15 Best Direct-Entry MSN Programs in 2024

    January 26, 2024 | Admin

    Direct Entry MSN Programs

    Nurses continue to be in high demand, and those with advanced training are particularly sought after in the U.S. Jobs for nurse practitioners, for example, are projected to grow by 40% between 2021 and 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To keep up with the demand, a new generation of nurses must be trained with the latest in medical education. With an MSN degree, nurses have the option to pursue a number of specializations, including  mental health, clinical nurse leadership, family practitioner, midwifery, and more.

    Traditional MSN vs. Direct Entry MSN Programs

    Traditional Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs represent a great option for many aspiring nurses, but they aren’t the best fit for everyone. Typically, an MSN is earned in two years, not including the required Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and licensing exams. A BSN can take anywhere from 12 months to four years to complete. This means a student could end up dedicating themselves to six years in college before they have a chance to apply for a nursing job in the field.

    Like accelerated nursing programs, direct entry MSN programs offer an alternative education path that can be a good option for some students. For example, students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree can enroll in a direct-entry MSN program, allowing them to pursue advanced roles in the field in a relatively short time. This allows them to make a career switch that might not otherwise be possible. 

    What’s It Like to Take a Direct Entry MSN?

    Students who opt for a direct entry MSN can expect an accelerated, rigorous course schedule. The program may be offered completely online, in-person, or as a hybrid blend of both. The coursework in these programs is robust and fast-paced. Self discipline, a working online internet connection, and a quiet place to study are recommended in order for the student to be successful. But some direct entry nursing programs are flexible with a wider timeframe in which you can complete them. These programs allow the student to work at their own pace according to their schedule and needs. They are ideal for working and parental students with a busy schedule.

    We looked into this growing trend and compared MSN programs that had the best value thus far for the education. We calculated point rankings based on tuition rates and the student to faculty ratio. (The lowest numbers were considered ideal traits for both categories.) These 15 choices below are well spent in the quality, time, and flexibility in each school’s curriculum.

    What Is a Direct-Entry MSN Program?

    Direct-entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs offer a route for individuals with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees who are interested in pursuing nursing. These programs have accelerated curricula that provide advanced nursing skills in a manageable period. By combining rigorous academic coursework with practical experience, they equip students with advanced nursing abilities. Identifying and enrolling in one of the best direct-entry MSN programs is a strategic step towards fulfilling nursing aspirations.

    Salaries for Direct-Entry MSN Graduates

    Direct-entry MSN graduates often enjoy lucrative salaries due to their advanced skill sets. With the current demand for seasoned nursing professionals, graduates from the best direct-entry MSN programs have the potential to earn rewarding compensation packages.

    Average Salaries for MSN Graduates

    MSN graduates, both from direct-entry and traditional programs, can expect competitive remuneration. MSN graduates generally earn well above the median income, reflecting their specialized skills and leadership roles. For example, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners—a nursing segment that encompasses a large number of master’s degree holders—earn an annual average salary exceeding $120,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

    Top States for MSN Graduates with High Salary Brackets

    California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Nevada are among the states with the highest salary ranges for MSN graduates. The annual average salaries for nurse practitioners in these states range from more than $135,00 to close to $160,000, according to the BLS. It’s important to note that salaries can vary widely, regardless of geography, depending on credentials, years of experience, and other factors.

    The best direct-entry MSN programs are situated in regions with a concentration of high-end medical facilities, which correlates with higher salaries. Additionally, graduates of MSN programs may also work in the following industries: offices of physicians, general medical and surgical hospitals, outpatient care centers, offices of other health practitioners, and home health care services.

    Direct-Entry MSN Requirements

    Direct-entry MSN programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. Additionally, certain prerequisite courses may be needed, such as anatomy, physiology, statistics, microbiology, and psychology. It’s important to note that prerequisites may vary per institution, so it’s essential to check the specific requirements for each program you’re considering. Choosing the best direct-entry MSN program can ensure you meet these prerequisites and navigate the application process smoothly.

    What to Expect in a Direct-Entry MSN Program

    In many direct-entry MSN programs, you’ll encounter an intense, fast-paced program with a comprehensive blend of theoretical coursework, hands-on experience, and preparation for leadership roles in nursing. You’ll have the opportunity to dive headfirst into a condensed, rigorous curriculum that fast-tracks your way into the nursing profession. 

    Additionally, clinical hours are a vital component, exposing you to real-world healthcare settings like hospitals and clinics, which will prepare you for your career. Diverse specializations also help align your education with your career aspirations, such as becoming a family nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or educator.

    Direct-Entry MSN Classes and Curriculum

    The curriculum of direct-entry MSN programs encompasses various subjects including advanced anatomy, pharmacology, healthcare policy, and more. It equips students for future roles in healthcare.

    The classes and curriculum are comprehensive, designed to provide students with a well-rounded education in nursing. It includes core nursing classes, advanced practice courses, and concentration-specific courses. Potential concentrations in a direct-entry MSN program include:

    Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): This concentration prepares students to provide holistic healthcare services to patients of all ages. Key courses include pediatric care, adult health, gerontology, and family health.

    Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: Focusing on providing care for acutely ill adults and older adults, the curriculum might include courses in acute care, gerontology, and advanced pathophysiology.

    Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: This track provides specialized knowledge for those interested in providing mental health services. Key classes include psychiatric assessment, psychopharmacology, and mental health across the lifespan.

    Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: This track equips students to deliver healthcare to infants, children, and adolescents. Key classes include pediatric assessment, child development, and pediatric pharmacology.

    Nurse Educator: This concentration prepares students for teaching and curriculum development in nursing. It includes courses on instructional design, curriculum development, and teaching strategies.

    Nurse Leadership and Administration: This track prepares students for leadership and administrative roles in healthcare organizations. Courses often focus on healthcare policy, finance, and leadership theory.

    Direct-Entry MSN FAQ

    Do Direct-Entry MSN Programs Bypass a BSN?

    Yes, direct-entry MSN programs enable students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees to bypass obtaining a BSN.

    Is an MSN the same as an NP?

    Both MSN and NP represent advanced levels of nursing, but an MSN is a degree while nurse practitioner (NP) is a career role that typically requires an MSN degree.

    Is there demand for Direct-Entry MSN Graduates?

    Absolutely! With the demand for healthcare services surging, graduates from the best direct-entry MSN programs will find their skills in high demand.

    Are Direct-Entry MSNs viewed better than traditional MSN degrees?

    The perception varies, but the best direct-entry MSN programs are equally valued as traditional ones. Each path has its merits, and the best choice depends on the individual’s circumstances.

    How to Know if a Direct-Entry MSN Program is Right for You?

    Determining if a direct-entry MSN program is right for you requires considering your career aspirations, previous education, and ability to commit to an intense program. The best direct-entry MSN programs offer guidance to help you make an informed decision.

    Nursing Bridge Program vs Direct Entry

    While Nursing Bridge programs serve existing RNs, direct-entry programs cater to individuals with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. Both can lead you to an MSN, but the best direct-entry MSN programs offer an accelerated path.

    How long is a direct-entry MSN program?

    The duration of the best direct-entry MSN programs varies depending on the institution, but it typically ranges from two to three years.

    How much do Direct-Entry MSN Programs Cost?

    The cost can vary, but financial aid and scholarships can help manage expenses. When considering the best direct-entry MSN programs, it’s essential to look at the overall value rather than just the cost.

    Our Ranking Methodology

    All estimated graduate tuition rates have been calculated by the academic semester year by the in-state rate. We defined an academic year as two semesters in the calculations. All ranking data is compiled from the Google Search engine, and listed from each school’s website. We scored two areas for each school, the tuition and student-to-faculty ratio. This data is sourced from the specific campus listed rather than the parent school, where applicable. We scored the schools first by tuition, and then by student-to-faculty to get the final rankings as shown above.

    Have Questions About Your Ranking?

    We strive to present the latest and most accurate school data to the best of our ability at Best Value Schools. If you find something that needs corrected in the information above for the following schools, feel free to reach out to us and we will correct it accordingly. For more information about MSN degree programs, accelerated options and more, we can help you make the career path you’ve been dreaming for. Get started today to begin your search and see the possibilities ahead of you.

    Find the program that’s right for you

    Whether you’re trying to start your career or make a big change, we can help you find the perfect school to help you reach your goals.

    Woman in graduation cap and gown
    Scroll to Top