NewsThe Complete Guide to Certified Nursing Specialist Training Programs

The Complete Guide to Certified Nursing Specialist Training Programs

If you’re thinking of advancing your nursing career, becoming a Certified Nursing Specialist (CNS) is an excellent option. This role combines clinical practice, research, and managerial skills to improve patient outcomes and healthcare settings. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about Certified Nursing Specialist Training Programs.

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What Is a Certified Nursing Specialist?

A Certified Nursing Specialist is a highly-skilled nurse focused on specialized patient care and healthcare system improvements. Unlike regular registered nurses, CNSs are experts in a specific area, such as paediatrics, gerontology, or mental health.

There are several different types of certified nursing specialists, including:

– Adult-Gerontology CNS

– Pediatric CNS

– Neonatal CNS

– Oncology CNS

– Psychiatric-Mental Health CNS

Educational Requirements

To become a certified nursing specialist, you must first become a registered nurse (RN). This requires completing an accredited nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Once you have become an RN, you can then pursue additional education and certification to become a certified nursing specialist.

The requirements for becoming a certified nursing specialist vary depending on the type of CNS you want to become. However, most CNS programs require the following:

Step 1: Undergraduate Degree

To start your journey, you’ll need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This usually takes about four years to complete.

Step 2: Registered Nurse (RN) License

After obtaining a BSN, the next step is to pass the nursing licensure exam, commonly known as the NCLEX-RN, to become a Registered Nurse (RN).

Step 3: Professional Experience

Before applying for a CNS program, gain experience as an RN in your chosen specialty for at least two years.

Step 4: Master’s or Doctorate

Finally, enroll in a Master’s or Doctoral program that offers CNS specialization. Some programs allow you to work while studying, although this could extend the time needed to complete the course.

Certification Bodies

Several different certification bodies offer certification for certified nursing specialists, including:

1. American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

2. National Certification Corporation (NCC)

3. Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC)

4. Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

5. American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)

Each certification body has its own requirements for certification, but most require completion of an accredited CNS program and passing an exam.

Certified Nursing Specialist Training Programs

There are several different types of certified nursing specialist training programs available, including:

1. Master’s Degree Programs:

These programs typically take two years to complete and require a BSN degree for admission. They provide advanced education in the area of specialization and prepare students for certification.

2. Post-Master’s Certificate Programs:

These programs are designed for nurses who already have a master’s degree in nursing but want to specialize in a different area. They typically take one year to complete and provide advanced education in the area of specialization.

3. Doctoral Degree Programs:

These programs are designed for nurses who want to pursue research or academic careers in addition to clinical practice. They typically take three to five years to complete and require a BSN or MSN degree for admission.

Core Courses and Specialisations

CNS training programs often include core courses such as:

– Advanced Physiology

– Health Assessment

– Research Methodology

– Speciality-specific courses (e.g., Oncology, Cardiology)


After completing your advanced degree, you’ll need to get certified. Each speciality may have its own certifying body. Certification usually involves passing a comprehensive exam that tests both your knowledge and clinical skills.

Roles and Responsibilities

As a CNS, you’ll wear many hats. You will be involved in:

– Direct Patient Care

– Staff Training

– Clinical Research

– Policy Making

Job Prospects and Salary

The demand for CNSs is growing. According to reports, a CNS can earn an average salary ranging from £40,000 to £70,000 per year, depending on experience and location.


Becoming a Certified Nursing Specialist is a rewarding but challenging journey that requires dedication, education, and experience. With specialised knowledge and skills, you’ll be well-positioned to make a meaningful impact on patient care and the healthcare system as a whole.

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