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Several variables may influence one’s decision to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, but the opportunity for an increased salary is often near the top of the list. Due to potential nursing shortages, BSN-prepared nurses may find that their additional education and expertise qualifies them for higher salaries for the foreseeable future.

How Have RN Salaries Grown Over the Years?

Salaries depend on a number of factors such as geographic location, education level and years of experience. In general, though, salaries have been on the upswing for the past several years. “[Nominal] wages, [those] not adjusted for inflation, have almost always been increasing for RNs,” said Peter McMenamin, the senior policy adviser and health economist for the American Nurses Association (ANA).

According to U.S. News & World Report, RN salaries have increased approximately 5 percent from 2010 to 2016, rising from roughly $67,500 to $71,000 during that timeframe. McMenamin shared data that tracked the wages of RNs employed by private hospitals — a group which comprises the largest percentage of the nation’s nurses according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The data confirmed an upward trend, namely that nominal wages have steadily grown for RNs in these employment settings since the first quarter of 2002 through the end of 2016.

When real wages, or those adjusted for inflation, are evaluated, the upward curve is less clear. “Before the recession, nurses’ real wages were increasing [and] keeping up with inflation,” said McMenamin. Beginning in 2009, inflation-adjusted wages were trending downward but approached pre-recession numbers again by mid-2015.

Does Education Level Impact Wages?

Nurses who pursue additional levels of education often achieve a higher salary. Simon Frey, founder of Pivot Health, says this occurs for a variety of reasons. “On average, RNs with a BSN have a 4 percent higher salary than associate-trained RNs. These higher salaries reflect more comprehensive training and greater future career potential,” said Frey.

Employers’ hiring preferences and attempts to attract top talent also impact salaries. Most employers view BSN-prepared nurses as having a more extensive skillset and potential for long-term growth, which can translate to a boost in wages. “Certain institutions, like magnet hospitals, only hire BSNs,” said Frey. “There are also more opportunities for BSNs to transition into supervisory roles and/or go back to school for advanced practice nursing positions [such as] nurse practitioner programs.” According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), 54 percent of hospitals require new hires to hold a BSN and 97.9 percent strongly prefer BSN-prepared nurses.

Have Nursing Shortages Influenced Salaries?

As Baby Boomers advance in age and live longer than prior generations, they will use more healthcare services to treat and manage complex and chronic health conditions. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations may need to increase wages to attract enough nurses to meet the demand.

“Registered nurse [jobs] are projected to grow by 16 percent by 2024,” said Frey. “Many organizations have responded to the shortage and intensifying ‘war for nursing talent’ by increasing salaries, as well as offering additional financial incentives [such as a] sign-on bonus of $5,000.”

McMenamin says that nursing employment projections can be uncertain, though specific developments have emerged from the data. “There is a pending shortage of RNs with 15-25 years of experience [and] there are always some [geographic] shortages. The current [salary] trend is still upward in both nominal and real dollars,” said McMenamin.

A Growing Opportunity

Nurses who choose to earn a BSN degree have a wider range of employment opportunities as well as increased wages due to employer demand and preference. While many factors such as geographic location and years of experience influence overall wages, BSN-prepared nurses find that earnings continue to rise and outpace inflation.

Learn more about the Mississippi College online RN to BSN program.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Employment of New Nurse Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses

Frey, S. (2017, July 7). Email interview.

McMenamin, P. (2017, July 5). Email interview.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses

U.S. News & World Report: Registered Nurse Salary

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