I am a Vanderbilt graduate. The wording in the Vanderbilt program is a little different. They consider "direct entry" those who have BSNs and are just doing their MSN. They have "pre-specialty" for those coming in with a BA/BS in another field of study and essentially doing an accelerated nursing program then the specialty piece. However, those that stop after the accelerated nursing piece, I'm told have difficulty getting just a nursing position as it is not a formal BSN. It's presumably called pre-specialty as the field of choice is open to include FNP, CNM, WHNP and others. They also have the dual specialties which often add an additional semester or two of coursework. As my name indicates, I was dual CNM and FNP (which I highly recommend if you are so inclined). Students must choose their desired specialty upon applying to the pre-specialty program. As previously indicated, it is highly competitive and a full time load. The pre specialty students take their NCLEX in the first semester of their specialty program. So it requires time dedication on your part to independently study.
My opinion: I was a direct entry student because I had done an accelerated, 12 month BSN program 3 years prior. I was working as a nurse on the floor in both med surg and women's health. (there were many ICU and med surg nurses in my program; you do not need to work women's health) I attended the program part time and worked full time until it was time to travel. Most programs will require travel of some sort to clinical sites. The Vanderbilt program has a clinical placement office that is completely dedicated to finding your clinical site. There is no work on your part. This is unlike some other programs that ask you to find your own preceptors and if you don't, you run the risk of sitting out a semester. So this will be something important to ask when looking at potential schools. Do I find an advantage having been a practicing RN over my colleagues who have not worked formally as an RN?- not so much. We are often told that by two years out, you can not tell the difference between the two groups as far as competency. There is still some push back from older, experienced advance practice nurses regarding the nursing experience prior to pursuing advanced degrees but I think this is fading away somewhat; especially with the significant health provider shortage.
I do not recommend the AA route for you, especially considering what you have stated as your long term goal. I also take it, you want something that is not going to be an extended time commitment. If you do decide you would like to be a RN first, there are many accelerated BSN programs out there. Mine was 12 months but has since changed to 16 months at the University of Michigan. I encourage you to look at the list I posted below. All the programs will vary in length for BSN and vary in specialty offerings for MSN.
Below is the link to the accelerated BSN programs:
Below is the link to the accelerated MSN progams:
On another note, Vanderbilt has now created the "seamless transition" which allows you to bridge up once more to the DNP or PhD track and to my knowledge, without secondary application.
Good luck on your journey and excited to one day call you a colleague.