For those who enter the field of nursing, you are in good company. With salaries fetching $67,000 to $95,000, more and more nurses are seeking out accelerated nursing degree programs to take their careers to the next level.
Since nursing is in such high demand, it comes as little surprise that top universities across the nation have started designing accelerated nursing degree programs to help Registered Nurses (RN) earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) at a rapid pace.
Taking your nursing degree to the next level can mean higher pay and promotion as competition for top jobs continues to increase in the healthcare industry.
Accelerated Nursing Programs Online
The most convenient types of accelerated nursing degree programs are those offered online. Online accelerated degree programs can be completed at a part-time or full-time pace, which is advantageous for those of you who have full-time jobs or family commitments.
There are two primary types of accelerated nursing degree programs offered online: RN to BSN and the RN to MSN. As might be expected, pay typically increases with one’s level of education, so, more and more students are looking into adding a bachelor’s or even master’s degree to their resume.
Online RN to BSN Programs
Online RN to BSN degree programs are for those individuals who are already registered nurses.
Learn more about earning your CCNE-accredited, RN to BSN Online
The purpose of this accelerated degree program is to help those with their RN earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at a faster pace than they would through traditional, campus-based classroom programs.
The online program allows you to learn at a pace that suits you best, which allows you more time for work and family. Accelerated online RN to BSN programs can usually be completed within one year, which is half the time it would take to complete through regular programs.
Prerequisites for an online RN to BSN program differ a little from university to university; however, the two most common prerequisites are a nursing degree (ADN or diploma) and a RN license.
Why bother with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing?
In addition to an increase in salary, one of the appeals of going beyond registered nurse status to earn a BSN is that additional job opportunities open up. Management or leadership roles are possible with a BSN that weren’t possible with an RN.
Additionally, you can practice in specialty areas of healthcare, like the ICU, ER or OR, much more readily with a BSN, because you’ll have additional training and knowledge. Many of these more specialized positions are not available to RN’s, and as more nurses go back to school for their BSN, this degree will rise in demand.
Online RN to MSN Programs
Registered nurses keen on improving their own knowledge and skill set to the utmost academic levels may consider an RN to MSN program. This type of accelerated program is generally streamlined and intensive, and awards both the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and the Master of Science in Nursing. Impressive, to say the least.
Most popular online RN to MSN programs:
- RN-to-MSN Diabetes Nursing (CCNE-accredited)
- RN-to-MSN Nurse Educator (CCNE-accredited)
- RN-to-MSN Nursing Leadership and Admin (CCNE-accredited)
- RN-to-MSN Nursing, General (CCNE-accredited)
As with the RN to BSN program, the online RN to MSN program will permit you to learn at either a part-time or full-time pace. Obviously, pursuing the online RN to MSN degree program will take a longer period of time to complete than the RN to BSN program, but earning both your bachelor’s and master’s degree in a single program has proven to be an attractive bonus for many.
The length of the MSN component of the degree will vary depending on the specialty or concentration chosen and RN work experience that is required.
Prerequisites for the RN to MSN program vary depending on the school offering the program. The most common prerequisites include letters of recommendation, documentation of a valid nursing license, and an ASN or diploma in nursing.
Why bother earning a Master of Science in Nursing?
With an MSN, you can now specialize in niche healthcare areas. These niche areas usually mean higher pay.
For example, MSN programs offer specializations in midwifery and anesthesia. Other specializations include management and health education, meaning that with an MSN, you’d qualify to become a healthcare program director or manager, overseeing community healthcare initiatives.
If you have dreams of becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) and oversee other nurses in a managerial role, you’ll have to complete an MSN first before you can obtain CNS licensure and certification.
RN vs. BSN vs. MSN – Salaries, Benefits, Responsibilities
For some individuals, the most important differences between having your RN, BSN, and MSN are the differentials in earnings.
Other people will be interested in how job responsibilities vary between the three. Being aware of the variations between the three will help you decide which degree you want to pursue.
Let’s take a look at each nursing career level to see how they compare:
Registered Nurse (RN) Salary and Responsibilities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for registered nurses is $67,000.
Registered nurses tackle a broad spectrum of duties, including:
- Administering medication and treatment based on a doctor’s recommendation
- Recording, observing, and reporting symptoms in a patient
- Monitoring or using medical equipment
- Assisting with medical procedures
- Advocating for patients and families
RN’s are integral to efficient healthcare and can work in a variety of settings, including pediatrics, general care, family care, geriatrics and emergency care.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Salary and Responsibilities
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that nurses with their BSN can earn, on average, $80,000 per year.
Through the BSN program, nurses are taught not only the same topics covered through an associate’s degree program, but also learn about social and physical sciences, nursing management, public health and humanities.
Specialties offered in a BSN program include:
- Clinical nurse leader
- Cardiac care nurse
- Forensic nurse
- Public health nurse
The duties a nurse with a BSN can be required to perform depends entirely on what area of nursing he or she chose to enter. However, many of their duties are similar to that of an RN.
While the salary and duties of a nurse with a BSN may not differ much from a nurse who doesn’t have a BSN, the opportunities are much broader.
On average, nurses with a BSN do make $1 more per hour than those who don’t, according to RN Magazine. While this doesn’t seem like a lot, keep in mind that the more education you have (in the form of a BSN or other certifications/licensures), the higher your salary usually climbs. Think of this small salary bump as the starting point once you receive your BSN. Plus, if you complete a BSN, you can prove to both yourself and your employer that you’re capable of learning the most up to date knowledge in the field.
If you want to go to graduate school and specialize in a field like anesthesia or take on a management role, you’ll have to hold a BSN in order to do so. You might consider the value of the BSN as a stepping stone toward other opportunities in the field.
If you’re comfortable with classic nursing duties and have no desire to become highly trained or specialized, then pursuing a BSN might not be right for you. If, however, you may have the desire to pursue something beyond your current duties as a nurse, an accelerated online program can make it easy.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Salary and Responsibilities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses with a MSN may earn between $70,000 and $95,000 yearly.
MSN programs include focus studies on aspects like advanced nursing theory, clinical research, clinical practice, and health management issues. Concentrations available through a MSN program differ based on what school if offering them.
Some common MSN concentrations include:
- Clinical nurse educator
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Orthopaedic nurse
- HIV/AIDS nurse practitioner
- Critical care nurse
- Family nurse practitioner
- Nurse anesthetist
- Certified nurse midwife
The duties of a nurse with a MSN are dependent entirely on what their specialty.
Specializations like nurse anesthetists and certified nurse midwives not only require an MSN degree, but are some of the highest paying nursing jobs in the field. The American Association of Colleges and Nursing reports that nurse midwives can make as much as $90,000 in their first year out of graduate school. CNS’s can make upwards of $126,000 per year, according to CNN Money.
So, you can see that pursuing your BSN first and then perhaps continuing on into a graduate program to sit for specialized licensure or certification can mean a huge salary increase in the end.
With accelerated nursing degree programs for both your BSN and MSN degree, it’s easy to take advantage of the possibilities that unfold if you move beyond your RN and go back to school.
Financial Aid for an Accelerated Nursing Degree Online
The total cost of post-secondary study makes it difficult for many people to attend college. That being said, there are an abundance of financial aid options open to students.
Federal student grants
Grants, along with bursaries and scholarships, are essentially free money given to a student for the purpose of paying for post-secondary education. You are not required to pay back a grant. However, some grants may have additional requirements that must be met, or they will default to a loan.
There are a wide variety of grants available to students, including grants for students with disabilities, grants for students that do not have an associate’s degree, and grants for students with family members in the military, among others.
The amount of money awarded through a grant varies depending on a recipient’s financial need, part-time or full-time status, and cost of attendance.
Federal student loans
Loans are money given to a student that must be paid back over time. Like grants, loans are available based on your financial need, your enrollment status, and the cost of your attendance. The university you attend will determine the type of loan you qualify for, if any.
There are two types of federal loans available: subsidized and unsubsidized.
- Subsidized loans – possess terms that are more lenient for students that are in financial need. The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on subsidized loans as long as you are in school half-time, during a period of deferment, and for the first six months after you leave school.
- Unsubsidized loans – have terms that can make it harder on students to pay back what is owed. You will be required to pay the interest. If you choose not to pay the interest while you are in school or during the period of deferment, the interest will accumulate over time and will be added to the overall amount of your loan.
Understanding College Accreditation
Another crucial element to be aware of when pursuing an accelerated nursing degree is the accreditation, not only of the program, but of the university.
There are two types of accreditation, regional and national. Nationally accredited schools tend to have a higher focus on technical, career, and vocational programs, while regionally accredited schools are generally non-profit and focus more on academia.
Accreditation is important because it demonstrates the university’s dedication to providing the highest quality of education to its students, as well as being educationally suitable overall.
Accredited programs and colleges have higher standing with employers than schools and programs that are not, which is why it is imperative that you choose an accelerated nursing degree that is both accredited itself and is offered by an accredited university.
The six regional accrediting agencies are:
- New England of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Schools
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
National accreditors in the field of nursing include:
- National League for Nursing (NLN)
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
- The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
Accelerated Nursing Programs Online and How They Benefit You
Pursuing an accelerated nursing degree online won’t be the best option for everyone. You’ll need to consider the pros and cons of such a degree program.
If you’re a busy adult who already has a nursing career and a family to raise, you’ll more than likely see the advantages offered by an accelerated online degree program.
Regardless of whether you opt to pursue a RN to BSN or a RN to MSN, you’ll be improving your academic standing and open up far more career options than you have as a registered nurse. Additionally, you’ll be able to do it from the comfort of your own home at a pace that suits you and your lifestyle best.