A two-year master’s program for those outside the field who want to become nurse leaders on a fast track.

usnews-cnl-2019 Overview:

  • Two-year, full-time study (including summer sessions)
  • 75 credits
  • Graduates are eligible for the NCLEX and clinical nurse leader (CNL) certification exam
  • Application deadline: October 1 for entry the following May

Who should apply?

From English majors to engineering graduates, former attorneys to biologists, UVA Nursing’s CNL program attracts professionals united in a common purpose: the desire to be nurses.  

The master’s entry CNL is an exceptional program for motivated, high-achieving individuals interested in pursuing graduate study to prepare for nursing leadership. This accelerated offering is fast-paced and available to those who already have at least a bachelor’s degree in another field. Nationally acclaimed, and full-time, this 24-month program leads to a master of science in nursing degree, and CNL graduates are eligible to assume positions as registered nurses in a wide variety of clinical settings once they pass the nurse licensing exam, the NCLEX.

UVA’s CNL graduates tend to rise rapidly in health care communities, given their rich background and exposure to research and leadership. By graduation, they are prepared for work at the bedside, to be leaders in hospital units, and are poised to earn a nurse practitioner or higher level degree.

Our Approach

  • Resilient—a distinctive focus on teaching resilience and compassion in coursework and extra-curriculars, cultivating nurses who understand that self-care is key to safe, high-quality care and professional longevity
  • Global—at multiple sites across three continents, CNLs may take part in sustained global engagement to learn, conduct research and mentor others
  • Affordable—while UVA’s program costs half to a third as much as similar programs, eligible students may tap the unique Conway Scholars program, which offers tuition assistance and a stipend over two years
  • Interprofessional learning—course content is deepened as students regularly collaborate and practice across professions—including work with medical students, physicians, respiratory therapists, PTs and OTs, social workers, and chaplains—through UVA’s interprofessional education hub, the Center for ASPIRE


Admission Requirements

To be considered for the CNL, applicants must:

  • Submit a completed application
  • Have a baccalaureate or master's degree from a regionally accredited school
  • Have a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale)
  • Have successfully completed the following prerequisites before enrollment (see other pre-approved courses):
    • Human anatomy and physiology within five years of the program start*
    • Microbiology (with or without lab) within five years of the program start*
    • Life span development (conception to death)
    • Statistics at the graduate or undergraduate level within five years of the program start*
  • Submit three satisfactory recommendations, one of which should be from a health care provider
  • Submit a resume or CV
  • Be available for an interview, if requested
  • International applicants have additional admissions requirements

*For summer 2018 entry, courses must be taken no earlier than summer 2013.

A competitive candidate has:

  • An undergraduate GPA of 3.30 or higher
  • Grades of A or A- in each prerequisite
  • Exposure to health care and/or nursing through professional or volunteer activities
  • Prior experience in change-related projects (through work or volunteer experiences) or in team leadership
  • Excellent writing skills

Financial Aid

Click here for tuition information.

The Conway Community Scholars is an initiative intended to increase CNLs in communities across the Commonwealth of Virginia, with a special emphasis on meeting the health needs of underserved populations. We offer the CNL courses at the Charlottesville site but will work with interested students throughout Virginia to develop clinical placements in their home community. When matriculating, students are encouraged to have possible sites of interest identified. Information regarding the Conway Scholars process will be sent to those applicants who are invited to interview for the program (typically in December after the program application deadline).

The Conway Community Scholars program provides substantial tuition support for students enrolled in the CNL direct entry program. Conway Scholars must:

  • Qualify financially (via FAFSA)
  • Commit to completing a minimum number of community service hours during their program
  • Be a Virginia resident
  • Be a new student in the CNL (direct entry) program


Plans of study


Clinical experiences include rotations in a variety of sites to help the student develop skills with acute, chronic, and preventative care of persons with medical-surgical, obstetric, and psychiatric needs. In addition, students rotate through community/public health and pediatric specialty sites. In the final spring and summer semesters, students identify a clinical focus area for completion of an extended clinical practicum, followed by the CNL residency practicum. Clinical experiences are conducted at the UVA Medical Center as well as other facilities and settings in Charlottesville and the surrounding region.

Technology requirements

All graduate nursing students are required to have a laptop; Information about these requirements will be sent to enrolling students before classes begin.

The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record is the official repository for academic program requirements.