need to make arrangements for them while you attend school. 

Some colleges and universities offer discounted childcare options. Your children’s school may also provide a program they can attend when classes are over, so you know they’re safe.

If neither of these is an option, you’ll need to budget an additional $8,355 per child (the average annual cost of childcare in the U.S.) to pay for daycare.

Decreased Income

You likely will not be able to work full-time while you’re attending nursing school. This is especially true as you progress with your degree and have to dedicate more time to classes, homework, clinical, etc.

You’ll need to factor lost income into the equation and look for other ways to make up for those losses so you can still pay all of your bills.

NCLEX Exam and Test Prep

The NCLEX exam costs $200. This is a challenging exam, so many students pay for test prep guides or classes.

You may spend another $200 or more on guides and prep courses. However, these investments will be worthwhile if they help you pass your exam and start working sooner.  

Apply for Nursing School Today

When you first decide that you want to become a nurse, some of the first questions you might ask are “how much is nursing school?” or “how much does it cost to become a nurse?”

Now that you know the answers to these questions, are you ready to take the first step toward your nursing career?

Keep the information discussed above in mind — especially regarding ways to pay for nursing school — and you’ll have no trouble creating a plan that works for you.