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Clinical Nurse Specialist

A clinical nurse specialist is a person who has achieved a specific expertise in a certain area of nursing. Their role is to oversee patient care within that specialized area and ensure that patient care is well managed and that healthcare providers are on the same page.  A CNS has the role of a clinical expert  and as such, must have at least a masters degree.  PhD’s are not uncommon for this kind of position.  Their job description is, in general, corresponding between healthcare providers and patients, educating, consulting, and conducting research where necessary.  Within leadership roles, it is critical that nurse specialists are capable of training staff and troubleshooting issues when needed.  Excellent communication, care-giving, and leadership skills are a must. 

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How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

There is a definite pathway to become a clinical nurse specialist. Keep in mind that there is a significant amount of school necessary for this occupation, but the pay off is good. Clinical nurse specialist is one of the highest-paying nursing positions. You will need a bachelor nursing degree and Masters degree, plus any certifications specific to your chosen specialization.  In order to work in any nursing field, it is necessary to be a registered nurse (RN).  Look for nursing schools that offer CNS programs.  Your MSN (Masters of Science, Nursing Degree) should offer specialties that will prepare you for your field  Such areas could include family, neonatology, pediatrics, women’s health, geriatrics, and so forth.  You’ll need a qualifying bachelor’s of science degree.  Bridge programs are offered for non BSN degrees that allow you to achieve your bachelor’s and masters degree.   RN-to-MSN is a bridge program that does just that.  It’s available if you are a registered nurse. 

Clinical Nurse Specialist Salary

The clinical nurse specialist salary is one of the highest in the nursing industry. Practitioners must have a high level of expertise and training but it pays off.  They can make on average between $63,000 and $110,000 per year or more depending on their location and years of experience.  The average salary for a clinical nurse specialist is around $82,000 per year.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs

There are a wide variety of programs in nursing across the United States.  Here is a list of nursing programs in the US that offer the preparation you’ll need for a clinical nurse specialist education. 

ALABAMA

Spring Hill College (online nursing programs available )
The University of Alabama(online nursing programs available )
University of Alabama at Birmingham
University of Alabama in Huntsville
University of South Alabama (online nursing programs available )

ARKANSAS

University of Central Arkansas

CALIFORNIA

California State University, Dominguez Hills
California State University, San Marcos
Charles R. Drew University
Dominican University of California
Sonoma State University (online nursing programs available )
University of California Los Angeles
University of San Francisco (online nursing programs available )
University of San Diego
Western University of Health Sciences

COLORADO

University of Northern Colorado

CONNECTICUT

Fairfield University
Sacred Heart University (online nursing programs available )
Southern Connecticut State University
University of Connecticut

FLORIDA

Florida Atlantic University
University of Central Florida
University of Florida (online nursing programs available )
University of North Florida
University of South Florida

GEORGIA

Armstrong Atlantic State University
Georgia Regents University
University of West Georgia
Valdosta State University

ILLINOIS

Elmhurst College
Illinois State University
Millikin University
Rush University
Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing
Saint Xavier University (online nursing programs available )
Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville

INDIANA

Goshen College

IOWA

Grand View College
University of Iowa (online nursing programs available )

KANSAS

University of Kansas
Washburn University

MAINE

University of Southern Maine

MARYLAND

University of Maryland (online nursing programs available )

MASSACHUSETTS
Curry College
University of Massachusetts – Amherst (online nursing programs available )

MICHIGAN

Grand Valley State University (online nursing programs available )
Oakland University
Saginaw Valley State University (online nursing programs available )
University of Detroit Mercy (online nursing programs available )

MINNESOTA

University of Minnesota

MISSOURI

Research College of Nursing
Saint Louis University

MONTANA

Montana State University

NEBRASKA

Creighton University

NEVADA

University of Nevada-Reno

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Southern New Hampshire University
University of New Hampshire (online nursing programs available )

NEW JERSEY

Rutgers, The State University of NJ
Seton Hall University
The College of New Jersey

NEW YORK

Hunter College CUNY
University of Rochester (online nursing programs available )

NORTH CAROLINA

Queens University of Charlotte
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

OHIO

Cleveland State University (online nursing programs available )
Otterbein College (online nursing programs available )
The Ohio State University (online nursing programs available )
University of Toledo
Walsh University (online nursing programs available )
Wright State University (online nursing programs available )
Xavier University

OKLAHOMA

University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

OREGON

University of Portland (online nursing programs available )

PENNSYLVANIA

Drexel University
La Salle University
Moravian College
Temple University
University of Pittsburgh (online nursing programs available )

RHODE ISLAND

University of Rhode Island
SOUTH CAROLINA
University of South Carolina Upstate
SOUTH DAKOTA
Augustana College
South Dakota State University (online nursing programs available )

TENNESSEE

East Tennessee State University
Tennessee Technological University (online nursing programs available )
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Vanderbilt University (online nursing programs available )

TEXAS

Texas Christian University
Texas Woman's University
University of the Incarnate Word
University of Texas Medical Branch

UTAH

University of Utah (online nursing programs available )

VERMONT

University of Vermont

VIRGINIA

George Mason University
James Madison University
Lynchburg College
University of Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University

WASHINGTON

Pacific Lutheran University
University of Washington Seattle
University of Washington-Tacoma

WISCONSIN

Columbia College of Nursing
Marquette University
University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh (online nursing programs available )
Viterbo University