Can You Get an MSN Without a BSN?

May 29, 2021

Interested in making the change to a nursing career? You may be trying to decide what kind of degree program to pursue. The good news is that there are many paths into nursing for career changers like you. In fact, it’s now possible to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) without having to earn a bachelor’s in nursing first. The programs that make it possible for you to earn an MSN with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree are called direct entry MSN programs (sometimes also known as entry level MSN programs).

Direct entry MSN programs are designed to help career changers like you enter the nursing profession with an advanced degree. Entering nursing with an MSN offers benefits to you and to the patients you’ll care for as a registered nurse (RN). In this article, we’ll explain how you can get your MSN without a BSN and why you should consider it.

How to Earn an MSN Without a BSN

To get a master’s in nursing without a BSN degree, you’ll need to find a direct entry MSN program near you. While some schools will combine online coursework with in-person training, it isn’t possible to earn an MSN without a BSN through a completely online program. This is because new nurses need hands-on training in simulations and labs before they begin clinical rotations (for this reason, you should also expect to be a full-time student when earning your direct entry MSN).

Fortunately, more and more schools are beginning to offer direct entry MSN programs. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there were 64 direct entry MSN programs operating in the U.S. as of 2018, with another 13 planned to launch in 2019.[1]

While requirements will vary by school, the basic steps you need to take to enroll in a direct entry MSN include:

  1. Locate a program near you – Explore our program options on
  2. Ensure you meet program requirements – An MSN degree is a graduate degree, so you’ll need to have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and maintained a strong GPA—usually a 3.0.
  3. Confirm you have completed all prerequisites – Direct entry MSN programs include a significant amount of health science coursework. You will need to have completed prerequisite classes before you enroll. The exact requirements will vary by school, but usually include a statistics course, biology and chemistry with labs and a psychology or human development course. Some direct entry MSN programs also require you to have taken a first aid or CPR course. If you are missing some prerequisites, you may have the option to complete courses online. Check with the school for more information.
  4. Complete the application process – Finally, you’ll want to enroll in your direct entry MSN program. This usually involves arranging to have transcripts sent to the school, writing an essay, obtaining letters of recommendation and paying a fee. Additional requirements for nursing programs may include having a physical exam, ensuring your vaccinations are up to date, and completing a criminal background check.

What Are the Benefits of Earning an MSN Degree?

Direct entry MSN programs offer you a number of advantages as you enter your nursing career. These can include:

  • Standing out in the job market – Employers are likely to take note of your master’s degree when hiring new nurses. Having an MSN on your resume shows that you are capable of assimilating advanced material and have learned higher-level patient care, research and leadership skills.
  • Positioning you for specialization faster – Entering nursing with an MSN means you can be ready to pursue post-master’s certification as a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist or nurse educator much sooner than you would with only a bachelor’s degree. You will also build the foundation you need to pursue doctoral-level study in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or nursing PhD program later.
  • Enhancing your earning potential – While salary varies by employer and location, it is likely you may earn more as a nurse with an MSN. In March 2021, the average reported salary for BSN graduates on was $86,091[2], while MSN graduates earned an average of $95,470[3].
  • Gaining advanced skills – The patient care skills you learn in an MSN program are more advanced than those taught in a BSN degree. In addition, a direct entry MSN will also teach you more about evaluating and conducting nursing research, policy advocacy and nursing administration than a BSN program. This advanced knowledge can position you for management-track or leadership roles faster than earning your BSN alone.

In addition, doing a master’s in nursing without earning a BSN first does not take much longer than earning a BSN as a second degree. In many cases, direct entry MSNs only take about two months longer than an accelerated BSN program, offering significant long-term career benefits in exchange for a little more time in the classroom.

Career Opportunities for an MSN Graduate

After earning your direct entry MSN and passing the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN®), you will be ready to provide patient care in a hospital setting as an entry-level RN.

In addition to becoming an RN, getting an MSN without a BSN means you can be ready to pursue additional training that can lead to more advanced nursing career paths much faster. Here are a few examples of roles you can pursue when you earn an entry level MSN.

  • Registered Nurse – Once you have your MSN, you can take the NCLEX-RN and obtain a license to practice as a registered nurse in your state. As an RN, you’ll care for patients in hospitals, clinics and outpatient settings as part of a team of professionals. RNs make up the largest single profession in healthcare, according to the AACN[4], and job growth is projected to be strong over the next decade. According to the BLS, job openings for RNs will grow by 7% from 2019-2029, almost twice as fast as the national average growth rate of 4% for all professions.[5]
  • Nurse Educator –You can become a nurse educator and play an important role in shaping and growing the nursing profession. Nurse educators teach in classrooms and supervise student nurses, ensuring they learn the skills and knowledge necessary to care for patients and advance the art and science of nursing. Nurse educators are in demand, with the BLS projecting 18% growth in job openings from 2019-2029.[6]
  • Nurse Administrator – Earning a direct entry MSN can also position you to become a nursing administrator or manager. Nurse administrators provide practical and strategic leadership within healthcare organizations They ensure the quality of nursing care, manage financial issues for their departments, and oversee hiring and professional development of their nursing staff. Nurse administrators are classed as medical and health services managers by the BLS, which projects 32% growth in job openings from 2019-2029.[7]
  • Nurse Practitioner – After earning your entry level MSN, you can complete a post-master’s certification program to become a nurse practitioner (NP). These nurses provide advanced and primary care in a number of specialty fields, including adult-gerontology NPs, mental health NPs, pediatric NPs and more. You can also train to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP), leading to a career in primary care for patients of all ages. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 52% growth in NP job openings from 2019-2029, making it one of the fastest-growing career fields in healthcare.[8]
  • Nurse Midwife – With an entry level master’s in nursing, you are also positioned to pursue additional courses that lead to certification as a nurse midwife. In this role, you can focus on caring for expectant mothers and babies before, during and after birth. The BLS projects that job openings for nurse midwives will grow by 12% from 2019-2029.[9]

Explore Our DEMSN Programs

We hope this article has clarified how you can earn an MSN without a bachelor’s in nursing and the advantages of choosing a direct entry MSN to start your nursing career. We’re proud to partner with some excellent nursing schools that offer direct entry MSN programs. We invite you to explore our selected DEMSN programs today. Best of luck getting started in your nursing career!

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