Clinical Nurse Specialist

A clinical nurse specialist assesses a facility’s nursing practices and researches how it affects patient outcomes. This is an advanced practice role in nursing, and many nurses concentrate their specialty in a particular area or with a particular population.

A clinical nurse specialist must first earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing and then go on to earn a master’s degree. They often gain experience in their particular interest before going on to become nurse specialists. Although many nursing courses must be taught in a clinical setting, often core courses can be found in a classroom or online.

The path to becoming a clinical nurse specialist starts with earning a bachelor’s degree and certification as a registered nurse. While it is possible to earn a nursing certificate through a program offered in a hospital, a bachelor’s degree is needed in order to go on to earn a master’s degree in nursing. State licensing requirements vary for clinical nurse specialists, and some specialties have certification examinations that candidates must pass in order to practice.

Earning a master’s degree in nursing can take from two to six semesters. After earning a master’s degree, a clinical nurse specialist can choose to go on and earn a doctoral degree in nursing, opening up even more avenues for advancement.

Certified Nurse Specialist Job Description

A certified nurse specialist consults with a facility’s nursing staff and implements improvements in the delivery of health care. They integrate nursing practices with medical diagnosis and treatment. A certified nurse specialist will often focus in one of the following ways:

  • Population – working in pediatrics, geriatrics or women’s health
  • Medical subspecialty – focusing on things like diabetes care or oncology
  • Particular setting – work in an emergency room, operating room or critical care unit
  • Type of care – focus on psychiatric care or patient rehabilitation

Most certified nurse specialists work in hospitals, but some may work in a nursing care facility, a public health organization, insurance company, educational more prestigious titles and larger salaries as they gain experience.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Salary

According to a survey by, a clinical nurse specialist can expect to earn a median salary of $78,735, depending on their location and specialty. Like other jobs in the nursing field, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics expects jobs to grow approximately 20% through 2016 because of an ageing population and the increasingly quick release of patients from hospitals and other medical facilities.

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