Advanced nursing degrees can open an enormous number of doors in your career, both in and out of patient-facing roles. If you want more career options—and often significantly higher paying roles—then a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a great choice.
However, the downside to advanced nursing programs is that they’re both time-consuming and expensive. The expense often ends up prohibiting some users from applying, especially since the average MSN can potentially cost $20,000-75,000 for a two-year program, and a DNP program may cost $40,000-70,000.
If you want to go the conventional route of getting a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), an MSN, and then a DNP, you could be sitting on well over $100,000 in student loans.
Because of this, understanding your scholarship options is crucial for many nurses who want to pursue advanced degrees, and that’s exactly what we’re going to look at today.
1. Work-Funded Scholarships
If you’re already working as a nurse for a healthcare organization, your employer may offer tuition reimbursement for advanced nursing degrees. Hospitals are particularly likely to offer employees tuition reimbursement or other scholarships, so you can check your benefits or talk to your nurse manager to see if this is available.
If tuition reimbursement or work-funded scholarships are available, read any requirements carefully. Some programs, for example, may require you to pay for tuition and then take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to reimburse the cost. Others may state that you need to work for the company for a certain number of months or years after your final semester or that you need to complete the program; otherwise, you could be on the hook for paying the company back.
If you’re comfortable staying put with your employer for the near future and the terms work for you, work-funded scholarships for advanced nursing degrees are one of the easiest ways to get most of your degree—or the entire degree— funded.
How to Find Out about Work-Funded Scholarships
If you’re unsure if your employer has any kind of scholarship or funding program, you can reach out to your human resources (HR) department.
Make sure to ask if any of the following are available:
- Tuition reimbursement
- Reimbursement for continual learning or training
- Employer-offered scholarships or grants
2. Reduced Tuition or Stipends
Just as you can get help with funding from work, the schools that you choose may also offer help with funding under certain circumstances.
Every school operates differently, but some common options for funding through the school include the following:
- Needs-based scholarships
- Merit scholarships
- Stipends and/or reduced tuition if you work as a teacher’s assistant (TA) or do work on-campus
Duke University, for example, offers a needs-based scholarship for MSN students that provides a total of $8,400 disbursed across six semesters. All students who complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application will automatically be considered.
It’s best to research the schools and programs you’re considering to see what options are available to you. While many tuition reductions, scholarships, and stipends may not be enough to live on completely, they can significantly reduce potential student loan debt.
How to Find Out about Program-Specific Funding
Most programs and schools have scholarship, stipend, or funding options listed online. They can be a little hard to find, however, as they’re rarely listed on a program’s main page. If you can’t find the information, you can search for “(school) + (program name) + scholarships” in Google.
You can also reach out directly to the school or the program’s director to inquire about funding opportunities.
If you’re interested in a particular school but can’t find funding information, go ahead and apply—you can see what you qualify for if accepted, and if it’s not enough, you can always walk away.
3. Third-Party Scholarships
Last but certainly not least, third-party scholarships and grants are available. Some examples may include the following:
- Merit-based scholarships you can apply to through third-party companies
- Scholarships for members of professional organizations
- Grants based on factors like your location, demographics, or chosen career specialty
The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), for example, has a scholarship that only members can apply for. Some nurses who are interested in pursuing an advanced degree may want to look into different professional organizations applicable to them and see what grants could be available.
How to Find Third-Party Scholarships
While searching for “advanced nursing degree scholarships” can turn up results, most results are only going to show a list of hyper-specific scholarships.
You’re more likely to find opportunities for third-party funding by taking the following steps:
- Search for scholarships in your particular specialty.
- Look for scholarships that apply specifically to your situation, demographics, or location.
- Research different nursing associations and see if scholarship options or grants are available; consider joining those that are relevant.
- Talk to a team member at your school; in some cases, program directors, faculty, or financial advisors may have knowledge of different scholarships you could apply for.
Scholarships, grants, and waived tuition are all incredible and very real opportunities for many students pursuing advanced nursing degrees. That said, there will be plenty of students who may not receive any funds. If that’s the case, you can consider lower-cost programs, different student loan options, and working higher-paying jobs to minimize debt.
One option many nurses consider is working as a PRN nurse, which allows them to apply to specific shifts of their choice. PRN nursing often pays a significantly higher rate than what staff nurses receive, and it gives you the opportunity to plan to work around your school schedule.
Interested in working as a PRN nurse to earn more while you earn your advanced degree? Learn more about how Nursa can connect you with PRN shifts.