The Best Online Direct-Entry MSN Programs for 2020
Earning an MSN through an online direct-entry program is a great way to launch your nursing career if you have a bachelor’s degree in different area, but finding the right school isn’t always easy. To help get you started, we’ve researched direct-entry MSN programs for non-nursing majors offered online by schools throughout the U.S. and evaluated them based on a variety of factors, including accreditation, affordability, and curriculum comprehensiveness. The result is our list for the top online direct-entry MSN programs for 2020. Here’s a closer look at three of the very best:
Direct-Entry MSN Online Program Overview
Direct-entry MSN programs for non-nursing majors are designed for career changers and other individuals who have a bachelor’s degree but no prior nursing experience. These programs provide a straight path to becoming a professional nurse while awarding an advanced degree at the same time. And online direct-entry MSN programs offer an additional level of flexibility and convenience not available with traditional fully on-campus programs. It’s important to understand, however, that all direct-entry MSN programs, whether they feature online study or not, require on-campus attendance for certain classes and labs. On-campus attendance is most typically required in the pre-licensure phase of the degree program, but some on-campus visits may be required during the program’s graduate-level phase as well. Additionally, students must complete a substantial number of clinical hours at health care facilities either in close proximity to the school or in or around the student’s local community.
FAQs About Online Direct-Entry MSN Programs
What You’ll Learn in an Online Direct-Entry MSN
Since direct-entry MSN programs are designed for individuals with no prior background in nursing, students in these programs receive a solid education in foundational nursing concepts and practices, as well as specialized knowledge and skills that prepare them for advanced practice and leadership roles in the profession. By the end of the program, students should be able to:
Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of professional knowledge and the application of critical-thinking skills to improve healthcare outcomes throughout the nursing process.
Provide safe, efficient, and respectful patient-centered care through all levels of care across diverse patient populations.
Provide efficient, effective, and ethical management of healthcare resources across the spectrum of care settings.
Demonstrate the ability to assume leadership roles in a range of healthcare systems and settings.
Demonstrate comprehensive communication skills, both written and oral, in leading interdisciplinary healthcare teams.
How to Check Accreditation for Direct-Entry MSN Programs Online
Accreditation of colleges and universities – and the programs they offer – is the means by which students and the public are assured that the schools and programs meet important standards of academic quality. There are two basic types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation is administered by several national and regional agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Programmatic accreditation of direct-entry MSN programs in the U.S. is administered primarily by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), although programs may also be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
It is critical that prospective students confirm both institutional and programmatic accreditation of any and all degree programs they are considering. Accreditation information can typically be found on program and school websites. You’ll also find accreditation information by visiting the CCNE and ACEN websites, or by using the search feature on the DOE’s Database of Accredited Institutions and Programs (DAPIP) webpage.
Next Steps After Earning Your Direct-Entry MSN Online
Earning a direct-entry MSN requires a major commitment of time and effort. But the doors that your degree can open for you make that commitment well worth it. Here’s a look at what you’ll be doing next once you have your degree in hand.
Passing the NCLEX-RN Exam and Getting Your Nursing License
Chances are good that you will sit for the NCLEX-RN examination following completion of the pre-licensure component of your direct-entry MSN program. If not, then taking and passing the exam will be your first order of business upon graduation. The NCLEX-RN examination is a national exam, so you may sit for it at any exam location that is most convenient to you regardless of where you earned your degree or where you intend to practice.
After passing the exam, your next step will be to apply for RN licensure in the state (or states) in which you intend to practice. While passing the NCLEX-RN exam is a requirement for RN licensure in all U.S. states, it is not the only requirement. Each state has its own unique set of licensure requirements, so be sure to contact the board of nursing in each state you intend to practice for detailed licensure information.
Career Options: What You Can Do with Your MSN Degree
Once you’ve received your license, you’re ready to move right into a challenging and rewarding job as a registered nurse. And having earned an MSN degree, you’ll likely find higher-paying positions with better career growth potential than RNs without an MSN degree. While the great majority of direct-entry MSN grads will enter careers as RN’s, others will find additional job opportunities available as well. Below are three examples of careers you might pursue as an MSN program graduate. All job outlook and salary figures are taken from the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET and Occupational Outlook Handbook websites.
**Nursing instructors and teachers, postsecondary.
Education Advancement Paths
For many individuals, earning an MSN degree will mark the end of their academic endeavors in the nursing profession. However, those with an interest in moving up into the very top-tier of nursing leadership can continue their academic studies to earn a doctoral-level degree. There are three options available for these highly-ambitious nurses:
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
The DNP degree is designed for nurses seeking to participate in the highest levels of clinical practice. DNP curriculums emphasize clinical and leadership knowledge and skills that allow graduates to apply the latest research findings to improve care systems and the treatment outcomes of their patients. In short, think of the DNP as the “nursing practice” doctorate.
PhD in Nursing
The PhD in Nursing prepares graduates for careers as researchers and policy-makers. PhD holders lead interdisciplinary research teams in designing and conducting academic studies meant to improve nursing and broader healthcare practices, especially in the areas of chronic illnesses and care protocols. In short, think of the PhD in Nursing as the “nursing research” doctorate.
Doctor of Education (EdD) in Nursing
Available from only a small number of schools in the U.S., the EdD in Nursing is designed for professionals specifically interested in advanced teaching, administrative and leadership positions in nursing academic or staff development settings. In other words, the purpose of the EdD in Nursing is to prepare nurses to lead the way in advocating change in nursing education.