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MSN: Clinical Nurse Leader Online Program

online msn graduate inspects xray with another nurse

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 five 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.

Admissions Estimator

CNL Career Outlook: Roles Across Health Care Settings

When you pursue a CNL program online, you’ll prepare to build a career ensuring patients receive safe, high-quality care with the newest health care technologies and techniques.

In 2021, 46 percent of CNLs surveyed were employed at Acute Care Inpatient Facilities. Other top employers included Healthcare Facilities (13 percent), Outpatient Clinics or Surgery Centers (6 percent), Schools of Nursing (9 percent) and Long-Term Care Facilities (2 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 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:

$ 101,431 /YEAR3

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.

Careers and Salaries

Curriculum: Immerse Yourself in Clinical Leadership

The clinical nurse leader program’s online curriculum offers in-depth exploration of nursing leadership. Through nine courses, comprising 27 specialization credit hours, you will gain skills in pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, communications, information management and more.

Students admitted after January 1, 2024, to the CNL program will have 420 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 611 – Care Management & Resources Across the Continuum

Examine the Clinical Nurse Leader’s (CNL’s) responsibility for the management of healthcare across the lifespan and continuum of care while remaining cognizant of the global environment in which healthcare is provided.

Graduate Student Learning Outcomes

At the end of the program, the student will be able to: 

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 and health assessment.

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.
  • As of Jan. 1, 2024, Clinical Nurse Leader specialization requires 420 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 (2021). Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC). Retrieved July 29, 2022, from
  3. (2022 November). Clinical Nurse Leader Salary. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from,IL#:~:text=As%20of%20Oct%2027%2C%202022,Chicago%20is%20%2495%2C739%20a%20year.