While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment among registered nurses will grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2008, this does not mean that a nurse earns a CEO salary — unless that nurse becomes a CEO. The type of degree a nurse earns plays a large role in how much money that nurse will make, as a nurse with a PhD will make far more money than a nurse with only an associate’s degree. Years of experience in a chosen field also plays a part in what a nurse can earn. For instance, a nurse who recently has entered the field of cancer nursing will earn more money as the years go by, especially if that nurse continues with her education through higher education or through earning certifications and licenses.

According to 2004 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses (RNs) earned an average of $52,330 per year. The middle 50 percent averaged between $43,370 and $63,360. The bottom 10 percent earned under $37,300, while the top 10 percent earned more than $74,760. Additionally, RNs can earn approximately $15,000 more per year than Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). If you are an LPN with 15 years until retirement, this translates to an additional $225,000 if you simply invest 12 months to complete an online LPN to RN program.

Other factors involved with salary fluctuations include the state and city where you choose to work. While you might believe that major cities pay higher wages, you might be surprised to learn that nurses actually earn more money in some areas of California and New Mexico than they do in a city such as New York. So, don’t limit your possibilities when it comes to a job search upon graduation. But, it might be a good idea to remember that New York, Los Angeles and Chicago hold more opportunities for employment than any other cities in the nation.

Finally, salary size often depends upon the specialty that you choose within the nursing field. For instance, a licensed nurse practitioner (LPN) can earn $80,000 per year in California, while a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) can earn almost $20,000 per year more than the LPN in the same state. You might feel the urge to work with women, babies or on a cruise ship; but, if a high salary is a concern, then you might focus on nursing for general medical and surgical hospitals, physicians’ offices, nursing care facilities, employment services or home health care as a registered nurse. Registered nurses are in high demand.

The nursing shortage offers benefits for nurses and nursing students as well. Look for recruitment bonuses of between $2,000 to $20,000, relocation and housing assistance, day care and tuition assistance. These incentives usually go to those nurses who accept a position with a set work commitment. Be sure to look for these benefits and more when you hunt for a nursing job.

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Top 10 Online Nursing Schools

University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix — BSN, MSN, and Certificate. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest online university and currently offers several nursing programs at three different degree levels, based on previous nursing education and experience.

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Kaplan University
Kaplan University — Bachelor's, and Master's Nursing Degrees. Kaplan's School of Nursing offers specializations for nurse administrators and nurse educators.

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Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University — BS in Nursing (BSN) and MBA/MS in Nursing. Grand Canyon University offers a unique MBA/MS in nursing degree program that teaches students about the business aspect of healthcare, specifically nursing healthcare. Current nurses who want more business experience will find this may be an ideal fit.

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Liberty University
Liberty University — RN to BSN Degree and MSN Degree. The Department of Nursing at Liberty prepares students for baccalaureate level nursing, putting strong emphasis on Christian ethical standards and viewing nursing as a ministry of caring.

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Walden University
Walden University — M.S. in Nursing (RN Track), M.S in Nursing (BSN Track). Walden offers a wide variety of nursing degrees and certificates that are all accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

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