The Cost/Benefit Analysis of Obtaining an Online Master’s Degree in Nursing
Before deciding to pursue a master’s in nursing, prospective students must ensure that they can afford the degree. Next, they should determine whether it will be worth the investment of time and money. This section takes a look at the typical costs a prospective student can expect to pay. We’ll also explore what type of financial or professional boost the graduate may receive after graduation.
The Costs of the Degree
The single most important cost factor is tuition. This will vary based on type of institution (public versus private), as well as whether the student is an in-state resident or not. Some online programs have a flat tuition rate for distance learners. Generally speaking, private schools will cost more than public, and in-state tuition will be less than out-of-state tuition. To give a rough idea of what to expect, tuition fees can range from $560 per credit to as high as $920 per credit. There will also be additional costs to consider, such as books, cost of living, lab fees and malpractice insurance fees.
The Return on Investment
Earning an online master’s in nursing doesn’t guarantee a promotion, new career pathway or higher salary. However, it usually increases the chances of obtaining those goals and makes the nurse more marketable. A master’s degree also helps students meet the education requirements for many administration, specialization and teaching jobs that pay more than a conventional registered nursing position. The below chart provides average salaries in 2013 for nurses with specialties that typically require a master’s degree in nursing:
Compare these numbers with a registered nurse without a specialty that requires a master’s degree:
Considering this significant increase in salary, a master’s degree in nursing is a worthwhile degree that will likely pay for itself within one to two years.
Additional evidence of the financial benefit of a master’s degree in nursing can be found in the 2013 data from the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate and undergraduate nursing programs. The average salary of a 2013 graduate from the University of Pennsylvania’s bachelor’s nursing program was $56,701 and ranged from $35,000 to $85,000. However, a 2013 graduate from the University of Pennsylvania’s master’s degree in nursing program who became a family health nurse practitioner averaged $85,687 in salary with a range of $71,802 to $108,000.
In 2008, only 13.2% of registered nurses had a master’s or doctorate degree. The demand for nurses with advanced degrees far exceeds the current supply.