Clinical Nurse Specialist Career and Degree Guide

Clinical Nurse Specialist Salary and Job Growth

Take a look at the salary options for clinical nurse specialists and see how they stack up to others.

Median Annual Salary

Because of their leadership skills and advanced degree requirements, clinical nurse specialists enjoy one of the top salaries in the nursing field. Gaining the proper education and training to become a clinical nurse specialist may seem daunting at first, but you could be rewarded with an enviable salary along with the ability to help shape health care practices.

The median annual salary for clinical nurse specialists, included in the larger group of nurse practitioners, is $107,460. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.

What’s my earning potential?

Clinical nurse specialists have a unique role in that they can work as primary care providers and since the need for nurses is high, you’re more apt to find job security in this field. Plus, the responsibility of being in a leadership role can translate into a better-paying job.

A clinical nurse specialist’s earning potential can vary based on their employer, education and area of specialty, but generally the salary range is excellent.

How do clinical nurse specialist salaries compare?

Nursing CareerMedian Annual Salary*
Registered Nurse$68,450
Physician’s Assistant$101,480
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse$44,090

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2018-19 Edition, Registered NursesLicensed Practical and Licensed Vocational NursesPhysician’s AssistantNurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Is there demand for this career?

Clinical nurse specialists, like all nursing careers, are in high demand. Because they are one of the advanced nurse practices, they are particularly sought out. Like nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists can work as primary care providers but at a lesser cost to patients than a physician. This benefit is crucial for inner cities, rural communities and other underserved areas.

As the topic of health care costs remains part of the national conversation, clinical nurse specialists will also be looked upon to help. Because part of their job is to improve health care quality while reducing costs, CNSs will be in demand for their expertise. Their role as a mentor and coach is also necessary as new nurses enter the field. Businesses may look to CNSs as a resource for promoting wellness initiatives and preventative measures among employees.

What is the job growth for the field?

With an ongoing nursing shortage, clinical nurse specialist job growth is expected to increase. The BLS doesn’t specifically track job growth for CNSs, but they anticipate registered nurse employment will grow 15 percent through 2026, although national long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions.

How much competition will I face for a job?

Although jobs are expected to be plentiful, aspiring clinical nurse specialists shouldn’t just assume they’re a shoe-in. Nursing schools and future employers will always be looking for the best and brightest candidates.

Earning the appropriate degrees and professional certifications is essential if you want to even be in the running for a job. Another way to lessen the competition is to focus your efforts on a specialty with a shortage of CNSs. Research the needs of local health care facilities to find out if there is a gap in a particular area, such as oncology nursing or home health nursing.

What kinds of institutions hire clinical nurse specialists?

Clinical nurse specialists hold a unique set of skills and knowledge which makes them integral in a variety of health care settings. Where you work is also dependent on your specialty. Some of the places you might find a CNS job include:

  • Hospitals
  • Private practice
  • Clinics
  • Home health care facilities
  • Health centers
  • Long-term care facilities

How do I advance in my clinical nurse specialists career?

The best way to advance your CNS career is through education. While you’ll need to hold a master’s degree to practice, there is the option to advance further and earn a doctorate. This advanced degree can help you expand your leadership role.

CNSs are required to get re-certified every five years and two ways can also help you advance in your career. Completing continuing education courses or getting published in a peer-reviewed book or journal are both acceptable renewal criteria for the American Nurses Association Credentialing Center (ANCC) certification and both paths can help make you a more desirable job candidate.

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