Is Baccalaureate in Nursing Worth It?

Laughing medical personel standing in a corridor having a conversation.

Obtaining a baccalaureate degree in nursing after finishing the initial associate degree within five years increases lifetime earnings between 2.6 and 5.1 percent, a new study shows.

The Issue:

Increasing studies show that baccalaureate degree in nursing (BSN) bestows benefits on both the registered nurse (RN) and the patients they care for. If higher education is not perceived to be valuable, then RNs may be less likely to enroll in a BSN program. This study examines whether the return to baccalaureate education changed for RNs in the first decade of the 2000s.

Key Findings

  • In 2004 and in 2008, the starting wages for BSN and associate degree (AD) nurses were higher than in 2000.

  • For those who enter nursing with an AD, completing a BSN led to higher lifetime earnings.

  • Obtaining a BSN is associated with a higher likelihood of being an advanced practice registered nurse.


Baccalaureate education is beneficial to both RNs and their patients and it is important to keep this growing trend of baccalaureate education moving in a forward momentum.

About the Study:

Nationally representative surveys of RNs from 2000, 2004, and 2008 were used to measure the relationships between education, experience and wages. The primary outcome variable was the hourly wage in the RN’s principal nursing position.