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If I’m Not a Nurse, Can I Still Go to NP School?

Jody Dugan, RN, BSN
Updated April 9, 2024
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    Ready to make the shift to a career in nursing? Many nurse practitioner programs exist for students without a nursing degree.
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    Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

    Female nursing student taking notesCredit: The Good Brigade / DigitalVision / Getty Images

    Healthcare can be an attractive option for those looking to switch careers. Many professionals with a bachelor’s degree in other fields, or those in healthcare who do not hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), choose to attend nurse practitioner (NP) school.

    There are many open doors for individuals with non-nursing degrees and non-BSN nurses who want to pursue this advanced nursing profession. If you are interested in becoming an NP, continue reading to find your best academic option.

    How to Become a Nurse Practitioner Without a Nursing Degree

    Holding a master of science in nursing (MSN) and being licensed as a registered nurse (RN) are mandatory to become an NP. However, there are options for prospective students who have some nursing experience or those with a bachelor’s degree from a different academic background.

    These learners can shift their career focus without having to start all over by taking advantage of various programs designed specifically for them. These options allow a more efficient pathway to this role. Listed below are four avenues to consider.

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    starDirect-Entry Nurse Practitioner Programs

    Direct-entry MSN programs can offer students with non-nursing degrees a faster route to the MSN, leading to an NP career. The length of this program varies depending on several factors but typically takes between 18-36 months.

    Requirements for this program include:

    • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
    • Transcripts
    • Completed prerequisite courses for nurses
    • A resume
    • An academic essay
    • Recommendation letters
    • Entrance essay
    • Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores
    • A minimum GPA of 3.0

    The curriculum includes online or in-class courses in nursing theory with topics like pathophysiology, healthcare research, pharmacology, and health assessment. Additionally, clinical rotations in a healthcare setting and simulations are required.

    Most direct-entry MSN programs are structured with the RN curriculum at the beginning. After those courses are completed, the students must sit for and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) before they can move on to the MSN. After completing the program, students will have earned an RN license, BSN, and MSN.

    The next steps would be to get an NP certificate and advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license.

    starBridge Programs for Nurse Practitioners

    Nursing bridge programs can offer individuals such as RNs with an associate degree in nursing (ADN), licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/LVNs), and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) a “bridge” from an existing skill set to a new one.

    ADNs, for example, can take advantage of ADN-to-MSN programs. Most are 30-36 months.

    These intense programs are also available to prospective students who have a bachelor’s degree in a field outside of healthcare who are looking to move into this field.

    Prerequisites for an ADN-to-MSN program include 1-3 years’ experience in a healthcare setting, a current RN license, transcripts, an academic essay, recommendation letters, an entrance essay, and a minimum GPA of 3.0.

    This curriculum includes in-class, online, or hybrid courses such as nursing research I & II, biostatistics and epidemiology, or advanced nurse leadership. Clinical experience is also required. After completing this program, graduates will have an MSN.

    Getting an RN licensure and gaining field experience can lead to an NP certificate and APRN license.

    starAccelerated Nurse Practitioner Programs

    Accelerated NP programs offer a fast-track MSN option to individuals with a nursing background but who do not have a BSN and those who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing industry.

    Focus and rigorous commitment are essential due to the amount of content covered in a condensed time frame. Many factors can influence how long the program takes to complete, which can range from 12-36 months.

    Requirements for this program include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, transcripts, a resume, an academic essay, and letters of recommendation. An entrance essay, GRE scores, a minimum GPA of 3.0, and completion of prerequisite courses must also be submitted.

    Prerequisite courses for an accelerated NP program may include microbiology, chemistry for nurses, nutrition, anatomy, and physiology.

    Clinical experience and courses, such as evidence-based practice, child and adolescent health nursing, and leadership in nursing, are part of this curriculum. Coursework can be on campus or online. Students can receive an MSN at the end of this program.

    After completion of prerequisites, students are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN to receive their RN licensure. This allows them to complete their MSN degree to become an NP.

    starOnline Programs for Nurse Practitioners

    Online NP programs offer the opportunity to take courses virtually without having to attend on-campus classes.Direct-entry online NP, bridge, oraccelerated online NP programs have such options. The length of the program can range from 2-3 academic years.

    Online program requirements for students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree include proof of education from an accredited institution, transcripts, prerequisite courses, and a resume. Applicants also submit an academic essay, recommendation letters, entrance essay, GRE scores, and have a minimum GPA of 3.0.

    For those who have experience in nursing but not a BSN, qualifications include 1-3 years of experience in a healthcare setting, a current RN license, transcripts, an academic essay, letters of recommendation, an entrance essay, and a minimum GPA of 3.0.

    Online programs incorporate supervised, customized clinical training experiences. Hours, location, and format of this clinical training varies from school to school. In some situations, students are encouraged to find and choose their clinical site. Classes can include adult health, psychiatric nursing, or advanced human diversity.

    An MSN is earned by completing this program. Sitting for the NCLEX-RN exam and getting experience in the nursing field will guide graduates to NP certification and APRN licensure.

    FAQs: Becoming an NP Without Having a Nursing Degree

    How can I become a nurse without a degree?

    Although you cannot work as an RN without a degree, there are careers that allow you to work in nursing without one — these include licensed practical nurses (LPNs), licensed vocational nurses (LVN), and certified nursing assistants.

    How long does it take to become a nurse practitioner?

    There are a number of factors that impact the length of schooling for an advanced practitioner. For this career, you should expect to be in school for 6-8 years from start to finish.

    Is becoming a nurse practitioner worth it?

    NPs are in high demand and this profession offers high salary opportunities. When deciding on an NP career, students should consider factors that affect the overall cost of NP programs and ways to pay for their education.

    In-state tuition typically costs less than out-of-state tuition, and schools may charge a lower rate for online programs. Financial assistance is often available for accredited programs.

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ranks these advanced nurses as the second-fastest projected employment percentage growth between 2022-2032 with a median annual salary of $121,610.

    Which nurse practitioners are most in demand?

    A recent list of the most high-demand NP specialties for 2024 included family practice, gerontology, psychiatric services, pediatrics, and pulmonology.

    Page last reviewed April 8, 2024

    Related Resources

    Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

    Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.