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Online Direct Entry MSN Programs for Non-Nursing Majors

Today, online programs are becoming popular. That is in the wake of the Corona Virus; colleges and universities are seeing higher enrollment in online programs than in traditional brick-and-mortar programs.

For a direct-entry MSN program, students will learn the basics of becoming a nurse practitioner. The courses will prepare students to be nurse practitioners, even with no previous experience in the medical field. The direct-entry MSN courses are for anyone who has a bachelor’s degree.

Direct entry MSN programs for non-nursing majors online are for anyone who wants to change their career or increase their earning potential.

Online Nursing Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What You Will Learn in an Online Direct-Entry MSN Program

All MSN programs, including direct-entry programs, will be accredited either through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

If you are considering the direct-entry MSN programs, you can expect to spend three years studying full-time. During their first year in the program, students can expect to learn from bachelor-level courses. Over the final two years of the program, students can expect to take graduate-level courses. A student enrolled in a direct-entry MSN program can assume that many of their general education and science credits from their bachelor’s degree will transfer into the program. They will begin taking core nursing courses almost immediately.

The direct-entry MSN program might go by many names. Some of these names are as follows.

  • Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing (ELMSN)
  • Master’s Entry Clinical Nurse (MECN)
  • Alternate Entry Master of Science in Nursing (AE-MSN)
  • Master of Science for Entry to the Profession of Nursing (MEPN)
  • Direct Entry MSN
  • Entry-Level Master’s (ELM)

Like many traditional MSN programs, direct-entry MSN programs will offer classes on a variety of platforms. These formats include online, part-time, and accelerated. Many students favor the online delivery format for these courses. There are many colleges and universities throughout the US, offering an online form for direct-entry MSN programs. Now, they can provide students with a quality education no matter where the student lives.

These learning institutions are offering students an online option to partner with many clinics throughout the US. A student can then fulfill the clinical requirements of the program close to their home.

Admission Requirements

For admission into a direct-entry MSN program, a student must meet all the following requirements.

  • A bachelor’s in any program other than nursing, it must be from an accredited university or college.
  • The student’s GPA from undergraduate studies of a 3.0 or higher
  • The student must have letters of recommendation. These can be from the student’s workplaces, or they can be from academic institutions.
  • The student must write an application essay.
  • The student must have a current resume or CV.
  • The student must have GRE scores to present.


Besides possessing a bachelor’s from a non-nursing program, the student must also transfer in many classes to the direct-entry MSN program. These courses may be outside of the bachelor’s degree. They include many of the following.

  • Microbiology
  • Anatomy
  • Human Growth and Development Throughout the Lifetime
  • Nutrition
  • Physiology
  • Statistics

Curriculum Requirements

During the first year of a direct-entry level MSN program, the student will take courses at a bachelor level. These courses will include many of the following.

  • Nursing Science
  • Foundations of Nursing Practice
  • Nursing Practice and Public Health
  • Pharmacology and Nutrition
  • Pathophysiology

Simultaneously as students are learning the curriculum, they are beginning to work on their clinical hours. When the student completes the academic and clinical portion of the program, the student will sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. After passing this exam, the student will be a registered nurse (RN).

When the student completes the RN portion of the program, they will move into the graduate-level courses for the training. Along with the coursework, students will have another set of clinical hours to complete.

The academic portion of the MSN program includes a core. It also provides classwork related to the specialty of nursing that the student has chosen to enter. Finally, it has more clinical hours. The student gains experience in the selected nurse specialty.

The MSN core includes studies in many of the following areas.

  • Clinical Prevention and Population Health
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Informatics
  • Interprofessional Collaboration
  • Organizational and Systems Leadership
  • Policy and Advocacy
  • Program Evaluation for Improving Patient and Population Outcomes
  • Quality and Safety

If the student is taking an APRN core, it will include courses in the following.

  • Ethics
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Healthcare Financing
  • Healthcare Policy
  • Human Diversity and Social Issues
  • Organization of the Healthcare Delivery System
  • Policy, Organization, and Financing of Healthcare
  • Professional Development
  • Research
  • Theoretical Foundations of Nursing Practice

If a student is taking an APRN course, they can also expect to have three graduate-level courses. These include the following.

  • Advanced Physiology and Pathology
  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Advanced Pharmacology

Besides the core coursework, an MSN student must complete their clinical hours. These are educational activities that include five hundred hours of supervised clinical experience. These clinical hours should relate to the student’s chosen area of nursing.

FAQs About Online Direct-Entry MSN Programs

What is the Charge for an Online Direct-Entry MSN Program?

The cost of your program will vary from school to school. It is typically a said dollar amount per credit hour. The number of credit hours available for your course program will vary. It will generally be between eighty and one hundred hours.

When you attend school online, you have the advantage of only paying your tuition. There might be some lab fees you will have to consider. The extras will not include all that a brick-and-mortar school will. The cost of maintenance, housing, and many other factors are involved in attending a brick-and-mortar school.

You will find while doing your research, that a private for-profit school will cost more than a public school. You should also calculate how many credit hours it will take you to complete the program at for-profit and public schools. The private school might come out ahead.

When I Graduate, Will I have a BSN as well as an MSN?

That, too, will depend on the school and its direct-entry MSN program. Some schools will grant a student a BSN after the student completes the pre-licensure part of the MSN program. Other schools only award students MSN. If you need to have BSN, you will need to research the schools in depth.

Will I Have my Nursing License Upon Completing a Direct-Entry MSN Program?

Most direct-entry MSN programs will not provide the student with a nursing license. Many of them will allow students to sit for a standardized exam upon completing the pre-license credit hours of the MSN program. The test, called the NCLEX-RN examination, will allow students to apply for an RN license.

Many schools do not provide students with the accreditation needed to take the nurse practitioner (NP) exam and become a licensed NP. Some schools will qualify students for completing the NP license exam. The school you choose might not offer the type of credits you need to take the NP licensure exam. You might still tailor your courses, so you qualify upon graduation.

What is the Timeframe for Completing a Direct Entry MSN Program?

There is no clear answer to this question. If you are a full-time student, you should finish in three years. But this is an online program, which means it is flexible. If you want to intensify your studies and attend extra full-time, it will take you less than three years. Then again, if you have responsibilities such as children or a job outside of school and want to attend part0time, it could mean four or more years of studying. Again, the length of time it takes you to complete your program will depend on you, the student.

My Bachelor’s Degree is in a Non-Medical Related Field, Will I be Accepted into a Direct-Entry MSN Program?

It is okay. The direct-entry MSN program is for anyone who has a bachelor’s degree regardless of the student’s major. The bachelor’s degree can be a Bachelor of Art or a Bachelor of Science. Students who already have a Bachelor of Science might find it easier to keep up with the coursework of the MSN program. That is, they might find it more comfortable because there is going to be a heavy focus on science for the MSN program. If the student has a Bachelor of Science, they will already be used to a heavy load of science coursework.

Will I need to Take any Classes Before Enrolling in the Direct-Entry MSN Program?

Many colleges will require students to take a few classes before they can apply and enroll in the direct-entry MSN program. The same is true if you are an online student or a student at a brick-and-mortar school. The number of classes you will need to cover before enrolling in your MSN program will vary. Typically, it will be between five and ten courses. The courses will cover the basics of many things you will be continuing to learn while in the direct-entry MSN program.

If you have a Bachelor of Science, you might have some of the courses covered. That is, if you took classes in a medical-related field as part of your science requirements while working toward your bachelor’s, you would not need to repeat them. Some courses will require specific math, usually statistics, and an English composition course. That will be in addition to the core science courses you need to take. If you do not already have these classes under your belt, you will need to take them. That is, you can probably take them to the school where you will be enrolling in the direct-entry MSN program. Many community colleges will offer the classes. Make sure they can be transferred into your MSN program, though.

How to Check Accreditation for Direct-Entry MSN Programs Online

Now, let us speak of accreditation. The term accreditation means that colleges, universities, and all institutes of higher learning will abide by the same type of educational standards and integrity. If you are enrolling in a direct0entry MSN program, the school must be accredited. The reason you want to join an accredited school is so that your degree will be recognized. You will want your degree to be recognized both on a regional level and at a national level. To have it recognized means, you are securing your ability to be a professional nurse.

Accreditation has two major categories. Those categories are institutional and programmatic. For institutional credit, the certification might come from many agencies. These agencies could be from anywhere and on any level. The accreditation should come from the national or regional level. That is, the agency that grants accreditation to the learning facility should be a part of the US Department of Education. Programmatic accreditation is awarded to a learning institution by the United States. The certification is from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). It might also be from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

You will want to ensure that the program you are considering has both institutional and programmatic accreditation. The school must be from both accreditation resources. You may check into the certification of the program you are thinking of enrolling in; there are a few ways to do so. The first place you want to check is the program and institution websites. Also, if you are not satisfied with the information you find, you can always check the sites for the CCNE and the ACEN. Finally, you might want to check with the Department of Education. Its website will have the Database of Accredited Institutions and Programs.

What to do After Earning Your Direct-Entry MSN Online

One might think they have done the hard work, and that should be it, right. The student has completed the direct-entry MSN program. That was difficult in and of itself. But, before the student can apply for their nursing license, there are a few more things, they will need to wrap up first. Most often than not, the student will be permitted to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam while they are attending school and to progress through the MSN program. You need to complete the pre-license courses in the program before you can sit for the exam. Afterward, you will take the NCLEX_RN exam before you finish your MSN studies.

You might think you will need to fly or drive to the area where the school’s physical location is. That is not the case, though. The NCLEX-RN exam is nationally recognized. You will have the same questions on the exam, no matter where you sit for it. That means you can sit for the exam in your hometown. The tricky part is that once you have passed the NCLEX-RN exam, you need to apply for a license. Every state is different. What if you are going to practice nursing in North Carolina for two years after graduating? Then you move to California; you will need to apply for a license in the new state as well. All fifty states have their own rules and regulations about how one is to become an RN. You might need additional requirements other than the NCLEX-RN exam in California.

Salary and Job Outlook: How much does a nurse with an MSN make a year?

What you will make with an MSN will vary. It will be significantly higher than what you will earn as an RN, though. That is a statement with more accuracy if you take and pass the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse exam. The salary difference between an RN with a bachelor’s degree is significantly less, more than $40 thousand less than someone with an MSN.

How Much is a Master’s in Nursing Salary?

The MSN salary ranges significantly depending on the nurse’s chosen specialty. Someone with an MSN can expect to earn more than $100 thousand per year. Despite that, you will be making more with an MSN, what you make will depend on your practice specialty.

Which MSN Degrees Pay the Most?

An MSN degree is what it appears to be—a Master of Science. Regardless of what type of specialty nurse you are pursuing, you will learn all the foundations and core principles that everyone in an MSN program will acquire. These foundations and core principles will include the following.

  • Community and Public Health
  • Ethics
  • Research
  • Community Skills
  • Leadership

Regardless that all MSN programs will have the same core principles when you decide on a specialty, your curriculum will change from other students’ classes. Your program’s courses will depend on your area of specialization. For instance, if you are going into an administrative field, you will learn about leadership skills. A Masters in Nursing salary will vary depending on the specialty.

The following includes the highest paying MSN jobs.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)—if you are one of these nurses, you can expect to be at the top of the pay scale. The CRNA can anticipate earning more than $175 thousand per year.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)—a CNM is someone who cares for pregnant women. They work in the offices of obstetricians and gynecologists. These types of nurses can expect to earn just under $110 thousand per year.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)—As a nurse practitioner, you may choose from a variety of specialties. These specialists include the following.

  • Family Practice
  • Pediatrics
  • Mental Health
  • Acute Care
  • Emergency Care
  • Much More

The type of specialty a nurse practitioner chooses will determine how much they can make. There are many fields to select from, with the highest paying specialties being the following.

  • Psychiatric Health
  • Pediatrics
  • Gerontology
  • Neonatal
  • Orthopedics

A nurse practitioner earns an average of $90 thousand per year. That can quickly become six figures if you choose to specialize in a high-demand field.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)—as a CNS, you must be a specialist within the field. That is what the name suggests. A CNS can expect to earn anywhere from $90 thousand to over six figures. A CNS should have a high level of knowledge in their chosen field. The higher the experience in the area they work, the more money they can demand.

Nurse Administrator—the area of nurse administrator includes medical and health service managers. The salary a nurse administrator can demand will vary but can be as high as six figures.

Clinical Nurse Leader—a nurse in the position of leadership should have much experience in the field and will advance quickly within it. Nurse leaders with a least ten years of experience can demand payment of around $88 thousand per year. That will increase as the nurse gains experience and moves up the ladder.

Nurse Educator—as the name suggests, a nurse educator is one who will train other nurses. Nurse educators work in the academic field. They instruct nursing students who are achieving their nursing degrees. They can also work in a clinical setting, like a hospital. In the clinical setting, they would lead hospital staff on educational updates. A Nurse educator’s salary varies. While the wage for nurse educators will differ, they can expect to earn around $80 thousand per year.

Informatics Nurse—with a degree in informatics nursing, the nurse can expect to work with the intersection of computers and with clinical care. Nurses who work in this field should be familiar with and enjoy working with technology. The pay scale for an informatics nurse is not plentiful. It is only around $75 thousand per year. While the pay scale might be on the lower end, you will find that the profession of informatics nursing is becoming demanding. The job should have a high rate of growth in the coming years. With the increase, it should also bring a higher rate of pay. You can expect a raise in the future.

Online Nursing Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.