Working as a nurse is a highly rewarding career. Not only do you have the high emotional reward and satisfaction of being able to spend every day helping others, but nursing is also a very secure career with a lot of demand, a great salary and great progression opportunities. But, before you can get to the point where you are working in a fulfilling career as a nurse, you will likely need to spend money. Attending nursing school does not come cheap, with tuition fees ranging from $40k-$100k annually, plus other expenses for textbooks, uniform and equipment for clinical placements, and your student living costs.
The good news for aspiring nurses is that saving money along the way can be done with a range of savvy strategies and tips.
Get Your Nursing Degree Online
Studying online is becoming a popular choice with those who want to become a nurse. Studying online to become a nurse is an ideal choice for those who want to facilitate a career chance, since you can continue working as normal in your current career and tailor your studies to fit around your commitments. Online degree programs allow you to learn at home at times that suit you best rather than committing to attend in-person classes and lectures on campus. While you’ll still need to be available for clinical placements, much of the learning with an online nursing degree from schools like Marymount University can be fully controlled by you.
When it comes to saving money, an online degree is often your best option. Online degree programs tend to be on the lower end of the scale when it comes to tuition fees, since they cost less overall for the school to provide. And, you’ll also save money on a range of further associated expenses, such as getting to and from campus or relocating to the school of your choice, neither of which are necessary when you can study online from home.
Opt for an Accelerated BSN
If you already have a degree in a non-nursing subject, an accelerated BSN could be the ideal way to save money on changing your career to become a nurse. Those who already hold a bachelor’s degree can take advantage of ABSN programs that are designed to allow you to get your nursing qualification in half the time compared to the traditional route. Since you can get your ABSN in just two years, or perhaps even less time, and tuition fees are typically charged by the year, you can become a nurse with half the expenses compared to normal.
Use a Bridging Degree
Are you already a nurse or working in the healthcare industry? If you’re already working as a licensed practical nurse, or are an RN with an associate’s degree looking to get a BSN, a bridging degree can help you get your qualification in less time, meaning that you will ultimately be paying less in tuition fees in order to get qualified. Bridging degrees like the ADN-BSN can also be taken online to save even more money on reaching your career goals.
Shop Around for Used Textbooks
When you order your nursing textbooks from the school’s bookstore, the price can quickly add up as they certainly do not always come cheap. However, as long as your classes are still using the same edition as the previous years, you can save a lot of money by purchasing your textbooks second-hand from students who no longer need them. Chat to nursing students in the year above you to see if they have any old textbooks left over from the previous year that they no longer need and might be willing to sell to you. Since textbooks are often quite a large expense for students, it’s worth getting familiar with a few different ways to save money on them, such as downloading the eBook version rather than getting the printed book. Not only is this often cheaper, but having eBooks stored on your device is more convenient than carrying several heavy books around with you too.
Shop Around for Your Nursing Placement Uniform
Clinical placements are an essential part of getting your nursing degree and it’s during these placements where you will develop the skills and knowledge that you can only get from hands-on, practical experience. Clinical placements are designed to make sure that you’re ready to get started in your new career and succeed as a nurse from the moment that you graduate. But, getting a uniform for your placements can quickly add up, so shop around and try to find scrubs stores that offer discounts for nursing students.
Investing more in a high-quality uniform that will last you through several placements is always better than opting for something cheap that you’ll need to replace every time. You will also likely need a nursing supply kit to use on your clinical placements if one is not provided to you by the hospital. Consider shopping at a scrubs store that offers discounted bundles to nursing students, and always opt for high-quality items.
Exploring Funding Options
Whether you’re looking to get your BSN or are already a registered nurse looking to get an advanced nursing qualification, you are probably concerned with how you are going to fund your BSN, MSN, or DNP. Most likely, you will be thinking about taking out student loans to cover at least some of your tuition fees and other study costs, but being in student loan debt from both graduate school and from getting your undergraduate degree is a situation that most nurses want to avoid.
Is Borrowing More Student Loans Worth It?
Is borrowing more student loans to cover your advanced nursing degree worth it? There are many issues that graduate students experience when they take out a loan to cover the entire cost of their advanced degree, including it taking longer for them to earn a full paycheck, struggling to pay off a higher level of student debt for both degrees, the stress of working more hours to cover student loan repayments, and the fact that employer reimbursement is not always available, although this tends to be more common in the healthcare industry compared to others.
Before you borrow more student loan to cover the cost of your advanced degree, it’s important to understand the possible implications of doing so, including difficulty working in certain careers as you may be more inclined to choose positions that offer student loan reimbursement; difficulty getting a mortgage or other important types of finance; difficulty contributing as much as you would like to retirement savings, and more.
How to Approach Borrowing Money for Nursing School
It’s hard to deny that getting a degree can be one of the best ways to improve your nursing career outlook, enabling you to take advantage of even more career opportunities both inside and outside of the healthcare sector. It might be worth approaching the idea of getting student loans in the same way as you would any other large investment, like purchasing a property. While getting a student loan for graduate school might be a very expensive investment, the career benefits that it can provide for you as a nurse will certainly make it worthwhile.
Student Loan Alternatives to Consider for Nursing Graduate School
If you want to avoid borrowing any further money when getting your advanced nursing degree, the good news is that it is not always necessary. There are some alternatives to consider when it comes to funding a master’s degree in nursing or other advanced program, although it will usually take some additional work in order to obtain them. Some of the most popular alternatives to student loans for graduate nursing school are scholarships and employer funding.
Scholarships provide nursing students with money that does not need to be repaid towards the cost of some or all of their advanced nursing graduate degree program. You can access graduate school scholarship programs for nursing through states, organizations, companies, schools, and more. They are typically merit- or needs-based, and you will need to be proactive in applying for them in order to be in with a chance of getting financial help with your tuition fees this way.
How to Find Graduate School Scholarships
While graduate school scholarships tend to be less generous compared to undergraduate school awards, the additional funding that you can access can add up and help you save a significant amount of money on your schooling. Even if you only get access to a couple of thousand dollars, this can help with funding your first semester as you find your feet, or it can be used to cover your student living expenses for a month. You can get scholarships directly from colleges who use them as a means to attract students with good academic performance. If you’re in the process of applying to nursing school to study an advanced degree, speak to your school about any scholarship opportunities that they offer. You can also get scholarships provided by healthcare organizations and hospitals who are offering them to encourage more student nurses to get into the field and meet the high demand for nurses caused by the current nursing shortage.
How to Apply for a Graduate Scholarship
Once you have found some graduate scholarship options that might be an ideal option for you, it’s important to be proactive when it comes to applying. Start your application as early as possible as many scholarship programs are only open to a limited number of students. Make your search for a graduate scholarship as broad as possible – consider field specific and academic criteria that you meet. You may also find scholarships that you are eligible to apply for based on a range of other factors including your ethnicity, religious affiliations, where you come from, your family background, or even your hobbies and interests.
Student loans and scholarship programs might be the first idea that comes to mind when getting funding for your advanced nursing degree, but there’s another option to consider – especially if you are already working as a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse. With the nursing shortage having a huge effect on the healthcare industry across the country, more and more employers are willing to help foot the bill for nurses who want to improve their skills and get an advanced degree. Around 54% of employers are now offering some kind of tuition assistance program, so it’s definitely worth speaking with your boss about what might be available to you.
Why Do Employers Offer Tuition Assistance?
You already know that as a nurse, getting an advanced nursing degree is going to benefit you in several different ways, helping you improve your knowledge and skills, focus on a certain specialty, and improve your career prospects. But, what does your employer get in return when they help you pay your tuition costs? Some of the main benefits for employers – that you might want to pitch to them if they want to know what’s in it for them – include:
- Tax benefits: Employers can make tax deductions for tuition reimbursement programs, allowing them to benefit from better-educated employees with a relatively small investment amount. Some states also offer tax benefits for employees who offer financial help with tuition fees, and your employer might be able to write off all or part of the tuition cost as a training expense.
- Valuable employees: Earning a graduate degree will make you more valuable to your employer with a broader skill-set, more knowledge, and a new perspective. Along with what you’ll learn as a nurse in graduate school, it can also be an opportunity for you to being more resources and a bigger network to the company.
- Commitment: Your employer might require that you commit to the company for a certain amount of time if they fund a degree or graduate degree for you in return. This promise of commitment can help with staff turnover rates and bring more stability to your workplace.
Whether you’re just starting out on your journey to become a nurse or are an experienced nurse looking to boost your career, there are plenty of options to save money and get alternative funding to avoid debt.