Clinical Nurse Specialist

How to Become a CNS

A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is one of the four types of advanced practiced nurses. State laws regarding licensing will vary, but the first step toward becoming a CNS is to become a registered nurse. To become a registered nurse, students must earn a degree from a state-approved school of nursing, be it a four-year program or two-year associate degree, and pass a state licensing examination. A master’s degree and additional training is then needed to obtain entry-level positions in any clinical nurse specialty. A CNS can obtain certification in certain specialties of their field, but not all. The American Nurses Credentialing Center awards a CNS credential to nurses who pass specialist exams in their fields. Learn about Clinical Nurse Specialist programs.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Job Description and Role

According to the American Nurses Association, a CNS is an “expert clinician and client advocate” who specializes in a particular field of nursing. They may specialize by type of care given, type of illness or disease, by patients, or by setting, such as emergency room or critical care. Their job duties span education, clinical practice, as well as medical research, administration, and consultation. They can practice in many different healthcare settings, and they not only provide basic nursing care for patients, but they are involved in consultation of nursing staffs, influencing healthcare systems, medical diagnosis, and treatment of illness, injury or disease.

CNS Job Outlook

Healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States due to the growing aging population and the large portion of healthcare workers approaching retirement. Registered nurses are the largest group of workers in healthcare, and there are about 14,000 registered nurses who are qualified to practice as a CNS. Nursing in general is projected to see roughly 587,000 job openings before 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. This is the largest projected rate of growth of any other occupation.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Salary

According to, the median salary for a clinical nurse specialist in the United States is $80,007 in 2009. Salary will vary, however, based on region, employer, and years of experience, and ranges from $65,000 to $110,000.

Below you will find a number of nationally accredited online CNS programs as well as a number of other advanced practice nursing programs for those interested in becoming a Nurse Practitioner or a Nurse Midwife. Take the first steps towards advancing your nursing career here by requesting information from any of the programs that are of interest to you.

Clinical Nurse Specialist and Related Advanced Practice Nursing Programs

Liberty University - Department of Nursing

Liberty University's Online MSN - Clinical Nurse Specialist Acute Care Track is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. Graduates are prepared for national certification as a CNS and work as practitioners and/or educators. This program is enrolling now. Request information today!

Program Offered: MSN - Acute Care Track Clinical Nurse Specialist Online

University of Cincinnati - College of Nursing

The University of Cincinnati - College of Nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The MSN - Nurse Midwifery online program is accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM).

Programs Offered Online: MSN - Clinical Nurse Specialist (Nurse Educator), MSN - Nursing Administration, MSN - Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, MSN - Adult Nurse Practitioner, MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner, MSN - Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner or Clinical Nurse Specialist, MSN - Nurse Midwifery


University of Phoenix College of Health and Human Services

Programs Offered: MSN - (Concentrations: Health Care Education (MSN/ED), Informatics, MSN/Health Care Administration, MSN/MBA/Health Care Management), Nursing Health Care Education Certificate, RN to BSN

While widely available, not all programs are available in all locations or in both online and on-campus formats. Please check with a University Enrollment Representative.

Frontier Nursing University - Distance Education

The Frontier Nursing University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of College and Schools. They offer online MSN Programs with post masters certificates in the following areas: Certified Nurse Midwifery (accredited by ACME), Family Nurse Practitioner, and/or Women's Health Care Nurse Practitioner (both accredited by the NLNAC). FSMFN also offers an online DNP program accredited by the AACN. Coursework is web-based and clinical experience is acquired in your own community at clinics and hospitals.

Programs Offered: MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner, MSN - Women's Health Care Nurse Practitioner, DNP, Post-Master's Certificate - Family Nurse Practitioner, Post-Master's Certificate - Women's Health Care Nurse Practitioner, ADN-MSN Bridge FNP, ADN-MSN Women's Health Care NP

Graceland University

All MSN and Post-Graduate Certificate nursing programs at Graceland University are CCNE and NLNAC accredited. Graceland University is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. MSN program Practicums are completed in the student's community.

Online Programs Offered: MSN - Family Nurse Practitioner, MSN - Nurse Educator, Post-Graduate Certificate Family Nurse Practitioner, Post-Graduate Certificate in Nurse Education

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