While most nurse practitioner programs require a prior RN license, some do not. This is extremely beneficial for those with a bachelor's degree in another discipline who wish to become advanced-practice nurses. The programs are set up to allow students to earn an RN license first, followed by their NP license.


The prerequisites for a direct-entry NP program can vary between schools. Students should be sure to review the specific requirements before considering enrollment. General prerequisites may include:

  • Completion of an application
  • Submission of transcripts from all schools previously attended
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Written statement of purpose/goal statement
  • Completion of the following courses
    • Anatomy
    • Physiology
    • Microbiology
    • Pharmacology
    • Nutrition

Program Curriculum

The program curriculum in a direct-entry NP program can also vary between schools, and also based on the selected specialty track. Students must complete the requirements to become an RN and take the NCLEX-RN exam. Some schools offer a BSN along the way as well. Additionally, some schools require concurrent work as an RN, but again, students should check each school's individual requirements.

Core courses required to earn an MSN may include:

  • Advanced pharmacology/pathophysiology/health assessment
  • Concepts in advanced-practice nursing
  • Research
  • Community health

After the core courses are completed, the student may choose a specialty track to focus on a specific population, such as:

Additionally, a specific number of supervised clinical hours are required for licensure as an APRN.

Time and Cost Considerations

Every school is different with regards to cost and required credits to completion. Additionally, both cost and time requirements vary depending on a student's academic history and starting point. Students may be required to complete anywhere between 68 and 128 credits to graduate, and between 2 and 4 years. Again, students need to thoroughly research each program to find the one that best fits their needs. For example, Oakland's Samuel Merritt University offers an entry-level MSN program with a Family Nurse Practitioner specialization that takes 10 semesters to complete.