It’s absolutely possible to get an MSN degree without a BSN. Because of the high demand for nurses with advanced practice and managerial skills, colleges have gotten very creative about offering fast-track or accelerated programs that can get you to a nursing master’s degree through shorter programs than nursing students have traditionally taken to get there.
You might wonder if you can get hired in some hospitals without a bachelor’s in nursing. The BSN degree has definitely grown more valuable in recent times, particularly given the so called “80/2020” initiatives being followed today by so many hospitals. Under this plan, issued in 2014 by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, U.S. hospitals could be designated as “magnet” facilities if 80% of their nurses had BSNs by the year 2020. That led to a wave of care centers and other health organizations adopting a policy of only hiring only BSN carrying nurses. (According to a variety of reports, by the way, the 80% goal has not yet been met in most institutions as we lead into 2020).
Will Hospitals Hire You With No BSN?
So what does that mean if you graduate from one of the MSN programs without a BSN? It’s a worry that many nurses have expressed in a variety of forums around the web. The answer is: there’s no absolute answer. But it seems fairly clear that having a nursing grad degree but no bachelor’s is almost never an obstacle. As an example, The University of Virginia Grad School of Nursing commented on allnurses’ forum: “We award an MSN degree to those from non-nursing backgrounds. None have had any difficulty being hired at Magnet facilities or at the V.A., which also has a BSN requirement.”
An MSN is a more advanced degree than a BSN, so it seems unlikely that many hospitals will consider you underqualified if you have only the nursing master’s. It may be hard to get hired to be a floor nurse doing 100% direct patient care. But you’ll probably get your MSN in the first place because you really want a more senior position in nursing management or education, or in an advanced clinical practice like nurse practitioner.
Types of MSN Programs Without BSN
There are few different types of programs available to get a nursing master’s without a nursing bachelors. They key types your likely to find from either campus or online nursing schools are:
Accelerated RN to MSN With No BSN: As the name implies, these programs are designed to take licensed RNs who have clinical experience and, usually, an associates degree, and move them quickly to an MSN that qualifies them for indirect care, leading and educating staff, community work and other senior tasks. Some of these programs, which have online listings stating that they do not confer a “step out” bachelor degree, are focused on one particular specialty such as nursing leadership.
Direct Entry Programs: These are for students who have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing specialty. Some programs of this type are only open to licensed RNs, but most are designed to have you take the NCLEX-RN test at the end of your studies and get your licensure then. (More on direct entry here). If you have no nursing experience whatever and wish to move into an advanced practice position, this type of degree is likely your best choice. You will get considerable clinical training in virtually any direct entry MSN program.
Accelerated Nursing Master’s Degrees
Virtually all these programs can be taken on an accelerated basis. That gives you a tremendous benefit in terms of how long it takes you to finish your grad degree and, naturally, how much it will cost you. But you should be prepared to handle a heavy workload of you go the accelerated route. There’s some variation in the number of credits required to complete these programs. But essentially, they’re all designed to cram a course of study that could take anywhere from two to four years into a much shorter period of time. To succeed in an accelerated MSN program, you need to be very committed to doing all the work on schedule.
Time And Credits For Your Grad Degree
The number of credits required for your degree can vary. Chamberlain University, for example, offers one Accelerated RN to MSN that takes three semesters of full time study and 45 credit hours. But it has another RN – MSN with a specialization in clinical nursing leadership that requires 52 credits and takes four full semesters. The school advertises that these accelerated degrees are great for people who want to earn a nursing masters while working at a full-time job, because they eliminate the typical MSN prerequisites that force you to get a BSN as part of the process.
Many accelerated RN-MSN programs can be completed in two years with intense work, though a few schools advertise that you can complete this degree in 21 months. That compares to a three to four year effort it would normally take to go from RN to MSN through a non-accelerated program.
In comparison, a direct entry MSN program, open to students with a bachelor’s in a non-nursing specialty, generally takes about three years, and involves some basic nursing courses.
MSN Prerequisities And Application Requirements
Since RN – MSN candidates don’t have BSNs, schools insist on a variety of prerequisites and requirements for admission, largely designed to confirm the applicant’s commitment to nursing and ability to do the coursework.
You must have an RN license for any of these programs. Many schools also insist that you have an associate’s degree, and not just a nursing diploma. The grades you earned in any previous coursework you’ve done will be important. At Gonzaga University, for instance, applicants are “preferred” for the RN to MSN degree program if they have a GPA of 3.0 or more in all college courses they have taken previously, regardless of topic.Virtually all degrees of this type include 180 or more clinical hours. Online schools generally allow students to fulfill this requirement near their home locations with the help of a practicum. Keep in mind, however, that even online programs sometimes require students to visit the school’s actual campus for one or more brief clinical training sessions or intensive classroom meetings.
With or Without GRE
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) scores are required by most – but not all – nursing master’s schools. And some schools that ask for GRE scores may waive the requirement if you have a strong grade point average in previous college work (some schools will insist on a 3.25 or 3.5 average for the waiver). Alternatively, if you have several years of nursing experience, you may also be able to be admitted without GRE scores. These types of options aren’t necessarily obvious on each school’s website. You often need to ask the admissions office about them to find out the correct rules (the same type of waiver options are also available for Miller Analogies Test or “MTE” scores). At some schools, you may also be able to get your GRE score requirement waived if you already have a master’s degree in specialty outside nursing.
Transcripts and Recommendation Letters
You’ll need to provide transcripts of all your previous grades when you apply for your nursing master’s. Some schools will ask for them at the start of the process while others will request them once you have been identified as a student they would like to admit.
Another standard application requirement is one or two letters of recommendation from someone you have worked with. You don’t want to choose just anybody to do this for you. It’s not unusual for a school to contact the person who writes a recommendation, to ask them directly about your skills and commitment to nursing. Some school admission departments may insist that one of your recommendation letters be academic – in other words, written by someone who taught you during your associate’s program.
Skipping a BSN so you can go directly from RN to MSN can help you attain a job in managing or teaching nursing, or qualify you to work as a nurse practitioner. When you possess your nursing masters degree, you’re not likely to suffer from not having a bachelor degree in hand. After all, some MSN’s make double the salary of nurses with a BSN as their highest degree.
List of Online Schools Offering RN to MSN programs with no BSN requirement Sponsored Schools
Grantham University RN to MSN
The program allows students to earn 25 undergrad credits on their way to a nursing masters in one of several specialties. The program is for RNs who possess an associate’s degree in nursing (AAS, ASN or ADN).
Get free info on Grantham’s RN to MSN program
Walden is a very large online school that allows several options in it’s nursing master’s programs including BSN to MSN, RN to MSN or an accelerated option for RNs who want to earn both a BSN and MSN. Options for RN to MSN degrees, some of which are open to holders of nursing diplomas, include:
Adult and Gerontology Acute care Nurse Practitioner
Adult and Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
MS in Nurse Education for RN’s
MS in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner for RNs
Designed to allow RN’s to advance their nursing practice by moving quickly from being a registered nurse to an MSN degree holder.
Get info on South University’s RN to MSN – Specialization in Nurse Administrator Degree
Get info on South University’s RN to MSN – Specialization in Family Nurse Practitioner
Get info on South University’s RN to MSN – Specialization in Nursing Informatics
Get info on South University’s RN to MSN – Specialization in Nurse Educator