Advanced Nursing Degrees: What Are the Costs vs Benefits?

Advanced Nursing Degrees: What Are the Costs vs Benefits?

Although nursing is one of the most rewarding careers, the physical demands and psychological stress of the profession can leave many nurses pondering a career change. 

So, is earning an advanced degree the solution to bedside burnout? Will an advanced degree pay off in the long run? 

At Lume we are dedicated to making your money work harder for you than you work for it. If it don’t make money it don’t make sense! Pursuing a higher degree may seem like where the money resides, but that’s not always the case.

Career Advancement Tips

Prior to jumping into an advanced degree program, nurses should consider alternative career growth techniques that do not bear a financial cost. For example, try working in different areas of nursing to see what sparks your passion. Ask to shadow or cross-train in another area of interest. For hospital-based nurses, joining the float pool is a great way to explore the different facets of nursing. Identifying a specialty that suits your personality makes it easier to transition into leadership or management roles, both of which offer higher pay.

Once nurses have found a specialty that aligns with their inner drive, becoming certified can open new doors. In a recent survey, 90% of nurse managers indicated they would hire a certified nurse over a non-certified nurse. Furthermore, certified nurses may be more confident and credible. There is significant data showing that specialty certification promotes quality patient care and successfully validates nurses’ knowledge and expertise. Plus, certified nurses earn more on average than non-certified nurses.

Is an Advanced Degree Right for Me?

For nurses seeking more professional autonomy or an upper level management position, an advanced degree in nursing might be a good option. However, making a decision about the costs vs benefits of an advanced degree in nursing requires a deep dive into what the role entails, the time commitment and financial burden of completing a postgraduate program, and how the degree impacts career advancement.

Role of Advanced Degree Nurses

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a good fit for nurses who strive for more independence, are passionate about nurse education, or want to branch into upper management roles. MSN degrees include nurse practitioners (NPs), clinical nurse specialists, nurse educators, and nurse leadership and management degrees.

Time Commitment and Financial Burden of an Advanced Nursing Degree

Advanced nursing degrees come with a considerable time commitment and financial cost. An MSN degree is equivalent to two years of full-time study. However, since many MSN students work while completing their post graduate degree, the time commitment can be much longer. According to a recent survey from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 69% of graduate nursing students take out federal student loans to help finance their education. In addition, the average student loan debt at the time of degree completion is between $40,000 and $54,999.

Will I Make More Money as an Advanced Degree Nurse?

Your income potential will depend on several factors including the speciality you choose, the area of the country where you work, and the role you are hired to do. On average, nurses with an MSN earn more money than registered nurses (RNs). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is approximately $40,000 more per year than RNs.

How Do I Pay for an Advanced Degree?

Nurses who have thought about advanced nursing degree cost and benefits and decided to pursue a postgraduate education need to plan ahead. According to a recent article in, there are several ways to offset the financial burden of earning an advanced degree.

  1. Employer-based tuition reimbursement
  2. Scholarships or grants
  3. Federal student loan forgiveness programs
  4. Accredited online programs that offer lower tuition

Nurses who are looking to advance their career do not necessarily need to earn an advanced degree. When doing a cost vs benefit analysis of advanced nursing degrees, it is important to remember the value of having a wide breadth of experience and earning a specialty certification. Advance degrees are always an option for nurses seeking more autonomy or upper management positions. Although there is a significant cost and time commitment involved in earning an advanced nursing degree, most nurses with advanced degrees report that it was worth the effort.

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Rebecca Brunelle, NP

Rebecca Brunelle is a pediatric nurse practitioner with experience in pediatric critical care and pediatric cardiology. She is currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since moving abroad in 2016, she has expressed her passion for nursing by writing blog posts and working in nursing curriculum development.


Answering questions related to all things nursing and money.