The nation's #1 CNL program for individuals from outside the profession who wish to become nurses on a fast track.

  • #1-in-the-nation program (US News & World Report, 2021)
  • #3-in-the-nation "Best Value" master's program (Value Colleges)
  • 9 in 10 CNL students receive financial aid for their schooling
  • Virginia residents admitted to the CNL program may apply for additional funding through the Conway Scholars program
  • Graduates are eligible for the NCLEX and clinical nurse leader (CNL) certification exam
  • Application deadline: October 1 for entry the following May

CNL Info Sessions

What is CNL?

The Clinical Nurse Leader is a master’s educated nurse, prepared for practice across the continuum of care within any healthcare setting. The CNL was developed by 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 – who focuses on:

  • Care Coordination
  • Outcomes Measurement
  • Transitions of Care
  • Interprofessional Communication & Team Leadership
  • Risk Assessment
  • Implementation of Best Practices Based on Evidence
  • Quality Improvement

Learn more about the role of the CNL using the resources, videos and FAQs found on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing website.

You will also find more information about the CNL Competencies and Curricular Expectations on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing website.

Who should apply?

From IT professionals, 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.

Best Value MSN logo 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

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 health care professional with whom you have worked or volunteered
  • Submit a resume or CV
  • Be available for an interview, if requested
  • International applicants have additional admissions requirements

A competitive candidate has:

  • An undergraduate GPA of 3.30 or higher
  • Grades of A or A- in each prerequisite
  • Have 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
  • Excellent writing skills

Every year, 20 Virginians earn a CNL Conway Scholarship. Meet a few of ours.

Financial Aid

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

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. 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 and selected global placements.

Plans of Study

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).

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