A two-year associate degree is one of the quickest ways to becoming a registered nurse, but it isn’t without its downfalls. RNs with this level of education tend to earn less than RNs with other degrees. They also miss out on some of the general education classes often necessary for advancement. However, once in the door, you may find that your employer has a continuing education program to help you earn your BSN.
As of 2012, the average salary of an RN was $67,930 a year, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bottom 10 percent of earners made less than $45,040, while the top 10 percent earned a minimum of almost $95,000. However, these figures don't account for the type of degree, as education has some bearing on earnings.
A survey published in “Nursing2013,” a publication for nursing professionals, found that the choice of degree could improve salaries. Of the degree options for becoming an RN, a two-year degree provided the lowest pay, at an average of $58,000 a year as of 2011. Four-year bachelor’s degrees came in second, with an average of $64,400 a year. RNs with master's degrees had the highest earning potential at an average of $69,500 a year.
A two-year RN degree provides many of the same educational opportunities as does BSNs and RN diplomas. Students split their training between classroom and clinical experience. Coursework includes nursing interventions, health assessments and anatomy and physiology, among others. Students also spend time in different care units, including emergency, pediatrics and maternity. The only real difference between an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree is the additional training. BSN students often learn leadership, communication and critical thinking skills, as well as go deeper into the physical and social sciences.
The BLS expects employment for RNs to grow faster than the national average for all U.S. occupations, at a rate of 26 percent. This translates into the creation of over 700,000 new positions. These new jobs can be found across almost all practice settings, including hospitals, physicians' offices, home health care services and outpatient care centers. RNs willing to relocate should see the best prospects, since some parts of the country experience difficulties attracting qualified candidates, according to the BLS.
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