Accredited Education

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical nurse specialists are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who treat patients and specialize in a specific area of health care, such as geriatrics, oncology, diabetes, or psychiatric/mental health. These nurse specialists must have completed a graduate degree, such as a master’s degree or a doctorate, and more than 70% of them work with adult patients, according to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS). Registered nurses can expect faster than average employment growth of 26% between 2010 and 2020, and APRNs such as clinical nurse specialists are expected to be in particularly high demand, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The median yearly salary of all registered nurses was $64,690 in May 2010, according to the BLS. However, the NACNS reported that clinical nurse specialists earned between $65,000 and $110,000 annually depending on their practice specialty and the region of the country they worked in. The NACNS outlined the following competencies for clinical nurse specialists:

  • Provides comprehensive patient assessment using evidence-based methods
  • Diagnoses patients after assessing their health, illness, or condition
  • Develops intervention plans for patients based on diagnoses
  • Provides predictions of likely outcomes depending on the plan of care or treatment for diagnoses
  • Evaluates patients’ progress toward meeting wellness goals, making necessary adjustments or collaborating with other health care professionals as necessary

To become a clinical nurse specialist, you will need a minimum of a master’s degree, according to the BLS. This graduate degree is earned after completing a recognized advanced practice program from an accredited higher education institution. You must also be licensed in the state you intend to practice in, and while licensure requirements vary by state, you generally must prove that you have graduated from a recognized advanced practice program and that you hold national certification from a credentialing body such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center. While clinical nurse specialist careers are not necessarily the type of jobs requiring Masters in Healthcare, clinical nurse specialists who wish to transition into management or serve dual roles as clinician-managers may want to complete a MHA degree to learn skills in health care finance, management, marketing, human resources, and more.

Featured Clinical Nurse Specialist Profile