How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

A Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) must possess at least a graduate level degree (master’s or doctoral) and be a registered nurse with a certification in a chosen area of specialization. Clinical Nurse Specialists may acquire the authority to prescribe medications however, they are not required to do so. Learn how to become a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the guide below.

Should I Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

Clinical Nurse Specialists typically emphasize on providing education, conducting research and giving consultations. They are employed in leadership positions and are experts in their area of specialization. They are responsible for development of cost-reducing strategies and building new policies to ensure improvement in nursing practices.

Education Required Master’s degree or doctoral degree (for researchers)
Major Requirement Nursing with a CNS specialty
License/Certification Must be licensed as an RN & certified as a CNS
Experience/Training More than 2 years of experience in the chosen area of specialization
Key Skills Communication, Critical-thinking, Problem-solving, Observational, Teaching, Research, Skills; Detail-oriented etc.
Annual Mean Salary (2019) – National $77,460 (Registered Nurses)
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 12% (Registered Nurses)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019)

Career Outlook

In 2019, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 2,982,280 Registered Nurses (RN) in the US. Employment opportunities for them are expected to experience a growth of 12% between 2018 and 2028. Moreover, Business Support Services was named as the highest paying industry for this career with an annual mean salary of $92,200.

Steps to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

If you are interested in becoming a CNS, this detailed guide can help you get started!

1. Complete Required Education: To be able to work as a CSN, it is mandatory for you to complete at least an MSN degree (Masters of Nursing). However, most employers require a doctoral degree specifically if your focus is on teaching and research.

2. Clear the NCLEX-RN Exam: It is mandatory for all aspiring registered nurses to clear the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) to be able to apply for a license.

3. Get Certified as a CNS: Several kinds of certifications can be obtained through various nursing organizations. Some of the options for certifications are:

  • Adult Health, Gerontology or Psychiatric-Mental Health
  • Child/Adolescent Psychiatric-Mental Health
  • CNS Core
  • Pediatric or Home Health etc.

4. Licensure and Certification: Nurse Practitioners must be licensed in the state they want to work in and the licensure requirements vary for each state.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

The duration for becoming a CNS may vary from person to person based on the educational and career related decisions they take. Usually, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) may take about 2 years and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) can take 4-6 years to complete. So, it may take you anywhere between 6 to 8 years to work as a CNS.

What Are the Requirements of Becoming a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

To be able to work as a Nurse Practitioner, you must:

  • Hold a valid RN license
  • Possess an accredited MSN or a doctoral degree with courses in:
    • Advanced physical/health assessment
    • Advanced pharmacology
    • Advanced pathophysiology and so on
  • Have completed 500 hours of supervised clinical experience in the area of specialization
  • Be a certified CNS

How Much Can I Make as a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported $77,460 as the annual mean salary for all Registered Nurses working in the US. Moreover, California was named as the highest paying state ($113,240) for this occupation.

Call Now(877) 721-2529