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

Sponsored Schools

Nurse practitioners are in high demand in the U.S. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Oct. 2017) expects that job openings for these highly trained professionals will swell 36 percent from 2016 to 2026—more than five times the average projected growth among all professions in that same decade.

But for those working professionals who are interested in joining this personally rewarding and financially stable career, the idea of going back to school can seem daunting. Specifically, those individuals who did not earn an undergraduate degree in the nursing profession, starting over from square one may seem like an insurmountable task.

Luckily, there are options.

A direct entry NP program allows people who hold bachelor’s degrees from non-nursing programs to jump directly into an NP master’s level program. While some direct entry programs require applicants to have already earned an RN license, many others do not, which makes this an extremely attractive track for those smart and dedicated professionals looking to make a career change. A direct entry program can allow students to become licensed as an RN as well as credentialed as a nurse practitioner in two years or more.

Keep reading to learn more about what a direct entry NP program is, what the admissions requirements are for this type of program, and which direct entry NP program may be right for you.

Direct Entry vs. Accelerated vs. Bridge NP Programs

The terminology for different available nursing programs can get a bit confusing for the uninitiated. While there are plenty of programs that allow students to take a traditional route, first earning a BSN, then working as an RN, followed by earning an MSN, there are also a number of programs for students that buck that tradition. Three of the most common non-traditional programs are:

Direct Entry NP Programs

A direct entry NP program is appropriate for students who have earned an undergraduate degree that is not in nursing, but who wish to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner. These programs allow students to enter the MSN track directly without first earning a BSN, although they will still need to complete certain prerequisite courses, depending on their undergraduate degree and on whether or not they have already earned an RN.

Bridge NP Programs

In nursing education parlance, a bridge NP program is one that allows practicing registered nurses who have earned an associate’s degree or diploma to pursue an MSN and a BSN concurrently. In many cases, these bridge programs allow students to earn course credit for their work experience as an RN, which means they can complete both degrees faster.

Accelerated NP Programs

The world “accelerated” is used a bit more freely than “direct entry” or “bridge” in the context of advanced nursing programs. An accelerated nursing program usually refers to a direct entry program, but when the term is used, it tends to indicate that the applicant must already have an RN license to apply. However, schools can use this particular term differently, so applicants should be diligent in determining the requirements for the particular program they want to pursue.

Direct Entry NP Admissions Requirements

As with any university program, admissions requirements for each direct entry MSN program will differ somewhat, but there are still things that applicants can expect to submit in most cases, including:

  • A complete application to the school of choice
  • Transcripts from all undergraduate experience, demonstrating a 3.0 GPA or above
  • Letters of recommendation (typically 2-3 letters are required)
  • A personal statement or essay
  • GRE scores

For some programs, students will need to submit transcripts to show proof that they have completed certain prerequisite courses such as human anatomy, biology, and statistics. For other programs, students are permitted to complete these prerequisites along with their other coursework if necessary, so applicants should be sure to find out what id required for the program to which they want to apply.

Featured Direct Entry NP Programs

Azusa Pacific University: Azusa Pacific University (APU) offers a direct entry MSN program that they have titled an “Entry Level Master’s” or ELM program. ELM students must have earned an undergraduate degree (or higher) in a non-nursing profession to be eligible. The ELM program prepares students for both RN licensure and APRN credentialing. Some of the courses required for ELM students over the course of the four-semester program include:

  • Conceptual Foundations of Professional Nursing
  • Health Assessment
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Bioethics and Health Policy

A seven-week internship is also required prior to graduation. The ELM program is an on-campus option that is available at four APU locations in California: Azusa, Inland Empire, Monrovia, and San Diego. For the 2017-18 school year, students could expect to pay $693 per unit, with between 107 and 128 units required, for a total tuition cost of between $74,151 and $88,704.

Ohio State University: Ohio State University offers a direct entry MSN program called Graduate Entry. Students completing this program are prepared for RN licensure but do not earn a BSN en route; they graduate with only an MSN. Once prerequisite courses have been met, the graduate-level program takes at least three full calendar years to complete. The prerequisites that must be completed before beginning the Graduate Entry Program are:

  • Human Anatomy
  • Human Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Microbiology
  • Human Nutrition

In addition, those students who are granted admission must complete a nursing assistant course, including 16 hours of direct patient care, before they can begin their master’s coursework. Some of the courses required for the Graduate Entry program at OSU are:

  • Introduction to Professional Nursing Practice
  • Nursing Care of Adults and Older Adults
  • Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
  • Cultural Competence in Healthcare: US and Global Contexts
  • Innovation Leadership in Advanced Nursing

Depending on the NP specialty an applicant chooses, coursework may be available either on campus in Columbus, Ohio or on a distance learning basis. Tuition for this program depends on the student’s in-state or out-of-state status in Ohio, so interested applicants should be sure to determine their own status and tuition requirements.

MGH Institute of Health Professionals: MGH offers a Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (DEN) NP program, which takes place over three years. Students can choose from seven NP specialties and benefit from a 1:6 faculty to student ratio. The specialty students select will determine the exact curriculum, but students can expect to take basic courses such as:

  • Pharmocology
  • History of Nursing Ideas
  • Research for Clinical Practice

Along with these types of foundational courses, students will take seminars and practicums in their specialty of choice. The estimated cost of tuition for this three-year program $1,265 per credit-hour. All courses for this program are offered online.

University of San Francisco: The University of San Francisco offers a Master of Science in Nursing for Non-Nurses (MSE-MSN) program, both at their main campus in San Francisco as well as their satellite campus in Orange County. Graduates from the USF program will have completed work to become licensed as an RN as well as credentialed as a clinical nurse leader, rather than a nurse practitioner. The full-time program takes two years to complete. Some of the courses students can expect to take as part of the MSE-MSN program include:

  • Principles of Epidemiology
  • Applied Assessment and Fundamental Clinical Lab
  • Advanced Pathophysiology and Pharmacology
  • Financial Resource Management
  • Medical-Surgical Nursing

The estimated cost for this program is $1,340 per unit, with a total of 68 units required, for a total of $91,120 in tuition. Note that this cost estimate does not include fees, books, or living expenses.

Boston College: The Boston College Connell School of Nursing offers a Direct Master’s Entry program that students can complete in two years or more, after the first of which, students are prepared to sit for the NCLEX licensing exam. The program begins with a two-credit course the summer before fall semester called Foundations of Nursing Practice, after which students can expect to take courses like:

  • Pharmacology/Nutrition
  • Adult Health Theory
  • Child Health Nursing
  • Research Methods for Advanced Practice Nursing

The CSON program had a 100 percent NCLEX pass rate in 2016. Tuition for this program as of 2017 is $1,350 per credit hour, making this 77-credit-hour program cost $103,950 before fees and living expenses. Courses for this program take place on campus in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

Online Direct Entry NP Programs

As evidenced in the list above, a number of direct entry NP programs do have an online component. Generally speaking, graduate-level courses can be completed in online for this type of program (depending on the school). For those programs that allow students to complete undergraduate prerequisites during the course of their MSN program, on-campus lectures and/or lab work may be required. At minimum, direct entry program students who do not hold an RN must complete the clinical portions of their education in a traditional, face-to-face setting. And every NP program, no matter the type, will have a clinical component that will need to be completed in a hospital or other clinical setting. Most online NP programs will allow students to complete their practicum at a facility close to home.