An affordable, Best Value two-year master’s program for those outside the field who want to become nurse leaders on a fast track.

US News badge CNL 2020 small Overview

  • #2-in-the-nation program (US News & World Report, 2020)
  • #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

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


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 provider 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

Click here for .

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 and selected global placements.

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.