7 Important CNS School and Career Questions Answered

What careers can I pursue as a CNS?

Many clinical nurse specialists find solid careers in hospitals, private practices, schools and health centers. Because of a CNS’s advanced expertise, you may find leadership roles and educator opportunities. Your career path will also be dictated by your specialization, such as pediatrics, emergency care or geriatrics.

What degree path can I take?

You’ll need a master’s degree to work as a clinical nurse specialist. If you don’t want to earn your bachelor’s and master’s degrees separately, there’s another path you can take. Bridge programs (RN-to-MSN) combine studies for both degree levels allowing you to complete one program instead of two. You’ll typically choose a specialization during master’s level studies.

How do I choose a specialization?

The environment you’ll work in and the type of patients you’ll interact with are important factors when considering a specialization. For example, if you’re interested in improving the mental health care system, you might choose to specialize in psychiatric nursing. Your specialization should also be in line with your career goals and your personality traits. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers 10 CNS specialization certifications including home health, pediatrics and adult health.

How do I apply for financial aid?

The most common type of financial assistance is government aid. Before you can even be considered, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In order to be eligible, the school or program you’re enrolled in must be accredited. You’ll also find other types of financial aid including scholarships, grants, private loans, and PLUS loans. Read up on ways to finance your nursing education.

What type of accreditation should a nursing school have?

For both your bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, it’s important to find a program and school that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

If your undergraduate program isn’t accredited, you may have difficulty being accepted into an accredited master’s program.

How do I become licensed to work as a CNS?

A CNS is also an RN, which means you’ll need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and become licensed with your state’s nursing board. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) certifies CNSs, which is also required in some states.

What continuing education requirements should I expect throughout my career?

To keep your CNS license current, some states require CNSs to participate in continuing education (CE) courses at certain intervals in their career. A list of approved CE programs with the number of hours or credits needed can be obtained from your state nursing board.

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Clinical Nurse Specialist Career and Degree Guide


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