Direct Entry Masters in Nursing (MSN)

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The health care industry is growing constantly in the US, so many professionals are considering a nursing education to improve their career prospects. One popular option for experienced professionals with a bachelor’s degree is what is known as a direct entry MSN.

This type of Master of Science in Nursing program offers the professional with ample work experience in another field a direct way into graduate nursing studies without earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Clearly, this path will save you a great deal of time and expense. Entering this type of MSN program is advantageous because the degree builds upon your previous education and usually is at an accelerated pace. Such programs often can be completed in two years.

Why Are Direct Entry MSN Programs Popular?

Because the US has a nursing shortage. The US population is getting older and there are new medical breakthroughs that allow people to live longer and  more productive lives. Also, the new healthcare legislation a few years ago has increased the demand for healthcare services. All of these factors are driving a demand for more healthcare professionals of all stripes.

Allowing experienced professionals from other professions easier access to nursing education means that more nurses will be able to enter the workforce in coming years.

The American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN) states that the demand for nurses with a master’s degree or doctoral degree is a great deal higher than the supply. As of 2008, 13% of nurses in the US had a master’s or doctoral degree.

By not requiring that new nurses with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree earn a BSN first, many more MSN-equipped nurses will be able to start working sooner.

Common Direct Entry MSN Careers

One of the major advantages of earning an MSN is that it provides you with a chance to enter some of the best-paying nursing professions. Some of the professions with the best career prospects include:

  • Certified dialysis nurse

  • Certified legal nurse consultant

  • Certified nurse midwife

  • Nurse educator

  • Nurse practitioner

  • Nurse anesthetist

  • Nurse case manager

  • Clinical nursing specialist

Common Requirements for Direct Entry MSN Programs

The precise requirements for being admitted into a direct entry MSN program will vary by program and state. However, some of the most common requirements are:

  • Baccalaureate degree — official transcripts of all college work

  • Undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or greater

  • GRE scores for some programs; may be waived if you have a GPA above 3.0

  • Completion of three recommendation forms; letters of reference are strongly encouraged

  • Updated résumé

  • Written statement of your professional nursing goals

Common Curriculum in Direct Entry MSN Programs

Some of the most common classes that you will need to take to earn your MSN include:

  • Healthcare policy

  • Nursing informatics

  • Nursing concepts and applications

  • Advanced research methods

  • Healthcare policy

  • Health assessment and lab

  • Pharmacology

  • Pathophysiology

  • Leadership and nursing practice

You may also need to take some or all of these prerequisites, depending upon your bachelor’s degree background:

  • Human anatomy

  • Nutrition

  • Statistics

  • Psychology or sociology

  • Chemistry

  • Biology

After You Graduate

Once you have your MSN, you then will be able to take your RN licensing examination. Learn more about the exam at the National Council State Boards of Nursing.

Whether you take your direct entry program online or on campus, note that you still will need to complete your clinical hours, per your university requirements. You can either do those hours at your university or at a local health care center or hospital.

A direct entry MSN is an excellent choice to jump start your nursing career. Learn about some of the best options for this degree below.

Online Direct Entry MSN Options

There are many MSN degree programs for non-nurses on offer. Some of these can be achieved fully online, meaning a student is able to complete their degree around their other commitments. It is important to understand, however, that as these are accelerated programs, a strong time commitment is required in order to complete it.

Students are encouraged to study the various accelerated degree programs that are out there. No two nursing programs are the same and students should choose one that is most fitting to their personal interests. Many schools also offer specialized degree programs.

Let’s take a look at the five best direct entry programs.


University of San Francisco USF

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Highly Recommended & Featured Partner! USF offers a worldclass Online education experience. The University of San Francisco was established in 1855 based on the Jesuit values of ethical responsibility, diversity, leadership in service, and creating a more humane world. Our program teaches you to evaluate, design, and implement patient care while staying at the bedside. Designed for both Associate’s Degree and Bachelor’s Degree nurses, you’ll learn to deliver evidence-based care to improve patient outcomes, staff safety, and overall health care plans. Note: The program prepares students for licensure as RNs while integrating graduate-level study that prepares them for positions as clinical nurse leaders (CNLs).

• Campus: Online or Campus
• Type: Public
• Accreditation: CCNE
• Tuition: Inquire
• GRE Requirement: None
• Minimum time commitment: In as little as 24 months
• Degree requirements: Non-nursing bachelor’s degree, introductory courses in statistics, psychology, microbiology and nutrition
• Programs: BSN to MSN, ASD to MSN

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#1 – Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing

The program they offer is a full time graduate program, targeted specifically at those people who hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. The focus of the degree is on leadership, safety and quality. It is important to understand, however, that there are other costs involved as well, including matriculation, health insurance, health, room and board, books, travel expenses and personal expenses.

• Campus: Baltimore, MD
• Type: Private
• Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, Middle States Commission on Higher Education
• Tuition: $38,824
• Minimum time commitment: 15 months
• Degree requirements: non-nursing bachelor’s degree, 3 letters of recommendation, GRE scores, official transcripts, written goal statement, current resume
• Programs: Master’s Entry Into Nursing
• School website: Tuition and Financial Aid


#2 – MGH Institute of Health Professions

At the MGH Institute, students can take part in an entry-level master’s degree, which means it is suitable for those who do not have a current BSN. It is a very intensive program that lasts three years. The first three semesters are full time study and the completion can be done on either a full time, accelerated basis, or on a part time basis. The course offers a range of specializations, being adult-gerontology primary care, adult-gerontology acute care, pediatrics, family, psychiatric/mental health lifespan, women’s health and dual adult-gerontology/women’s health.

• Campus: Boston, MA
• Type: Non-profit
• Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
• Tuition: $1,114 per credit hour
• Minimum time commitment: 2 years
• Degree requirements: non-nursing bachelor’s degree
• Programs: Master of Science in Nursing (Direct Entry)
• School website: Tuition and Financial Aid


#3 – University of Rochester

The University of Rochester offers the accelerated master’s program for non-nurses, or AMPNN. This is a three year program, the first year consisting of an accelerated BSN degree and the second and third year offering the master’s education, also in an accelerated way. It is an incredibly demanding program designed for those who have a clear career track in mind and are committed to this. They offer a range of specializations, being family nurse practitioner, acute care nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, adult/geriatric nurse practitioner, child/adolescent psychiatric mental health nurse and adult/family psychiatric mental health nurse. Tuition is made up of different factors and depends on the chosen specialization of the student.

• Campus: Rochester, NY
• Type: Private
• Accreditation: CCNE
• Tuition: $1,292 per credit hour
• Minimum time commitment: 2 years
• Degree requirements: non-nursing bachelor’s degree, excellent GPA, various transcripts and letters of recommendation
• Programs: Accelerated Master’s Program for Non-Nurses (AMPNN)
• School website: Tuition and Financial Aid


#4 – Vanderbilt University

At Vanderbilt University, students can take part in an accelerate program to achieve a master’s degree in nursing. The first year will rush them through the bachelor’s element, after which they can take the NCLEX-RN exam to become registered nurses. Rather than then entering the employment arena, they will continue straight on through an accelerated RN to MSN degree. This is one of the hardest degree programs on offer, but those who make it are able to say they are Vanderbilt graduates, which will immediately put them in good standing. Tuition fees vary depending on chosen specialization.

• Campus: Nashville, TN
• Type: Private
• Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
• Tuition: $1,195 per credit hour
• Minimum time commitment: 2 years
• Degree requirements: non-nursing bachelor’s degree, 3 semester hours of Lifespan Development, natural science courses on human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, 3 semester hours of statistics, 2 semester hours of nutrition
• Programs: MSN – PreSpecialty Entry
• School website: Tuition and Financial Aid


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