How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist

Updated March 23, 2017

Becoming a clinical nurse specialist allows you to work in more diverse work settings and roles than are open to a registered nurse with a bachelor's degree. Clinical nurse specialists fulfil duties such as teaching, consulting and management, as well as clinical practice. Clinical nurse specialists make around £52,650, according to 2009 data from A few speciality areas available for clinical nurse specialists include community health, psychiatric and mental health, home health and adult health.

Earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and obtain your RN license. The bachelor's degree provides educational foundations for advanced practice nurses and is usually the minimum education required of nurse speciality programs. Complete the degree program and contact your state board of nursing for licensing. Pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) required of registered nurses.

Research the different clinical specialities available to nurses. The American Nursing Association, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists all provide information about continuing nursing education and the specialities available. Clinical nurse specialists include psychiatric and mental health specialists, paediatric, family and adult health specialists.

Select a clinical speciality and complete an advanced practice program. More than 200 clinical nurse specialist programs can be found in the United States; the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists offers a directory of these programs on its website. Complete the specialist program and all of its requirements. Most programs require the completion of two to three years of full-time formal training and coursework leading to the master's degree of nursing; some require additional years in residency or internship.

Pass the certification exam administered by the ANCC for your chosen speciality. Submit an application for certification to the ANCC and schedule your exam. Take the test on the scheduled date. Receive your certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.


Review test content outlines, sample questions and practice exams on the ANCC's website before you take the clinical nurse specialist examination.

Things You'll Need

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Registered nurse license
  • ANCC clinical nurse certification
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About the Author

Matthew Schieltz has been a freelance web writer since August 2006, and has experience writing a variety of informational articles, how-to guides, website and e-book content for organizations such as Demand Studios. Schieltz holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He plans to pursue graduate school in clinical psychology.