Clinical Nurse Specialist Career Options

CNS career paths
What Is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are advanced practice RNs who provide patient care, manage, and train other nurses and conduct research in their clinical practice area of choice. These expert nurses are increasingly critical members of care teams in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and other health settings.

Examples of Clinical Nurse Specialist Job Titles

When searching for clinical nurse specialist jobs, you may find positions listed under titles such as:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Clinician

Employers will often advertise for CNS positions by specialty.

What Do Clinical Nurse Specialists Do?

These highly trained nurses typically pursue specializations in one of three primary areas:

  • Patient care
  • Management of nursing teams
  • Administration

Many clinical nurse specialists supervise other nurses to ensure quality care for their patients.

Other duties included in the clinical nurse specialist job description may include:

  • Performing diagnostic procedures to determine the cause of patient symptoms
  • Creating treatment plans and care regimens
  • Recording patient medical histories
  • Educating patients and their families about managing health conditions and healthier behaviors
  • Conducting research in nursing or medicine and recording the findings of studies
  • Administering medications and treatments in clinical and hospital environments
  • Collaborating with other health care professionals to provide care

In most states, clinical nurse specialists who have a master's degree or doctorate in their field can apply for the ability to prescribe medications for their patients.

Advancing as a Clinical Nurse

As you gain experience, you may be eligible for more senior roles in nursing research, management, or administration. For example, you might become involved in directing studies, hiring and training new nurses, or collaborating with other health professionals to establish clinical standards for your nursing specialty at your institution.

You can also pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree after completing your MSN degree.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Salaries and Job Growth Outlook

Figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2015 indicate that the median salary for all advanced practice nurses, including clinical nurse specialists, was approximately $104,740 per year. The BLS projects that jobs in this field will increase by 31 percent over the 10-year period between 2014 and 2024.

CNS salaries can vary significantly depending on geographic location and the institution at which you work.

GMercyU: Your Pathway to Success

Launch your career in nursing with one of the most trusted nursing schools in the region – Gwynedd Mercy University. Our Master of Science in Nursing programs provides practical education in a flexible format that fits with your demanding schedule. Call us at 844-707-9064 or e-mail to contact an admissions counselor, or request more information!


Request Information

Complete the form below and an admissions counselor will contact you to answer any questions and help as you assemble all the components of your admissions file.