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MSN: Clinical Nurse Leader Specialization

Specialized Prep to Sit for CNL Exam

Best Online Graduate Nursing Program1

Evidence-Based Practice Coursework

Flexible Online Learning

Close-to-Home Clinicals

Learn More Today

Complete the form to learn more about this program.

  • Duration 2 years
  • Cost per Credit $695
  • Credit Hours 39

Program Benefits

  • Develop the skills you need for CNL certification
  • Attend class when and where it’s convenient
  • No BSN requirement for admission
  • 6 convenient start dates

Elevate Your Career as a Nurse Leader

Lead a team with SHU’s MSN –Clinical Nurse Leader specialization. You’ve mastered patient care and working as part of a team. Advance as a leader who can inform a team about evidence-based practices, tools and processes to improve patient outcomes. Reshape policy, reduce costs and identify solutions to problems within your healthcare system after a deep immersion of quality care research within the curriculum.

This unique MSN without BSN requirement degree offers four core and eight specialized courses. Complete your degree in two to six years, at your own pace, and then be prepared to sit for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing CNL Certification Exam.

CNL Career Outlook: Roles Across Health Care Settings

Build yourself a career ensuring patients receive safe, high-quality care with the newest health care technologies and techniques.

In 2016, 62 percent of CNLs surveyed were employed at Acute Care Inpatient Facilities. Other top employers included Outpatient Clinics or Surgery Centers (11.5 percent), Schools of Nursing (8.4 percent) and Long-Term Care Facilities (3.8 percent).2

Upon completing your CNL program and certification, you can qualify for a variety of roles in addition to Clinical Nurse Leader, including Nurse Manager, Nurse Administrator, Nurse Educator, Risk Management, Quality Care Coordinator, Patient Navigator, CNL Academic Faculty, Community Health, and other roles utilized in the facility in which you choose to work.

Clinical Nurse Leader:


As a Clinical Nurse Leader, your responsibilities would include leading collaborative patient care, as well as mentoring other nurses, educating patients and their families, and analyzing data and assessing patient risks and outcomes. This role and estimated CNL salary requires the CNL certification from the AACN.3

Nurse Case Manager:


As a Nurse Case Manager, you’d lead and coordinate all aspects of a patient’s care, from admission and discharge to insurance reimbursement. You’d be your patient’s advocate, ensuring they receive proper procedures and care that meets their physical and emotional needs.4

Careers and Salaries

Curriculum: Immerse Yourself in Clinical Leadership

Through nine courses, comprising 27 specialization credit hours, you will gain skills in pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, communications, information management and more.

The MSN CNL specialization includes 348 hours of role immersion to ensure you meet the requirements to sit for the AACN’s CNL Certification Exam.

Course Spotlight: NU 550 – Family and Community Context for Health Care

Gain a better understanding of family, primary care and community theories in the context of advanced practice nursing and clinical leadership roles.

Preview Courses

Course Spotlight: NU 575 – Health Care Information Systems

Manage patient data to improve care delivery, quality and safety in health care systems. This course combines knowledge in nursing, computer, information and cognitive sciences.

Student Learning Outcomes for Master’s Education in Nursing

More Options for Your MSN

MSN: Nursing Education

Complement your clinical experience with teaching skills and learn to design curricula, evaluate your students and step into the role of instructor.

MSN: Nursing Management & Executive Leadership

Discover how to manage a budget, create and implement administrative processes, make certain your procedures meet professional and ethical standards, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question we don’t cover here, request more information or call 877-791-7181.

You can earn a Master of Science in Nursing with Sacred Heart University within two years.

You can take as long as six years to complete the program.

  • Current, unencumbered RN license
  • Bachelor’s degree in any field with a 3.0 GPA
  • Official transcripts of all prior nursing and academic work
  • Résumé
  • Statement of professional goals: Why do you wish to pursue the MSN at SHU? Describe a significant accomplishment in your career or as a student that has prepared you to pursue graduate studies in nursing. In addition, please describe 2–3 professional goals.
  • Two letters of recommendation (at least one from a direct supervisor): Must be from an employer, professor or a member of the medical/nursing profession and be written within the last two years.
  • Proof of malpractice insurance ($1,000,000/$3,000,000)
  • Prerequisite courses in statistics, health assessment and research

Yes, you’ll earn your degree with one of the following specializations:

  • The Nursing Education specialization requires 180 clinical hours
  • The Nursing Management and Executive Leadership specialization requires 120 clinical hours
  • The Clinical Nurse Leader specialization requires 348 clinical hours
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  1. Best Online Master’s in Nursing Programs. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved July 23, 2021, from
  2. Commission on Nurse Certification (2016). Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) 2016 Job Analysis (Rep.). Retrieved October 7, 2019, from
  3. Payscale (2019 September 13). Average Clinical Nurse Leader Salary. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from
  4. Payscale (2019 September 18). Average Nurse Case Manager Salary. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from