University of Pennsylvania Nursing School Review

As a member of the prestigious Ivy League, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn, Penn) has an academic reputation to uphold. The school, which was founded in 1740, is renowned for its educational programs, its research, and its scholarship. Approximately 25,000 students are enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. Of these, just over 1000 are enrolled in programs through the School of Nursing. The University of Pennsylvania offers nursing programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level. All programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A student with no experience or education in the nursing field may complete the traditional, four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. (The program is also open to transfer students who have completed at least eight college classes.) This program combines a strong liberal arts core with nursing classes and clinical rotations. The University encourages students in the BSN program to take advantage of everything that the school has to offer, from studying abroad to pursuing a dual degree.  While students can pursue a dual degree of their own choosing, the nursing school coordinates a program in Nursing and Health Care Management through the Wharton School of Business. Nursing students can also pursue a minor in Health Communication, Multicultural/Global Health Care, Nutrition, and Health Services Management. Exceptional students in the BSN program may be invited to participate in the Nursing Undergraduate Honors Program, which fosters leadership and research skills. Motivated students also have the option of completing some graduate-level nursing courses while completing their BSN degree. At the conclusion of four years of full-time study, a graduate of the BSN program is eligible to take the National Council Licensing Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX_RN).

Bachelor of Science in Nursing – Second Degree Program

The School of Nursing offers an accelerated BSN Second Degree program for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. The program takes eighteen consecutive months of full-time study. It begins each June. Before enrolling, a student must complete prerequisite courses in the sciences, nutrition, and statistics. Graduation from the BSN Second Degree program allows a student to take the NCLEX_RN.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing/Master of Science in Nursing – Second Degree Program

A student who has already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field and wishes to become a nurse also has the option of completing both her BSN degree and her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree through the BSN/MSN program. She will spend eighteen months earning the BSN and taking the NCLEX_RN, before transitioning into graduate-level courses. The length of time she spends on the MSN portion of the degree depends on the MSN specialty chosen (the University of Pennsylvania offers nineteen different areas of specialization).

The Hillman Scholars in Nursing Innovation Bachelor of Science in Nursing/Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Program

This BSN/PhD program is open to students who have already earned a degree in a field other than nursing (as well as exceptional upper-level nursing students in the traditional BSN program). It allows a student to complete the BSN degree on an accelerated path, combining graduate-level coursework into the undergraduate curriculum. Students in this program will transition without a break from BSN coursework into coursework for the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD in Nursing) degree. If they successfully complete the program, their student loans will be forgiven. The length of the program can vary, but students are guaranteed financial support for two years worth of undergraduate coursework and three years of doctoral work.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing – RN to BSN

A graduate of an associate degree in nursing program or a diploma in nursing program can also complete a BSN degree through the School of Nursing. He may enroll in the accelerated BSN program along with the second-degree students. The traditional accelerated BSN program takes eighteen months to complete for second-degree students, but the length of the program may vary if the incoming Registered Nurse (RN) needs additional general education courses or prerequisites, or if he receives advanced placement for any of the nursing classes. The accelerated BSN program begins each June.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing – RN to MSN

An RN who has completed an associate degree or diploma program also has the option of transitioning seamlessly from the accelerated BSN program into an MSN program. The length of the BSN program is typically eighteen months; the length of the MSN portion of the program will vary depending on the area of specialization chosen. The RN to MSN accelerated program begins each June.

Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Practitioner Programs

The University of Pennsylvania has a strong emphasis on graduate nursing education, offering many different areas of specialization within its MSN program. Students can work toward certification as Nurse Practitioners (NP) in a variety of different areas. The number of courses required varies slightly, depending on the specialty chosen. A student will have to complete between three and five core graduate nursing courses, between four and nine course/clinical rotations in an area of specialization, and one to three electives. The program typically requires twelve classes in total. A full-time student can complete one of the NP specializations in as little as fourteen months. A part-time student typically takes two years to complete the program. Students in the MSN Nurse Practitioner programs can work toward the following certifications:

Adult Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)

Adult Health Nurse Practitioner (AHNP)

Family Health Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (GNP)

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)

Pediatric Acute/Chronic Care Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Critical Care Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric-Mental Health (PMH) Nurse Practitioner

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

 Master of Science in Nursing – Advanced Practice Specialist Programs

Students in the MSN program can also pursue certification as Advanced Practice Specialists. These programs require between twelve and twenty-seven classes, and can be completed on a full- or a part-time basis (except for the Nurse Anesthesia program, which can only be completed on a full-time basis). On a full-time basis, the programs take between fourteen and twenty-four months of study; on a part-time basis a student can take between two and three years to complete the programs. Students can work toward the following certifications:

Adult Health Clinical Nurse Specialist (requires twelve classes)

Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist requires twelve classes)

Nurse Anesthetist (requires twenty-seven classes and can only be completed on a full-time basis)

Nurse-Midwife (requires seventeen classes)

Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist (requires twelve classes)

Psychiatric Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist (requires fourteen classes)

Note that the Nurse Anesthetist program has additional accreditation from the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Programs and the Nurse-Midwife program has additional accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Administration Programs

A nurse who wishes to focus on being a leader at the administrative level may enroll in the MSN program, specializing in Health Leadership or in Health Care Administration (in combination with the Wharton School of Business). Both programs require fourteen and a half classes, and are available full-time or part-time. Depending on the electives chosen, some classes may be available online as well. A student in the Health Leadership track may choose a further area of specialization, such as business, nursing education, or public health.

Post-master’s Certification

A nurse who has already earned an MSN degree may work toward any one of the available nineteen certifications without completing core graduate nursing classes again. She only needs to complete the classes and clinical rotations for the chosen area of specialization.

Post-master’s Certification – Nurse Educator

A master’s-prepared nurse also has the option of completing a nurse educator course, either for credit or as continuing education. The course consists of three classes, each of which is offered in an intense, five-day format for working nurses. Completion of the three classes allows a nurse to become a Certified Nurse Educator through the National League for Nursing.

Master of Science in Nursing – Minors

Any student in any track of the MSN program, as well as students completing a post-master’s certification in any track, is eligible to complete a minor. This requires three to five courses in a chosen minor area of focus in addition to the core classes and classes in the major area of focus. The available minors are:

Adult Acute Care

Adult Oncology

Behavioral Health

Forensic Science


Global Nursing and Health Care

Health Informatics

Health Leadership

Nursing Administration

Occupational and Environmental Health

Palliative Care

Quality Improvement and Safety Processes in Healthcare

Women’s Health Studies

Master of Science in Nursing – Adult Home Care Option

The Adult Home Care Option is open to students in the MSN program and students who are completing a post-master’s certification. It consists of two classes, and trains RNs to provide in-home advanced care to adults.

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing

A nurse who holds an MSN who wishes to specialize in research can complete the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D. in Nursing) program. This requires fifteen classes, and includes both a teaching internship and a dissertation.  Students may complete the doctoral program on a full-time or part-time basis; on a full-time basis it requires three to five years.

Post-Doctoral Programs

A nurse who has already earned his Ph.D. in nursing can apply to do post-doctoral work at the School of Nursing. He can choose from the following five programs:

Research in Health Disparities

Nursing Outcomes Research

Nursing Sleep Research

Individualized Care for At-Risk Older Adults

Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity

University of Pennsylvania
3451 Walnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19104