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For those with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing who aspire to become a nurse practitioner (NP), a direct-entry nurse practitioner degree program may be precisely what you need to succeed.

These programs are designed to fast-track your journey into advanced nursing roles, typically taking just three to four years to complete. Upon graduation, you can pursue several different rewarding careers. General NP roles offer a median salary of $121,610, while specialized positions, such as Nurse Midwife, offer a median salary of $129,650, and Nurse Anesthetists, an impressive $212,650.

How to Choose a Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Program

Choose your area of study

Selecting an area of study for this degree is crucial, as each specialization will prepare you for different career outcomes. To choose the right one, consider asking yourself:

  • What patient populations am I most passionate about?
  • Do I prefer acute or primary care settings?
  • What health issues interest me most?

Specializations may vary slightly depending on the program you attend, but typical options include Family Nurse Practitioner, focusing on comprehensive family care; Pediatrics, specializing in children’s health; Adult-Gerontology, catering to adult and elderly patients; and Psychiatric-Mental health, addressing mental health needs.

Research schools and programs

With your specialization in mind, you can now conduct more focused research on schools and programs. You may come into this process with questions of your own, but here are a few more to guide your research further:

  • Is the program accredited?
  • What are the clinical placement opportunities, and how is this process organized?
  • What is the program’s pass rate for certification?

You can find answers to these questions on school websites, by attending open houses, or by connecting with admission counselors.

Prepare for tests and applications

You’ll want to start early to best prepare for tests and applications. While specific application requirements will vary depending on the program, many of these programs share standard criteria:

  • Official transcripts from all previous institutions
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Resume or CV
  • GRE scores, if required

For these programs, in particular, requirements for standardized test scores vary significantly. Always double-check this criterion, and be sure to enroll in a test prep program to help boost scores if needed.

Select your program

When acceptance letters arrive, you may have a big decision to make. Revisit your initial research criteria and focus on what matters most to you, such as program reputation, clinical opportunities, and specialization strengths. Then, assess the overall cost of attendance and compare it with available financial aid options.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Financing your degree can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Start with scholarships, which don’t require repayment and are often awarded on merit. Next, consider grants. Although more common for undergrads, some may be available for graduate students.

If you’re interested in part-time work, look into assistantships that offer stipends or tuition waivers in exchange for research or teaching work. Employer tuition reimbursement programs can significantly offset costs if you’re employed in a related field. Federal loans can help bridge financial gaps, but it’s important to practice responsible borrowing, as every dollar taken out on a loan will eventually have to be repaid with interest.

Best 50 Accredited Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Programs

Top Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Degree Programs_2024 badge
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Ohio State University
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University of Cincinnati
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Yale University
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Vanderbilt University
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Marquette University
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Simmons University
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San Francisco State University
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Northeastern University
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University of Vermont
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MGH Institute of Health Professions
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Azusa Pacific University
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The University of Texas at Austin
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UMass Chan Medical School

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the best direct-entry nurse practitioner degree programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for postsecondary education.

We evaluated each school’s program on admission, retention, and graduation rates as well as tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and student resources. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of direct-entry nurse practitioner degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect From a Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Program?

A direct-entry nurse practitioner (NP) degree program is an excellent path for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field who wish to enter the nursing profession at an advanced level. These programs take three to four years to complete, combining demanding coursework with hands-on training. As a student, you can expect to take advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology, health assessment, and primary care classes. Most curriculums also include courses on healthcare policy, ethics, and leadership.

While many programs offer the flexibility of online coursework, virtually all require in-person components. You’ll need to complete laboratory sessions and clinical rotations in healthcare settings to gain practical experience. These experiences teach you to diagnose and treat different health conditions, perform advanced medical procedures, and develop patient care plans.

Potential courses you’ll take in a direct-entry nurse practitioner program

  • Advanced Pathophysiology: In this fundamental course, students will explore disease mechanisms and how they affect the body. They’ll learn about cellular functions, systemic responses, and the physiological changes during illness, providing a foundation for understanding patient symptoms and conditions.
  • Pharmacology: A common core requirement, this course covers pharmacology, including drug actions, interactions, and side effects. Participants will learn how to safely and effectively prescribe medications, tailor treatments to individual patient needs, and stay updated on new drugs and therapies.
  • Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning: Students in this course will develop advanced skills in conducting comprehensive health assessments. They will learn to gather patient histories, perform physical exams, and use diagnostic tools to identify health issues, forming the basis for effective patient care planning.

What Can I Do With a Nurse Practitioner Degree?

The job outlook for nurse practitioners is positive, with positions expected to increase in demand by 38% over the next ten years, making it one of the fastest-growing careers in the country.

Career outlook

  • Nurse Practitioner — Graduates in this role deliver comprehensive healthcare services by diagnosing and treating medical conditions, prescribing medications, and performing procedures. NPs emphasize patient-centered care, prioritizing disease prevention and the management of chronic illnesses.
    • Median annual salary: $121,610
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 38%
    • New jobs projected: 29,200
  • Nurse Midwife — A nurse midwife provides thorough care to women throughout their reproductive lives, including prenatal, childbirth, postpartum, and gynecological services. They emphasize personalized, holistic care and support for women and newborns.
    • Median annual salary: $129,650
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 38%
    • New jobs projected: 29,200
  • Nurse Anesthetist — Nurse anesthetists specialize in administering anesthesia and providing care before, during, and after surgical operations. They’re highly skilled in pain management, patient monitoring, and safe anesthesia delivery.
    • Median annual salary: $212,650
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 38%
    • New jobs projected: 29,200

Direct-Entry Nurse Practitioner Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do accelerated degree programs work?

Direct-entry NP programs are designed for non-nursing bachelor’s degree students who want to quickly transition into advanced nursing roles. These programs combine intensive online coursework with in-person clinical training, allowing learners to earn their NP degree in three to four years. By condensing traditional nursing education, students can enter the workforce faster while gaining the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive in this field.

To learn more about these programs’ advantages and potential challenges and determine if this path is right for you, visit our page detailing the pros and cons.

How long does it take to earn a direct-entry nurse practitioner degree?

Earning this degree takes about three to four years in an accelerated program. In contrast, the traditional route — completing a BSN and then an MSN — takes around six to seven years. The total time depends on the number of required credits, which can vary by program, impacting the duration.

How much does a direct-entry nurse practitioner degree cost?

The cost of a direct-entry nurse practitioner degree can vary, but the average tuition for graduate programs was $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year. Since this program bridges the gap from a non-nursing bachelor’s degree to becoming an NP, additional expenses may include fees for clinical placements, textbooks, lab supplies, and certification exams.

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