13 Best Direct Entry NP Programs for Non-Nurses | 2024

Discover the best Direct Entry Nurse Practitioner (NP) programs available in 2024. Learn more about their prerequisites, requirements, costs, salary expectations after graduation, and more. Programs

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Direct Entry Nurse Practitioner (NP) programs are a beacon for career change, offering an accelerated route to accomplishing your goals. These programs are meticulously structured, combining foundational nursing knowledge with specialized training, to equip students with the skills necessary for high-level nursing practice.

Whether you're drawn to the promise of making a difference in population health, aspire to leadership roles in nursing, or are simply curious about the profession, you've come to the right place. Join us as we explore the best NP programs that can transform your passion for health into a thriving career.

What Is a Direct Entry NP Program for Non-Nurses?

Direct Entry NP programs for non-nurses, also known as accelerated NP programs, offer a pathway for individuals with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field to enter the nursing profession at an advanced practice level. These programs typically lead to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, with a focus on preparing students for the NP role and certification.

Direct Entry NP Coursework

Students can expect to take courses in:

  • Foundational Nursing Knowledge: Including human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology.
  • Advanced Practice Nursing: Such as health assessment, diagnosis, and management of acute and chronic illnesses.
  • Specialty Courses: Depending on the NP track chosen, courses may focus on pediatrics, family care, women's health, psychiatric-mental health, or adult gerontology.
  • Healthcare Policy and Leadership: Preparing students to understand and influence healthcare systems and policies.
  • Research and Evidence-Based Practice: Teaching students to apply research to clinical practice to improve patient outcomes.

Direct Entry NP Clinical Training

Clinical training in Direct Entry NP programs is intensive, providing hands-on patient care experience under the supervision of experienced NPs and other healthcare professionals. Types of clinical training include:

  • Primary Care Rotations: Students gain experience in family practice, women's health, pediatrics, and internal medicine.
  • Acute Care Settings: Including hospitals, emergency departments, and urgent care, where students learn to manage complex health issues.
  • Specialized Clinical Rotations: In areas such as psychiatry, gerontology, or oncology, depending on the student's area of focus.
  • Community Health Settings: Offering experience in public health and community-based care to understand broader health determinants and disparities.

Direct Entry NP Specialty Options 

Direct Entry NP Program Prerequisites & Requirements

While varying by institution, Direct Entry NP programs for non-nurses typically require specific prerequisites and admission requirements that must be met to ensure students are prepared for the high intensity of the accelerated program and the demands of the role.

Direct Entry NP Prerequisites

  • Bachelor's Degree: Non-nursing bachelor's from an accredited institution.
  • GPA: Minimum standard, often around 3.0.
  • Prerequisite Courses: Typically includes human anatomy, physiology, Microbiology, statistics, psychology, and nutrition.
  • Healthcare Experience: Some form of experience in a healthcare setting may be required.
  • Standardized Tests: GRE scores might be necessary for some programs.

Direct Entry NP Requirements

  • Application: Completed form with all post-secondary transcripts.
  • Recommendations: Letters from academic and professional references.
  • Personal Statement: An essay detailing motivations for becoming an NP.
  • Resume/CV: Documenting educational and professional history.
  • Clinical Hours: Supervised clinical experience in various healthcare settings.
  • Licensure: NCLEX-RN completion may be required at some point in the program.
  • Technical Standards: Ability to meet the profession's physical and emotional demands.
  • Background Check: Clean criminal record and drug screening for clinical work.
  • Immunizations: Up-to-date vaccinations as per clinical site requirements.

Best Direct Entry NP Programs for Non-Nurses

The following schools have been selected based on allnurses' methodology of surveying our readers to understand what they value most and with the addition of graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rates of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

1. Yale University

In Orange, Conneticut, Yale University's Graduate Entry Prespecialty in Nursing (GEPN) program is a pioneering path for those without a nursing background to pursue advanced practice nursing. This accelerated three-year program leads to an MSN degree, offering a comprehensive nursing education. After completing the first prespecialty year, GEPN students advance to graduate studies, which include theory, practice, and research. Admission to the program also guarantees admission to your chosen specialty. 

Yale offers seven NP specialties: Adult-Gerontology Acute or Primary Care NP (AGAC-NP) (AGPC-NP), Family NP (FNP), Pediatric Acute or Primary Care NP (PPNP) (PANP), Psychiatric Mental Health NP (PMHNP), and Women's Health NP (WHNP). 

GEPN Program Overview: 

  • Tuition Cost: $68,462 (year one), $49,017 for each following year
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Credit Hours: 45 (year one), remainder of credit hours specialty dependent
  • Clinical Hours: 357 (year one), remainder of clinical hours dependent on specialty
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Program Highlights:

  • Accelerated Pathway: The GEPN program is an intensive, three-year course that combines basic nursing preparation with advanced training.
  • Diverse Career Opportunities: Graduates are equipped for a variety of roles in advanced clinical practice, leadership, and further education, including post-master's certificates or doctoral studies.
  • Holistic Curriculum: The program emphasizes a balance between the arts and sciences, recognizing the diverse experiences and knowledge that students bring to nursing.
  • Clinical Experience: Students gain experience in both acute-care hospital units and community settings, aligning with Yale School of Nursing's mission for better health for all.
  • Integrated Education: The curriculum integrates preventive and curative practices, underscoring the importance of both the art and science of nursing.

2. The Ohio State University

Building on the foundation provided by a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field in Columbus, The Ohio State University's Graduate Entry MSN program opens the door to advanced practice nursing. This program equips students with the essential education and clinical experience for diverse roles in healthcare.

Following the initial phase, the program evolves into the Graduate Entry curriculum. This curriculum seamlessly integrates online and on-campus classes, beginning with core nursing and health subjects and then progressing to specialized coursework and varied clinical practicum experiences. The clinical practica, offered in multiple locations, are key to gaining the hands-on training required for certification in various nursing specialties.

OSU offers five NP specialties: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP (AGACNP), Pediatric Primary Care NP (PPCNP), Family NP (FNP), Psychiatric Mental Health NP (PMHNP), Women's Health NP (WHNP), and Neonatal NP (NNP). 

Graduate Entry NP Program Overview: 

  • Tuition Cost: $9,682 per semester (OH residents); $22,982 per semester (non-residents).
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Credit Hours: 96-116, dependent on NP specialty pathway.
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Program Highlights:

  • Specialized Education: Students can choose from nine unique specializations at the time of application, allowing for a tailored educational experience.
  • Accelerated Curriculum: The program can be completed in approximately three years of full-time, year-round study, after fulfilling prerequisite requirements.
  • NCLEX Preparation: Students take the NCLEX-RN at the midpoint of the program.
  • Advanced Practice Focus: The program's primary goal is to prepare graduates for advanced practice nursing in diverse clinical settings, including private practices, clinics, hospitals, and more.
  • Comprehensive Training: The curriculum includes coursework, clinical experience, and research, ensuring a well-rounded advanced practice education.
  • Collaborative Learning: There is a strong emphasis on active, collaborative relationships between faculty, The Ohio State University Medical Center's teaching hospitals, and community-based preceptors.
  • Licensure and Certification: The program meets advanced practice registered nurse licensure requirements in the State of Ohio and is approved by the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

3. University of Cincinnati

The Accelerated Direct-Entry MSN program at Ohio's University of Cincinnati is designed for individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field and wish to transition into a nursing career. This program enables students to earn an MSN degree and become licensed RNs in just five semesters. It also lays the groundwork for graduates to further their education and become NPs.

UoC offers five NP Specialties: AG-ACNP, AG-PCNP, FNP, NNP, WHNP.

Accelerated Direct Entry MSN NP Program Overview:

  • Tuition Cost: $836 per credit (OH residents), $861 per credit (non-residents)
  • Duration: Five semesters, approximately 2-3 years. 
  • Credit Hours: 60
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Students holding a bachelor's degree but lacking the necessary prerequisites can opt for the Pre-Accelerated Direct Entry MSN pathway, which guarantees subsequent admission to the Accelerated Direct Entry MSN program. This preliminary segment involves part-time study across three semesters, encompassing six fundamental courses, such as anatomy and physiology, for a total of 22 credits.

Program Highlights:

  • Rapid Completion: The program's structure allows students to complete their MSN degree in five semesters.
  • Interdisciplinary Opportunities: As part of the region's only Academic Health Center, the program offers unique interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities within the medical campus.
  • Diverse Clinical Experiences: Students benefit from a variety of clinical experiences, including at a level I trauma center and a top pediatric hospital, many of which are within walking distance.
  • Simulated Learning: The program includes simulated patient care experiences to prepare students for independent functioning.
  • Technology-Enhanced Education: Classrooms are equipped with the latest technology to enhance learning.
  • Small Class Sizes: The program emphasizes personalized attention with small class sizes.
  • NCLEX Preparation: There is a built-in preparation for the NCLEX nurse licensure exam.

4. Vanderbilt University

Out of Nashville, TN, Vanderbilt University's PreSpecialty program offers an accelerated pathway for individuals with non-nursing bachelor's degrees to become advanced practice nurses. The program includes three semesters of generalist-level nursing courses, followed by completion of the chosen specialty, which typically takes an additional three semesters, leading to an MSN degree.

Upon completing the first year of pre-specialty courses, students declare their specialty, selecting from ten different NP specializations.

Vanderbilt offers nine NP Specialties: AG-ACNP, AG-PCNP, ENP, FNP, NNP, PNP-AC, PNP-PC, PMHNP, and WHNP. 

PreSpecialty NP Entry Program Overview:

  • Tuition Cost: $1,939 per credit hour
  • Duration: 6 semesters, approximately 2 years. 
  • Credit Hours: 43 (year one), the remainder of credit hours specialty dependent.
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Program Highlights:

  • Accelerated Format: The program enables students to rapidly transition into advanced practice nursing with a three-semester PreSpecialty year followed by specialty training.
  • Comprehensive Clinical Experience: Students complete a minimum of 700 hours in diverse clinical settings, including hospital inpatient units, children's hospitals, community agencies, mental health centers, and psychiatric hospitals.
  • Specialty Options: Students can choose from a range of specialties such as Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse-Midwifery, and more.
  • Prerequisite Courses: Applicants must complete specific prerequisite courses within five years of application to be eligible for the program.
  • RN Licensure: Following the PreSpecialty program, students in good standing take the NCLEX-RN in the first semester of the Specialty program and must become RNs before beginning specialty-level clinical courses.

5. Emory University

Emory University's Master of Nursing (MN) Pathway to MSN program in Atlanta, GA, offers a fast track for individuals with no prior nursing experience to become advanced practice nurses. The program is structured to allow students to first earn a Master of Nursing in 15 months, which qualifies them to become licensed as RNs. Following this, students can pursue an MSN, which prepares them for licensure as NPs. This program is specifically designed for students who hold bachelor's degrees in disciplines other than nursing.

MN Pathway to MSN NP Program Overview: 

  • Tuition Cost: $24,198 per semester or $2,017 per credit hour. 
  • Duration: 4 semesters, approximately 15 months. 
  • Credit Hours: 60 credit hours for the MN portion of the program. 
  • Clinical Hours: 519 credit hours for MN portion of the program.
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Upon completion of the MN pathway, students can choose to enter one of the following MSN specialty options AG-PCNP, FNP, PPCNP, or WHNP.

Program Highlights:

  • Fast-Track to Advanced Practice: The program provides a rapid route from a non-nursing bachelor's degree to advanced practice nursing.
  • Specialty Areas: Students can choose from four specialty areas: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Primary Care, and Women's Health/Gender-Related Studies.
  • Clinical Experience: The program offers extensive clinical training in numerous sites in Atlanta and across the U.S.
  • Global Opportunities: Emory prepares nurses to become globally engaged citizens, with opportunities for international learning experiences.

6. Marquette University

Marquette University's Direct Entry MSN program in Milwaukee, WI, is designed for individuals with a non-nursing bachelor's degree who are seeking a fast transition into a nursing career. The program can be completed in 19-21 months and is available in both hybrid online and traditional formats. It emphasizes a combination of advanced nursing courses, hands-on labs, and real-world clinical practice to prepare graduates for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam and a future as nursing leaders.

Direct Entry MSN NP Program Overview: 

  • Tuition Cost: Estimated annual tuition of $63,000
  • Duration: Five semesters over 19-21 months. 
  • Credit Hours: 75
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Upon completing this program, students can either begin working as an RN or seamlessly transition into Marquette's Post-Master's Advanced Nursing Certificate Program to pursue their Nurse Practitioner (NP) credential. Marquette offers a variety of NP specialty options, including Adult or Pediatric Acute Care NP (ACNP) and Adult or Pediatric Primary Care NP (PCNP).

Program Highlights:

  • Flexible Learning Formats: Choose between hybrid online or traditional on-campus coursework to fit your learning style.
  • Advanced Simulation Labs: Utilize high-fidelity simulation centers to hone nursing skills in a safe, controlled environment.
  • Diverse Clinical Rotations: Gain experience in top healthcare facilities across Metro Milwaukee, Southeast Wisconsin, and Northeast Illinois.
  • NCLEX Preparation: Overall MSN NCLEX pass rate of 93%.

7. Simmons University

Located in Boston, MA, Simmons University's Nursing MSN Direct Entry Program is an inclusive program designed for students from all academic backgrounds. It is structured to prepare students to deliver primary health care to diverse populations across the lifespan. The program, which can be completed in 3-4 years, prepares graduates to take the family nurse practitioner (FNP) certification exam.

MSN Direct Entry Program Overview: 

  • Tuition Cost: $1,559 per credit hour pre-licensure coursework, $1,235 per credit hour post-licensure coursework. 
  • Duration: 3-4 years dependent upon pace. 
  • Credit Hours: 54 pre-licensure coursework, 40 post-licensure coursework. 
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Students holding a bachelor's degree but lacking the necessary prerequisites can opt for the Pre-Accelerated Direct Entry MSN pathway, which guarantees subsequent admission to the Accelerated Direct Entry MSN program. This preliminary segment involves part-time study across three semesters, encompassing six fundamental courses such as anatomy and physiology, for a total of 22 credits.

Program Highlights:

  • Inclusive Approach: Open to students from all academic backgrounds, not limited to those with a health sciences degree.
  • Primary Health Care Focus: The program emphasizes the delivery of primary health care across various stages of life.
  • FNP Certification: Graduates are prepared for the FNP certification exam, a credential that expands their scope of practice.
  • Pace: After completing the first four semesters of pre-licensure coursework, students can choose a full-time or part-time plan of study. 
  • Robust Clinical Partnerships: Simmons boasts affiliations with elite teaching hospitals and research institutions, offering students rich clinical practicums and valuable research opportunities.

8. University of Rochester

The University of Rochester in NY State offers an Accelerated MSN Program for individuals who already hold a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing discipline. This program allows students to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in just 12 months and then continue to one of the NP specialties at the master's level. It is designed for those who wish to make a career change to nursing and specialize as NPs on an expedited timeline.

UofR offers five nurse practitioner specialties, setting a standard in fields like 

ABSN/AMSN Program Overview: 

  • Tuition Cost: Estimated ABSN total tuition $81,630 and $1,740 per credit hour for MSN courses. 
  • Duration: 3-4 years total; 12-24 months (ABSN), 2-3 years (MSN).
  • Credit Hours: 49 (ABSN), MSN credit hours specialty dependent. 
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Program Highlights:

  • NCLEX-RN Preparation: After completing the BSN, students are prepared to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain RN licensure.
  • Competitive and Selective: Admission to this program is highly competitive due to limited slots, and it requires prior healthcare experience relevant to the chosen specialty.
  • Flexible Start Dates: Students may begin the program in the Spring or Summer semesters after completing prerequisite course requirements.
  • Rigorous Clinical Experience: The program includes clinical experiences at the University of Rochester Medical Center, providing a deep dive into the nursing profession and healthcare industry.

9. University of California San Francisco

The University of California San Francisco's (UCSF) School of Nursing provides an exceptional Master's Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) designed for individuals holding a bachelor's degree in a field outside of nursing. This transformative three-year accelerated program confers a Master of Science degree in nursing, equipping graduates with advanced nursing skills in clinical practice, community health, and policy.

The program begins with an intensive first year focusing on the essentials for RN licensure, followed by two years of specialized graduate training in a chosen field of nursing. As a student, you will be immersed in clinical rotations and fieldwork, primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area, gaining practical experience and knowledge to prepare for an RN license and a master's degree in your selected specialty.

MEPN Program Overview: 

  • Tuition Cost: Estimated annual tuition cost of $11,700.
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Unit Hours: 68.5 (year one), remainder of unit hours will be dependent upon specialty t total. 
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Program Highlights:

  • Diverse Clinical Exposure: Students gain experience across various renowned Bay Area medical centers.
  • National Certification Eligibility: Graduates qualify to apply for certifications pertinent to their specialty.
  • Dedicated Faculty: Expert educators lead students through both theoretical and practical nursing aspects.
  • Specialized Graduate Training: After initial licensure, the program offers diverse specialty tracks for advanced nursing practice.

10. University of Vermont

The Direct-Entry DNP program at the University of Vermont in Burlington is an accelerated degree program that prepares individuals with a baccalaureate degree in a field other than nursing to provide primary care as APRNs. This program is distinct in that it leads to a doctoral degree, the DNP, which is one of the highest levels of education in nursing practice.

Students can choose from two NP specialty pathways in this program, AGNP or FNP.

Direct Entry DNP Program Overview: 

  • Tuition Cost: Estimated annual tuition cost of $11,700.
  • Duration: 11 semesters, approximately 4 years. 
  • Credit Hours: 106-112, dependent on specialty. 
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Program Highlights:

  • Advanced Degree: The program offers a DNP degree, which is a terminal degree in nursing practice.
  • National NP Certification: Pass rate of 100% from 2020-2022. 
  • On-Campus Learning: The curriculum is delivered on campus, providing in-person learning experiences.
  • Format: Courses available through on-campus, hybrid, remote synchronous, and asynchronous online formats, with a car required for travel to rural clinical sites.

11. Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University offers an Entry-Level MSM (ELM) program that is tailored for individuals who have a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing. Located in Azusa, CA, this accelerated graduate nursing program allows students to complete prelicensure courses and selected graduate nursing courses in the first four semesters in an accelerated format. This is followed by a clinical residency, preparing students for the RN licensure examination. After obtaining their RN license, students continue with courses leading to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

Students in the ELM program have the option between four MSN specialties, including AG-PCNP, FNP, PNP-PC, and PMHNP. 

ELM Program Overview: 

  • Tuition Cost: $860 per unit, with an estimated total base cost of $92,880-$103,200.
  • Duration: Four 16-week semesters for the pre-licensure portion of the program, the remainder of the program duration will be dependent on your chosen NP specialty. 
  • Unit Hours: 108-120; 69 pre-licensure and 44-56 post-licensure, specialty dependent. 
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Program Highlights:

  • Accelerated Pathway: The program's accelerated nature allows students to quickly transition into the nursing field.
  • Clinical Residency: Students engage in hands-on clinical residency, gaining valuable experience in patient care.
  • Christian Environment: The program is delivered within a supportive Christian environment, integrating faith with learning.
  • Experienced Faculty: Students learn from faculty who have real-world experience in the nursing field.
  • NCLEX Pass Rate: 80%
  • Diverse Care Settings: The program prepares students to provide care for diverse groups, including the underserved and homeless, during clinicals.

12. University of Texas - Austin

The Alternate Entry MSN (AE-MSN) program at the University of Texas at Austin is designed for individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field and wish to pursue a career in nursing. This program provides a pathway to both an RN license and an MSN degree. The AE-MSN program includes a rigorous academic and clinical training regimen, preparing graduates to assume entry-level positions and to advance in their nursing careers rapidly.

Students have the option to choose from two NP specialties, PMHNP and PC-PNP. 

AE-MSN Program Overview: 

  • Tuition Cost: $1,418 per credit hour. 
  • Duration: Three years at a full-time pace. 
  • Credit Hours: 84-86
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Upon passing the NCLEX-RN students are eligible to work as an RN in the state of Texas. 

Program Highlights:

  • Concentration Areas: Students can choose from several concentration areas including Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Leadership in Diverse Settings, Psych/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.
  • Clinical Training: The program offers extensive clinical training, with faculty assisting students in individualizing their education by facilitating work in hospital or non-hospital clinical areas.
  • Certification Preparation: Graduates are eligible to take national certification examinations for recognition as a Clinical Nurse Specialist, among other roles.
  • Leadership Development: The Leadership in Diverse Settings (LeaDS) program prepares graduates to provide leadership in a variety of patient-centered healthcare, community, and educational settings.

13. Northeastern University

Northeastern University's Direct-Entry Nursing program in Boston, MA, offers a unique opportunity for students with non-nursing undergraduate degrees to pursue a career in nursing. This program leads to both a BSN and an MSN.

Students in Northeastern Bouve College of Health Sciences have the option to choose from five NP specialty tracks: FNP, AG-ACNP, AG-PCNP, PNP-PC, and PMHNP. 

Direct Entry Nursing Program Overview: 

  • Tuition Cost: $21,750 per semester. 
  • Duration: Sixteen months for the bachelor's portion of the program and 2-3 years for the master's portion. 
  • Credit Hours: 64 for the bachelor's portion of the program and 36-42 for the master's portion. 
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

Program Highlights:

  • Clinical Experience: After obtaining RN licensure, students are required to work full-time as a registered nurse for one to two years, depending on their chosen specialty track.
  • Transition to Practice: The program includes two semesters of online "transition to practice" courses, allowing students to retain their status for loans and insurance purposes while obtaining crucial RN experience. 
  • Advanced Courses: Upon completing the transition courses, students can enroll in advanced courses in their chosen MS specialty track.
  • Experiential Learning: Northeastern emphasizes experiential learning, with clinical affiliations at top-notch health centers, hospitals, and clinics, covering a wide range of nursing specialties.

Direct Entry NP Program Costs & Salary Expectations

Although the costs of Direct Entry NP programs can be significant, completing one can result in high-paying careers in nursing. However, these costs and salary expectations can vary based on numerous factors.

Direct Entry NP Program Costs

Direct Entry NP programs can vary in costs depending on several factors such as the institution, location, length of the program, and whether the program is at a public or private university. Here are some general considerations:

  • Tuition Fees: Can range from approximately $20,000 to over $100,000 for the entire program.
  • Additional Expenses: Books, supplies, equipment, and uniforms can add several thousand dollars.
  • Living Costs: Housing, food, and transportation must be considered, especially if the program requires full-time study without the possibility of employment.
  • Clinical Fees: Some programs charge extra for clinical placements or lab work.
  • Certification and Licensure: Costs for taking the NCLEX-RN and NP certification exams, as well as licensure fees.
  • Financial Aid: The availability of scholarships, grants, and student loans can offset costs, but vary by institution.

Direct Entry NP Program Salary Expectations

The latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report that the national average NP salary is $124,680. However, this will fluctuate on many factors including location, years of experience, type of NP, and more.

The top-paying states for NPs are:

  • California: $158,130
  • New Jersey: $143,250
  • Massachusetts: $138,700
  • Oregon: $136,250
  • Nevada: $136,230

Learn more about the top-paying states in our comprehensive nursing salary guide.

Unfortunately, the BLS doesn't specify between different types of NP concentrations. However, according to ZipRecruiter, the average salaries for NP specialties are:

  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP): $124,024
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): $128,141
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): $125,190
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP): $139,590
  • Women's Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP): $130,333
  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP): $223,503

Are Direct Entry NP Program Worth It?

Like any educational pathway, Direct Entry NP programs have pros and cons that are important to consider when deciding whether they're right for you.

Direct Entry NP Pros:

  1. Accelerated Path to Advanced Practice: Direct Entry NP programs provide a fast-track route for individuals to move from a non-nursing background to advanced practice nursing, often in just a few years.
  2. Broadened Access to Nursing: These programs open up opportunities for those who have decided on a nursing career later in life or after completing a degree in another field.
  3. Comprehensive Education: Students receive a complete education that includes both RN training and advanced practice curriculum, preparing them for a wide range of roles in healthcare.
  4. High Demand for NPs: With a growing need for healthcare services and primary care providers, NPs are in high demand, which can lead to job security and higher salaries.
  5. Diverse Specializations: Direct Entry NP programs often offer various specializations, allowing graduates to work in areas such as family practice, pediatrics, gerontology, or psychiatric mental health.

Direct Entry NP Cons:

  1. Intensity of Program: The accelerated nature of the program can be very challenging, with a heavy workload and little time for other commitments.
  2. Cost: These programs can be expensive due to their accelerated pace and the amount of coursework required, potentially leading to significant student debt.
  3. Clinical Experience: Some argue that Direct Entry NP students may lack the depth of clinical experience that traditional BSN-RN-NP pathways provide, potentially impacting readiness.
  4. Stress and Burnout: The rigorous demands of these programs can lead to high levels of stress and burnout, which may affect performance and well-being.
  5. Competitiveness: Direct Entry NP programs can be highly competitive, with limited spots available, making admission difficult for some prospective students.

Importance of Attending an Accredited NP Program

Attending an accredited NP Program is important for several reasons:

  • Quality Assurance: Accreditation ensures the program meets established standards for education quality, preparing graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge.
  • Eligibility for Certification: Graduates of accredited NP programs are typically eligible to sit for national certification exams, which are required for practice in most states.
  • State Licensure: Many state licensing boards require completion of an accredited program for NP licensure.
  • Career Opportunities: Employers often prefer or require candidates who have graduated from accredited programs.
  • Further Education and Advancement: Accredited degrees are generally recognized and accepted by other educational institutions for advanced studies or specializations.

Accrediting bodies include the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

NP State Scope of Practice

The scope of practice for Nurse Practitioners (NPs) is an intricate matrix defined by state regulations, shaping their autonomy and role. State laws may grant NPs independent practice rights, while others may impose requirements for physician oversight. Before choosing an NP Program, it's critical to explore these state-specific laws to ensure the program's compatibility with regional practice conditions. A thorough understanding of the scope of practice in your targeted state, along with the nuances of your chosen NP specialty, is crucial to aligning your education with your career objectives.

Considerations for prospective NPs include:

  • State Licensure: Securing a license in your state of NP practice is mandatory, with relocation necessitating a new licensure application. 
  • Practice Authority Levels defined by American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP):
    • Full Practice: States like New York, Nebraska, and Colorado permit NPs to assess, diagnose, manage diagnostic tests, and initiate treatment plans, including prescriptions, autonomously.
    • Reduced Practice: In states like New Jersey, Alabama, and Wisconsin, NPs encounter limitations in certain practice aspects, necessitating collaborative agreements or supervision for patient care.
    • Restricted Practice: States like California, Texas, and Florida demand career-long MD supervision for NPs, limiting at least one aspect of their practice.
  • Continuing Education: License renewal and continuing education mandates vary by state and must be adhered to for maintaining licensure.

Aspiring Nurse Practitioners planning to seek licensure outside the state of their training should thoroughly investigate the Board of Nursing regulations in their intended state of practice. This crucial step ensures a comprehensive understanding of the unique guidelines and specific requirements that govern NP practice within that jurisdiction.

National NP Certification

Certification for Nurse Practitioners (NPs) is distinct from state licensure, with each certification corresponding to a specific NP specialty. Holding a certification mandates that NPs practice within that specialty's scope, and acquiring certifications in multiple specialties is possible if one chooses to broaden their practice. Here is a list of the primary NP certification boards, along with the specialties they cover:

American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB): Provides FNP, AGPCNP, ENP, and PMHNP certifications.  

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC): Offers certification across ten different NP specialties. 

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Certification Corporation: Specializes in certifications for Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) and Acute Care Adult-Gerontology NP (ACNPC-AG).

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB): Provides certification for Pediatric Acute and Primary Care NPs. 

National Certification Corporation (NCC): Certifies NPs in Neonatal and Women's Health NP. 

Each board upholds specific standards and competencies for the practice areas under its purview, ensuring that certified NPs are equipped with the expertise required for their chosen specialty.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is the focus of coursework in Direct Entry NP programs?

Coursework focuses on foundational nursing knowledge, advanced practice nursing, specialty courses based on the NP track, healthcare policy and leadership, and research and evidence-based practice. It prepares students for roles in population health, nursing leadership, and nursing administration.

Q: Are Direct Entry NP programs available in person, or can they be completed online?

Most Direct Entry NP programs require in-person attendance due to the hands-on nature of the clinical training. However, some programs may offer certain coursework online, but clinical components are typically completed in a clinical setting.

Q: How many credit hours are required for a Direct Entry NP Program?

The number of credit hours varies by program, but typically ranges from 70 to 90 credit hours, including both coursework and clinical practice hours, to meet the requirements set by the CCNE.

Q: What career paths are available after completing a Direct Entry NP Program?

Graduates can pursue various career paths as advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), including family care, pediatrics, adult-gerontology, psychiatric-mental health, and women's health, often in leadership roles within healthcare settings.

Q: Can I work while enrolled in a Direct Entry NP Program?

Due to the intensity and time demands of these programs, full-time enrollment may limit the ability to work. Some programs may offer part-time tracks, but this will extend the duration of the program.

Editorial Team / Admin

Erin Lee has 12 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care, Procedural, Care Coordination, LNC.

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