Many established working professionals have many years of experience in another field, whether it is business, the arts or something else. But as the years go by in your chosen profession, perhaps you feel a need to do something different. Some people decide to make a career change and enter the healthcare field – specifically the field of nursing.
A career change into nursing makes a lot of sense: You have a great opportunity to directly affect people for the better. And, you can work in a field with plenty of job demand and high salaries.
The supply of primary care NPs is projected to increase by 30 percent, from 55,400 in 2010 to 72,100 in 2020. The supply of primary care PAs is projected to increase by 58 percent, from 27,700 to 43,900 over the same period. – US Department of Health and Human Services
Direct Entry vs Entry Level
For these reasons, many professionals today are choosing to obtain their direct entry MSN degree, also known as their entry level MSN degree. Whether you call it ‘direct entry MSN’ or ‘entry level MSN,’ they both have the same meaning: an MSN program designed for an experienced professional in another field with a bachelor’s degree in that field.
The Master of Science in Nursing is generally the entry level nursing degree for most of the higher paying nursing professions, known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRN):
- Nurse practitioner: Be a primary care provider, and potentially specialize in women’s health, adult gerontology, pediatrics, neonatal, mental health, acute care or emergency care.
- Certified nurse midwife: Provide comprehensive women’s health services and also care to newborns.
- Certified nurse anesthetist: Provide complete anesthesia services to patients undergoing many types of surgeries.
- Nurse educator: Train the next generation of nursing professionals at the university level.
- Clinical nurse specialist: Advanced practice nurse who is an expert at diagnosing or treating illnesses in a specific area, such as oncology, diabetes or cardiac care.
With an entry level MSN degree, an established professional with a bachelor’s degree in another field can enter nursing directly – without earning another bachelor’s degree. As you can imagine, this can save you as much as two or three years of educational time and a lot of money.
A direct entry MSN degree takes approximately three or four years to complete. In the first year or two, you will cover most of the Bachelor’s of Nursing (BSN) subject material, and then cover the advanced nursing material in the latter half of the program.
One of the most important aspects of the direct entry or entry level MSN program is obtaining your RN designation so that you can practice as a nurse and get essential clinical experience.
How to Get Your Entry Level MSN Degree
The process of earning your MSN as a direct entry student generally works as follows:
- You enter the accelerated nursing master’s program at a graduate level. For the first four semesters, you will primarily take undergraduate nursing classes. After you have taken the equivalent of a bachelor’s program of nursing courses, you then are prepared to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) after you complete approximately 64 hours of classes. You then have earned your BSN after you have your RN designation.
- Next, you will need to obtain RN experience on at least a part time basis, or possibly full time. This part of most direct entry MSN programs requires at least a year of RN experience, preferably in pediatrics, adult care and neonatal care. If you are taking an online nursing program, it will be your responsibility to find relevant RN work experience, but your university should be able to assist you in this as needed.
- After you have gained adequate nursing experience, you then will need to take your master’s degree classes. Many students continue to take their master’s classes on a part time basis and they continue to gain RN work experience. Completion of the MSN program at this stage can take an addition two or three years.
- After you have obtained your MSN degree, you are eligible to take your National Certification exam for your advanced nursing practice speciality – nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, or nurse educator.
Curriculum for Entry Level MSN Program
Because you are taking both BSN and MSN classes, your nursing program must cover all of the basics and more advanced topics of the nursing field. For example, at Northeastern University’s online program, you can expect to take classes including:
- Nursing Interventions, Assessment and Community Care
- Lab for Nursing Interventions, Assessment and Community Care
- Pathophysiology for Advanced Practice
- Nursing with Women and Families
- Clinical Nursing for Women and Families
- Advanced Pharmacology
- Nursing Care of Adults
- Nursing and Mental Health
- Clinical for Nursing Care of the Child
- Health Care Research
- Managing and Leading in Nursing
- Health Informatics
Another excellent online entry level MSN degree option is Emory University. This program allows you to earn your BSN in only 15 months, and then your MSN in only two years. Emory’s program is ranked #8 in the US for graduate nursing education according to US News and World Report.
General Direct Entry MSN Requirements
To be eligible for an entry level MSN program, you will generally need the following:
- Bachelor of Arts or Science from an accredited university
- GPA of 3.0 or higher
- Three letters of recommendation, consisting of two academic and one professional, or vice versa.
- Personal goal statement about why you want to become an advanced practice nurse
- Completion of science class with lab, such as microbiology, chemistry or physiology.
- Volunteer experience in patient care.
To ensure that your online MSN program is of rigorous quality, please remember to ensure that it has been accredited by a major, national body of accreditation. The most important accrediting body for nursing is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or CCNE. CCNE accreditation operates according to nationally recognized standards of accreditation in the US. Look for CCNE accreditation in any MSN program you are considering.
Remember bove all that you can transfer from a totally different profession and enjoy a fascinating and rewarding nursing career with your MSN degree. Use our website to learn more about the rewarding field of nursing.