Essentially an advanced practice-registered nurse, clinical nurse specialists fulfill a specific capacity within the nursing field by providing direct patient care and consultations based on their chosen nursing specialty, either child or adult health. Online clinical nurse specialist degrees offered at the undergraduate and graduate level effectively prepare students for entry into this profession, but higher degree levels provide a deeper level of knowledge and increase the chances of better paying positions in the industry. The clinical nurse specialist master of nursing degree covers more of the aspects of the career than what a student would learn through a bachelor’s program in the same subject.
Why a Masters Degree?
Registered nurses (which leads to a clinical nurse specialist careers) typically pursue their career through one of three educational routes: bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), an associate’s degree in nursing (AND), or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Although a lower degree program may qualify candidates for entry-level positions within the industry, it takes a significant amount of experience to promote with that educational background. Having a masters degree with a clinical nurse specialist concentration can vastly improve a candidate’s chances at obtaining a better job early in their career. Typically, this is the highest degree a nursing professional will need for the future of their career, and the investment is well worth the return. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the top 10% of nurses in this industry earned $96,630 annually in 2011.
Getting Into a Masters Degree Program
Advanced degrees, such as the clinical nurse specialist master of nursing, have a higher set of academic and professional work criterion for admission. Although they vary by college or university, the following requirements give you an idea of the typical requirements associated with this master’s degree.
- Official transcripts showing completion of bachelor’s degree
- Current resume
- Passing scores on the GRE
- Verification of current RN license
Inside a Masters Degree Program
As is the case with most master’s degree programs, the clinical nurse specialist master’s degree can be completed online in as little as two years depending on the school. If a student chooses to complete a BSN to MSN, the overall time spent on both degrees will be less than completing the two separately, thereby accelerating the process. Most master of nursing programs, including the online clinical nurse specialist degrees, include a number of hours of supervised clinical practice. This experience is a huge advantage to graduates as it effectively jump-starts the career path.
Studies in a master of science in nursing with a clinical nurse specialist track focus primarily on advanced learning experiences in several settings related to health care. Students will be given a solid foundation in how to use research and theory to determine the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses for their specialization’s demographic, either adults or children. For clinical nurse specialists learning about adult healthcare, classes in gerontology and health assessment comprise the majority of the course work. Clinical nurse specialists working with child health care will learn more about early development and pediatric variations of health assessment and such. Depending on the specific program, clinical nurse specialists may also study human and family development through the entire lifespan.
What’s Next for Masters Holders?
With a clinical nurse specialist master of nursing degree, students typically only pursue that career, although they may choose to work with either children or adults only. Clinical nurse specialists enter their profession as a registered nurse, but with experience and additional certification and education, their skills become advanced in specific areas of service. Also known as advanced practice registered nurses, they provide specialty care to patients and may prescribe medicines. Because the work is so specialized, a number of state-determined certifications are required to become a professional in this job. With a master’s degree in certified nurse specialist, it is possible to become a physician assistant as well, which requires both a master’s degree and additional licensure.
Graduates of the master of nursing in clinical nurse specialist program may choose to continue their studies with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Although not directly related to the career of clinical nursing, the doctorate will give allow the student to develop their skills and abilities to the greatest degree as well as open up the door for teaching opportunities. With a DNP, a student may go on to conduct vital research and experimentation to further benefit the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities around the world. This degree does not necessarily lead to any specific medical careers, but does allow nurse professionals to experience the fullest extent of their potential within their careers.