If you are a registered nurse (RN) who is considering going back to school to become an Advanced Practice Nurse, becoming a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is one of many options you may want to consider. Clinical nurse specialists must have a master's degree or doctorate degree in a CNS curriculum. There are many different types of advanced practice nurses, but clinical nurse specialists are unique in a number of ways. CNS candidates may choose a specialization based on a medical specialty, or a type of disease or disorder, medical setting, or a particular patient population. In addition to patient care, clinical nurse specialists assist with overall quality of their department, as well as community outreach, patient education, and other ways to improve effectiveness and accuracy of the healthcare provided in their department.
According to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS), compensation ranges between $65,000 to $110,000 per year. Over 70,000 clinical nurse specialists are practicing in the U.S., according to the NACNS. That may sound like a lot of CNS's, but when you consider that there are well over 2.5 million nurses in the country, 70,000 is not a very large proportion of clinical nurse specialists. Plus, those 70,000 CNS's are divided up into about 12-15 different types of CNS's, depending on their area of specialization. Therefore, demand for CNS's, especially in particular specialties such as oncology, is high. For more information about the role of the CNS, and the different areas of specialization in which clinical nurse specialists may become certified, see the CNS career overview.