How Can an LPN Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

Advancing from an LPN to a clinical nurse specialist requires becoming a registered nurse and completing graduate education. Read on to learn more about this career path. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

If you work as a clinical nurse specialist (CNS), you'll need to be a registered nurse (RN) and gain advanced practice skills. You may want to decide on a specialty area, such as pediatric healthcare. In addition to direct patient care, you may work in collaboration with other nurses and physicians to provide advice or consultation in patient care and healthcare delivery systems. Clinical nurse specialists are commonly employed within hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare institutes.

Important Facts about Becoming a CNS

Median Salary (2014) $66,640 (for all RNs, including the CNS role)
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 16% (for RNs, including the CNS role)
Work Environment State, local, private hospitals, nursing and residential care, physician offices, government, home health care services
Professional Certification Aside from standard RN licensure and CNS licensure or certification, specialty CNS certifications are also available

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Registered Nursing

As an experienced LPN, you have the opportunity to enter a LPN-to-BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree program. Entrance into a bachelor's degree program requires you to hold an LPN license and meet work experience requirements. In some programs, you may be able to get college credits for work experience.

Once you've completed a bachelor's degree in nursing, you can take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed as an RN. You must have your RN license to complete further training to become a clinical nurse specialist, and most states require an active RN license to work as a CNS.

Graduate Education

Becoming a clinical nurse specialist requires completing a Master of Science in Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) program. CNS programs are typically two years in length for full-time status. Some programs also offer specialty tracks, such as focusing on age-specific populations, like pediatric, geriatric, or adult healthcare. Admission into a CNS program might require professional clinical experience.

State Requirements

States may require you to obtain CNS certification. Typically, you must hold a current RN license and a master's degree to qualify for this certification. In addition, each state regulates the job duties of a CNS, such as the right to prescribe medicine. Requirements and limitations are set at the state level, so if you plan to work in a different state than you are currently working, you may need to meet the requirements of that state.

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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