What kind of money does a nurse REALLY make?

  1. 0
    Hello. I plan on starting an ADN program Fall '13. I don't want to discuss the love for nursing or other intangible perks of the job - just the financial aspects. When I tell people I plan on being a nurse, they almost always say something about making great money, but is the money really that good? It's almost like some people think nurses are rich or something, but in reality it seems like they make pretty average money without 20+ experience. I'm no financial expert so feel free to correct everything I'm wrong about.


    First of all, nursing school takes about 2.5 yrs. Most people I know say its a full time job and working is out of the question. Thus by pursuing nursing, one is essentially "losing" 2.5 years of pay. If you assume it takes 6 months to find a job, that is a 3 year time investment. At 15k/yr, that's 45k. With 3% compounding interest, I think it's about $50k of "lost" money. At 3% interest this is about $125/month


    Now comes to cost of nursing school. Depending on the school, it can be anywhere from $10k to $30k. My cousin paid about $22k at a local health sciences college (community colleges were almost impossible to get into). At 15k, thats about $175/month to pay back loans.


    Nurses start off at ~$19/hr around here (south) - about $35,500....gross $25k?


    $25k gross - $2100 ($175 x 12) loans = $22,900 net. That isnt much money to live on considering all the time invested and physical/mental stress of the job. You also don't have $50,000 in the bank due to being in school. I'm not sure how long it would take to make up the $50k difference...I guess it would depend on how much money you would be making not doing nursing.


    What do you think?
  2. 30 Comments so far...

  3. 0
    Sounds like you should go to school to be CPA j/k

    I think I'd be lying if I said I would still do this job for free but only because I want to have kids soon and want to provide for them the very best.

    We all know that pay is generally dictated by your area's cost of living but man, to be perfectly honest, my first thought was, "Whoa that is low!" I guess we are spoiled here in most parts of California (if you're lucky enough to find a hard won job).

    I think if you really want to be a nurse, you will still fight for it. Perhaps you could get some experience under your belt (yes, it will probably be a lot of sacrifice and hard work) and then move to an area where they pay nurses a little more. Anything you have to work hard for will be worth it! I guess it's a lot about your perspective, too. Good luck in your endeavors, whatever they may be!
  4. 0
    Ok, gonna stick my salary info in here for consideration, as I don't know what the differentials in your area are. I also live in the south, and just graduated, so this was my base pay info as a new nurse with an ADN. You'll also have to consider your shift differentials. I work weekend nights for now. That's 4 hours at $6/hr per shift, and 8 hr at $9/hr extra per shift. I also am able to work one shift a week for overtime (which I don't mind) which gives me time and a half, plus my shift diff. So, if it really comes down to getting yourself out of the hole that nursing school put you in, you can always pick up the extra shifts.

    So let's take a starting salary of 22.80. If I look at a typical 3 day a week shift, you get about 12 hours at 26.80/hr, and 24 hours at 31.80/hr. That puts me at 1084/week, which adds up to a base of 56,409 yearly (assuming I always work that shift.)

    Now, let's assume I work one extra night shift a week. With time and a half, that starts me out at 34.20/hr, plus my diffs. So, since there's only 3 weekend nights, let's say I get the standard 4/hr for my 12 hours. That puts me at 458.40, pre tax, just for one extra night. Even if you only picked one up every other week, that's an extra 1000ish per month, or 12,000ish per year. Or if you picked one up ever week, you'd get roughly 1900 extra per month (I'm down to estimating now, too much work to use my calculator haha.)

    Now even if you don't work the weekend night shift, if you work any night shift, you'll get a few dollars extra differential. And if you don't work the night shift, typically the last 4 hours of your day shift (3p-7p) will have a few dollars extra differential, so you'll have to add that in to consideration.

    Ok, all this math is making my head spin, but you get the picture. It's hard to look at the base salary for a nurse and know exactly how much you'll start out because there's a lot more to it then just that base number. Hope this helps!
  5. 0
    Thanks to both of you for the great replies! That is pretty cool how your salary adds up so fast Penguin. Do you mind me asking if you are in a big city or small town? Would you say you are pretty mentally/physically strong being able to work nights plus overtime? My cousin says she is mentally/physically drained after working three 7am-7pm shifts...however, she does drive 50 minutes to and from work so this may make it a little worse for her (effectively ~15 hr days). For myself, I didn't figure in night differentials because I just couldn't do it for a sustained period of time. It throws me out of whack and I usually end up not being able to sleep so I couldn't put patients in the position of having a sleep deprived zombie working on them.
  6. 0
    A few years ago, a friend told me that his hospital (magnet hospital in major city with high living standards) starts around $23-$25, but BSN is required. I think ADN/BSN ranges $40-70k depending on where you live, and MSN in some specialties can probably hit low $100k with experience. Those are very decent earnings doing something that you really enjoy and can positively impact others. But "rich"? No.

    Having said that, you should not thinkof the $50k as "lost" money or that it's specific to nursing. It is necessary whether you want to go into nursing or another field. Without this minimum education (which is Associate Degree), unless you are some sort of entrepreneurial genius who succeeds in business on your own,you'll be making $8-$15 for the rest of your life, if you are lucky. If you're an ADN/BSN who spent $30-60k on your education, and you're able to make $60-70k for the rest of your career, that is a great investment. Few other careers would provide this.

    Also, I think you're over-estimating the tax. $25 after tax on a gross $35.5k salary is almost 30% tax! Unless your state income tax is enormous, I think your after-tax salary would be higher.
  7. 0
    Pennsylvania government statistics for 2009 or maybe it was 2010 said that the average RN earns $63,000 / year. Starting pay here is about $22/hr. Average LPN pay was around $42,000/year. Starting pay for them was about $15/hr. But, there are some LPN nursing home jobs that pay up to $21 or $22.hr, in Beaver and Allegheny counties. And some hospitals (like The Washington Hospital) pay CNAs up to $14-$15/hr. So, what a lot of people here do is get the LPN for about $12,000 that they pay for themselves, then work that job part-time while getting their diploma RN and the employer pays for it, then bridge to BSRN, again using tuition reimbursement from the employer. And thus they do not have huge debts. Some go the CNA route, and work part time as CNAs while attending college for ADRN or BSRN. Some of those got a partial tuition reimbursement as well as promise of a RN job later. There are nursing homes here that pay you $8/hr while you train to get your CNA license, then maybe $10/hr to work as CNA (In a small town, but Pittsburgh region pays more like $12-$15.)

    Based on a standard 2000 hour man-year, $22/hr = $44,000 gross
    $15/hr starting LPN = $30,000/ year gross
    (2000 hours is 40/week x 50 weeks, 2 weeks unpaid vacation, I guess.)
    Last edit by Streamline2010 on Oct 6, '12
  8. 0
    I live in North Louisiana...I can tell you that pay at an area hospital is 19$ an hour with I think $5 weekend pay and $4night pay(and that's per hour) so if you work like friends of mine do, they are being paid 29$ an hour. They work Fri/Sat/Sun 7a-7p. That's 1044 a weekend which is about 4176 a month...about 50k per year.
    You can substract your health insurance from that..depends if paying for spouse/children....I don't pay a super high amount in taxes b/c we have 4 children. So I get to keep most of my money

    Im a nursing student by the way and just using a friend's pay as an example.
  9. 2
    I think you should relocate. Here an ADN program takes 20 months, no pre-reqs required, costs about $6K and new grads start making in the $70K.year range. After 5-10 years $120-$ 140K/year (not counting OT) is not only possible but likely. That's a darn good return on your investment. I know people who have graduate degrees in other fields who would kill to make that kind of money.
    If more nurses would refuse to work for absurdly low wages ($19/hour? really?) the employers would be forced to increase wages.
    That said I understand that the highly sucsessful and false "nursing shortage" propaganda has attracted people to nursing who would have otherwise never considered it and created a glut of nurses. The bad economy only made it worse. So for now we are going to have to suck it up.
  10. 0
    I think the average RN salary in NC or SC is ~$55k. Weekend and night work can make pay go up a lot, but I'm not sure how long many people would actually want to keep that up. Working nights can wreck your body/mood which keeps you from enjoying the money. Working weekends means you dont have much of a social life and don't get to see your kids/spouse/family. Working nights AND weekends hasthe highest pay but it combines the worst of both...I'm not sure if any amount of money would lure me to those hours.

    I think a salary average for ONLY weekday 7am-7pm nurses would be more relevant to me and the lifestyle I want. This is a schedule I could see myself working for 20yrs. When I first came on the forum and heard big hourly wages thrown around, I got very excited about the pay and thought that's what I would make. However,when I get down to it, I think those numbers just set me up for a big let down money wise. I wont work nights and probably wont work weekends for more than a few months. So that means it will probably be a long time before I bring home (net) anything close to $50k. If I complain, I guess you could say I would be bringing it on myself for being picky, but I imagine most people are like meand wont work nights/weekends (only 3% of people work night shifts).


    I'm thinking that night/weekend shifts appeal more to new graduates who are usually younger, unmarried and have student loans to pay back. I bet most don't stick with it long term (>5yrs) though.
  11. 1
    Depends on how much you want to work.I know a nurse whose most recent check was around $3500 (2 week pay period). He had a lot of OT on that check. This guy is unmarried and all he does is work as much as he can. He's also 25 years old. I would not be surprised if he clears 90k for 2012.
    bigsick_littlesick likes this.


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