Skip to content

MSN: Clinical Nurse Leader Specialization

Program overview

Become your patients’ best advocate.

Focus on patient safety and advocate for superior care as a Clinical Nurse Leader. You’ll learn to lead a holistic team that might include nurses, physicians, social workers and pharmacists.

Focus on patient safety and advocate for superior care as a Clinical Nurse Leader. You’ll learn to lead a holistic team that might include nurses, physicians, social workers and pharmacists.

Quick Facts


years to complete


total credit hours


per credit hour

Request More Information

Fill out the form below and a skilled and knowledgeable Admissions Representative will get in touch to answer your questions and help with the application process.

Greater Responsibilities and Expanded Influence

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) created the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) role to help nurses “develop the competencies needed to thrive in the current and future healthcare system.”

Our Clinical Nurse Leader specialization builds the skills you need for CNL certification. You’ll learn to act as an expert resource to fellow nurses, inform your patients about diagnoses and care options, work as part of an interdisciplinary team and make evidence-based recommendations to improve health care policy.

This specialization is the perfect way to reinvest in what you love about patient care while taking your nursing career — as well as your responsibilities and influence — to the next level.

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).1

With the CNL certification, you can qualify for a variety of roles in addition to Clinical Nurse Leader, including Staff Nurse, Charge Nurse, Nurse Manager or Administrator, Nurse Educator, Quality Care Coordinator, CNL Faculty, and more.1

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 requires the CNL certification from the AACN.2

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.3

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 Clinical Nurse Leader 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.

More Options for Your MSN

MSN: Nursing Education Specialization

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 Specialization

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.

Our students are mainly registered nurses who are working full-time and returning to school to get their master’s degree in nursing with a specialty in Clinical Nurse Leadership, Nursing Education, or Nursing Management and Executive Leadership.

Our MSN students seek a regional and nursing accredited program and the flexibility to take courses online at convenient times. Located throughout the Northeast region and the entire U.S., students’ geographic diversity helps provide a rich learning experience thanks to the varying perspectives offered during discussions.

Our distinguished, award-winning faculty have years of clinical experience and in many cases, they have studied nursing education and performed scholarly research.

You can apply right now. Our academic calendar has six MSN start dates a year, with flexible modules to accommodate your financial aid, tuition reimbursement or scholarship funds. We can help you determine which start date is right for you.

If you have any questions, request more information or call 877-791-7181.

Yes, Sacred Heart University offers nursing students the opportunity to travel internationally via Global Programs. If you have any questions, request more information or call 877-791-7181.

Some of the requirements for this program include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited college, or BA/BS in a related field and an unencumbered RN license from your state of practice.

Visit our MSN Admissions page for a complete list of requirements.

You can complete the MSN program at your own pace, taking as few as 2 years or as long as 6 years to graduate.

Visit our FAQ page


  1. Commission on Nurse Certification (2016). Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) 2016 Job Analysis (Rep.). Retrieved October 7, 2019, from
  2. Payscale (2019 September 13). Average Clinical Nurse Leader Salary. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from
  3. Payscale (2019 September 18). Average Nurse Case Manager Salary. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from