How Much Debt Do Nurses Have on Average?

How Much Debt Do Nurses Have on Average?

Many nurses have to take on a student loan to afford their education when becoming a nurse. Student loan debt is no stranger to the average American. Over 43 million Americans experience student loan debt. Completing a nursing degree can become very costly, from $10,000 to over $100,000, depending on the degree path you choose. 

Getting out of debt is not an easy task. You may be in the process of researching nursing programs or planning to advance your nursing career but feel overwhelmed by the associated costs.  Luckily, there are many tools available to assist you with managing nursing student loan debt. Lume is a bank that understands the unique needs of nurses and strives to ensure that every single one of your hard-earned dollars is working for you. If you have student loans, Lume’s platform seamlessly integrates all your loan servicers so you can see them on one platform. Lume also arms you with the tools to eliminate them in the most optimized way for you.  

The average nursing student debt in the US

According to data from the National Student Nurses Association, more than 70% of nursing students use loans to help pay for their tuition and living expenses. Student debt continues to increase for individuals pursuing graduate degrees in the health profession, and obtaining a nursing degree is no exception.

A NerdWallet article from May 2021 summarizes the average nursing student debt incurred based on the stream of the program: 

•  Associate Degree Nursing (ADN): $19,928 average debt.

•  Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): $23,711 average debt.

•  Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): $47,321 average debt


Nursing student loan debt affects students who are early in their job path, as well as nurses with advanced ages and careers.

This significant amount of debt can be a barrier to nurses with the potential to pursue higher education like a Ph.D., which supports the progression of their career.  A 2019 Medscape survey found that 20% of nurses who are 55 years and older and in the advanced stages of their career progression still have outstanding student loans. 

How to Afford your Education

When thinking about affording a nursing education, you must think about the potential debt you may have to take on because, many times, you can’t afford to cashflow your degree. Here are two things to consider when taking on a student loan.

1. What type of loan are you taking on?

There are three types of student loans you can take on as a student. These include:

-Federal Subsidized loans

- Federal Unsubsidized loan

- and a Private loan. 

2. Repayment Plan

Repayment plans are available for many Federal student loans and Private loans.

Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program

Working in a critical shortage facility or CSF can help with student loan payments during trying times. To s Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program is for those nurses who work the frontlines in crisis times. The Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program is available for federal and private loans.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF)

The PSLF program can help you get your student loans forgiven after working full time and making 120 payments, which do not need to be consecutive. This forgiveness program is not available for those with private loans.

Federal Perkins loan cancellation and discharge

Although no longer made for students, if you have a previous federal Perkins loan and work as a full-time nurse, you may qualify to get up to 100% of your loans discharged. 

National Health Service Corps

Another loan assistance program called the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program progression standing helps nurse practitioners, or certified nurse-midwives who work in facilities designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas are eligible for this program. This program is available for federal and private loans.

State-based Loan Repayment programs offers a breakdown, state by state, on the different repayment programs available.  

Traditional Income-based repayment options

The student loans’ income-based repayment plan also exists for nursing school loans. These include:

  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE Plan)
  • Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE Plan)
  • Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR Plan)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR Plan)


Additionally, you can find out more by signing up with Lume. Lume was specifically made with nurses’ financial stability in mind. Lume is a new resource that helps nurses manage their money and better control debt management. While having a proper understanding of budgeting is key to building wealth, maximizing your salary through different phases in your nursing career can produce more beneficial financial outcomes. Every dollar earned is a dollar you can use to invest, pay off debt, and build wealth. 

Take the next step toward financial freedom with Lume! Lume is currently available on a waitlist basis. Sign up to be notified of when you’re eligible to join. 


Dickson, T., Mulligan, E. P., & DeVahl, J. (2020). The toll of student debt: Stress Among Health Professions students and the promising role of financial self-efficacy on career choices. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 34(4), 339–346. 

Granner, J. R., & Ayoola, A. B. (2021). Barriers for BSN students to pursue a PhD in nursing and recommendations to address them: A scoping review. Nursing Outlook. 

The Associated Press. (n.d.). Average nursing student debt: How much do nurses owe? NerdWallet. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from 


  1. Article on Nursing Student Loan forgiveness: Student Loan Forgiveness for Nurses: What’s Best for You?
  2. Debt Payoff Calculator:
  3. Get on the waitlist at

Janine Kelbach, RNC-OB

Janine is a labor and delivery nurse from Cleveland, OH. She runs the digital agency, WriteRN, and in her spare time loves to workout, read, and spend time with her husband, two sons, and two Great Danes.


Answering questions related to all things nursing and money.