How to Earn Your MSN Without a BSN Degree with Marquette University

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Marquette MSN students in classroom with instructor speaking

We get a lot of questions about our Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program in Milwaukee and Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. We’ll answer the most common one upfront.

Can You Get Your MSN without a BSN?

The short answer is yes. The most common path to earning an MSN degree is to earn a BSN degree first. However, some nursing programs allow non-nursing degree-holding students to earn an MSN without a BSN through a Direct Entry MSN program.

Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program is one such program, making it the perfect choice for career changers who want to get started on their nursing journey as soon as possible.

Here we’ll discuss how you can earn an MSN without a BSN through Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program — but first, why should you get an MSN instead of a BSN?

Why Should You Get an MSN Degree?

There’s a growing body of research indicating that better-educated nurses lead to better patient outcomes. As a result, with the growing influence and desirability of initiatives like the Magnet Recognition Program®, it’s not hard to see that the overwhelming trend in nursing is toward a more educated workforce. This is especially good news for the growing subset of nurses with master’s degrees.

Nurses with master’s degrees have more opportunities available to them and a higher earning potential. Not to mention the fact that while you’ll still start out as an entry-level nurse, the knowledge and skills an MSN provides you may very well give you a leg up when interviewing against a recent BSN graduate.

Speaking of opportunities, an MSN degree opens the door to a number of advanced nursing careers. For example, in many hospitals and outpatient centers, you need an MSN degree to take on an administration, leadership or supervisory role. (While you may not be interested in a leadership role just yet, it is not uncommon for nurses to gravitate toward these types of roles over time.)

Additionally, many of the highest-paying nursing professions require a post-master’s certification — meaning that with an MSN, you’ll be just a certification away from jobs like:

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse midwife
  • Nurse anesthetist

How Does Our Direct Entry MSN Program Work?

To understand how our second-degree MSN program works, it helps to look at the typical path nursing students take toward earning an MSN.

Today, the majority of new nurses are graduating from BSN degree program. Still, a number of registered nurses start out with a two-year Associate Degree of Nursing (ADN), though that percentage is declining.

Typically, upon passing the NCLEX-RN, a BSN or ADN degree-holding nurse enters the workforce, opting to pursue an MSN later, if at all. To earn a master’s in nursing, both would need to enroll in an RN-to-MSN program, though it would take the ADN holder longer to earn an MSN (about 24 months compared to about 19 months for the BSN holder).

Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program, offered on our main campus in Milwaukee or from our program site in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, allows you to use your non-nursing bachelor’s degree as a starting point so that you can focus exclusively on your nursing education, allowing you to earn an MSN in 19–21 months. Unlike a traditional college degree path, there are no electives or second concentration requirements — every course you take will apply directly to your nursing career. The result is an intensive program that covers everything in a BSN program and an MSN program.

This is not to say you may not need to take any prerequisite courses to enter the program; however, these are limited to fundamental courses required as part of any nursing program. How many prerequisites you will need to take depends on the classes you took while pursuing your non-nursing degree. So, for example, Bachelor of Science degree holders already have more of the prerequisites than Bachelor of Arts holders do, though with either, the prerequisite course list is limited to just a few relevant courses. Your admissions adviser will help you determine what courses you need to take to be eligible for our accelerated second-degree program.

As a note, because our Direct Entry MSN program encompasses both BSN- and MSN-degree curriculum, we cannot accept BSN holders into the program.

Learn Through a Blended Curriculum

We’ve designed our Direct Entry MSN program to thoroughly prepare you for a career in nursing in 19–21 months.

At the foundation of our Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing program is a blended learning model consisting of three main components:

Online or On-Campus Coursework

Our online courses, offered at our Pleasant Prairie location, are designed to resonate with many different learning styles. Whether you are an auditory learner, a visual learner or a tactical learner, there’s something for you. Because the coursework is online, you’re not tied to a fixed class schedule, giving you flexibility to do your work when it’s convenient for you. (Of course, you will still have to complete all of your assignments by the deadlines assigned by your instructors.) Online course materials also give you the ability to revisit the material any time you need — something you can’t do with in-class lectures. Students who prefer in-person learning can attend courses for a more traditional learning format at our Milwaukee campus.

Hands-On Skills and Simulation Labs

High-tech skills and simulation labs allow you to hone critical nursing skills in a risk-free environment. Though simulation labs feel lifelike, we promise our state-of-the-art medical manikins won’t feel a thing, even if you make a mistake.

Clinical Experience

No nursing education would be complete without real-life clinical experience. As part of the Direct Entry MSN program, you will complete approximately 1,000 hours of clinical practice at some of the best healthcare facilities in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. (That’s about 300 hours more than you would get from a BSN program — and something future employers will certainly take notice of.)

One thing that surprises many students about our program is the level of contact they have with their instructors, something you don’t hear often from students of online learning programs.

Earn Your Master’s Degree in Less Than 21 Months

If you’re ready to make the switch to a career in nursing and have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, Marquette University’s Direct Entry MSN program can help you get there sooner. Our program offers the best aspects of online and on-campus learning, combining:

  • The convenience of online learning
  • Hands-on skills and simulation labs
  • Clinical practice at some of the top local healthcare facilities

This means that in 19–21 months, you’ll graduate ready to sit for the NCLEX-RN, the last step toward becoming a licensed registered nurse. To learn more, call 866.891.8438 to speak with an admissions adviser today, or fill out the form on the right to have someone call you.