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Clinical Nurse Specialist Career Guide

A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) who has completed graduate school and clinical training. Clinical nurse specialists, like nurse practitioners, specialize in certain patient groups; but, unlike NPs, they place a greater emphasis on nurse education and improving patient outcomes. When you consider the predicted work prospects and prospective compensation, earning the credentials to become a clinical nurse specialist is a terrific career choice.


Clinical Nurse Specialists are advanced practice registered nurses with specialized training and advanced degrees (at least a master's degree). They can work in a range of health care settings and specialize in areas such as demographic, setting, disease, kind of care, or problem.

Clinical nurse specialists can also focus on one of the following areas:

  • Family/Individual/Across the Lifespan

  • Neonatal

  • Pediatrics

  • Psychiatric/Mental Health

  • Women’s Health/Gender Specific

Clinical nurse specialists, regardless of speciality, are experts in diagnosing and treating diseases and provide guidance to their nursing team.

Tasks and Responsibilities

Clinical nurse specialists' employment differ depending on their expertise and the type of hospital they operate in. Most CNSs, on the other hand, spend their days caring for patients and collaborating with other nurses and staff members behind the scenes. CNSs spent 26.6 percent of their day providing direct patient care, 22.1 percent consulting with nurses and other staff, 26.5 percent training nurses and staff, and 19.7 percent directing evidence-based practice initiatives, according to the 2020 NACNS poll. Precepting pupils takes up the majority of their time (32.5 percent ).

According to the poll, clinical nurse experts will also do the following tasks:

  • Assist with initiatives including evidence-based practice.

  • Assist other nurses and professionals with patient care

  • Help with research

  • Instruct patients and their families.

  • As the principal investigator, conduct research.

  • Teach in a communal setting

  • Transitional care is provided.

CNSs play many roles and are important members of healthcare teams.


According to ZipRecruiter, the median pay for Clinical Nurse Specialists is $106,407 as of February 2022. Clinical Nurse Specialist salaries in the United States presently vary from $79,500 to $128,500 per year, with some earning up to $156,000. Earnings for Clinical Nurse Specialists differ based on the specialized unit and company.

Some Clinical Nurse Specialists may be in great demand by hospitals and medical institutions looking to fill a specific job, making compensation more competitive. In fact, to fulfill demand, some institutions may engage highly qualified travel nurses, making Clinical Nurse Specialists an extra option.

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

Step 1: Requirements

After earning experience as a Registered Nurse, you can become an Advanced Practice Nurse. To become an RN, you must complete either a Bachelor's degree or an Associates' degree program that has been authorized by your State Nursing Board. After that, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

Step 2: Education

Returning to school to obtain a Master's of Science in Nursing degree with a clinical nurse specialty track is required. According to NACNS, around 20% of CNS opt to pursue their PhD degree.

Step 3: Certifications

Depending on the industry you wish to work in, you can pursue a variety of CNS certifications. The American Nurses Credentialing Center oversees each of them. Adult Health CNS, Pediatric CNS, Public Health CNS, and other CNS credentials are available. Every few years, certifications must normally be renewed.


As the population continues to age, the nursing profession will provide employment security for many years to come. A nursing shortage is also projected as a large number of existing nurses reach retirement age in the coming years.

Furthermore, work opportunities for people with advanced nursing abilities, such as Clinical Nurse Specialists, are predicted to grow even more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, APRN positions, which include Clinical Nurse Specialists, are predicted to grow by 45 percent between 2020 and 2030, substantially faster than the average for all occupations. This figure, however, does not directly address the CNS profession.

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