The Top Direct-Entry Master’s in Nursing Programs of 2022

Published February 18, 2022 · 6 Min Read

If you have a non-nursing bachelor's degree and want to pursue a master's in nursing, a direct-entry MSN program could be a good fit. Find the best programs here.

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The Top Direct-Entry Master’s in Nursing Programs of 2022
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Direct-entry nursing master's programs allow students without a nursing background to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN). Individuals who majored in non-nursing fields for their bachelor's degree can take advantage of these programs. Students explore the foundations of nursing and graduate prepared to become advanced practice nurses or pursue another nursing specialty.

If you are interested in direct-entry MSN programs, this guide will answer your questions about how to choose a school and what to expect.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the top direct-entry master's in nursing programs, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including: academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Keep reading to learn more about direct-entry master's in nursing programs, or go straight to our list of the top direct-entry master's in nursing programs.

What Can You Do with an MSN

Nursing professionals considering the next step in their career can earn an MSN, which allows students to advance their clinical knowledge and skills, discover strategies for providing excellent direct patient care, acquire pertinent leadership skills, and explore health policy. Graduates qualify for multiple advanced positions, including nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or nurse educator.

Nurse practitioner majors can choose specialties, such as family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, and cardiology nurse practitioner. While MSN graduates often work in physician offices or hospital settings, they also possess the credentials to create their own practice and work independently.

msn or dnp Required
High Demand

Nurse Practitioner

NPs meet with patients independently, diagnose and treat conditions, and prescribe medication (in some states independently; in other states, under a collaborative agreement with a physician).
Salary $111,680*
Job Outlook 52% increase from 2020-2030
Learn More About Nurse Practitioners
msn Required
High Demand

Nurse Anesthetist

Certified registered nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia for invasive procedures, monitor patients and vital signs, and educate patients about anesthesia.
Salary $183,580*
Job Outlook 13% increase from 2020-2030
Learn More About Nurse Anesthetists
msn Required
High Demand

Nurse Midwife

Certified nurse midwives care for patients throughout pregnancy, perform gynecological exams, educate new parents, and deliver infants.
Salary $111,130*
Job Outlook 11% increase from 2020-2030
Learn More About Nurse Midwives
*SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Featured Online MSN Programs

What to Look for in a Direct-Entry Master's in Nursing Program

MSN programs often accommodate nontraditional learners, as students often work and attend classes full-time. Prospective students should consider the following metrics to select a program that best meets their individualized needs.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements vary by school. For instance, programs may require students to take the GRE, which could indicate the school has higher standards for applicants. Contrastingly, students may want to consider schools that do not require this exam to begin coursework quickly.

Program Curriculum

MSN applicants typically know what specialty field they want to pursue. Students should make sure the school provides quality coursework in their desired specialty. Applicants may also want to compare programs to see which schools offer the best course options.

Clinical Experience

MSN programs can address clinical placement differently. Schools may completely oversee clinical placement, while others allow students to find and secure their own clinical site and preceptor.

Accreditation

The nursing field relies heavily on licensing, reputation, and credibility. Students need to make sure they only consider regionally or nationally accredited programs to qualify for licensure after graduation.

Program Length

MSN programs offer multiple formats to meet student needs. While learners can often earn their degree in as little as 15 months with full-time attendance, part-time students may take up to four years to earn their degree.

School NCLEX Pass Rate

Examining a school's NCLEX pass rates can help students determine how well each program prepares graduates. Students should consider schools that exceed the national average pass rate, which is currently 83.75% for U.S. educated students.

School Graduation Rate

School graduation rates can indicate how successfully programs prepare and support their students throughout their educational journey. Students may want to conduct further research on programs that refuse to provide this information.

Applying to a Direct-Entry Master's in Nursing Program

Direct-entry MSN programs provide an expedited pathway to launching a student's career in the nursing field as an advanced practitioner. These programs rely heavily on clinical experiences.

The following overview addresses common admission requirements:

Admission Materials

Students should expect to provide proof of earning a bachelor's degree from a regionally or nationally accredited school, a resume, letters of recommendation, an entrance essay, GRE scores, and possibly an interview.

GPA Requirements

MSN programs often require a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Other Requirements

Applicants who earned their bachelor's degree outside of the U.S. may need to provide additional documentation to satisfy admission requirements.

Why Is Accreditation Important for a Direct-Entry Master's in Nursing Program?

Accreditation is the process of evaluating colleges and universities to make sure they offer students a quality education. Independent agencies assess higher education programs and grant — or deny — accreditation status.

Students should be wary of schools or programs that are not accredited. Graduate schools accept students with accredited undergraduate degrees. Credits earned from an unaccredited school rarely transfer to other programs.

Accreditation has many benefits, such as:

  • Helping determine how successfully programs meet or exceed minimum standards of quality
  • Qualifying students for the NCLEX exam
  • Ensuring graduates can pursue DNP programs should they want to further their education
  • Helping students receive federal financial aid, whereas an unaccredited school may not qualify
  • Providing an incentive if employers consider where students earned their degree

To further distinguish themselves from other graduates, students may also want to consider programmatic accreditation through organizations, including the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Paying for Direct-Entry Master's in Nursing Programs

While enrolling in a direct nursing MSN program is pivotal to aspiring nurses' success, students should also consider factors that affect the overall cost and ways to pay for their education. For instance, in-state tuition typically costs less than out-of-state tuition. Similarly, schools may charge a lower rate for online programs.

Students attending an accredited direct MSN program can access financial assistance by completing a free FAFSA form. Federal financial aid offers grants and loans. Students should note that while grants do not need to be repaid, loans require repayment beginning six months after graduation. Nursing students also qualify for multiple scholarships or grants often offered by their school or external organizations.

Learn More About the Top Direct-Entry Master's in Nursing Programs and Schools

#1

Vanderbilt University

School Information
Location Nashville, Tennessee
Admission Rate 9%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The master of science in nursing at Vanderbilt University features multiple entry options and flexible course delivery, combining hybrid courses and concentrated block formats for on-campus meetings. The MSN with advanced practice specialties admits RNs who hold a bachelor of science in nursing degree. Students without a bachelor's in nursing may enter the prespeciality master's program.


  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Nashville, TN
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,793 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree; minimum 3.0 GPA; statement of purpose; three letters of recommendation
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95% first-time pass rate
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#2

University of California-Los Angeles

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 12%
Graduation Rate 92%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Recognized as one of the country's Public Ivies, UCLA offers two direct-entry MSN options. The master's entry clinical nurse degree admits students who have earned a bachelor's in a non-nursing discipline and are interested in entering a nursing career. Registered nurses with a bachelor's degree in nursing can enter the master's of science-advanced practice degree.


  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Los Angeles, CA
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $25,831 for in-state students; $38,076 for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited college; a minimum 3.0 GPA; three letters of recommendation
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.1% first-time pass rate
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#3

Johns Hopkins University

School Information
Location Baltimore, Maryland
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The direct-entry MSN offered by Johns Hopkins admits students who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline and want to earn a master of science in nursing. The full-time entry into nursing program, delivered on-site, prepares students for the NCLEX exam. The curriculum emphasizes leadership, global impact, quality and safety, and evidence-based professional education.


  • Program: Master of science in nursing (entry into nursing)
  • Campus: Baltimore, MD
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,790 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited college; a minimum 3.0 GPA; three letters of recommendation
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.5% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $95,360 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#4

University of Pennsylvania

School Information
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 8%
Graduation Rate 96%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The highly-rated school of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania administers a direct-entry MSN that trains students who hold a bachelor's in another field to enter careers as nurse practitioners or nurse midwives. MSN students may pursue minors to enhance their areas of expertise, such as adult oncology, health informatics, and palliative care.


  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Philadelphia, PA
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $118,080 total program cost
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited college; a minimum 3.0 GPA; personal statement; three letters of recommendation
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 18 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.8% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $109,190 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#5

Yale University

School Information
Location New Haven, Connecticut
Admission Rate 6%
Graduation Rate 97%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 0% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Established in 1701, Yale University is one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious higher education institutions. The school of nursing offers a direct-entry MSN for degree-seekers without an undergraduate nursing degree. These students complete a graduate entry prespecialty year before entering a clinical specialty. Students who enter the program with their RN license move directly into a specialty, completing the program in two years.


  • Program: Master of science in nursing
  • Campus: New Haven, CT
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $23,557 per semester
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited college; a minimum 3.0 GPA; integrated and comprehensive essay; two short-answer essays; three letters of recommendation
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95% first-time pass rate
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#6

University of California-Irvine

School Information
Location Irvine, California
Admission Rate 27%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

First established in 2006, the UCI school of nursing offers an accelerated direct-entry MSN degree. This program prepares graduates for leadership roles in community and population health and to work with underserved groups. The two-year curriculum, which includes two summer sessions, emphasizes organizational and systems leadership, health policy and advocacy, health promotion and disease prevention, and integration of scholarship into practice.


  • Program: Master's entry program in nursing-community and population health concentration
  • Campus: Irvine, CA
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $3,814 per year for in-state students; $7,896 per year for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited college; a minimum 3.0 GPA; completion of all prerequisite courses
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100% first-time pass rate
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#7

University of Virginia-Main Campus

School Information
Location Charlottesville, Virginia
Admission Rate 24%
Graduation Rate 95%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

UVA, founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, offers a full-time clinical nurse leadership program for individuals from outside the nursing profession who wish to enter the field on a fast track. This two-year, direct-entry MSN requires 36 credits. Students attend classes two-and-a-half days per week, with the remaining days devoted to clinical experiences.


  • Program: Clinical nurse leader-direct-entry master's
  • Campus: Charlottesville, VA
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $24,400 per year for in-state students; $41,494 for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited college; a minimum 3.0 GPA; three letters of recommendation; completion of all prerequisite courses
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $89,870 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#8

University of California-Davis

School Information
Location Davis, California
Admission Rate 39%
Graduation Rate 87%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The UC Davis school of nursing offers a direct-entry MSN for individuals who have a bachelor's in a non-nursing field and want to transition into clinical nursing careers. The master's entry program requires six quarters of full-time study, including summer sessions. Degree seekers must complete 33 units of graduate core courses, 27 units of clinical courses, and 32 units of theory courses.


  • Program: Master's entry program in nursing
  • Campus: Davis, CA
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $11,442 per year for in-state students; $26,544 for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited college; a minimum 3.0 GPA; three letters of recommendation; statement of purpose
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 18 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 87.5% first-time pass rate
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#9

University of Rochester

School Information
Location Rochester, New York
Admission Rate 30%
Graduation Rate 87%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Rochester offers an accelerated path to a nursing career for students who have a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing. During the first year, degree seekers complete nursing courses and prepare for the NCLEX exam. In the second and third year, students enter the MSN program, taking courses in their chosen speciality and completing clinical requirements.


  • Program: Accelerated master's program for non-nurses
  • Campus: Rochester, NY
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,640 per credit for the master's portion of the program
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited college; minimum 3.0 GPA; prior healthcare experience related to chosen specialty
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95.1% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $95,073 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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#10

The University of Texas at Austin

School Information
Location Austin, Texas
Admission Rate 32%
Graduation Rate 86%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

UT Austin offers over 200 graduate programs, including an alternate entry MSN option. Designed for students who hold a non-nursing bachelor's or graduate degree, this direct-entry MSN program takes three years or less to complete. Degree seekers may choose specialties leading to national certification as adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialists, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioners, and primary care pediatric nurse practitioners.


  • Program: Alternate entry master of science in nursing
  • Campus: Austin, TX
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,418 per credit for in-state students; $2,035 for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited college; minimum 3.0 GPA; GRE scores taken within the last five years; statement of purpose; three letters of recommendation
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 30 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.8% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $84,653 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
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Frequently Asked Questions About Direct-Entry Master's in Nursing Programs


How long are direct-entry MSN programs?

Students should note that a direct-entry MSN requires 18-36 months, depending on the program and enrollment status. For instance, part-time students should plan to double the average length of a program. Learners with relevant prior coursework or transferable credits may qualify to have certain course requirements waived.

What schools offer direct-entry MSN?

Students can access direct-entry MSN programs through many schools. Prospective learners should consider what learning format works best for their schedule. For instance, entirely online programs may offer direct-entry MSN coursework, while students interested in traditional classrooms may want to narrow their search by selecting institutions with a brick-and-mortar location.

Can you get a master's in nursing without experience?

Direct-entry MSN programs target students interested in jumpstarting their nursing career or students who would like to transition out of their current profession and enter the nursing field in an expedited format. Therefore, applicants do not need experience, as direct-entry MSN programs emphasize clinical coursework to provide students with enough experience to begin their careers.

Are direct-entry MSN programs competitive?

As the nursing field continues to expand, so does the demand for more highly qualified practitioners. As more students and transitioning professionals turn to nursing, schools look for the best candidates. This makes the admission process more competitive.

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