How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

Do you want to know how to become a clinical nurse specialist? If so, you need to know all about clinical nursing and ways to pursue this profession.

Furthermore, a report shows that there are expected to be shortages in the healthcare staff in the US, especially in clinical roles. Hence, it will be more convenient for you to pursue this career.

Clinical nurse specialists or CNS, are the most skilled healthcare specialists in diagnosing and treating various health conditions. Clinical nurses specialize in a specific illness or health condition to achieve expertise for that ailment.

If you prefer to become a CNS, the journey is incredibly inspiring and rewarding for aspiring nurses.

We will try to include every aspect in this comprehensive guide about the requirements, responsibilities, training, average salaries of Clinical Nurse Specialists, and much more.

What is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

Clinical Nurse Specialists are graduate-level Registered Nurses (RN) certified in an alcove specialty or healthcare concentration, demonstrating advanced knowledge and skills in the field of expertise.

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

A CNS’s journey leads to a job in a specialized unit of a hospital or other medical facilities. A CNS and a Nurse Practitioner (NP) are not the same.

Even though both are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), they play different roles in the medical world.

8 Steps to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

The steps for becoming a clinical nurse specialist include primary education, clinical certification practice, and a graduate program, like an online MSN program. Below are the step-by-step guidelines on how to become a clinical nurse specialist.

  • You must obtain a degree in registered nursing to become certified in any US state to apply for a clinical nurse specialist program.
  • Apply to master’s, postgraduate or doctoral Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education Accredited programs.
  • According to the guidelines of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, you must complete 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours in the clinical nurse specialist role.
  • Appear in the ANCC-administered exam relevant to your specialty to obtain CNS certification. The exam tests, clinical knowledge, and skills
  • Apply for state CNS certification.

1. The Requirements

The educational requirements for CNS is a minimum of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree, and you can also, as a Clinical Nurse, hold a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. APRNs or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and all other Clinical Nurse Specialists must fulfill the following:

  • Master’s degree from an accredited program
  • Registered Nursing (RN) license from their state
  • National certification in CNS specialty
  • State APRN licensing

2. Duties & Responsibilities

A Clinical Nurse Specialist’s responsibilities may include the following:

  • Ordering medical tests and diagnosing illnesses of patients
  • Providing clinical expertise
  • Treating diseases of their specialty
  • Conducting research
  • Following policies, procedures, and standards of care
  • Collaborating with the healthcare team to create, review, and revise treatment plans
  • Managing and educating nurses and other staff

3. The WorkPlace

Clinical nurse specialists usually work in direct patient treatment units, but you may be in administrative, research, consulting, or supervisory posts.

Clinical Nurses can be required to work in various environments like Hospitals, Clinics, Student Health Clinics, Community Health Centers, Home Health Clinics, and Mental Health Facilities.

Clinical Nurses can work in various healthcare specialties, including Pediatrics, Adult Health, and Neonatal. Women’s Health, Geriatrics, Psychiatry, Public Health, and Rehabilitation.

You can also sharpen your skills by researching various diseases or subspecialties, such as Diabetes, Oncology, Infectious disease, Orthopedics, and Neurology.

4. The Working Hours

Like all other professions, Clinical Nurse Specialists work regular hours and may be required to operate the occasional weekend, evening, or holiday shift upon request. A CNS working in hospitals may need to work alternate shifts.

5. Education And Training

As we have mentioned above, to be a Clinical Nurse Specialist, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and an RN license are necessary.

In some cases, Clinical Nurses can enroll in a doctoral nursing program (DNP) if they wish to focus on research or teaching.

If you have a bachelor’s degree and are interested in earning an MSN Degree, some institutes offer a MEPN or Master’s Entry Program in Nursing.

6. The Programs

The core curriculum of the Clinical Nursing program falls under the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, which enhances theories and skills learned in your graduation.

The applicants have to fulfill some prerequisite requirements to enroll in the MSN program, such as academic transcripts, GRE scores, personal essays, letters of recommendation, etc.

Institutes offer a Clinical Nursing track in adult health, adult gerontology, acute care, pediatrics, psychiatric/mental health, women’s health, community health, etc. Generally, advanced-practice courses include:

  • Health promotion and maintenance.
  • Advanced pathophysiology.
  • Advanced health assessment.
  • Pharmacology for advanced practice nurses.

The core curriculum of a Clinical Nursing track features theory and ethics, Application of research to practice, Context of health care for advanced-practice nursing, and Statistics in nursing research.

7. Fees

The tuition costs for MSN programs are usually on a per-credit-hour basis, estimated at approximately $500 to $1,000 per credit. It would be best if you considered the following before enrolling in an MSN program:

  • Tuition fees do not include books, prices, program fees, or other mandatory fees
  • Most schools offer financial aid or scholarships
  • American Nurses Association Member: $295
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Member: $340
  • Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association: $340
  • National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists: $340
  • Non-Member: $395

8. Renewal:

You must renew your certificates every five years, at least three months before the expiry date. 25 Out of the 75 contact hours required for renewal must be in pharmacotherapeutics. Additional prerequisites may be necessary depending on your selected specialty.

Most of the time, the certifications will require you to pass an exam, and many of them can remain valid for five years. Check the requirements specified by your state board of Registered Nursing to learn more about CNS certification.

Salary and Benefits

A clinical nurse specialist’s salary is $74,545 to $88,168. However, the average salary ranges around $80,975. Individuals’ experience determines the range of low to high wages.

Aside from the expertise, geographic location has a significant impact on the salary offered.

Clinical nurse specialists enjoy several benefits, including comprehensive medical coverage, sick days, and paid vacations. Depending on the environment, they may also get flexible work schedules.


That cannot be all about how to become a clinical nurse specialist. It’s a noble profession with high pay and additional perks and benefits. The demand for APRNs, including CNSs, is increasing as the healthcare industry grows.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics or US BLS, predicts that all nursing jobs will increase 26 percent by 2028, which is way faster than the other average job sector growth.

Hope that this article enables you to know more about how to become a clinical nurse specialist.

See Also

How to Become a Geriatric Nurse

Types of Nurses

Surgeon Salary

Grants for Nursing School

How to Become a Dermatology Nurse

Home Loans for Nurses

Side Hustles for Physicians

I am a dedicated healthcare researcher and an enthusiast specializing in medical grants, medical education and research. Through my articles, I aim to empower healthcare professionals and researchers with valuable insights and resources to navigate these critical aspects effectively.

Having sharpened her skills as a validation manager in the fast-paced world of Cybersecurity over a decade, Andrea now applies her expertise to raise the standards of the fact-checking space. As a meticulous fact-checker, she diligently validates the claims presented in our articles, leaving no room for misinformation or ambiguity.

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