MSN Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical Nurse Specialist


We offer three clinical nurse specialist (CNS) programs: Adult-Gerontology, Neonatal, and Pediatric. This program will prepare you to provide advanced nursing care directly to clients specialty population, develop evidence-based standards and programs delivered by nursing personnel, and influence systems that affect healthcare.  To learn more about the CNS role, visit the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists at

Our graduate programs are designed for working nurses.  You will complete courses online in an asynchronous format.  There are periodic mandatory on-campus meetings for just a few courses.  Clinical hours in the program are focused on acquiring the CNS competencies appropriate for the population, involving wellness through acute care.  You will need to have a foundation of 1-2 years recent acute care practice, with the specialty population, in order to support role development into advanced practice across the continuum of health care services. You must complete a minimum of 500 hours in a clinical setting under the supervision of qualified preceptors.

Each state individually determines the legal scope of practice and criteria for entry-into CNS practice. Program graduates are encouraged to obtain national CNS certification, which is required for CNS practice in most other states:

  • Neonatal and Pediatric CNS graduates are eligible for the American Association of Critical-care Nurses (AACN) Acute Care Neonatal CNS or Pediatric CNS certification. 
  • Adult-Gerontology CNS graduates are eligible for both the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Adult-Gerontology CNS and the American Association of Critical-care Nurses (AACN) Acute Care Adult-Gerontology CNS certifications.

Explore the field of the clinical nurse specialist and all the opportunities within the role:

MSN Curriculum

If you already have a MSN degree, please see our Post Master Certificate page 

MSN Courses (24 units):

  • MSN 502 Advanced Nursing Roles
  • MSN 513 Healthcare Policy and Economics
  • MSN 514 Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • MSN 530 Research Utilization in Advanced Nursing Practice
  • MSN 531 Nursing Ethics
  • MSN 521/522 Advanced Health Assessment and Lab
  • MSN 526 Pharmacology
  • MSN 528 Advanced Pathophysiology

Note: MSN 522 requires two, 2-day sessions for teaching and testing of assessment skills in the on campus Skills Lab.

CNS Residency (10 units):

  • MSN 547 CNS Role Performance I (144 clinical hours)
  • MSN 548 CNS Role Performance II (212 clinical hours)
  • MSN 549 CNS Role Performance III (144 clinical hours)

Note: The CNS course sequence (MSN 550 & MSN 547) begins only in the Fall term.  MSN 547 requires an on campus meeting prior to the start of clinical hours.

Adult-Gerontology CNS (9 units):

  • MSN 550 CNS Theoretical Foundations
  • MSN 535 Differential Diagnosis and Clinical Management of Adult Acute Problems
  • MSN 533 Theories of Aging

Neonatal CNS (9 Units):

  • MSN 550 CNS Theoretical Foundations
  • MSN 536 Advanced Neonatal Nursing I
  • MSN 537 Advanced Neonatal Nursing II

Pediatric CNS (9 units):

  • MSN 550 CNS Theoretical Foundations
  • MSN 561 Primary Care of the Family II: Pediatric Health
  • MSN 540 Clinical Management of Acute Pediatric Health Problems

Plan of Study

*Note: CNS role courses (MSN 550 & MSN 547) only begin in the Fall term


Registered Nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing

  1. Completion of a baccalaureate degree program with a Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or CCNE- accredited upper division major in nursing (BSN) from a regionally accredited institution or the equivalent. 
  2. Overall grade point average of 3.0 (on a four-point scale) or higher in the last 60 semester (90 quarter) units of upper division course work attempted.
  3. United States RN licensure  must be unencumbered, unrestricted, with no probation or disciplinary action pending or imposed
  4. Completion of the following prerequisites, there is no time limit for currency:
    1. Statistics - including probability and inferential
    2. Research - introductory course or equivalent
    3. Health Assessment - an upper division (BSN level), including a skills lab
  5. Submission of a professional resume and a letter of intent describing how the role option you are applying for fits your career plans for the future and discuss your ability to learn online (maximum 350 words).
  6. Evidence of recent acute care RN practice with the Adult-Gerontology, Neonatal, or Pediatric population.
  7. Health Clearance (immunity, etc.) is required prior to enrolling in a role performance course.
  8. Residence in a state in which the School of Nursing at California State University, Dominguez Hills is permitted to deliver online education.

As a result of the Department of Education regulations for higher education and state education laws, the School of Nursing cannot deliver online education in all states. If you are an out-of-state resident or anticipate a move during your academic program, please contact the School of Nursing prior to submitting an application to discuss your situation.

Degrees Outside of the United States

If the Baccalaureate degree was completed outside of the United States:

  • Official academic records and diploma/certificate must be sent from the institution attended.
  • If official records are not in English, certified English translations of all documents must also be submitted. Translations must be word-for-word (i.e. literal) translations
  • English Proficiency must be established by exam
    • TOEFL minimum scores: 550 paper, 80 internet, 213 computer
    • IELTS minimum score 6.5
    • Pearson Test of English Academic minimum score 53

A waiver may be requested if 3 years full-time equivalent instruction at the secondary level or higher was received at a school where English was the principal language of instruction

Application Information & Time Frame

1. Submit the University Online Application via Cal State Apply  (video tutorial on how to apply) during the time frames provided below. Cal State Apply Applicant Help Center

2. Submit transcripts to Admissions and Records before the document deadline. Electronic transcripts can be sent to

SemesterApplication OpensApplication DeadlineDocument Deadline
Spring August 1November 1November 1
Fall October 1July 1July 1

Costs of Attendance

Graduate student fees vary based on 0-6 units or more than 6 units and there is an additional fee for out-of-state residents.  Summary information is provided here:

and more detail is available on the Student Financial Services webpage

Visit CalState Apply to complete application (Video tutorial on how to apply)

For more information, please email