Clinical Nurse Leader Programs at Leading Universities

If the term Clinical Nurse Leader has you a bit stumped, then you’re not the only one.  This is one of the newer jobs or roles in the nursing industry, and if you have heard of CNLs and want to be one, there aren’t too many programs to choose from as compared to NP or CNS programs.  Still, this is one of the many types jobs available to prospective nurses, and if you need more information on what being a Clinical Nurse Leader is all about, feel free to read on.

Since the American Association of Colleges of Nursing created the Clinical Nurse Leader role, there has been a bit of a debate regarding the CNL job description.  However, it can be agreed that Clinical Nurse Leaders primarily focus on managing care plans and care delivery, in an effort to give patients a better outlook.  This is a role that doesn’t focus much on primary care as compared to other nursing jobs.

That may be one of the reasons why the average Clinical Nurse Leader salary isn’t as high as that of an NP or CNS.  Another reason is the fact that this is a very new role, which means it is one primarily filled by younger nurses who haven’t been around as long as others.  Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists typically earn more, because these are roles that have been around for quite a while, and it is not uncommon to have highly-experienced workers in either one of those jobs.

If you are planning to be a Clinical Nurse Leader, the first step is to take a CNL track while studying for a Masters of Science in Nursing degree at a nationally accredited school.  Once the program is over, you will be asked to take the CNL Certification Examination, though there may be other state-specific requirements; this is where research and asking around would come in.  Always check with your state’s Board of Nursing to make sure all your bases are covered before anything else.

You may have noticed that we highlighted the words “nationally accredited” – that’s because not all schools are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and offer CNL tracks for prospective Clinical Nurse Leaders.  With that said, here are some schools that you can consider if you want to become a CNL.


  • University of Alabama
  • University of San Diego
  • University of San Francisco
  • Fairfield University
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Florida
  • University of West Georgia
  • Illinois State University
  • Goshen College
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Maryland
  • UMassOnline
  • University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • Oakland University
  • Cox College
  • Creighton University
  • University of Nevada-Reno
  • Seton Hall University
  • CUNY-Hunter College
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • Ohio State University
  • University of Portland
  • La Salle University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Texas Christian University
  • University of Utah
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Washington
  • Marquette University