There are two main career choices in nursing--licensed vocational or practical nurse (LVN/LPN) and registered nurse (RN). Becoming an LVN/LPN usually involves a 1-year course of study at a community or technical college, and becoming an RN involves either a 2- or 3-year hospital-based training program, a 2-year associate degree program or a 4-year BS in Nursing (BSN) program, and passing the licensing exam for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN).
Average Salary for an LVN/LPN
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2008 licensed vocational nurses earned a median annual salary of $39,300. The middle 50 percent of LVNs earned between $33,360 and $46,710.
Average Salary for an RN with Associate Degree
According to Health Careers Center, the average annual salary for an RN with an associate degree is $50,200. The average salary ranges from $41,300 to $58,400. Note that this is clearly on the low range of what RNs earn, as RNs with a BSN and other specialized training earn significantly higher salaries.
Average Salary for an RN
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that as of May 2008 the median annual RN salary was $62,450, with the middle 50 percent receiving between $51,640 and $76,570. Senior RNs with specialized training and/or supervisory responsibilities (charge nurses, floor nurses) can earn more than $90,000 annually.
The last couple of decades has seen a strong trend towards more RNs with BSNs. There are fewer hospital-based RN programs today, and a greater number of RNs already working as nurses are opting to get their BSN for career advancement purposes. Some of the larger hospitals have even adopted policies where many of their RN positions are "BSN preferred" or "BSN Only."
RN-BSN Completion Programs
RN-BSN completion programs are designed to help the associate degree and hospital-diploma RNs to complete their education and receive their BSN. There are a number of these programs at major universities and nursing schools across the country.