Clinical Nurse Specialist Jobs: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for clinical nurse specialists. Get the facts about degree requirements, licensing, job outlook and salary to determine if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Clinical Nurse Specialist Do?

Clinical nurse specialists are registered nurses with a graduate degree in nursing. They oversee nursing care in a unit or ward. They may work in a field, such as oncology or gerontology, and have specialized training in that medical field. Their focus is to assess how their ward or unit can improve the care it provides to patients. They ensure that the medical staff in their ward provide quality care and uphold all regulations, and they may also provide direct patient care. In addition to overseeing care, they may also be involved in educating patients, performing research and teaching their staff new medical procedures or approaches to patient care.

The table below provides further career information for clinical nurse specialists.

Degree Required Master's degree in nursing
Key Skills Compassion, an attention to detail, critical-thinking skills
Licensure/Certification State licensure is required; voluntary specialty certifications are also available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% (for all registered nurses)*
Median Salary (2015) $67,490 (for all registered nurses)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

A clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is a registered nurse who has developed advanced medical skills. If you become a CNS, you would undertake training in a particular area of medicine and provide evaluations and care directly to your patients. Advanced care nurses are even able to prescribe medicine to patients in all states; however, each state has its own restrictions.

A CNS typically focuses on a specific area of health care. You could specialize in women's health or pediatrics, or you could work mostly in emergency rooms or critical care units. Some clinical nurse specialists train to work with diabetes patients or psychiatric patients. You would also guide a nursing staff as a consultant or leader.

What Type of Qualifications, Education and Training Do I Need?

To work in the nursing field, you should be a compassionate and caring individual who desires to help others. In addition, you need to be highly detail-oriented and able to assess situations using a wide variety of information in order to determine what is important.

To work as a clinical nurse specialist, you must have already obtained a registered nurse degree. Since a CNS can work independently from doctors, you must receive additional education, training and certification. You need to earn a master's degree in nursing to work as a CNS, and many schools offer a Doctor of Nurse Practice. It can take you 6-10 years to complete your training. You can receive your certification as a Clinical Nurse Specialist through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which requires you to pass an exam and renew your credentials every five years.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for registered nurses were expected to increase 16% during the 2014-2024 decade. This faster-than-average job growth was expected to result from the health care needs of a growing elderly population. Employment opportunities should be best in long-term and outpatient care facilities. As of May 2015, registered nurses made a median salary of $67,490. And as of 2017, PayScale determined clinical nurse specialists earned a median annual salary of $82,509.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Licensed vocational nurses and physician assistants work in the same field as clinical nurse specialists, resulting in similar duties. All of these medical professionals are involved in providing patient care. They strive to provide quality care and follow medical guidelines for treatment plans and care of patients. They must maintain confidentiality when treating patients. Licensed vocational nurses provide direct care to patients and follow the patient care plan. Physician assistants assess patients and use test information to diagnose them and prescribe treatment, and may work closely with clinical nurse specialists. Licensed vocational nurses need postsecondary training in nursing, and physician assistants need a master's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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