America’s nursing shortage made headlines for the first time about a decade ago, leading health care advocates looking for new ways to attract nurses into the field. One innovative idea was the direct entry master’s program, designed for college graduates who decide to become nurses after majoring in a different subject as undergraduates. As these programs have gained popularity over the years, they have opened doors to many motivated adults who want to change careers.
If you decide to make the switch to nursing, a direct entry master’s program could offer you the training you need. The state of North Carolina is home to one of the nation‘s older accelerated programs of this kind – the “alternate entry” (AE) master’s degree at East Carolina University. The Greenville-based institution announced the graduate program back in 2004, heralding the creative effort as a great way to address the nursing shortage while offering a path for adult learners to enter the nursing profession. The program builds on your undergraduate strengths and supplements your studies with nursing instruction.
The East Carolina program has two phases: a pre-licensure program that prepares you to take the RN licensing examination and a second phase where you enroll in your clinical concentration. To be admitted to the AE program, you must meet most of the general master’s requirements, but you do not need a nursing degree or a RN license. You must have a bachelor’s degree in another field, a minimum 3.0 grade-point average as an undergraduate, three recommendations, and a personal interview. You also must have completed several prerequisite classes, including chemistry, anatomy, microbiology, human growth and development, statistics, ethics, and nutrition.
The program’s first phase, which begins only in the fall, is a full-time commitment. This portion of the program prepares you for advanced courses in nursing and gets you ready for the RN licensing exam. After you earn your RN license, you may begin taking clinical concentration courses for your MSN. East Carolina offers master’s degrees in adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist, adult-gerontology family nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthesia, neonatal nurse practitioner, nurse education, and nursing leadership.
Paying for college is a worry for many students, but you can find several valuable resources in North Carolina. The North Carolina Foundation for Nurses offers information about several good options for graduate-level nurses at its website. These include:
- The Mary Lewis Wyche Fellowship is funded by fees from a First in Nursing license plate program. These fellowships offer $5000 annually for RNs who are pursuing full-time master’s or doctorate degrees in several fields.
- The Eunice M. Smith Scholarship is available to RNs who are studying on a part-time basis for their bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degrees.
- The Master's Nurse Scholars Program Graduate Program was created to reward outstanding nurses who are studying for a master’s degree. The annual award is $6000 for full-time study in a master’s program or half of that amount for part-time study.
After graduation, you can launch your specialized nursing career. A North Carolina RN can expect to receive an average annual salary of $59,290, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, an advanced degree can lead to even higher pay. For example, the average annual salary for North Carolina’s nurse practitioners in 2013 was $94,910. The state’s nurse midwives made a yearly average of $85,460, and nurse anesthetists made an annual average salary of $158,840.
The job forecast for new nurses continues to be promising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of RN jobs is expected to increase about 19 percent through 2020 – a faster-than-average rate. That trend is due, in part, to growing demand for nurses to care for aging baby-boomers and newly insured patients. New nurses also will be needed to take the place of older nurses and nurse educators as they reach retirement age. The average age of North Carolina’s nursing faculty in 2013 was 53.
If you’re ready to begin your nursing path, request information from the schools listed on this site to find the best program for your lifestyle and career goals!