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

13 Min Read Published November 2, 2023
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.

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Fast Facts About Direct-Entry MSN Programs

Salary

Your MSN nurse salary depends on your specialty:

  • Certified Nurse Midwife - $120,880 per year
  • Nurse Practitioner - $121,610 per year
  • CRNA - $203,090 per year

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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 Online MSN Programs

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

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: $11,700  (does not include additional fees)
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Application Deadline: November 1st
  • Contact Info:
    • Email: mcovin@sonnet.ucla.edu
    • Phone number: (310) 825-3109
  • Online Options Available? No
  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 
    • On-campus
  • Website

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 clinicals 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 (will consider applications after these dates if space is available)

  • Contact Info:

    • Email: jhuson@jhu.edu

    • Phone number: (410) 955-4766

    • Online Options Available? No

  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 

    • On-campus and full-time MSN (entry into nursing) program

  • Website

>> Show Me Online MSN Programs

3. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University's School of Nursing has a reputation for excellence in accelerated programs. In addition to a 1-year online MSN program, the university offers a "pre-special entry" for students with non-nursing bachelor's degrees. Students who enter this program can complete BSN content and clinical work in just three semesters.

Direct entry MSN students should expect 30-40 hours of classroom and clinical experience per week throughout the program. Additionally, The school also reports an NCLEX pass rate of 94%.

  • Tuition: $1,883 per credit hour (2023-24 school year tuition may be increased soon, according to the school's website)

  • Program Length: 2 to 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

  • Website

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

4. The University of Texas, Austin

The University of Texas at Austin offers an “Alternate Entry” MSN (AE-MSN) program for non-nursing bachelor's students. The AE-MSN program offers students four distinct graduate school pathways to choose from. Training for each program is extremely rigorous, and upon graduation, students have an expectation to start in entry-level careers and advance their careers quickly.  

Students may choose a form for AE-MSN program concentrations:

  • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (AG CNS)

  • Leadership in Diverse Settings (LeaDS)

  • Psych/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program (PMHNP)

  • Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PC-PNP)

As one of the best nurse practitioner schools in Texas, UT Austin is an excellent choice for aspiring APRNs and nursing leaders.

  • Tuition: Fall 2023-Spring 2024 tuition rates are not final at this time per the school’s website. However, the most recent rates in 2022-2023 were:

    • 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 1st

  • 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.

  • Website

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 through 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: $121,536 (total program fee)

  • Program Length: 18 months (6 consecutive quarters, including summers)

  • Accreditation: CCNE

  • Application Deadline: November 1st

  • Contact Info

    • Email: hs-BettyIreneMooreSON@ucdavis.edu

    • Phone number: (916) 734-2145

  • Online Options Available? No

  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 

    • On-campus

  • Website

>> Show Me Online 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 underserved populations.

  • Tuition

    • $31,311 (annual in-state resident)

    • $43,556 (annual non-resident)

  • Program Length: 2 years

  • Accreditation: CCNE

  • Application Deadline: November 30th (priority) & February 28th (second round)

  • 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

  • Website

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: $1,740 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 1st (for spring 2024), November 1st (for summer 2024)

  • Contact Info:

    • Email: son.rochester.edu/admissions

    • Phone number: (585) 275-2375

  • Online Options Available? No

  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 

    • On-campus, accelerated

  • Website

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: 

    • $9,682 (Ohio resident by semester)

    • $22,982 (Non-Ohio resident by semester)

  • Program Length: 3 years, full-time

  • Accreditation: CCNE

  • Application Deadline: October 31st (for summer 2024 start)

  • Contact Info:

    • Email: nursing@osu.edu

    • Phone number: (614) 292-8900

  • Online Options Available? No

  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 

    • On-campus

  • Website

9. Marquette University

Marquette lets students choose between online and on-campus learning options - one at the Milwaukee campus and one at the Pleasant Prairie campus. 

  • Tuition: $63,000

  • Program Length: 19 to 21 months

  • Accreditation: CCNE

  • Application Deadline: applications for most programs are open around May 1st; contact the school for application deadlines.

  • Contact Info:

    • Email: gradadmit@marquette.edu

    • Phone number: (866) 891-8438

  • Online Options Available? No

  • Types of Direct-Entry MSN Programs 

    • On-campus

  • Website

10. Augusta University

As one of two CRNA schools in Georgia, Augusta University maintains a standard of excellence across all its nursing pathways. The school offers a direct-entry MSN degree with a concentration in Clinical Nurse Leadership. This intensive, accelerated program prepares non-nurses with a bachelor's education for leadership roles in healthcare environments.

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: Still accepting applications for 2024 on a space-available basis.

  • 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

  • Website

>> Show Me Online 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 >>

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

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), an RN-MSN program is faster and may make more sense than earning a BSN and MSN individually. RN-MSN programs ensure that you do not retake courses that you have already studied and allow you to start practicing sooner. 
Sarah Jividen
RN, BSN
Sarah Jividen
Nurse.org Contributor

Sarah Jividen, RN, BSN, is a trained neuro/trauma and emergency room nurse turned freelance healthcare writer/editor. As a journalism major, she combined her love for writing with her passion for high-level patient care. Sarah is the creator of Health Writing Solutions, LLC, specializing in writing about healthcare topics, including health journalism, education, and evidence-based health and wellness trends. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two children. 

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