For registered nurses, earning a master of science in nursing (MSN) is a great way to advance in your career and become a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners generally earn lucrative salaries, with the median annual salary reaching $115,800, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Additionally, the industry continues to grow. The BLS projects the number of nurse practitioners to increase 26% from 2018-28.
Despite high salaries and strong growth in the field, MSN programs can be expensive. Tuition costs for master's programs start at about $30,000 and can reach $100,000. Many aspiring nurse practitioners find themselves wondering, "How can I afford a master's degree?" Read on to learn more about financing your master's degree. You may also explore some additional tips with this resource.
Students often find MSN scholarships to be one of the best options for financial aid. Scholarships are essentially financial gifts that students do not need to repay. Several colleges and universities, professional associations, hospitals, and other private organizations offer scholarship opportunities.
Many MSN scholarships include merit-based criteria. Students must often meet a certain undergraduate GPA or demonstrate their achievement in some way. Applicants might also need to complete additional tasks to apply for scholarships, such as writing an essay, and submitting recommendation letters or references.
Grants are another form of financial aid that students do not need to repay. These awards are often need-based, which means that only degree-seekers who meet a certain financial threshold can apply for grant money. Grant recipients usually need to also maintain specific academic requirements to keep this financial gift. If they fail, the grant program may require them to repay the money.
Nursing students can find grants from federal or state government organizations. Sometimes nonprofit groups and foundations offer grants. Universities may also provide research grants to graduate students. Try reviewing this resource to start your search for grant opportunities.
3. Student Loans
Nearly two-thirds of degree-seekers in the U.S. take out loans to help them finance their education. The federal government offers student loan programs that allow students to repay their loans at a low interest rate, or follow income-driven repayment plans. Students can also take out private MSN loans, although these may have higher interest rates and may not be as forgiving when it comes to repayment.
The federal government awards either direct subsidized or unsubsidized loans. Students with financial need may apply for subsidized loans. With this type of loan, the U.S. Department of Education pays interest during deferment. In addition, the government offers a special loan forgiveness plan for nurses who meet certain criteria. Find out more about your options here.
4. U.S. Health Services Corps
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources offers a special scholarship program for nurses. As part of the National Health Services Corps Scholarship Program (NHSC SP), students receive a scholarship to cover one full year of tuition for every two years of full-time service after graduation. During their service years, nurses provide primary care to underprivileged or rural communities in need.
In addition to full tuition coverage, scholarship recipients also receive an annual payment for educational expenses and monthly stipends to help with living costs. Students who take out loans may also be eligible for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program.
5. Saving and Budgeting
One way to help pay for nursing school is the time-tested strategy of saving and budgeting. This means carefully planning expenses and giving up certain non-essential expenses to pay for your education. Even if you cannot cover all of your tuition costs up front, you may need less student loan and scholarship monies. In addition, working while in nursing school can be unrealistic, especially during required supervised clinical experiences. Saving money can help cover day-to-day expenses during this time.
Students can save money in several ways: eating at home, using student discounts, buying used materials and textbooks, and enrolling in accelerated master's programs. You can also visit this resource for personal budgeting tips.
6. Online Nursing Programs
Although not all online nursing programs are more affordable than traditional, on-campus programs, many offer lower tuition rates. Additionally, online programs cut out several of the ancillary costs that on-campus students pay. For instance, distance learners don't need to worry about commuting, and students with families can avoid the cost of childcare.
Online bridge BSN-to-MSN programs can also fast track student pathways to earning an advanced degree. If you're interested in online nursing programs, you can start your search by reading about the top 20 affordable online nursing programs.
7. Work-Study Programs
More than 3,000 colleges and universities participate in the federal work-study financial aid program. Students can apply for this program by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), just as they would when applying for federal grants and loans. If they qualify for the work-study program, they find a part-time job through their college or university. Each college runs its work-study program in a different way. Some students find jobs on campus, while others can work off-campus. Remember, though, working while in nursing school is no easy endeavor.
Joining the U.S. military confers several financial benefits when it comes to education. For example, service members can earn credit while serving in the Army or Army Reserve. The government cancels loan repayment for students who have served on active duty in a combat situation. Other service members can also benefit from partial loan cancellation. Alternatively, the U.S. Army Reserve Minuteman Scholarship can cover full tuition or $10,000 in room and board in exchange for service.
Colleges may also offer discounted tuition rates for active service members or veterans. You can learn more about financial aid to military veterans with this resource.
Employers see the benefit of their employees pursuing graduate degrees, and some help individuals return to school. They might offer scholarships, tuition assistance, or compensation programs. With these types of programs, companies that pay for nursing school see education as an investment. As a result, they generally expect employees to return upon graduation.
Keep in mind, though, while employers pay different amounts, most won't reimburse more than $5,250 per year. That's the maximum amount employers can contribute without paying additional taxes.
10. Pick the Right Program
One of the best ways to cut MSN costs may be to pursue an affordable or accelerated program. Lower tuition rates do not necessarily mean a lower quality program. Many public universities offer highly-ranked nursing programs that cost less than private programs. In addition, accelerated programs require fewer credits, which means you pay less in overall tuition costs.
If you don't know where to look for these programs, this page lists the best affordable online RN-to-MSN programs, while this resource tells you everything you need to know about direct-entry master's in nursing programs.
More Financial Aid Resources for Nursing Students
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