A top-ranked CNL program for individuals from outside the nursing profession with at least a bachelor's degree in another field who wish to become nurses on a fast track.

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#1 CNL program in the nation
(U.S. News & World Report)
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average CNL salary, U.S. (salary.com)
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Money for school
90% of CNLs receive financial aid for school
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97.4% NCLEX pass rate and 97% CNL Certification Exam pass rate
(CNL class of ‘23)
  • Top-ranked by US News & World Report
  • 90% of CNLs receive financial aid for school
  • Clinical experiences across five specialty areas: labor and delivery, medical surgical, psychiatric mental health, community, and public health, and pediatric nursing
  • Over 840 clinical hours of closely mentored experience
  • Opportunities to study and conduct research abroad
  • Graduates earn 12 credits toward a subsequent nurse practitioner MSN, are eligible to become entry-level RNs, and may also opt to take the CNL certification exam
  • Guaranteed admission for UVA School of Nursing alumni
  • The deadline to apply is October 1st (for entry the following May)

What is a CNL?

While the Clinical Nurse Leader is a master's educated nurse, graduates are not nurse practitioners but are, instead, prepared for practice across the continuum of care within any healthcare setting and tend to rise quickly in whatever environment they choose.

In addition to two years of full-time classes, including summer sessions, students enjoy clinical experiences across five specialty areas in year one and the chance to practice with a preceptor in a generalist nursing role in a variety of settings for nearly 500 hours during year two.

After completing and presenting a final scholarly capstone project, CNL graduates take a required certification exam to become Registered Nurses. They may opt to take the CNL Certification Exam as well. UVA's graduates enjoy very high pass rates:

  • 97.4% NCLEX pass rate (CNL Class of 2023)
  • 97% CNL Certification Exam pass rate (CNL Class of 2023)

The CNL was developed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in collaboration with leaders from healthcare practice and education to address the critical need to improve the quality of patient care outcomes. The CNL is a clinical leader at the point of care focused on the following:

  • Care coordination
  • Outcomes measurement
  • Transitions of care
  • Interprofessional communication and team leadership
  • Risk assessment
  • Implementation of best practices based on evidence
  • Quality improvement

Learn more about the role of the CNL and the CNL Competencies and Curricular Expectations on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing website.

Who should apply?

From IT professionals and English majors to engineering graduates and former attorneys, 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.

Best Value MSN logo UVA's CNL graduates tend to rise rapidly in healthcare 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
  • 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

Frequently Asked Questions

Please visit our CNL FAQ page for answers to some common questions.

Admission Requirements

To be considered for the CNL, applicants must:

  • Submit a completed application, including an $85 application fee
  • 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 with a B- or higher before enrollment (see pre-approved courses):
    • Human anatomy and physiology I within five years of the program start
    • Human anatomy and physiology II within five years of the program start
    • Microbiology (with or without lab) within five years of the program start
    • Statistics at the graduate or undergraduate level within five years of the program start
    • Life span development (conception to death)
  • Submit three satisfactory recommendations, one of which should be from a healthcare professional with whom you have worked or volunteered
  • Submit a resume or CV
  • Be available for an interview, if requested
  • International applicants have additional requirements

A competitive candidate has the following:

  • An undergraduate GPA of 3.30 or higher
  • Grades of A or A- in each prerequisite
  • Prior work or volunteer experience in healthcare; exposure to nursing is recommended
  • Prior experience in change-related projects (through work or volunteer experiences) or in team leadership
  • A medical math course such as Medical Math | Portage College (ed2go.com)
  • Excellent writing skills


Classes & Clinicals

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. Students also rotate through community/public health and pediatric specialty sites. Clinical experiences are conducted at the UVA Medical Center, other clinics and facilities in Charlottesville and the surrounding region, and through selected global experiences. In the final fall and spring semesters, CNL students complete a generalist practicum and a CNL evidence-based practice project.

The CNL Clinical Hours per Course (including theory hours, skills lab hours, simulation hours, and clinical hours) can be found here.

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. Please see the School of Nursing Computing Policies for more guidance on laptop ownership requirements.

State Authorization and Professional Licensure Disclosures

As a member of the State Authorizations Reciprocity Agreement, the University of Virginia (UVA) is authorized to provide curriculum in a distance learning environment to students located in all states in the United States except for California. (34 CFR 668.43(a)(6)& 34 CFR 668.72(n)).  

Upon completion of the Master of Science in Nursing, graduates may be eligible for initial professional licensure in another U.S. state by applying to the licensing board or agency in that state.

Please visit the University’s state authorization web pages to make an informed decision regarding which states’ educational requirements for initial licensure are met by this program. (668.43(a)(5) (v)(A) - (C))

Enrolled students who change their current (or mailing) address to a state other than Virginia should update this information immediately in the Student Information System as it may impact their ability to complete internship, practicum, or clinical hours, use Title IV funds, or meet licensure or certification requirements in the new state. (34 CFR 668.402).