Master of Science inNursing


Program Description

How do I apply to the MSN program?

ELM candidates may apply for admission from September through the beginning of June. Application by the indicated program-specific priority deadline will enhance the applicant’s potential for admission. A limited cohort is admitted each year, and admission is competitive.

November 15: Application Priority deadline (applications accepted on rolling basis therafter)
• January: Admission Committee meets
• February-April: Admission decisions go out by mail
• Mid-June: MSN-COM program begins

Applicants must have plans in place to meet all requirements before classes start in mid-June. Read the admission requirements and program description, then apply online or download or request the graduate application materials (PLU graduate application plus Nursing Addenda Packet) from our website. Since the admissions process is competitive, you may apply to both the BSN and ELM programs together to boost your chance of admission to PLU. If you choose to apply to both programs, you must submit the entire application packet and all required forms for each application (i.e., submit 2 letters of recommendation for the BSN and 2 for the ELM application, using the forms supplied). The only items you can apply to both applications are the official transcripts and the Washington State Patrol background check form and fee. Acceptance into one program does not guarantee acceptance into the other program. Also, students cannot switch from one program to the other once they have enrolled in coursework.

International students have further admission requirements; read about them below.

ELM/BSN comparison

How does the ELM program compare with the BSN program?


MSN (Advanced Generalist)


4 -year degree, with 6 semesters of nursing coursework

27 months total, including RN preparation and MSN coursework

Priority deadlines

February 1

November 15

Decisions made



Entry terms

fall and spring


Part-time option?



When RN licensure?

after BSN graduation

after first 15 months of study

Nursing roles post-graduation

generalist RN, future graduate study

generalist RN after licensure; qualification for advanced positions/certifications and further doctoral study after MSN degree

RN licensure/experience

How do ELMSN students gain RN licensure without completing a BSN degree first?

Students who successfully complete the first 15 months of study have completed 55 semester credits of coursework and over 900 hours of lab and clinical experiences. These courses and clinicals make them eligible to take the RN licensure examination (NCLEX-RN) in the state of Washington. Students are encouraged to seek employment.

Students are encouraged to seek employment as RNs to gain valuable work experience while completing the advanced practice portion of the program (the last months of study).

To date, students in the ELMSN program have a >95% pass rate on their first attempt at the NCLEX-RN.

ELMSN students must complete the entire 27-month program to ensure continued RN licensure in the state of Washington. Any student leaving the program prior to completing the MSN may not be able to sustain RN licensure. Again, students in the Entry-Level MSN program do not receive a BSN degree during the course of study towards the MSN degree.

Applicant profiles/history of entry-level MSN programs

What kinds of students enroll in the ELMSN program?

ELMSN students at PLU have proven to be a diverse group. Our current students range in age from their early 20s to mid-50s. They received their bachelor's degrees anywhere from 30 years ago to last year, in a wide variety of academic disciplines (including biology, psychology, business, law, history, biochemistry and English). Several students hold master's degrees as well.

ELMSN students have had varied work experiences as managers, volunteers, attorneys, parents, ski patrollers, lifelong students, accountants, flight attendants, baristas, and teachers. Some students entered the ELMSN program at PLU with previous experience in healthcare and medicine through research experiences, administrative positions, as EMTs or LPNs, or as doctors in other countries. Others are only now entering the health care field. These diverse backgrounds help to enrich the progam and the student experience.

MSN programs for students with non-nursing bachelor's degrees were first introduced in the 1970s. The number of programs of this type increased on the east coast throughout the 1990s, and now these programs are available across the country. Research shows that graduates of entry-level programs become successful advanced practice nurses, and hospitals have proven eager to hire them due to their high level of academic accomplishments


What prerequisites are required, when do they need to be completed, and how can I be sure I took the right ones?

Prerequisite Courses

»  Prerequisite courses are listed directly below. Download the Comparable Course Guide to see courses at Washington universities and colleges which can fulfill nursing prerequisite course requirements.

  • Introductory Statistics (including Inferential statistics)
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology (2-course sequence with separate on-site labs, taken within last 6 years)
  • Introductory Microbiology (with on-site lab, taken within last 6 years)
  • Developmental Psychology - Lifespan

Courses may be in progress at the time of application, but must be completed prior to the start of classes in mid-June. Applicants who have completed all prerequisites by the priority deadline may be given priority during the review process.

If any proposed prerequisite courses were completed outside Washington state, please email course descriptions to for evaluation. Each prerequisite must be completed with a minimum grade of 3.0 on 4.0 scale prior to enrolling in ELMSN coursework. Applicants are strongly encouraged to request course evaluations well in advance of the priority deadline.

International students

I'm an international student. What are the additional admission requirements?

If you are not a US citizen and plan to attend PLU, additional information must be provided with your graduate application. Please read through the information at the websites listed below:

or contact the Office of Admission, Graduate Programs, at 00-1-253-535-7151 or

If your previous baccalaureate degree is from a college or university outside the United States, please contact us at to be sure the school is equivalent to a US-accredited college. You will also need to have your college coursework and grades translated into American terms. Arrange for a detailed transcript evaluation from World Education Service or Educational Perspectives. The cost in early 2010 was about $125.

Healthcare experience

Do I need to have healthcare experience (volunteer or paid) to qualify for admission?

No, prior healthcare experience is not required. All applicants should personally research the nursing profession before applying to any program. Reading articles, talking to advisors, and seeking out mentors in the healthcare field can all help the applicant gain a better understanding of the profession and shape his or her short- and long-term goals.

Applicants with no prior healthcare experience may find volunteering, job-shadowing, or employment in a healthcare agency quite helpful. Such experiences offer insight into day-to-day tasks, responsibilities, work settings, and various roles for nurses and other healthcare providers. Contact the education or human resources offices at area hospitals to learn about available opportunities.

Applicants may note prior healthcare experience in their resumes and statements of educational and professional goals.

GPA/GRE requirements

I don't meet one (or more) of the minimum requirements for GPA or GRE scores. Will my application still be considered?

The admissions committee is careful to weigh all parts of the application, including baccalaureate study, prerequisite grades, GRE scores, essays, and recommendations. All applications are thoroughly reviewed before a decision is made. When coursework or test scores are slightly below a minimum requirements, strengths in other areas may be considered.

That being said, admission to the Entry-Level MSN program is competitive. We have far more qualified applicants than available seats. Applicants who do not meet one or more minimum requirements are more likely to be placed on the wait list or denied admission than those who offer a well-rounded application and exceed minimum requirements.

Retaking coursework and tests can help make the application more competitive, but each applicant must decide whether to retake coursework or tests to meet the minimum requirements. Applicants who must retake prerequisite courses to meet minimum requirements may be considered less competitive than those who have not retaken courses. Applicants with multiple withdrawals, failures, academic probation, or retaken courses (in prerequisites or general study coursework) on their transcripts may also be considered less competitive for admission.

Applicants may submit an additional statement explaining circumstances surrounding withdrawals or failures in any coursework or low prerequisites grades or GRE scores.

Tuition and financial aid

How much does the program cost? Is financial aid available?

ELMSN students pay a cohort tuition, which includes the built-in tuition reduction of about 20%. ELMSN students pay less than the standard PLU cost per semester credit over the course of the program. Students in the Entry-Level MSN program take a minimum of 93 credits in the 27-month program. Click here for more information on Entry-Level MSN tuition.

There are many sources of funding for nursing higher education.  For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a loan forgiveness program for nurses working in high need areas, forgiving up to 60% of federal loan debt.  Students can research the HSRA loan forgiveness program, as well as federal financial aid at the Graduate Scholarship and Financial Aid page.  

The School of Nursing regularly notifies nursing students of scholarship opportunities that become available. Once Entry-Level MSN students enter the advanced practice portion of the program, they may also apply for special nursing scholarships and loan repayment programs (such as the Nurse Faculty Loan Program) or work as graduate assistants. Click here for links to a variety of outside financial aid sources for nursing students and graduates.

Employment during the program

Can I work while I am studying?

Entry-Level MSN students will be in class full time (Monday through Friday day/evening) for the first 15 months of foundational coursework. The class load is especially demanding during the first summer. Students should not plan to work during the first 15 months.

Upon successful completion of the pre-licensure part of the program, students begin the advanced practice portion. Classes at this level are held one or two evenings per week and all day on Fridays. Students at the advanced practice level are eligible to take the NCLEX test for RN licensure and are encouraged to seek employment as RNs to gain valuable work experience during the final portion of the program.

The advanced practice course schedule and RN licensure enable students to work part-time as RNs during the final terms of the program. Some students choose to work full-time, but most work between 50% and 90% of a full-time schedule to give themselves time for other commitments.

Employment outlook for graduates

What is the job outlook for MSN-prepared nurses?

Master's-degree-prepared nurses can earn approximately $60,000 to $90,000 per year, depending on their field. Today's employers seek nurses prepared at the bachelor's and graduate-degree levels who can deliver the higher complexity of care required across a variety of acute-care, primary-care, and community health settings, and to provide other needed services such as case management, health promotion, and disease prevention.

Of particular note is the already pressing shortage of master's- and doctorally-prepared nursing faculty. This shortage is already impacting schools of nursing across the country, and promises to become more urgent in coming years.

Keep in mind that the MSN is not a terminal degree. MSN graduates are qualified to apply to doctoral degree (Ph.D. or DNP, Doctor of Nursing Practice) programs, which generally require an additional 3-5 years of study. Demand is increasing for doctorally-prepared nursing faculty and practitioners. AACN member institutions voted "to move the current level of preparation necessary for advanced nursing practice roles from the master's degree to the doctorate level by the year 2015" (Nursing Opportunities," Volume III, November 2004)

Nurses with advanced degrees such as the Master of Science in Nursing have the tools to adapt as the nursing world continues to grow and change.

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