Health Career Center

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are nurses that specialize in a specific area nursing. Clinical nurse specialists can specialize in the following areas:
  • Emergency room nursing
  • Intensive care nursing
  • Women's health
  • Geriatrics
  • Pediatrics
  • Oncology
  • Chronic pain managment
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Diabetes
  • Rehabilitation
  • Mental health/psychiatric
  • Etc.
Clinical nurse specialists perform many of the same duties as registered nurses, but they also perform specialized duties including diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions, assisting individuals with severe disabilities, and preventing the spread and proliferation of disease. They also provide a variety of direct patient care services, assist in enhancing medical care delivery systems, and consult other healthcare professionals.

Working Conditions

There approximately 70,000 clinical nurse specialists working in a variety of healthcare settings throughout the United States. A typical clinical nurse specialist can expect to earn $50,000 to $100,000 a year. Earning potential is influenced by location, nursing specialty, experience, and employer. Job opportunities for clinical nurse specialists are plentiful and on the rise. Currently, there are not enough qualified nurse specialists to fill all open positions.


In order to become a clinical nurse specialist, you must first become a registered nurse (RN). In most states, nurse specialists are also required to have a master's of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nuring practice (DNP) degree.

After completing all academic requirements, you also may be required to satisfy certain licensing requirements and pass an exam, depending on your area of specialization. However, in many areas of clinical nursing, there aren't any exam requirements. You'll need to check with your state nursing board to find out if there are any additional licensing requirements for your area of expertise.

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Job Outlook: Excellent

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