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

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

Direct Entry Nurse Practitioner Programs
Bridge Programs for Nurse Practitioners
Accelerated Nurse Practitioner Programs
Online Programs for Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners provide important primary care services, particularly in areas with physician shortages. Many states offer NPs full practice status, allowing them to provide the same care as physicians, including diagnosing and treating illnesses and writing prescriptions. With a growing physician shortage across the country, NPs serve as a crucial element in providing necessary healthcare services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate of 26% for NP jobs in the coming years.

Learners with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree interested in pursuing nurse practitioner school can take advantage of a wide variety of programs designed for these students. Direct-entry, accelerated, bridge, and online options offer students with different academic backgrounds the opportunity to pursue careers as NPs. These programs allow degree-seekers to take necessary foundational courses in nursing as part of the master’s curriculum to streamline their degree.

This page offers an overview of these program options. Keep reading or click here to learn more about becoming an NP.

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Wondering how to become an NP without a nursing degree? A variety of program options exist for learners without a bachelor’s in nursing. For example, direct entry MSN programs for non-nursing majors offer a pathway to NP licensure without a BSN. The sections below outline the different program options for becoming an NP with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree.


Direct entry nurse practitioner programs allow students with bachelor’s degrees in other fields to earn a graduate degree in nursing. These accelerated programs often take around four years, with the general prerequisite nursing courses completed in the first two years of study. Once students pass these courses and become eligible for nursing licensure, they can then complete their degree and earn the MSN.

As licensed RNs, students can complete the requirements to sit for NP certification exams, including clinical practicums. Upon completing those preliminary nursing courses and entering the MSN portion of the degree, students complete the MSN normally and take required certification exams.

Undergraduate degrees, regardless of major, provide the necessary general education to then enter any major field. Direct entry NP programs build on that general education and provide the nursing background necessary to pursue an MSN. These programs allow students to ultimately graduate with both a BSN and an MSN.


Bridge programs for NPs offer RNs without a BSN, or with a bachelor’s in a different field, a pathway to earning their MSN. Ideal for RNs or LPNs with an associate degree, bridge programs connect these learners’ current academic background with the necessary requirements for becoming an NP.

Generally, these programs require some prior nursing education for admission, like a diploma or associate degree in nursing from an accredited institution. Applicants must also hold an active RN license for admission. Each program may hold different cumulative GPA requirements, but programs often seek out applicants with at least a 3.0 average.

Bridge programs typically require between 45 and 52 credit hours, allowing students to complete coursework in about two years of study.


Accelerated NP programs offer students a fast-track option for earning an MSN. Geared toward students with a strong academic record who can manage a larger course load in a shorter period of time, accelerated programs often take around three years to complete.

Some accelerated programs may look specifically for students with a nursing background, and others may accept students with a non-nursing background, much like direct entry options. Each program holds different requirements, although all accelerated NP programs lead directly to certification. Some schools that allow students with non-nursing backgrounds may look for those learners with some nursing prerequisite courses already completed.


Online programs offer learners a way to complete their degree without disrupting their current career and lifestyle. Online NP programs come in a variety of tracks, including direct entry, bridge, and accelerated. The online format provides some flexibility, and allows students to complete work both synchronously and asynchronously, depending on program requirements.

Online learners in NP programs complete the same academic requirements as on-campus students. This includes required practicum and clinical hours. Online programs generally offer students assistance in matching with clinical sites in their local community to complete these requirements. These programs best serve self-starter students who can manage the demands of an online format without the structure of attending in-person classes.

Explore your options and learn more about online NP programs here.

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