Do you have a degree in a field other than nursing but want to be a Nurse Practitioner? Learn how to find NP programs for non-nurses and not waste time in the process!
I spent months upon months researching the various nurse practitioner programs (NP) available for non-nurses. In a stressful period when essay-writing, reference-seeking, and GRE-taking consumes your valuable time, there is little time to waste on endless Google-searching. So let me help! Hopefully your head will spin a little less in the long-run than mine did!
Since beginning my program at Vanderbilt, I have had many friends reach out asking how on Earth I am becoming a NP without being a RN first? Well, it takes a very specialized program directed at individuals with a previous bachelor’s degree, seeking a career change in healthcare. NP programs for non-nurses are generally accelerated to expedite nurses and providers into the workforce. You will quickly catch on that no program is created equal. There are many moving parts that will affect your interest in or ability to apply to a specific program.
(Read about my career change from Hollywood to Healthcare!)
Here are a few short-cuts and recommendations of what to consider when choosing researching programs.
TIP #1: APPLY FOR THE RIGHT JOB TITLE & ROLE
Not all accelerated master’s in nursing (MSN) programs lead to a Nurse Practitioner (NP) license. Many MSN programs lead to a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) role, so this is very important to pay close attention to.
What’s the difference between a CNL vs NP??
Put simply, a CNL’s scope of practice is similar to a registered nurse (RN), but with more leadership training and abilities. Unlike NP’s, CNL’s cannot prescribe medications and they do not have diagnostic authority. Thus, CNL’s are more likely to work within an acute care setting (ie. hospital) and an NP is more likely to work in outpatient or a private practice. NP’s are also specialty focused (ie. family practice, midwifery, pediatrics…), whereas CNL’s hold a more generalist role.
Key Takeaway: Triple and quadruple check that the schools you are interested in will award you the title and credentials you are seeking!
TIP #2: GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR SEARCH
Not all MSN programs for non-nurses are called “direct entry”. This took me MONTHS to realize (ugh). After searching high and low, I came across other titles such as “PreSpecialty” (ie. Vanderbilt), “Masters Entry Program in Nursing” (ie. UCSF), and “Accelerated BNS-MSN” (ie. UPENN). In fact, the “direct entry” MSN program at Vanderbilt is for already licensed RN’s seeking their MSN. Confusing, I know.
What I advise is to go through the list of MSN schools on the US News ranking list, see which programs are in ideal locations for you, then search for an “accelerated MSN” program within that specific university. The AACN has also compiled a list of MSN programs for non-nurses. However, I have found this list is not 100% up to date and the majority of the programs lead to a CNL certification, not NP.
Key Takeaway: Try searching “accelerated MSN” or “NP programs for non-nurses” rather than “direct entry”. And again, quadruple check that NP or CNL title, whichever is the best fit for you!
TIP #3: DO YOU WANT A BSN + MSN OR JUST THE MSN?
If a second bachelor’s degree is important to you and your career goals, make sure the program awards a BSN as well as the MSN. Vanderbilt, for example, will not award me a BSN. I will obtain my nursing license and become a registered nurses after the first year is complete, but I will not have a second bachelors degree. UPenn, on the other hand, does award one.
TIP #4: CHECK THE TIMELINE OF EACH PROGRAM
I found that programs vary anywhere from two years (Vanderbilt) to four years in total (UPenn – due to a six-month break between the BSN and MSN portion). This makes a big difference when planning your future!
TIP #5: PLAN FOR PREP WORK
Do your research on what prerequisites each program requires, as some are more extensive than others. Some require multiple years of chemistry, for example, while others do not require any. Incorporate this prep time into your future goals and be patient with it – it’s all worth it in the long-run! It took me a full year-and-a-half to complete my pre-req’s… on top of my four-year degree. This is also an opportunity to go back to school and add some A’s to your transcript and possibly bolster your GPA. These courses lay the foundation for your future profession and should be taken just as seriously as the graduate coursework!
TIP #6: GET ORGANIZED
Make sure you are compiling a list of what is needed for each school and keep track of any unique or uncommon requirements. I recommend putting an Excel sheet together with each school’s application date, prerequisites, interview date, letters of recommendation, start date (these vary as well!), minimum GRE score (yup, gotta take that tedious exam), and any other information that may help you stay organized.
Here is a short list of accelerated NP programs to get you started:
(Note: This may be outdated so quadruple check all information before relying on it)
Vanderbilt University (ranked #6 in the nation): 2-year program; Tuition: $19k/semester for 6 semesters ($115,000 total)
University of California San Francisco (#4): 3-year program; Tuition: First 12-months = $55,000.00, MSN portion = $37,012.00/year ($129,000 total)
Oregon Health & Sciences University (#7): 3-year program (BSN = 5 quarters, starting in summer); Tuition: $55k for the first year; MSN portion: $65k ($120,000 total)
University of Pennsylvania (#2): 4-year program; BSN = 18-months (June-Dec), MSN = 16-months (Sept-Dec); GRE goal: 150+ and 50th percentile
Emory University (#8): 3-year program
Seattle University (Unranked): 2-year program
Head spinning yet?:) Comment below if you have any questions! I’m happy to help!
Samantha K. says
I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog! I have read every post so far and you and I have the exact same situations. I live in Texas currently and there is only one direct entry program for non nurses and it awards you a CNS, not NP. Once I finished reading your posts I went to Vanderbilt’s website and it’s gotten me excited again because this is exactly what I’m looking for.
That is wonderful! I’m adding new posts and information on this topic throughout the next few weeks so keep checking back!
Samantha K. says
I can’t wait!
Hi Angie! I just discovered your blog! I am so happy to have found it because I am currently applying to this exact program and Vanderbilt is my first choice school! Reading your posts have made me even more excited about it! I was just wondering, did you have any hands on experience when applying? I have shadowed but don’t have any hands-on experience and worry that this is the biggest weakness in my application.
Hi Erin, I had 2.5 years experience as a PT aide working at a spinal cord/brain injury hospital in Denver. I also had some experience working abroad in Nicaragua as nurse’s aide and I volunteered at a hospital in Colorado in a med/surg dept. However, there’s a handful of students who had zero experience and were admitted so don’t let that stop you from applying. I’d say be humble about the fact that you don’t have direct nursing experience but highlight what you DO bring for experience. They realize this is a career change for many people. Some were attorneys, pharmacists, or something completely unrelated to the healthcare field before being admitted. They know that many do not have nursing experience – they don’t expect you to! What they do expect is that you have a solid understanding of what it means to be a nurse and can articulate why you want to be one. Hope that helps!
Mariam H. says
Thank you so much for this post! I have been trying to draft a comprehensive list of MSN programs that are geared towards non-nurses, but still result in the ability to practice as an NP upon completion. Throughout my research, I’ve seen a profuse amount of Master’s programs offering the CNL speciality, or just a nurse generalist degree (with an opportunity to obtain an RN license).
I appreciate the comment you made about the titling of these degree programs. “Direct entry” and “accelerated entry” and “alternate entry” are such confusing terms! It’s really important to discern what each program offers and who qualifies for them.
I’ll be bookmarking this post 🙂
Thanks for the sweet comment! So glad you found this helpful! I hope it saves some search time and stress 💛
Love it! Glad you found it useful!!
Lindsey Barritt says
Angie, I am SO HAPPY that I found your blog. I am graduating with my bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences and just realized that I can become a NP without nursing schooling. I am confused on the advanced practice (DNP programs) and MSN programs. Do I have to get a MSN degree before applying to NP school or are there programs where everything is combined into one program?
There’s programs that include the RN portion with the MSN and you are a licensed NP at the end! Check out this other post https://sincerelyangie.blog/2017/06/18/nurse-practitioner-programs-for-non-nurses/
Adrianne Petrilla says
Hi Angie! Cool to see you go to Vandy. I went there for my undergrad. Graduated in 2010 with degrees in Geology and Religion, now I’m looking at this program that you’re in. 🙂 I am wondering, what, if any, would be the disadvatage to not being granted a BSN? Just curious…. thanks in advance!
Hi Adrianne – the answer is quick and simple, none!! No one will ever ask if you have your BSN. All employers and other healthcare providers care about is that you have your MSN and are a certified NP. 🙌🏼
Hi Angie, thank you so much for putting this information out into the world! I am excited to be working toward applying to Vanderbilt. I’ve taken prereqs but currently have no related work experience. I won’t be applying for at least a year, so I have that much time to get experience that will be attractive to Vanderbilt. If you were in my position, what type of volunteer work or job would you get to gain relevant experience? I appreciate any advice you can share.
Thanks for visiting the site! I am now offering mentoring services for aspiring NPs. Personal consulting, program advice, essay edits. If you or anyone else is interested, shoot me an email! We can set aside a time to chat:)