EDUCATION
June 6, 2022

Top Direct-Entry Master's in Nursing Programs

Direct-Entry MSN Programs

What is a Direct Entry MSN Program?

Direct-entry master of science in nursing (MSN) programs are for students with a non-nursing bachelor's degree who want to start a career as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). 

In a direct-entry (MSN) program, students can earn a bachelor of nursing (BSN) and a master of nursing (MSN) at the same time by combining the two in an accelerated program.

Some direct-entry MSN programs bypass a BSN completely for an MSN. These programs still allow students to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) midway through their programs so students can earn licensure as an RN during their studies.

This article will discuss this type of program, the program length, requirements, and review top direct-entry master’s in nursing programs in the United States.

Fast Facts About Direct-Entry MSN Programs

Salary $78,000 to over $200,000 depending on your specialty.
Program length The average length of a Direct-Entry Master’s Program is 2-3 years of full-time study.
Requirements

Direct-entry MSN programs require the completion of prerequisite courses for admission, which usually include:

  • Anatomy & physiology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Nutrition
  • Sociology
  • Biomedical statistics

Direct-Entry MSN Program Ranking Methodology

We ranked the best direct-entry master’s in nursing programs in the United States. Programs are rated on a variety of factors such as:

  • U.S. government data
  • Graduation rates
  • NCLEX-RN pass rates
  • Program details
  • Student-faculty ratio

Show Me MSN Programs

Top Direct-Entry Master's in Nursing (MSN) Programs 

1.  University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

UCLA’s Master’s Entry Clinical Nurse (MECN) program is designed to prepare non-nurses with a bachelor's degree in another field for a nursing career. 

Graduates of the MECN program are eligible to take a Clinical Nurse Leaders (CNL) certification exam and apply for a Public Health Nursing Certificate.

  • Tuition: $11,220 (does not include additional fees)
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Application Deadline: November 1
  • Contact Info:
    • Email: mcovin@sonnet.ucla.edu
    • Phone number: (310) 825-3109
  • Online Options Available? No
  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 
    • On-campus

2.  John Hopkins University

Through the John Hopkins University direct-entry MSN program, students will be prepared to take the NCLEX-RN to become licensed as an RN upon graduation. Students are divided into two sections of approximately 60 students for lecture classes. The ratio for clinical is one instructor to six or seven students. 

  • Tuition: $66,168 full-time per year (does not include additional fees such as room & board)
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: November 1st and July 1st
  • Contact Info:
    • Email: jhuson@jhu.edu
    • Phone number: 410-955-7548
  • Online Options Available? No
  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 
    • On-campus and full-time MSN (entry into nursing) program

Show Me MSN Programs

3. Vanderbilt University

Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University offers a “pre-specialty entry” for students with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field who wish to earn an MSN.

Upon entry into the program, students can complete a bachelor of science nursing (BSN) content and clinical work in three semesters all within an accelerated program. The school also reports an NCLEX pass rate of 97%.

Students are expected to prepare for 30-40 hours per week of classroom and clinical experience throughout the program.

  • Tuition: $1,883 per credit hour (does not include additional fees)
  • Program Length: 2-3 years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: December 1st, Applications received after 12/1 will be considered on a rolling basis.
  • Contact Info:
    • Email: mary.a.jessee@vanderbilt.edu
    • Phone number: 615-322-4400
  • Online Options Available? No
  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 
    • On-campus

4. The University of Texas, Austin

The University of Texas at Austin offers an “Alternate Entry” MSN program for non-nursing bachelor's students. The program includes an adult-gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist curriculum.

Upon graduation, students are eligible to take the national certification exam from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and become Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS).

  • Tuition: Full-time: $12,773 per year (in-state) and $23,308 per year (out-of-state).
  • Program Length: 2.5 to 3 years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: October 1
  • Contact Info:
    • Email: nugrad@nursing.utexas.edu
    • Phone number: 512-471-7913
  • Online Options Available? No
  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 
    • On-campus
    • Students must attend full-time for at least the first year. After completing the first year, students may attend part-time. 

5. University of California, Davis

Davis's University of California campus is located in northern California about 45 minutes west of Sacramento. The school offers an accelerated Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) for students with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field who wish to become advanced practice nurses. 

Students typically attend classes Monday thru Friday and should expect to work in clinics in the evenings and weekends.

Graduates earn an MSN and are eligible for a Public Health Nurse certification.

  • Tuition: 
    • Year 1: $77,908 (does not include additional fees)
    • Year 2: $37,455 (does not include additional fees)
  • Program Length: 18 months (6 consecutive quarters including summers)
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: November 30
  • Contact Info
    • Email: hs-BettyIreneMooreSON@ucdavis.edu
    • Phone number: (916) 734-2145
  • Online Options Available? No
  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 
    • On-campus

Show Me MSN Programs

6. University of California, Irvine

The University of California, Irvine, has a direct entry master's in nursing program with a concentration in Community and Population Health Nursing (CPHN). The school's website reports that the benefits of their program include small cohort sizes and preparing graduates for careers that advocate for healthcare opportunities within many under-served populations.

  • Tuition
    • In-state: $11,442 annually (does not include additional fees)
    • Out-of-state: $ 23,687 (does not include additional fees)
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: November 30
  • Contact Info
    • Email: Contact form on the website
    • Phone number: 949-824-1514
  • Online Options Available? No
  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 
    • On-campus, accelerated

7. University of Rochester

At the University of Rochester, students can achieve a BSN in 12 months and then continue into a master's in nursing program and become nurse practitioners (NP).

The NP specialties to choose from include Adult-Gerontology Acute Care, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Family, Family Psychiatric Mental Health, and Pediatric

  • Tuition: $1,680 per credit hour
  • Program Length: 12 months to complete the BSN portion, two years or longer for master’s (graduates with a BSN move right into master’s coursework)
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: July 1 (for spring), Nov 1 (for summer), and March 1 (for fall)
  • Contact Info:
  • Online Options Available? No
  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 
    • On-campus, accelerated

8. The Ohio State University

Ohio State enables students with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field to earn a Master of Science in Nursing in one cohesive program. The program is full-time, with year-round coursework. 

  • Tuition: $1,622 per credit
  • Program Length: 3 years, full-time
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: Oct 31
  • Contact Info:
    • Email: nursing@osu.edu
    • Phone number: 614-292-8900
  • Online Options Available? No
  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 
    • On-campus

9. Marquette University

Marquette University's accelerated MSN program website states that students can start a career in nursing in 19–21 months by leveraging their non-nursing bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 or higher.

  • Tuition: $63,000
  • Program Length: 19-21 months
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: applications for most programs are open around May 1; contact the school for application deadlines.
  • Contact Info:
    • Email: gradadmit@marquette.edu
    • Phone number: 414.288.7137
  • Online Options Available? No
  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 
    • On-campus

10. Augusta University

Augusta University offers an MSN with a concentration to be a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL).

The school's website reports that it is an accelerated and intensive program. Graduates of this program are eligible to take the NCLEX-RN and the CNL Certification exam offered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

  • Tuition:
    • In-state: $6000 per semester
    • Out-of-state: $14,695
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: March 14
  • Contact Info:
    • Email: cnl@augusta.edu
    • Phone number: 706.721.9767
  • Online Options Available? No
  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 
    • On-campus on both the Augusta and Athens campuses

Show Me MSN Programs

About Direct-Entry MSN Programs

Careers for Nurses Who Have Completed a Direct-Entry MSN Program

Direct entry MSN programs prepare students to enter many different advanced level nursing roles, such as:

Direct-Entry Master’s in Nursing Classes

Typical coursework usually includes a combination of classwork and in-person clinical rotations. Coursework usually includes studies on the following topics:

  • Nursing practice essentials
  • Physiology and pathology
  • Health assessments
  • Pharmacology
  • Nursing ethics
  • Nursing theory
  • Evidence-based nursing practice
  • Women’s health
  • Pediatric nursing
  • Nursing leadership
  • Public health
  • Pharmacology
  • Nursing research
  • Population-based healthcare
Types of Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Degrees and Specialties >> MSN Salary Guide >> Highest Paying Jobs for MSN Nurses >>

Direct-Entry MSN FAQs 

  • Can you go straight to an MSN degree?

    • Yes, some direct-entry MSN programs bypass a BSN completely for an MSN.  These programs still allow students to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) midway through their programs, and students earn RN licensure during their studies.
  • What does direct-entry MSN mean?

    • Direct-entry master’s in nursing programs allow students to earn a BSN and MSN - or bypass a BSN for an MSN - all within an accelerated schedule. Direct-entry MSN programs are for non-nurses with a bachelor's degree in a different field.
  • Is an MSN the same as an NP?

    • Nurse practitioners (NPs) must earn an MSN in a specialized program that prepares them to practice in fields such as gerontology, family practice, women’s health, acute care, psychiatric care, or pediatric care. You can earn an MSN and not become an NP. Students who earn an MSN enter into more administrative roles such as nurse administration, informatics, research, education, or another executive nursing role.
  • Are RN to MSN programs worth it?

    • If you already have an associate's degree in nursing (ADN), a direct-entry MSN is faster and may make more sense than earning a BSN and MSN individually. Direct-entry MSNs ensure that you do not retake courses that you have already studied and allow you to start practicing sooner. In addition, direct-entry MSN programs are usually less expensive than earning a BSN and MSN separately.
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