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Best Direct Entry MSN Programs in 2018 (On-Campus & Online)

Best Direct Entry MSN Programs in 2018 (On-Campus & Online)

As a proactive measure, colleges are beginning to offer different degree tracks as a way to address the well-known nursing shortage in the United States. One type of program demonstrating high success rates is the Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) option. Instead of requiring a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), these programs permit admittance to non-nursing Bachelor’s degree holders.

Direct Entry MSN programs are designed to appeal to degree holders who may want to switch careers. Instead of heading back to college for a BSN, students are able to transfer their undergraduate degree credits and earn their MSN at an accelerated rate. Job options for MSN degree holders include:

  • Nursing researchers
  • Nursing educators
  • Case manager
  • Nurse consultants
  • Nursing administrators
  • Nursing anesthetist
  • Dialysis nurse

Program Requirements

For admission, Direct Entry MSN candidates will need a Bachelor’s degree and provide the college with a copy of their transcripts. An advisor will go over a student’s course experience and determine what pre-requisite courses are needed before taking classes as part of their MSN curriculums. MSN courses will cover nursing policies, nursing leadership, nutrition, nursing practices, pharmacology, advanced health assessments, and more.

Full-time Direct Entry MSN students may complete their requirements in as little as two years. Part-time students take an average of five to six years when scheduling an average of two courses per semesters. To accommodate work schedules, a number of MSN programs may have distance learning options like online courses.

The following are the best colleges and universities to offer Direct Entry MSN programs.

1. New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University has a Direct Entry MSN option under their Roadrunners program. As part of the program, any Bachelor’s degree holder in a non-nursing major will earn an MSN and BSN at graduation. Students in the program must have completed certain science and introductory nursing courses to be eligible for program consideration. Graduate tuition costs for New Mexico State University are very low for in-state residents.

  • Tuition: $4,390
  • Admission Rate: 64%
  • Graduation Rate: 46%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

2. Augusta University

Located in Georgia, Augusta University has a Clinical Nursing Leader track for both current RNs and non-nursing degree holders. Upon program completion, graduates are able to take the NCLEX and the CNL certification examination simultaneously. Pre-licensure students will follow a different two-year track than RN and BSN students.

  • Tuition: $5,144
  • Admission Rate: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 27%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

3. California State University

California State University offers its Direct Entry MSN program on multiple campuses, including the following locations: Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Fullerton. Candidates must take all pre-requisites and pass the college’s TEAS entrance exam. Specializations offered for MSN students include Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Health Care Administration.

  • Tuition: $7,176
  • Admission Rate: 28%
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

4. Salem State University

The Salem State University Direct Entry MSN was designed specifically for students who hold Bachelor’s degrees, but wish to pursue a second career. Courses are held in the classroom and in clinical settings on a full-time basis for 15 months. Once 52 nursing credits are earned, students sit for the NCLEX and then can take their MSN courses on a full-time or part-time basis.

  • Tuition: $7,700
  • Admission Rate: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

5. University of Southern Maine

At the University of Southern Maine, degree holders in non-nursing disciplines are able to earn their MSN degrees through three years of full-time study. After the second year in the program, nursing students must take and pass the NCLEX in order to remain in good standing. Specialties open to MSN students include Family Nurse Practitioner, Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.

  • Tuition: $7,074
  • Admission Rate: 83%
  • Graduation Rate: 33%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

6. Metropolitan State University

Metropolitan State University’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences has an Entry Level MSN program that requires seven semesters of coursework. For admission, non-nursing students must have a Bachelor’s degree or higher and have finished the pre-requisite courses dictated by the Minnesota-based college.

  • Tuition: $7,472
  • Admission Rate: 56%
  • Graduation Rate: 27%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

7. University of Texas

The University of Texas at Austin offers what is called an Alternate Entry Master of Science in Nursing option. The Foundation Year of the program is an intense full-time course load to prepare students to take and pass the NCLEX. Students can work as registered nurses in Texas after passing the exam and will need two more years of study to earn their MSN degrees.

  • Tuition: $11,490
  • Admission Rate: 36%
  • Graduation Rate: 83%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

8. University of Wisconsin

Like many other direct entry programs, the University of Wisconsin’s graduate program for non-nursing degree holders offers a Master’s in Clinical Nursing Leadership. After 16 months in the program, students can sit for the NCLEX and then earn clinical hours as they fulfill the rest of their credits. Courses are held at the college’s Milwaukee campus. In-state tuition is approximately half the cost of out-of-state tuition for graduate students.

  • Tuition: $10,387
  • Admission Rate: 72%
  • Graduation Rate: 41%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

9. University of California

At the San Francisco campus of the University of California, non-nursing students can apply to the college’s Masters Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN). The three-year course of study features one year of generalized nursing knowledge and two years of specialized instruction. All clinical rotations are done at locations within a 50-mile radius of campus. In-state graduate students pay half the tuition cost of out–of- state students.

  • Tuition: $11,502
  • Admission Rate: 29%
  • Graduation Rate: 84%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

10. Ohio State University

Ohio State University’s Graduate Entry Option has the distinction of being included on U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Online Programs. The Graduate Entry Option will last a total of three years with students taking the NCLEX at the mid-point of the program. Students must choose a specialty with options including Nurse Midwifery, Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Leader, and more.

  • Tuition: $11,560
  • Admission Rate: 48%
  • Graduation Rate: 83%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

11. Mt. Saint Joseph University

At Mt. Saint Joseph University in Cincinnati, the direct entry pathway for nurses in called the MSN-MAGELIN program. The curriculum is designed to offer a shortcut to Bachelor degree holders who wish to change careers and become nurses. When courses are taken over four consecutive semesters, the program can be done in as little as 15 months. Graduates of the program enter the job market as generalists.

  • Tuition: $11,031
  • Admission Rate: 73%
  • Graduation Rate: 61%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

12. Trinity College of Nursing and Health Sciences

At Trinity College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Illinois, the MSN-DEP program is available to Bachelor degree holders who aim to earn their MSN and pass the NCLEX at an accelerated rate. The program is two years long and courses can be taken in hybrid form with some sessions requiring in-person meetings while others being done online. Trinity College of Nursing and Health Sciences’ tuition costs are very affordable with the college also reporting 100 percent graduation rates.

  • Tuition: $13,518
  • Admission Rate: 60%
  • Graduation Rate: 100%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

13. University of New Hampshire

The accelerated MSN program at the University of New Hampshire requires students to hold a B.A. or B.S. and pursue the Clinical Nurse Leader track. The full-time program requires 71 credits with courses held over five consecutive semesters. As a stipulation of program acceptance, students must agree to take and pass the NCLEX. At graduation, students receive MSN and will be eligible for CNL certification.

  • Tuition: $13,840
  • Admission Rate: 77%
  • Graduation Rate: 78%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

14. University of Toledo

The Graduate-Entry Clinical Nurse Leader Program at the University of Toledo blends classroom experience with clinical hands-on training. The program is open to non-BSN degree holders and requires a full-time two-year commitment. Graduates of the program must have passed the NCLEX and will pursue careers as nurse generalists or apply to doctorate programs.

  • Tuition: $13,429
  • Admission Rate: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 41%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

15. University of Maryland

The University of Maryland emphasizes within their varied program options that nursing can be a field entered through numerous pathways. Students in University of Maryland’s Direct Entry program will choose Clinical Nurse Leader as a specialty and earn both the BSN and MSN degrees. The program requires four semesters of full-time courses and at least one summer session. Tuition cost for Maryland residents will be deeply discounted for graduate courses.

  • Tuition: $13,990
  • Admission Rate: 57%
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

16. University of Virginia

The University of Virginia’s Direct Entry CNL is a Master’s program designed for students who have no background in the nursing field. After two years of study, individuals earn certification as a Clinical Nursing Leader. During the two years, CNL students will take courses at the Charlottesville campus while also doing clinical hours at the nearby UVA Medical Center.

  • Tuition: $15,552
  • Admission Rate: 27%
  • Graduation Rate: 95%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

17. University of Hawaii

The Graduate Entry Program in Nursing from the University of Hawaii at Manoa gives non-nursing Bachelor’s degree holders the opportunity to enter into the school’s graduate-level programs directly. Students enrolled in the program pursue one of the following degrees: Master’s in Advanced Health Population Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice, or Nursing Ph.D. The first year for all tracks is a three-semester pre-licensure course load.

  • Tuition: $15,288
  • Admission Rate: 83%
  • Graduation Rate: 60%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

18. Marquette University

Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program is designed for students with a Bachelor’s degree to use their non-nursing credits toward MSN degree completion. The Direct Entry program courses are available at the college’s Milwaukee and Pleasant Prairie locations. Online courses are also offered as a way to fulfill the 75-credit degree requirement.

  • Tuition: $19,800
  • Admission Rate: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 80%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

19. Seattle University

The Advanced Practice Nursing Immersion program at Seattle University is for bachelor’s degree holders who wish to earn their MSN degrees or move onto doctorate level of studies. The full-time option awards both a BSN and MSN to those who successfully complete the program. During the first year of program acceptance, pre-license classes such as Pathophysiology and Pharmacology are required.

  • Tuition: $19,426
  • Admission Rate: 74%
  • Graduation Rate: 75%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

20. St. Louis University

St. Louis University has a number of accelerated tracks for prospective nurses to earn advanced degrees. The Accelerated Generalist MSN prepares students with a Bachelor’s degree to achieve both licensing through the NCLEX and certification as a Clinical Nursing Leader. The program is completed over 21 months with a total of five semesters of courses.

  • Tuition: $19,800
  • Admission Rate: 64%
  • Graduation Rate: 77%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

21. Simmons College

As part of the Direct Entry MSN program at Simmons College, students are prepared to earn certification as a family nurse practitioner in just three years. For program consideration, students must obtain either a B.A. or B.S. from an accredited college or university. This Boston-based college boasts 100 percent pass rate for the NCLEX.

  • Tuition: $20,988
  • Admission Rate: 60%
  • Graduation Rate: 73%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

22. Seton Hall University

Seton Hall University is currently the only college in New Jersey to offer a direct entry option for non-nursing degree holders. The on-campus program is a fast-paced course of study done over a 21-month period. Graduates take both the NCLEX and the Clinical Nursing Leader certification exam. U.S. News  & World Report named Seton Hall’s graduate nursing curriculum one of the Top 75 Graduate Nursing Programs in the country.

  • Tuition: $21,816
  • Admission Rate: 73%
  • Graduation Rate: 67%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

23. University of Massachusetts

At the University of Massachusetts, the college offers the option of the Graduate Entry Pathway to non-nursing Bachelor degree holders. As an inclusion of the program, students first earn their licensing as registered nurses before choosing to pursue an advanced degree as an Advanced Generalist RN, Doctor of Nursing Practice, or Ph.D. in Nursing. In 2017, the NCLEX pass rate for Graduate Entry Pathway students was 97 percent. The program is held at the UMass Worcester campus.

  • Tuition: $23,143
  • Admission Rate: 23%
  • Graduation Rate: 97%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

24. Northeastern University

The School of Nursing at Northeastern University allows students the chance to transfer their non-nursing experience toward earning their MSNs. As part of the program requirements, students must complete 16 months of nursing education courses before sitting for the NCLEX. Following a minimum of six months of employment as a registered nurse, Direct Entry students then take their MSN degree classes.

  • Tuition: $23,408
  • Admission Rate: 27%
  • Graduation Rate: 87%
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

25. Wilkes University

The School of Nursing at Wilkes University has a Direct Entry pathway for non-nursing Bachelor degree holders who want to earn both their RN licenses and MSN degrees simultaneously. After 48 credit hours, students can take the NCLEX and continue with their graduate-level course loads. The Kaplan Admissions Exam with a score of 60th percentile or higher is required for admission to the program.

  • Tuition: $23,280
  • Admission Rate: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 60%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

26. University of San Francisco

University of San Francisco’s School of Nursing and Health Professions has both an RN to MSN track and a Direct Entry ME to MSN track. The Direct Entry program is intended to both prepare students for their NCLEX and educate on advanced nursing concepts. The Direct Entry program can be completed within six semesters and requires two years of full-time instruction.

  • Tuition: $24,210
  • Admission Rate: 66%
  • Graduation Rate: 77%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

27. Pacific Lutheran University

At Pacific Lutheran University, the Entry-Level MSN is for graduate students who want to earn their RN licensing and an MSN degree. The option does not include BSN conferment. The 27-month program includes a 15-month NCLEX prep course load followed by 12 months of Advanced Generalist studies. Classes and clinical sessions will be held at the college’s Tacoma, Washington location.

  • Tuition: $26,836
  • Admission Rate: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 70%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

28. Pace University

Pace University has a Direct Entry as a program option to perspective MSN students who are not currently RNs, but hold a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline. After completing 50 to 55 undergraduate nursing courses, a BSN in conferred and students can matriculate directly into the MSN program. Classes are held at the college’s Pleasantville, New York campus.

  • Tuition: $29,520
  • Admission Rate: 80%
  • Graduation Rate: 96%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

29. Boston College

Boston College’s Connell School of Nursing has a Direct Master’s Entry (MSE) program for all Bachelor’s degree holders in non-nursing disciplines. The college has 85 clinical partnerships in the Boston area for nurses to gain experience while pursuing their degrees. During the first year of the two-year program, students prepare for the NCLEX. The second-year shifts focus to the MSN specialized courses.

  • Tuition: $28,296
  • Admission Rate: 32%
  • Graduation Rate: 92%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

30. Sacred Heart University

Sacred Heart University is one of the few online MSN programs that do not require a RN license or BSN upon admission. Value Colleges named Sacred Heart as one of the Top 50 Best Value Online MSN Programs. Students set their own paces for program completion with courses completed anywhere from three to six years.

  • Tuition: $28,114
  • Admission Rate: 60%
  • Graduation Rate: 72%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

31. University of Pennsylvania

By attending the UPenn School of Nursing, students are receiving an Ivy League education as they pursue their MSN. UPenn has a number of options for students to earn their degrees at an accelerated rate, including the Direct Entry BSN-MSN. One of the standout features of UPenn’s program is applicants currently earning their Bachelor degrees are eligible for admission with pre-requisite courses allowed to be completed online.

  • Tuition: $33,604
  • Admission Rate: 9%
  • Graduation Rate: 96%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

32. University of Rochester

The University of Rochester offers non-nursing students the chance to earn both their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at an accelerated pace. The Bachelor’s portion of the Direct Entry MSN track can be done in just 12 months while the MSN portion takes an average of three to four years, depending on the specialty selected. Due to the college’s close association with the nearby University of Rochester Medical Center, a large number of MSN graduates secure positions within the facility.

  • Tuition: $38,304
  • Admission Rate: 34%
  • Graduation Rate: 85%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

33. Thomas Jefferson University

The Direct Entry program at Thomas Jefferson University permits students who have a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing major to pursue their MSN degrees in a condensed program of study. The BSN portion of the program will take 27-months of full-time class hours while the MSN portion requires 15 months of coursework.

  • Tuition: $37,394
  • Admission Rate: 64%
  • Graduation Rate: 25%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

34. Yale University

At Yale University’s Yale School of Nursing, direct entry students can enroll in the college’s Graduate Entry Prespecialty in Nursing Program. The program is a total of three years of graduate study with the first year focused on basic nursing knowledge before tackling advanced clinical practices. After the prespecialty year is done, students must receive RN licensing through Connecticut to continue on with the program.

  • Tuition: $41,000
  • Admission Rate: 7%
  • Graduation Rate: 97%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

35. Regis College

At Regis College’s School of Nursing, Science, and Health Professions, the nursing degrees have multiple tracks as a way to accelerate how quickly students can enter the job market. The direct entry option as Regis College is called the Accelerated Nurse Practitioner BS/MS in Nursing and is designed to help students jumpstart their careers by meeting certain milestones. For instance, at 16 months, students are ready to take their NCLEX exams. At the conclusion of the second year, students earn their BSNs and then start on their graduate coursework.

  • Tuition: $39,820
  • Admission Rate: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 46%
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

36. Columbia University

Columbia University’s School of Nursing offers a Master’s Direct Entry (MDE) option for non-nursing students. For consideration, applicants must have a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. MDE students do not require a specialty and program completion can be finished as quickly as 15 months.

  • Tuition: $44,864
  • Admission Rate: 7%
  • Graduation Rate: 95%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

37. MGH Institute of Health Professions

The MGH Institute of Health Professions gives nursing students the opportunity to have clinical placements in Boston’s top medical facilities. The nursing school’s Direct Entry MSN program is a three-year program with the option for students to choose one out of seven specialties. The program boasts a 96 percent pass rate among first-time NCLEX test takers.

  • Tuition: $46,925
  • Admission Rate: 31%
  • Graduation Rate: 96%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education

38. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University in Tennessee offers a PreSpecialty program for non-nursing students who aim to earn their MSN at a faster rate. Through a three-semester PreSpecialty year to study, students are able to learn generalized nursing concepts and practices. In addition, 700 clinical hours are required as part of the PreSpecialized curriculum. In 2017, 97 percent of PreSpecialty students passed the NCLEX as a first-time test taker.

  • Tuition: $45,840
  • Admission Rate: 11%
  • Graduation Rate: 92%
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

39. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University has one of the most highly respected nursing schools in the country. Their nursing programs place over 90 percent of students within the John Hopkins Health System. Along with a non-nursing Bachelor’s degree, prospective Direct Entry students must take 17 to 20 credits of online pre-requisite health courses. The MSN program for direct entry students is a five-semester full-time commitment.

  • Tuition: $52,170
  • Admission Rate: 13%
  • Graduation Rate: 93%
  • Accreditation: Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education and Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Ranking Methodology

The direct entry MSN programs compiled by RNtoBSNProgram.com were ranked using the following criteria:

  • Tuition cost (annual cost for graduate students/in-state cost where applicable)
  • Graduation rate
  • Availability of direct entry MSN program
  • Accreditation

To determine how to rank each of the nursing schools in the United States with a direct entry program available, we researched and evaluated each school’s estimated cost of tuition per year and graduation rate, letting each value make up equal portions (50%) of each school’s score. All programs were required to have current accreditation for inclusion onto the list and have a direct entry option advertised as part of their degree track offerings.

All nursing schools appearing on this list are invited to contact RNtoBSNProgram.com to suggest edits. Any nursing schools not appearing can also contact us to request a review of their available direct entry MSN programs.

Our mission at RNtoBSNProgram.com is to help nursing students find the top degree programs in the nation. We research and review accredited programs as a way to recommend the best opportunities for nurses to continue their education and stay competitive with an advanced degree.

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