The 10 Best Ways to Finance Your Master’s in Nursing Education

Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN
Updated April 15, 2024
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    Wondering how to pay for nursing school? Learn how to finance a master's degree with MSN scholarships, MSN loans, and even companies that pay for nursing school.
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    A master of science in nursing education (MSN-Ed) can benefit your career by leading to new opportunities.

    An advanced degree is a major investment — and you’ll want to plan how to pay for it before committing. Discover options for financing a master’s degree in nursing so you can start pursuing your career goals.

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    What Is a Master’s Degree in Nursing Education?

    A master’s degree in nursing education allows registered nurses (RNs) to pursue professional growth while increasing their salary. With an MSN-Ed, you can pursue a career as a nurse educator, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse researcher, just to name a few.

    Many nurses seek a master’s degree to become nurse practitioners (NPs). In fact, NPs are the fastest-growing occupation in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 123,600 new advanced practice nurse jobs — a 38% increase — from 2022-2032. A master’s in nursing education can be a stepping stone to this career, but you’ll need extra schooling in your specialty area before practicing as an NP.

    The median debt for a master’s in nursing is about $42,717, according to College Scorecard data from 2021-22. However, there are many ways to get your tuition costs down.

    Explore options for paying for an MSN degree as you work toward becoming an advanced practice nurse.

    1 | Scholarships

    Many nursing schools and professional organizations offer scholarships specifically for advanced practice nurses. A scholarship is essentially “free money” that students don’t need to repay — as long as you complete the program and maintain the requirements.

    A scholarship program may require a minimum grade point average or other standards. Be sure to check the requirements before applying for a scholarship so you can fulfill your commitment. Explore more than 50 nursing scholarships and several nursing scholarships for men.

    2 | Grants

    Grants are another form of financial aid students do not need to repay. These awards are often need-based, meaning only degree-seekers who meet a certain financial threshold are eligible. Grant recipients usually need to maintain specific academic requirements to maintain financial aid. If they don’t meet those requirements, they may need to repay the grant money they received.

    Nursing students can find grants from federal or state government organizations. However, nonprofit groups and foundations also 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 70% of nursing students take out student loans to help finance their education, according to an AACN report. 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 are typically less forgiving than federal loans regarding repayment. The federal government awards 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 financial aid for underserved nursing students here.

    4 | U.S. Health Services Corps

    The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) offers a special nursing scholarship program. As part of the National Health Services Corps Scholarship Program, 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 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 National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program.

    5 | Saving and Budgeting

    The standard route to becoming an advanced practice nurse is to get years of clinical nursing experience before starting an MSN program. If you plan to take this career path, you can set yourself up for success by saving and budgeting while working as an RN. This means carefully planning your expenses to pay for your education.

    When you apply for a master’s degree in nursing, look for flexible programs that support your financial needs. Many MSN-ed programs allow nurses to continue working full-time while in school. This allows you to pay for your education as you go. Even if you can’t cover your tuition upfront, you may need less financial aid — which means fewer long-term payments.

    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 ancillary costs that on-campus students pay. For instance, distance learners don’t need to worry about commuting, and students with families can limit or avoid the cost of childcare.

    Online bridge BSN-to-MSN programs can also fast-track students to earning an advanced degree. If you’re interested in online nursing programs, you can start your search by reading about the most affordable online FNP programs.

    7 | Work-Study Programs

    More than 3,000 colleges and universities participate in the federal work-study financial aid program. You can apply for this program by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), just as when applying for federal grants and loans. If you qualify for the work-study program, you can find a part-time job through your college or university.

    Each college runs its work-study program differently. Some students find jobs on campus, while others can work off campus.

    8 | Military

    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.

    9 | Employee Assistance Programs

    Healthcare employers see the benefit of their nurses pursuing graduate degrees, and some offer programs for employees to return to school. They might offer scholarships, tuition assistance, or compensation programs.

    With these programs, companies that pay for nurse practitioner schooling see it as an investment. In exchange, employers generally expect employees to work for them for a certain period after graduation. Check the opportunities for advanced practice nurses at your hospital or healthcare facility if you plan to take advantage of an employee assistance program.

    Keep in mind that while employers pay different amounts, most will only reimburse up to $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, accredited nursing programs that cost less than private programs. In addition, accelerated programs require fewer credits, so you pay less overall tuition costs.

    Explore MSN Degree Programs Today

    Graduate nursing degree expenses can be daunting, but the financial payoff and career advancement are often worth it. Take the next step in realizing your professional goals by browsing options for a master’s degree in nursing.

    Are You Ready to Earn Your Online Nursing Degree?

    Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.