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Salem State (SSU) Direct Entry MSN Program overview

brsm brsm (New) New

My partner is a current student of Salem State University's direct entry MSN program on the NP track. We found that during the application process last fall, we could find very little information about this program, so I thought I'd write up a summary of everything we now know, in order to help other prospective students. As her partner, I'm writing this because she, understandably, is far too busy in school and at the hospital to have the time to put something like this together!

Program Overview

SSU's direct entry MSN program offers people with non-nursing Bachelor's degrees the opportunity to earn a Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN). Students in the program will graduate with an MSN in Nursing Education, Nursing Administration, or Nursing Practice (AGNP). Students will also take the NCLEX and earn their RN during the program. Students do not earn a BSN as part of this program.

The program starts with a 15 month accelerated portion that catches students up with a typical Bachelor's-educated nurse. At the end of this accelerated portion, students take the NCLEX and become Massachusetts RNs. This is very similar to an accelerated BSN program, though you don't earn a BSN.

After the accelerated portion is completed, you can begin the MSN portion of the program either full time or part time. However, if you are on the NP track you are required to work as an RN full time for 6 months before you can enroll in any NP clinical rotations. You are allowed to take classes during that 6 months, though.

Program Timeline

The program starts in mid-May of each year. This is unusual, as most programs start in the fall. The advantage of this is that you can apply in the previous fall or winter and start school within just a few months, rather than wait almost a whole year to get started. That means you finish sooner and get working sooner!

The program starts with two short, 6 week summer semesters. The first semester runs from mid-May to the end of June. This is called Summer 1. The Summer 2 semester starts a week later and runs from July to the middle of August. You will have a different clinical rotation each semester.

After the summer sessions, you have two weeks off and then have typical fall and spring semesters starting after Labor Day. You have all the normal college breaks and do not have clinical rotations during these breaks.

The last summer before you take the NCLEX, you will have a nursing preceptorship. My partner has not reached this part yet, so I don't have a lot of information on it. However, we're expecting that this is basically working full time as a nurse under the guidance of another nurse (your preceptor). I'll update this when we know more.

Application and Acceptance

Applications for the program start in the fall and go until roughly the start of the New Year. For us, the application deadline was originally January 15th, and was pushed out to February 15th at some point in December. I don't know if that's typical or just unique to last year, so don't count on them extending the deadline!

SSU does not require the GRE, so I strongly recommend skipping that! Instead, they accept the MAT, which is a much simpler, 1 hour test. Save yourself the time and stress of the GRE, and just do the MAT. This will let you focus on what you really want to do, which is nursing.

Once you've applied, you should hear from them in March for an interview request. However, I strongly suggest calling and emailing regularly to stay on top of what's going on. In our case, they "lost" my partner's application and so we did not hear from them until sometime in April. By then, she had already assumed she didn't get in and had accepted a spot at Simmons instead. That cost us $750 (because Simmons sucks), so it pays to stay on top of this! In comparison to Simmons, SSU has no acceptance fee.

Available Tracks and Class Size

Be aware that you may get into the direct entry program but not into the track you wanted. The AGNP track is the most competitive. My partner's class size is 16 and 4 of those students are on the AGNP track. The rest are split between Education and Administration.

There may be opportunities to switch tracks after you start, so it pays to stick with it even if you don't get the track you want. For the first 15 months, everyone is doing exactly the same things.

Semester Structure - Accelerated Portion

Each semester, you will have 2 classes and a clinical rotation. The clinical rotation is typically 2 days per week for 8-10 hours each day. Your rotation is at the same hospital for the whole semester. You will be at different hospitals each semester and the hospitals can be anywhere on the North Shore (from Boston up to the NH border). Examples of hospitals available in the program so far are: Lawrence General, Holy Family in Methuen, and North Shore Medical Center in Salem. SSU has a full list of hospitals they work with on their site.

In our experience so far, before the start of each semester the program will let students know what the upcoming rotation will be and provide a few different options for days and times of the rotations. Time slots are generally either morning (7-3) or afternoon (12-8). Usually all the students are at the same hospital, but there could be two hospitals to choose from.

The unspoken rule for missing clinical time is that everyone is allowed to miss one clinical day per semester. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but the clinical coordinators seem to try to schedule in extra time for everyone to ensure they meet their required minimums for each rotation. However, you definitely don't want to push this! Not to mention, you are there to learn, so the more time you spend in the hospital, the better you will be prepared to do your job.

Program Cost and Financial Aid

One of the things that attracted us to the SSU program was its cost. It is one of the least expensive direct entry MSN programs in the country. SSU is an established school with a solid reputation for BSN students. Their direct entry MSN program is relatively new and the AGNP portion in particular has only been around for a few years, so the program is fairly unknown. This creates a great opportunity to get into a small class for low cost and still get the same NP degree as the big-name, big-$$$ schools.

The cost is lower for MA residents, but is still very reasonable for out of state students. All the students in my partner's class are from MA, so I do not know if they prefer MA residents or if they just rarely get applications from out of state.

Financial aid is a bit tricky at SSU. Although the cost of the school is low, they also under-report the tuition cost to the government for the purposes of financial aid. What this means is that you will not qualify for the full loan support you probably need. In our case, we're expecting to receive about $35,000 in government loans to cover the 15 month accelerated portion of the program. This is enough to cover tuition and all school costs, but leaves only about $700 extra each month for gas, car payments, food, rent, etc. Depending on your situation, this may not be enough to cover all of your costs. There is the ability to appeal your financial aid award and request they qualify you for higher loan amounts, but that takes extra time and effort.

However, all that aside, it's extremely refreshing to think that you will finish the first part of the program with only $35,000 in debt. After the first part of the program, you are expected to work full or part time as an RN for the remainder of the program, which essentially means you should accrue no additional debt. This puts the total cost of the program at a fraction of the cost of other direct entry programs and should mean you're out of debt within only a few years of getting to work as an APRN.


I hope this info was helpful to anyone looking into the SSU direct entry program. I will keep updating this as we learn more and we're happy to answer any questions people may have, provided we're able to. And good luck with wherever you choose to apply.

Thanks so much for doing this, I was accepted to the BSN, but withdrew since I have a BA and MS already. SSU is my number one choice, BUT there has NEVER been any info on the program from someone who has attending/is attending. This is great and makes me know that I definitely want to get into here. I am hoping to do the Adult NP track as well.

This is so helpful! Thank you for posting. Does your partner have any idea if people wanting to work as an RN after the first 15 months of the program, and passing the NCLEX, have had any issue since the program does not technically award a BSN?

I'm glad people have found this post useful!

Alicat01, to answer your question, we have heard that it can be harder to find a job without a BSN. This seems to be mainly because employers are confused that you are an RN, but don't have a degree in nursing. The lack of BSN is definitely one of the downsides to the program, but it isn't unusual for Massachusetts. Only two Boston-area programs we know of award a BSN as part of their direct entry programs, Regis and Northeastern, and they are both very expensive programs. The way we figured, even if it takes a little longer to find a job, that lost salary is peanuts compared to the tuition savings.

As a quick update, we now know details for the spring semester of the accelerated first year. The spring semester is treated as two semesters with two different rotations. The first rotation is pediatrics and the second is obstetrics. There is also an additional community health rotation that covers the entire spring. Clinical options for pediatrics were Beverly Hospital, Northshore Medical Center, and Boston Children's Hospital. Clinical options for obstetrics were Melrose/Wakefield Hospital, Winchester Hospital, and MGH. She will be at Children's and MGH, which is great for us since we live in Boston. The community health rotation seems to be up to the students to choose the location; we're still waiting on information for that.

Again, thanks so much brsm!!! This is supremely helpful and gives me so much more insight.

SSU direct entry was my #1 choice. I was heartbroken to find out they are not running the program this upcoming chorot.

good luck to everyone in the program!

As of 2016, SSU has discontinued the direct entry MSN and replaced it with with an accelerated BSN program called the Accelerated Second Degree BSN. The program is basically the same, but it now counts as undergraduate for the 15 months and awards a BSN degree. This is actually a huge improvement in the program and makes it one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, accelerated BSN programs in the state.

To give a final update on our experience with the program, my (now) wife finished the accelerated portion and passed her NCLEX in August. She is now working full time as an RN while continuing on the MSN portion. Her final nursing preceptorship was at Brigham & Women's hospital for about 300 hours over about 10 weeks. It was an absolutely fantastic experience for her and she learned quite a bit.

Besides Brigham, other students had preceptorships at Beverly Hospital, Lahey Hospital in Burlington, North Shore Medical, Melrose/Wakefield Hospital, Winchester Hospital, Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, Salem Hospital, and Boston Medical Center.

When applying for jobs, she did have some challenges because of the lack of BSN, mainly because many employers only give you the choice to check "yes" or "no" on their form applications about if you have a BSN. However, other than that, most employers seemed to be aware of accelerated programs, and SSU also gave her a "letter of equivalency" stating that she was just as qualified as an SSU student holding a BSN.

Overall, it took her just under 3 weeks to find a job from the day she passed her NCLEX. But the BSN issue shouldn't be a problem anymore since all new students will earn a BSN under the new program. Our only question now is if SSU will be retroactively awarding BSN degrees to the people who completed the old program. ;)

Hello! May I ask why you say "Simmons sucks"?

I'm just curious because i'm planning on applying there when the application begins. You might have entire different experience which I am very interested to hear about :)

Thank you!


Hi, that was a tongue in cheek comment inspired by our perceived greediness of Simmons. We found $750 to be a very high acceptance fee compared to most schools, especially considering SSU has no fee at all. And the total unwillingness on the part of Simmons to refund us that money when my partner notified them a few days later that she'd decided to choose a different school really left a bad taste with us.

If you'd like to read more about our decision between Simmons and SSU, I'd recommend my other thread: https://allnurses.com/student-nurse-practitioner/should-cost-matter-917204.html

Thank you for your valuable feedback. I hope the program is going well for your partner. $750 is indeed a huge amount of money. Unbelievable. Thank you for your valuable comments. i'll always bear them in mind!


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