The Best Online Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Programs

March 4, 2022 , Modified on March 17, 2022 · 4 Min Read

Direct-entry nurse practitioner programs let students with a non-nursing bachelor's degree complete an accelerated NP program. Find the best direct-entry NP program for you.

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The Best Online Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Programs
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Nurse practitioners (NPs) are in demand and can earn up to six-figure salaries. If you hold a non-nursing bachelor's degree, and have already completed prerequisite coursework, you can take advantage of a direct-entry nurse practitioner program. A direct-entry NP program takes less time to complete because it applies credits from your bachelor's degree toward the NP program.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best online direct-entry nurse practitioner 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 online direct-entry nurse practitioner programs, or go straight to our list of the best online direct-entry nurse practitioner programs.

What Can You Do as a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioners enjoy a greater level of autonomy, high salaries, and are in demand. The median annual nurse practitioner salary is $111,680, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs are projected to grow by 45% for most advanced practice nurses between 2020 and 2030.

Nurse practitioners can work in hospitals and health systems, private practice, clinics, and other healthcare settings. In some states, they must work under the supervision of a licensed physician. In others, they can work independently.

Most NPs pursue family nurse practitioner careers, but you can specialize in other populations or clinical focuses, such as being a pediatrics NP or an adult-gerontology NP. Nurse practitioners can diagnose conditions, order tests, and prescribe treatments, including medications.

What to Look For in an Online Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Program

The best direct-entry NP program for you depends on your career and financial goals, your personal values and interests, your schedule and existing responsibilities, and your academic background and experience, as well as the program's quality and logistics.

Considerations include:

Direct-entry NP program admission requirements tell you how likely you are to be admitted and succeed in the program. These requirements also tell you what the school values in its students. You'll want to make sure that the direct-entry NP program offers courses that interest you and prepares you for your preferred specialty or workplace. Direct-entry NP programs require clinical hours. If your direct-entry NP program isn't in your community, does it have a history of placing students near you? Nursing accreditation is the most important indicator of a direct-entry NP program's quality. In addition, licensing and board certifications require applicants to have graduated from an accredited program. Read more about accreditation. Direct-entry NP programs are demanding. Does the program length balance speed and a manageable course load, especially if you plan to work while studying? The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses pass rate and the board certification pass rate are critical signs of how well the program prepares students to become nurses and nurse practitioners. The school graduation rate tells you how successful and satisfied students are with their degree. A high dropout (or transfer) rate suggests that the direct-entry NP program doesn't work for all students. A high NCLEX pass rate with a low graduation rate suggests students often drop out before degree completion. Does the direct-entry nursing program's online format work for you and your preferred learning style? Will you be able to interact effectively with faculty, staff, and fellow students while excelling in online coursework?

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Applying to an Online Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Program

Direct-entry NP programs are competitive. Maximize your chances of acceptance by preparing a personalized application that emphasizes your strengths, especially in your admission essay. Gather your materials early and give your references plenty of time to write recommendation letters.

Admission Materials

You need to send your undergraduate transcript, transcripts for prerequisites (if not part of your undergraduate transcript), a CV/resume, at least two references, and an essay or personal statement.

GPA Requirements

Most programs require at least a 3.0 GPA, while others require a 3.2 or higher. However, strong grades in prerequisite courses, references, or work history in healthcare may offset a marginal GPA.

Other Requirements

Prerequisite courses usually include anatomy, physiology, human biology, microbiology, and chemistry. This varies by program.

Why Is Online Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Program Accreditation Important?

This guide only lists accredited direct-entry nurse practitioner programs. State licensing boards only license graduates of accredited programs, so an unaccredited program does not prepare you for licensure or for the most valuable nursing certifications.

  • Program accreditation ensures that independent professionals have evaluated the program to determine that graduates can safely practice as NPs.
  • To become an NP, you must earn a license, which requires graduating from an accredited program.
  • Accredited schools almost never accept transfer credits from unaccredited programs.
  • Most federal loans only apply to accredited programs.
  • Unaccredited programs can waste your time, effort, and money.

Paying for Online Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Programs

Direct-entry nurse practitioner programs can be an excellent investment but also costly, even without travel or room and board costs. When paying for your nursing degree, factors to consider include your current financial situation and savings; program costs, including tuition, books, and equipment; how many hours you can work while studying; program length; and if you can pay in-state tuition rates.

You may be eligible for your school's financial aid, as well as other nursing financial aid options. Many different organizations, including nonprofits, corporations, foundations, and government agencies, offer nursing grants and scholarships. You can also get commercial or government loans; many government loans offer student loan forgiveness programs for nurses in exchange for working in an underserved area once you graduate.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Programs


How long is a direct-entry DNP program?

Direct-entry NP programs typically take two years of full-time study to complete, provided you have met all prerequisite coursework. If you need to take prerequisite courses or study part time, it can increase completion times.

How do I become a nurse practitioner without a nursing degree?

A direct-entry nurse practitioner program lets students with a bachelor's degree in another subject and the relevant prerequisite courses enroll without a nursing degree. Prerequisite courses for direct-entry NP programs vary but generally include anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and microbiology.

Are online NP programs respected?

Online NP programs, including online direct-entry NP programs, offer the same classes and diplomas as on-campus or hybrid programs. This means that they are just as rigorous and respected as on-campus options.

What is the fastest way to become a nurse practitioner?

The fastest way to become a nurse practitioner is a registered nurse (RN) to master of science in nursing program if you are an RN, or through a direct-entry NP program if you have a bachelor's degree in another field with completed prerequisite courses. Either option allows you to become an NP in approximately two years of full-time study.

Related Nurse Practitioner Resources

AANP helps nurse practitioners stay up-to-date on advances in healthcare, changes in legislation and regulation, and professional development resources. In addition to receiving access to free continuing education (CE) for nurses modules, members enjoy discounts on insurance and conference fees. This organization offers 50 chapters across the country, including an e-chapter. Special interest groups are devoted to specific health concerns. Members may attend conferences, take part in CE courses for nurses, and receive the Journal of Pediatric Health Care. NPWH advocates for the profession in both national and state legislative bodies. Members receive access to many resources and self-study materials for CE, as well as weekly updates on policy, healthcare, and industry news.

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