How to Pay for Nursing School (and How Much Is It?)

How to Pay for Nursing School (and How Much Is It?)

Attending college is always going to be an investment, and nursing school is no exception. Nursing school also has additional expenses that other degrees may not have. Getting a nursing degree is definitely worth the investment, but it is important to come up with a plan on how you’re going to pay for it before you jump in.


How to pay for nursing school: tips, options
Sophia M.


June 20, 2024

This article will share more about the cost of nursing school and break down some practical steps you can take to plan out your finances. 

How Much Is Nursing School?

What influences the cost of nursing school?

The cost of nursing school varies greatly depending on your location and your college of choice. For example, college can be much cheaper in some states compared to others. If you choose to go to college in your home state, you can typically get a cheaper, in-state tuition. 

What’s the average cost of nursing school?

On average, it is estimated that a Bachelor’s degree in nursing can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000.

How much is nursing school per semester?

In my personal experience, it probably costs roughly $2,000–$3,000 per semester to complete a 4-year nursing program. I like thinking of nursing school tuition as a per-semester cost since you usually pay per semester, not your full 4 years upfront.

When you think of the cost of the entire four years all at once, it sounds like a lot, but when you think of it broken down per semester, that helps to conceptualize how you will actually pay for it. 

Extra expenses to expect

The thing about nursing school is that there are going to be some extra expenses. For example, prior to going to your clinicals, you’ll have to do a background check which you may have to pay out of pocket for. You’ll also have to purchase your scrubs that you’ll wear during clinical as well as certain supplies that are used for teaching, such as fake medications and other items that help you practice your basic nursing skills. 

Once you get towards the end of nursing school, you’ll have to consider the cost of taking the NCLEX, which is around $200, as well as any prep courses you’re planning to take (these can cost anywhere from $100 to $500). 

It is helpful to consider all of these costs prior to starting school so you can be prepared. 

Common Ways to Pay for Nursing School

Affording to go to nursing school will look different for everyone. There are plenty of helpful options out there, making nursing school a feasible option even if you don’t have a lot of money already saved up to pay for tuition. It is also reassuring to know that a nursing degree often leads to immediate employment (there are always hospitals ready to hire nurses). 

Listed below are some effective strategies to finance your nursing education.

Save while doing your prerequisites

You’ll have to complete prerequisite courses before you start your nursing program. While completing these courses, you can work and save money to put towards your nursing program. Aim to have funds put aside for at least your first semester. This may require you to budget for a year so that you can stash away extra money. If you’re not in a hurry to complete your nursing degree, taking your prerequisites slowly over time can lower the cost of your tuition and give you more time to save up.

Scholarship options

Research which scholarships are offered at your prospective nursing school before you enroll . Scholarship options may even be a factor in deciding which school to attend.

There are many different types of scholarships for nursing school. Some are just general scholarships, offered to anyone who is enrolled in an accredited nursing program. Others require more specific qualifications, such as those for students who are military-affiliated or for students who have a higher than average GPA. 

Financial aid

Some students opt for financial aid in the form of student loans. Student loans can be a helpful resource for students who don’t have other options, but it is important to take note of the amount borrowed and the interest rates to ensure that you’ll be able to pay them off later on. Student loans should probably be a last resort to cover any additional expenses that your own money and scholarships cannot cover, so that you’re keeping your debts as low as possible. 

Working while in school

Even though nursing is a demanding degree, it is possible to maintain a part-time job while in school. You’ll want to find a job that offers flexibility so that you can work around your nursing school schedule. Many nursing students opt to work in a hospital setting as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Patient Care Technician (PCT). These jobs can help you gain valuable hospital experience and just being a nursing student typically qualifies you for this role. 

I personally chose to work at a restaurant and in retail throughout nursing school. Both jobs offered me flexibility and a reasonable income. I typically worked only one or two days a week during the semester and increased my hours to full time during semester breaks to save up to pay for the next coming semester. 

Tuition reimbursement 

Some hospitals will offer tuition reimbursement for their employees. Typically this means you already work at a hospital while in nursing school, then you and the hospital mutually agree that you will continue working there post-graduation and they will reimburse your tuition expenses. Not every hospital offers this, so you’ll want to do plenty of research beforehand. 

Student loan forgiveness

If you have to pay for your nursing degree with student loans, you may be able to get student loan forgiveness after you’ve completed your degree. Student loan forgiveness options vary by state, so research what resources are offered in your area. For example, in Florida, nurses who work full-time at a qualifying hospital can be reimbursed up to $4,000 per year to put towards paying off nursing school student loans. 

Affordable Routes to Becoming a Nurse

Every situation is different. Some up-and-coming nurses have the resources ready and available to them to pay for nursing school while others have to figure it all out as they go. If the idea of covering your nursing school expenses is making your head spin, rest assured, there are many different routes you can take to make nursing school an affordable journey. 

Attend a public university

Public universities cost much less than private ones and the quality of your nursing program will be the same (possibly even better in some situations). I attended one of the best nursing programs in my area through a public university, which was more affordable and had higher NCLEX pass rates than a nearby private school!

RN to BSN programs

One affordable way to obtain a nursing degree is to start with an Associate’s degree in nursing. This route lets you get your nursing license in two years instead of four,  so you can get started working as a nurse right away. You can then complete an RN-to-BSN program while working as an RN. That way, you’ll have an easier time financing your Bachelor’s Degree since you’ll be employed while furthering your education.

Accelerated nursing programs

If nursing is not your first degree, you can opt for an accelerated nursing program. Accelerated nursing programs are offered to students who already have a degree in an unrelated field. Those programs only take one year to complete. While working during such a demanding program may be more difficult, you’d only have to commit to school for one year before gaining your RN license. 

Final Thoughts

Going to nursing school is an investment but it will pay off in the end. You’ll come out of nursing school with a secure job, a flexible schedule, and an exciting work environment that will almost never feel boring. 

We've been there.
We get it.

Don’t have a clue what to expect in nursing school? Terrified of clinical?

Nurse Liz has spent years troubleshooting the challenges of nursing school for her social media community. Get her proven strategies and inside tips for every step of nursing school. 

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