Skip Navigation



Clinical Nurse Specialist (onsite & online)

Diversifying Your Nursing Career
Melinda Sawyer
"Being able to turn ideas into reality has been very rewarding."
Melinda Sawyer , MSN' 09, RN

For Melinda Sawyer, the biggest "aha" moment in her nursing career came early in her studies in the MSN Clinical Nurse Specialist program at Johns Hopkins. For her second clinical rotation in the program, she helped lead a national patient safety effort to reduce hospital-acquired blood-stream infections. Patient safety was already an interest of hers, but her graduate studies propelled her to pursue the specialty at a whole new level.

Read Melinda's Story
  • Program

    Program Overview

    The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing designed its Clinical Nurse Specialist master's program for registered nurses who wish to expand their nursing expertise related to the management of a specific patient population. If you seek diverse professional opportunities, such as delivering direct patient care, organizing services and resources while controlling costs, and educating nurses and healthcare professionals to improve healthcare delivery systems, the CNS master's program will help you build the necessary competencies in both clinical theory-based and research-based nursing practices.

    You will gain expertise in your area of clinical focus, either in adult or child health. The broad education and holistic approach to healthcare systems will allow you to experience professional roles as varied as your interests-you might find yourself working as an expert clinician, clinical leader, staff or academic educator, consultant, or researcher.

    CNS options include: Adult/Geriatric Health, Adult/Geriatric Critical Care, Pediatric Health, and Pediatric Critical Care.

    Those who earn a master's degree as a clinical nurse specialist:

    • Serve as educators, outcomes managers, consultants, researchers, change agents, and case managers, as well as clinical nurses
    • Lead and collaborate in an interdisciplinary healthcare team that can include pharmacists, physical therapists, or social workers
    • Provide guidance and support to patients and their families in navigating the complex healthcare delivery system
    • Are prepared to pass the American Nurses Credentialing Center Clinical Nurse Specialist Exam

    To be given consideration for a Merit Scholarship Award, you must be accepted for admission by March 1. Please note that on average it takes the Admissions Committee approximately one month to reach a decision upon receipt of a completed application.

  • Program

    Program Requirements

    Students may apply for full- or part-time study.

    The school seeks individuals who will bring to the student body the qualities of scholarship, motivation, and commitment. The Admissions Committee is interested in each applicant as an individual and will consider both academic potential and personal qualities. Therefore, school records, test scores, recommendations, and essays about goals and interests are important.

    Recommendations about a student's character, intellectual curiosity, seriousness of purpose, and range of extracurricular activities are considered.

    Selection factors include:

    • Bachelor of Science degree in nursing
    • Scholastic Grade Point Average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale from an accredited college or university
    • GRE scores within the past five years (MSN/MPH applicants only). Our GRE school code is 5767.
    • Demonstrated commitment to nursing practice and scholarly pursuit
    • Community service and professional commitment
    • Interview with faculty member*
    • Written expression of goals
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Applicants must submit evidence of current nursing licensure. Students must have or obtain Maryland Registered Nurse licensure for matriculation

    *Interview with a faculty member may or may not be requested.

    Additionally, applicants for the Adult-Geriatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program

    • Will be exceptional students who are carefully chosen based on a number of factors including previous experiences. Direct care acute care experiences will be required;
    • Will be required to attend part time during their first year in the program while working as a staff nurse in a critical care unit full time (more than 36 hours per week), and will not begin NP clinical courses until their second year.


    • Undergraduate Statistics
    • Health Assessment (for NP and CNS applicants only)

    In addition to the prerequisites above, the following courses are also required for MSN/MPH applicants:

    • College level course in Quantitative Science (ex. Algebra, Calculus, Statistics)
    • General Biology
    • Health Related Science (ex. Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology)

    Transfer of Credit

    Transfer of credit is granted on an individual basis. The decision is based on equivalent content (for required courses), credit allotment and satisfactory completion of courses. You may petition for permission to substitute a course from another college or university by submitting a request to the Office of Admissions and Student Services along with the complete course syllabus.

    Up to 6 credits of graduate course work taken at Johns Hopkins University or elsewhere may be accepted for transfer. Course work must have been completed within the last five years. Course work at the undergraduate level will not be considered for advanced standing credit.

    Admissions Procedures

    Start Early

    Students are strongly encouraged to complete the application process early. Candidates for admission will be notified of a decision in writing after all the application documents are received and the Admissions Committee's review.

    Note: The admissions committee for the Public Health Nursing, Nurse-Midwifery Track consists of representatives from both Johns Hopkins University and Shenandoah University.

    Follow all instructions carefully to avoid delays in the processing of application materials. To expedite the application process, students may submit all supporting documentation, including official transcripts and recommendations, in sealed envelopes in one package (test scores excluded). Application supporting documentation may also arrive separately. Before a final admission decision can be made, all supporting documentation must be received.


    • Completed and signed application form
    • Signed statement acknowledging the School's Ethics Policy
    • $75 non-refundable application fee
      (Make check or money order payable to "Johns Hopkins University")
    • Goal statement
    • Three recommendations:
      • At least one recommendation from an academic source (current or previous professor)
      • Remaining two recommendations may be from either an academic or professional source(employment/volunteer supervisor)
      • Recommendations should be enclosed in sealed envelopes with the recommender's signature across the envelope flap
    • Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended (including Johns Hopkins University)
    • Current résumé
    • Official GRE scores, if applying to the MSN/MPH program, sent to the School of Nursing (School code: 5767)
    • Verification of current RN license, all RN's must obtain a Maryland RN license and present verification by the time of matriculation

    Note: Due to changing clinical site regulations, students are required to undergo a criminal background check prior to matriculation. The School will provide information about this process to accepted students.

    Applicants Who Have Studied Abroad

    International applicants and applicants who have completed courses outside of the United States must submit:

    More information for international applicants
    Office of International Student, Faculty, and Staff Services

  • Curriculum


    Program may be completed in 15 months (4 semesters) and provides more than 500 clinical hours. To apply, you must have completed one year of full-time experience as a registered nurse in an adult or child care setting prior to clinical sequence.

    View Full Curriculum and Sample Courses of Study

  • Tuition


    Billed Expenses (September 2014 - May 2015)
    Tuition:  $34,824* (full-time Fall & Spring does not include summer)
    Per credit cost:  $1,451
    Matriculation fee:  $500 (onetime only fee for first-time enrolled JHU students)
    Health Insurance: $2,421**
    Health Fee: $450

    Estimated Other Expenses***

    Room and Board: $12,294
    Books/Supplies: $1,856
    Personal Expenses: up to $1,350
    Travel Expenses:  up to $3,366

    *Full-time: 12 credit hours per semester, $17,412.00 per semester
    **All students must have health coverage.  Purchase of the School’s plan is optional.
    ***Amounts for other expenses vary based upon student's selection of books, supplies, and living arrangements.

    Billed expenses are subject to change without prior notice.       

  • FAQ

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is a Clinical Nurse Specialist?

    Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) are licensed registered nurses who have graduate preparation (Master's or Doctorate) in nursing as a Clinical Nurse Specialist. The CNS, with advanced educational preparation and expertise in a specialty area of nursing practice, has a unique APRN role - to improve health care quality. This is accomplished across three spheres of influence: patient & family, nurses & staff, the organization or health care system.

    A CNS has the primary responsibilities of expert practitioner, educator, administrator/manager, consultant and researcher. These roles are evidenced through leadership as well as interdisciplinary collaboration and communication. The CNS is a leader in developing new educational and performance improvement initiatives including policies and procedures to improve nursing knowledge and patient care. S/he works in collaboration with the Unit and Hospital Directors and multidisciplinary team members to develop criteria for patient care, assess the health needs of patients, evaluate outcomes of care to improve care and assure best practices, and translate published evidence into practice. The CNS initiates and develops clinical and system based research as well as evidence-based practice initiatives to maximize quality and safety and to assure best outcomes.

    What do Clinical Nurse Specialists specialize in?

    Clinical Nurse Specialists are expert clinicians in a specialized area of nursing practice. The specialty may be identified in terms of:

    • Population (e.g. pediatrics, geriatrics, women's health)
    • Setting (e.g. critical care, emergency room)
    • Disease or Medical Subspecialty (e.g. diabetes, oncology)
    • Type of Care (e.g. psychiatric, rehabilitation)
    • Type of Problem (e.g. pain, wounds, stress)

    What kind of settings can Clinical Nurse Specialists practice in?

    Clinical Nurse Specialists practice in a wide variety of healthcare settings.

    Do Clinical Nurse Specialists play a vital role in healthcare?

    In addition to providing direct patient care, CNS influence care outcomes by providing expert consultation for nursing staffs and by implementing improvements in healthcare delivery systems. CNS practice integrates nursing practice, which focuses on assisting patients in the prevention or resolution of illness, with medical diagnosis and treatment of disease, injury and disability.

    Research about Clinical Nurse Specialist practice demonstrates outcomes such as:

    • Reduced Hospital Costs and Length of Stay
    • Reduced Frequency of Emergency Room Visits
    • Improved Pain Management Practices
    • Increased Patient Satisfaction with Nursing Care
    • Reduced Medical Complications in Hospitalized Patients

    How much do Clinical Nurse Specialists typically make?

    An estimated 69,017 RNs have the education and credentials to practice as a CNS. Approximately 14,643 are qualified to work as a nurse practitioner and a CNS. Salaries range from $65,000 to over $110,000 annually depending on region of the country and practice.

Application Deadlines

Fall Entry
March 15

Spring Entry
September 1

Summer Entry
January 15

Apply Now

Academic Manual

Important policies, procedures, and resources for easy reference.

View Manual

Mailing List

Receive updates on the admissions process and academic programs.

Subscribe Today


Back to Top