How Much Do RNs Make With 2 Year Degrees?

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There's very little difference between two-year and four-year RN salaries, although advancement can be affected.
There's very little difference between two-year and four-year RN salaries, although advancement can be affected. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Two-year nursing degrees generally result in an ADN — associate’s degree in nursing — or an ASN -- associate of science degree in nursing. Although pay differences may exist between RNs with two-year degrees and those with four-year degrees — BSNs, or bachelor of science in nursing — the biggest difference is in the hiring of RNs. Some employers seek BSNs exclusively when hiring registered nurses; others require only RN status regardless of the type of degree. Experience and area of expertise usually are the biggest factors in salary levels.

Education and Training

ADN and ASN degrees normally take two years to complete, although some three-year programs exist. Employment status also determines how long it takes to complete an RN associate degree, as working full-time makes completing an associate degree in two years difficult. Regardless of the type of degree obtained, all aspiring RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. RNs with BSN degrees are in better position for advancement and management positions.

National Associate’s Degree Salaries

According to PayScale, the pay range for an RN with an ADN is $21.76 to $29.66 an hour, or $45,260 to $61,692 per year. These figures are based on data from the 25th to 75th percentiles. Registered nurses with ASNs earn $21.15 to $29.95 an hour, or $43,992 to $62,296 annually. This compares to a BSN hourly wage of $22.76 to $31.37, or $47,340 to $65,250 a year. RNs who obtained their certification through a diploma program earn $22.30 to $30.84 an hour, or $46,384 to $64,147 a year. The College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, reports a starting salary of $43,600 for recent ADN graduates.

All RN Salaries

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t isolate two-year and four-year RN data, but reports an overall registered nurse median salary of $64,690, with a middle 50th percentile median salary range of $52,980 to $79,020 a year. The bottom 10th percentile median salary is $44,190 and the top 10th percentile figure is $95,130. The average hourly wage is $32.56. The median salary for staff registered nurses at $65,246, with a middle 50th percentile range of $59,328 to $71,803 a year. The bottom 10th percentile median salary is $53,940 and the top 10th percentile salary figure is $77,772.s

Salary by Employer Type

Hospitals were the largest employers of RNs, with more than 1.5 million registered nurses working at general medical and surgical hospitals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Physicians’ offices employed 232,000 RNs, home health-care services employed 146,380, nursing home facilities employed 134,460 and outpatient care facilities employed 89,090 RNs. The highest-paying industries were personal care service companies with an average salary of $86,470, the federal government at $79,530 and the pharmaceutical industry at $74,940.

Geographical Factors

The highest-paying state for RNs is California with an average salary of $87,480, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. California also had the top 10 highest-paying cities and metropolitan areas in the country, including the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area with an average salary of $116,150 and the Oakland area at $100,900. California also had the top three highest-paying non-metropolitan areas, led by the Mother Lode region, or Gold Country region, in central and northeast California with an average salary of $86,800. The Nantucket Island and Martha's Vineyard area of Massachusetts pays RNs an average salary of $81,900. The median salary is $77,447 for RNs in New York City and a median salary of $58,656 for RNs in Rapid City, South Dakota.

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