Direct-Entry Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Programs

What is a Direct-Entry Nursing Program?

A direct-entry master’s in nursing (MSN) program is for students with a non-nursing degree who would like to pursue a career as a registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice nurse (APRN). APRNs are nurses that have earned their master’s degree. APRNs include nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists and clinical nurse specialists.

Direct-Entry MSN Programs

Online Master’s in Nursing Programs
University Location Specialization
Alverno College Milwaukee, WI Post-master’s certification programs in:
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Azusa Pacific University Azusa, CA
  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Health Care Administration
  • Nurse Education
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH Post-master’s certification programs in:
  • Adult-­Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-­Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Education with Population Focus
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Family Systems Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
  • Nursing Anesthesia Program
  • Nurse Midwifery
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Acute Care
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
California State University-Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA N/A
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science Los Angeles, CA Post-master’s certification programs in:
  • Public Health Nurse (PHN)
Columbia University New York, NY Can apply jointly to doctoral programs:
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse-Midwifery
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Doctor of Philosophy
DePaul University Chicago, IL N/A
Elmhurst College Elmhurst, IL
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
Emory University  Atlanta, GA Can apply jointly to doctoral programs:
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse-Midwifery
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD N/A
Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute of Health Professions Boston, MA
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
  • Family
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health Lifespan
  • Women’s Health
  • Dual Adult-Gerontology/Women’s Health
Marquette University Pleasant Prairie, WI Advanced Nursing Certificates are Available:
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Older Adult Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse-Midwife
  • Systems Leadership and Health Care Quality
Mount Saint Joseph University Cincinnati, OH
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Nurse Educator
Metropolitan State University St. Paul, MN
  • Public Health Nurse (PHN)
Northeastern University Boston, MA
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Pacific Lutheran University Tacoma, WA
  • Care and Outcomes Manager
Rush University Chicago, IL
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
Saint Catherine University Saint Paul, MN
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care (AGNP)Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
Saint Louis University Saint Louis, MO
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Samuel Merritt University Oakland, CA Advanced Nursing Certificates are Available:
  • Care Management Nurse
  • Family Nurse Specialist
San Francisco State University San Francisco, CA
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Nursing
  • Administration Public/Community Health Family Nurse Practitioner
Seton Hall University South Orange, NJ
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
Simmons University Boston, MA N/A
Ohio State University Columbus, OH
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care (AGNP)
  • Nurse-Midwifery
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences Rockland, IL N/A
University of Arizona Tucson, AZ N/A
University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA
  • Community and Population Health Nursing
University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH N/A
University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu, HI Advanced Nursing Certificates are Available:
  • Care Management Nurse
  • Family Nurse Specialist
University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, IL
  • Advanced Generalist
University of Maryland Baltimore, MD
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester, MA,
  • Advanced Generalist Registered Nurse (AGRN),
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Track (AG-ACNP),
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Track (AG-PCNP),
  • Family Nurse Practitioner Track (FNP)
University of New Hampshire Durham, NH
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
  • Adult Oncology Specialist
  • Health Informatics
  • Integrated Nursing Care of Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Global Health
  • Nursing Administration
  • Palliative Care
  • Quality Improvement & Safety Processes in Health Care
  • Transformative Nursing Education
  • Women’s Health Studies
University of Rochester Rochester, NY
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
University of San Diego San Diego, CA
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
University of San Francisco San Francisco, CA
  • Primary Care Clinical Focus
The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
  • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Leadership in Diverse Settings
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
University of Toledo Toledo, OH 
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Milwaukee, WI
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing and Health Care Leadership
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse-Midwifery
  • Nurse-Midwifery/Family Nurse Practitioner – Dual Focus
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health/AGPCNP – Dual Focus
Western University of Health Sciences Pomona, CA
  • Post-master’s Family Nurse Practitioner Option

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This list of direct-entry MSN programs was updated in June 2020. If you know of an accredited program, reach out to us at info@nursinglicensemap.com.

Is a direct-entry nursing program right for me?

A direct-entry MSN may be worth it if you know you want to pursue an advanced nursing position. However, students should be prepared to work hard. Programs may be intense and fast-paced, just like the field of nursing.

The ideal APRN candidate has strong leadership skills, a passion for helping others and a firm foundation in health care knowledge. At minimum, direct-entry MSN students will usually need to complete prerequisite courses if they do not have nursing experience.

 Direct-Entry MSN Admissions Requirements

It’s important to note that programs can vary in requirements, depending on how they are designed. Some schools’ direct-entry MSN programs have tracks for registered nurses who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing, while some programs may not accept students who have their BSN since the curriculum is tailored to students without a background in nursing. Some requirements may include:

  • A bachelor’s degree in nursing or an unrelated field
  • A minimum GPA, often 3.0 or higher
  • Completion of prerequisite courses, often within the past five years
  • Letters of recommendation and/or professional references
  • RN licensure
  • Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test scores
  • Written and/or phone interview with the school
  • Completed application that may include a statement of career goals

Direct-Entry MSN Curriculum

The curriculum for a direct-entry MSN program includes a mix of nursing theory courses, hands-on activities and simulations, and clinical rotations in a real health care setting. While nursing courses can be completed online, you may have to travel to campus to complete any on-campus activities or coursework. Online programs may work with you to find clinical rotations close to your home.

Direct-entry MSN courses cover a variety of topics including:

  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Health care research
  • Health assessment
  • Fundamental nursing skills 

Your coursework will teach you how to care for a variety of populations such as women, children, older adults and/or those with mental health conditions.

Most direct-entry MSN programs will also prepare you to take the nursing licensure exam (NCLEX). You must pass this exam to become licensed as an RN. Some universities may also offer post-master’s certificates for APRN careers.

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Careers Direct-Entry MSN Graduates Pursue 

A Master of Science in Nursing can open up a variety of advanced practice registered nursing positions. Direct-entry MSN programs typically prepare non-nursing educated students to become a RN, but you may also pursue advanced practice nursing certifications. You could become a nurse practitioner and work in a particular area like gerontology, gynecology, pediatrics and psychiatry. Alternatively, you could pursue a career in medical research, ethics, health education, health care law or forensics. 

An MSN can open up a lot of opportunities, but many graduates choose to work in a clinical setting as a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist or nurse midwife. These careers are growing fast, and the BLS data for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners reports a median salary of $115,800 for these professionals. 

The American Nurses Association (ANA) predicts increasing demand for APRNs. BLS data for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners says employment is expected to grow 26% by 2028. Becoming an APRN is an opportunity to help improve your community’s health and advance your own career.

Family Nurse Practitioner

A family nurse practitioner (FNP) provides primary or specialty care to patients of all ages, similar to the care you might receive from a primary care physician. FNPs have the knowledge and skills to diagnose and prescribe medications. However, prescriptive authority varies by state, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. They may work in walk-in clinics, primary care offices, hospitals or community health centers.

A graduate degree is required to become a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). There are on-campus and online FNP programs available for students with a background in nursing.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

A women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) has similar responsibilities to a FNP, but they provide primary care to women. Their youngest patients are usually women who are in adolescence. WHNPs specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. Nurse practitioners in women’s health provide reproductive health care, health screenings, menopause care, preventive care and more. They usually work in a doctor’s office to provide women’s health care services throughout the lifespan.

Learn about programs and coursework needed for a career as a women’s health nurse practitioner with an online WHNP program.

Certified Nurse Midwife

A certified nurse midwife (CNM) can provide many of the same services as a WHNP, but typically they often work with pregnant women. They may help with contraception, delivery and postpartum care. Again, they can provide other women’s health services aside from prenatal and postpartum care. The most common work settings for CNMs include birth centers, hospitals and offices. 

A graduate degree is required to become a certified nurse midwife. There are on-campus and online CNM programs available for students with a background in nursing.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Some students choose to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) after they earn their master’s degree in nursing. In this role, nurse practitioners diagnose and treat people with mental health disorders. They can also prescribe psychotropic drugs that are used to treat these disorders. Common work settings include inpatient treatment facilities, hospitals and outpatient offices.

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FAQ

Accelerated Nursing Program vs. Direct Entry

While researching MSN programs, you may come across accelerated and direct-entry MSN programs. Both are designed for professionals looking to change or advance their nursing career. Accelerated programs may award a BSN and MSN to graduates, or they may just award an MSN. It’s important to research programs carefully and find one tailored to your educational background.

Typically, those pursuing a direct-entry nursing program do not have a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related field. Those pursuing an accelerated MSN may already have their BSN.

Nursing Bridge Program vs. Direct Entry

A nursing bridge program refers to a type of program for people who want to switch to a nursing career or pursue further education. Many students who enroll in a nursing bridge program may already work as a nurse, such as licensed nurse practitioners. In nursing bridge programs, students will earn their BSN or MSN. A direct-entry MSN is a type of nursing bridge program. 

How long are direct-entry MSN programs?

The time to complete a direct-entry MSN program can range from about 15 months to three years. Some schools may have accelerated programs that take less time to complete. Be sure to check program length as you research schools.

What is the typical cost of a direct-entry MSN program?

The typical cost of a direct-entry nursing program will vary. Factors such as in-state vs. out-of-state tuition and online vs. on-campus programming will impact the cost of your education. For students who are concerned about cost, there are nursing scholarships and financial aid

What are the advantages of a direct-entry MSN program?

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of a direct-entry MSN program is that it’s for students who studied a non-nursing field and want to become a registered nurse. Some schools may offer accelerated direct-entry programs. Those who want to earn their degree in less time may like this type of program. Like many nursing degrees, a direct-entry MSN provides many career opportunities following graduation. There are also many program options, including online programs.

Information on this page was last retrieved in June 2020.