Direct-Entry MSN programs for non-nursing majors online offer a flexible path for working nurses to earn a degree and advance their careers. The high demand for good healthcare has also increased the demand for highly trained and qualified registered nurses.
To make it easier for aspiring registered nurses to reach their career goals more quickly and efficiently, numerous colleges across the nation have developed ways to attract new nursing students to help fill the need for RNs.
Direct-Entry Accelerated Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
One of the most innovative and convenient ways to enter the field is with direct entry accelerated Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. This program is referred to by a couple of titles, including entry-level, accelerated, or direct entry MSN program.
Students in the direct entry accelerated MSN program receive the same excellent training and education but can earn their degree much faster than in traditional programs.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that direct-entry accelerated nursing degrees are gaining momentum in the nursing world and have become very popular among aspiring nursing students.
Who Can Enroll in a Direct Entry MSN Degree Program?
Direct entry programs are for individuals who completed a non nursing baccalaureate degree program and want to start a nursing career.
In the past, if an individual with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field wished to become an RN, they would have to start from scratch. And the Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) program typically takes four years to complete. Students with direct entry into accelerated MSN programs can often have their nursing degree in as little as two years.
Direct entry MSN degrees are for these individuals to start professional nursing practice. What they’ve already learned through the non nursing degree program is a foundation for their MSN program.
How Does the Direct Entry MSN Work?
A direct entry MSN program allows non-nurses to transition into nursing practice in the MSN program without repeating courses. This MSN program will enable graduates to pursue careers in registered nursing, nursing leadership roles, or advanced practice registered nursing (APRN).
There are a few stages in a direct entry master of the nursing program. First, students need to complete the pre-license credit hours of the MSN program. Then, they can sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for a Registered Nurse license. Once they earn the RN license, they can complete the remainder of the direct entry program.
Candidates who wish to have a career as a nurse practitioner can utilize these programs because they can also act as direct entry nurse practitioner programs. When applying for a nursing position, graduates of direct-entry MSN programs have a very impressive resume. Likewise, employers typically find these individuals highly qualified, mature, and possess excellent nursing and clinical skills.
These MSN programs include direct patient care and introductory nursing courses. Core classes include health assessment, foundations in nursing practice, research processes, nursing ethics, advanced pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, public health, health assessment, statistics, and nursing for children and adults. Experience working in a healthcare field is not required. However, it’s highly valuable to potential employers and on a resume.
To meet the guidelines of the AACN, Master’s in Nursing programs must include specific areas of study in their core curriculum. These include the following classes and topics.
- Background for Practice from Sciences and Humanities
- Informatics and Healthcare Technologies / Health Informatics
- Master’s Level Nursing Practice
- Legal and Ethical Accountability in Professional Nursing Practice
- Clinical Prevention for Improving Health
- Quality Improvement and Safety
- Enhancement of Community and Population Health
- Health Policy and Advocacy
- Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice
- Organizational and Systems Leadership
- Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes
- Nursing Interventions
- Clinical Nursing for Women and Families
- Wellness across the Lifespan
- Palliative Care
- Evidence-based Practice
- Pediatric Nursing
- Foundations of Healthcare Quality
How to Choose an MSN Direct Entry Program
The type of nursing education you receive in an MSN program depends significantly on what area of the nursing profession you hope to pursue and the college in which you receive the training. Do you want to work as a nurse educator? Do you wish to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner? Keep things like this in mind when choosing not just the school but also the MSN program.
If you’re currently working and can’t afford to quit your job to attend college full-time, you may wish to check online MSN programs. Most accelerated MSM programs require students to complete extensive clinical rotations, especially those enrolled in advanced practice nursing programs. Many colleges and universities offer online direct entry accelerated MSN programs.
There are many direct entry accelerated MSN programs in the United States. Below are some things to consider when choosing an MSN program.
Different programs can involve a different number of credits required to graduate. How long will it take to earn my MSN degree in a direct-entry program? Program lengths vary, but students can complete most in approximately two to three years of full-time study.
There are programs available that nursing students can complete in as little as 18 months of full-time work to four years or more for programs with part-time study options.
The total credit requirements also vary, but 70 to 80 total credit hours are standard. However, 30 credits are for graduate work and the remainder applies to the undergraduate-level courses.
Admission Requirements for Direct Entry Nursing Program
Admission requirements vary from school to school. However, prospective students should research specific admissions criteria for the program they may want to attend. Candidates interested in the direct-entry MSN program must satisfy particular admission requirements.
While the admission requirements may vary slightly by college, most schools have the following criteria.
- Completed application with application fee
- A personal statement, resume or CV
- bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in a field other than nursing
- Transcripts from undergraduate studies or bachelor’s degree
- Undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.0 (GPA of 3.0)
- GRE scores (not always required)
- At least one professional and two academic letters of reference
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) results for students whose primary language is not English
What do they offer in terms of nursing areas of specialization? The curriculum and concentrations offered will vary by program. Direct-entry MSN programs for non-nursing majors are for career changers and individuals with a bachelor’s degree but no prior nursing experience.
These programs provide a path to becoming a professional nurse while awarding an advanced degree simultaneously. And online direct-entry MSN programs offer additional flexibility and convenience not available with traditional fully on-campus programs.
It’s important to understand that all direct-entry MSN programs, whether online study or not, require on-campus attendance for specific classes and labs. The pre-licensure phase of the degree program does not typically require on-campus attendance. But, the program may require some on-campus during the program’s graduate-level phase.
Additionally, direct entry MSN students must complete a substantial number of clinical hours at health care facilities near the school or in or around the student’s local community.
Required Clinical Hours and Location
Clinical practicums are hands-on opportunities for nurses to develop and build skills. Most apply knowledge and concepts from coursework to real-world situations. Additionally, nurses complete clinical in a variety of healthcare settings. A typical master’s degree clinical requires at least 700 hours in clinical settings.
Many online nursing programs offer the clinical component for students to complete in their home community. So they don’t have to travel to the campus or other locations. Commuting may be acceptable for students who live within fifty miles of the school. But some students take programs outside of the state where they reside. So commuting is not realistic.
A few online programs still require students to complete clinicals in an area designated by the school. Each school specifies the number of clinical hours required and details on how students earn those hours. So make sure to find out if the school you want to attend has the clinical format you need.
Are the college and program accredited? All students should know if their program has regional and professional accreditation status. This endorsement determines if it meets RN and APRN licensure requirements.
Accreditation of colleges and universities and their programs ensures that the schools and programs meet essential standards of academic quality. There are two basic types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic.
School or Institutional Accreditation is by several national and regional agencies recognized by the US Department of Education. Programmatic accreditation of direct-entry MSN programs in the US is by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
Prospective students should verify any degree programs’ institutional and programmatic accreditation. Accreditation information is on program and school websites and the CCNE and ACEN websites. There is also a search feature on the Department of Education’s (DOEs) Database of Accredited Institutions and Programs (DAPIP) webpage.
One student’s ideal program format may differ significantly from another student’s needs. Programs offer different learning options and attendance structures.
These include traditional in-person, online, and hybrid programs. Furthermore, online programs can be synchronous, asynchronous, or in a hybrid format. Students can also choose to attend any of those types, either full-time or part-time.
How much does a direct-entry MSN online program cost? How does their tuition compare to other MSN programs? Does the school offer financial aid? Total costs can vary significantly from program to program. Generally speaking, programs offered by private institutions tend to be more expensive than those provided by public schools.
The current tuition costs for online direct-entry MSN programs are on each school’s website and change annually. The total cost will also include additional fees.
Career and Job Outlook for Graduates
Registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are highly in demand and typically find a variety of positions available to them. The job availability for the MSN graduate will depend on if the student completed the MSN program or chose to study a specific area of specialization in nursing. Students in accelerated MSN programs can choose from the below areas of specialization for their advanced practice nursing careers.
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Educator
- Critical Care Nurse
- Public Health Nurse
- Nurse Leaders
- Clinical Nurse Leader
- Nurse Midwife
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse
- Nursing Researchers
- Nursing educators
- Case Manager
- Nurse Consultants
- Nursing Administrators
- Nursing Anesthetist
- Dialysis Nurse
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects RN employment to grow 9 percent during the decade of 2020 to 2030. The BLS also predicts employment growth of 45 percent for advanced practice registered nurses, such as nurse practitioners, midwives, and nurse anesthetists. And the new jobs created during this time are 371,500 new RN positions and 393,200 new advanced practice registered nurse advanced (APRN) positions.
Salary Outlook for Graduates
Graduates of the accelerated MSN program also have the potential to earn very good wages. As of May 2021, annual wages for RNs ranged from $59,450 to $120,250, with the average annual wage at $77,600. Advanced practice registered nurses, like nurse practitioners, earned an average yearly wage of $123,780, ranging from $79,870 to $200,540.
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Your Nursing Career
Nursing is a rewarding career with job security that pays well! So if you are interested in nursing and have a non nursing bachelor’s degree, a direct entry MSN may be a great fit for you!
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