MSN: Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Degree Programs & Career

A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an advanced practice nurse who holds a master’s degree or doctorate in nursing. A CNS is an expert in a specialized area of nursing, providing direct patient care and expert consultations within his/her specialty. A few examples of areas within which clinical nurses may specialize include adult health, diabetes, geriatrics, home health, pediatrics, psychiatric and mental health, and public health. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) now offers a CNS-BC credential to individuals who successfully complete exams in their areas of specialization. In addition to clinical nurse specialists, the other types of advanced practice nurses are nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners.

How to Become a CNS

To become a clinical nurse specialist, students typically complete the following steps:

  1. Complete an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program
  2. Earn a Registered Nurse Certification
  3. Meet the professional experience conditions
  4. Choose an area of specialization such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or women’s health
  5. Enroll and complete a MSN degree with a concentration in clinical care
  6. Obtain CNS certification and proper licensure (requirements vary by state)

CNS Salary and Career Information

The expected salary, career growth, and work environment for a CNS might include:

  • According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earn an average of $65,470 per year. A CNS will, on average, make more than this due to the extra certification.
  • Job Prospects: Very good to excellent
  • Job Setting: Private practices, nursing homes, hospitals, public health organizations, boards of health and education, educational institutions, home health care agencies, insurance companies

CNS Qualifications

To become a CNS, students are typically required to meet the following job qualifications:

  • CNS Advanced Practice Certification
  • Computer skills using various applications such as word processing, presentation, and online database systems
  • Certification in an area of clinical specialty including: neurology, oncology, rehabilitation, trauma nursing, adolescent health, neonatal, pediatric oncology, pediatric pulmonary, school health nursing, anesthesiology, community health, home health care, hospice nursing, occupational health, women’s health

CNS Job Description

A CNS is typically responsible for the following job duties:

  • Examine patients to evaluate their medical and physical conditions and develop specific care plans based on health assessment
  • Work closely with doctors and other medical professionals to aid in patient diagnosis
  • Review patient files to ensure proper data reporting
  • Develop a plan of care that address patients’ unique conditions and prescribe proper medication (prescriptive authority varies by state)
  • Provide educational and therapeutic support to patients on how best to manage symptoms
  • Collaborate with staff on research and professional practice projects