This 18-credit Clinical Nurse Specialist Post Graduate Certificate is designed to provide advanced practice nurses with preparation as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). The student will choose one of the following populations: adult/gerontology or pediatric. Upon completing the certificate requirements, students will be eligible to sit for the population specific national certification exams offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). Once nationally certified, the CNS is eligible to apply for licensure in all fifty states. 

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


The admission requirements of the Post-Graduate CNS Certificate are consistent with those requirements specified by the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In addition, students must also meet the following requirements for the School of Nursing:

  1. A master’s or doctoral degree in Nursing from an accredited program providing preparation as a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse midwife, or certified registered nurse anesthetist.
  2. Certification in their current advanced practice registered nurse specialty as applicable.
  3. Completion with a grade of B or better of a graduate-level course in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, and advanced health assessment. Evidence of current prescriptive authority in the state of Wisconsin will be accepted in place of advanced pharmacology.
  4. Current registration as a Registered Nurse in the state of Wisconsin.
  5. Three (3) letters of recommendation, two (2) of which are from persons most knowledgeable about the applicant's recent academic and work experiences.
  6. Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV).
  7. Personal statement that includes rationale for certificate study and career goals.
  8. Personal interview with a faculty member may be requested.
  9. One year of clinical experience relevant to the chosen specialty.


  • Students wishing to obtain this certificate must declare their intention by applying to the program office or director.
  • All graduate certificate applicants—even those already enrolled in a UWM graduate program—must apply to the Graduate School through the Panthera Admission Application.
  • Graduate degree and previously admitted graduate non-degree students who decide to pursue a certificate program must submit the Panthera application before completing 6 credits in the certificate sequence.
  • Applicants must possess a baccalaureate degree and have a minimum 2.75 cumulative undergraduate grade point average to be admitted into a certificate program.

Credits and Courses

The CNS Post-Graduate Certificate consists of 18 credit hours of coursework. All courses are 3 credits each and are offered in a 3-semester sequence so the program can be completed in 12 months. The three practicum courses vary by population focus and must be taken sequentially. The three theory courses vary by population focus and the plan for theory course work must be approved by the CNS option coordinator. The three courses must be graduate level (700 or above) and provide content across the continuum from wellness through acute care for the selected population.

Adult/Gerontology Track

NURS 832Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum I-Adult/Gerontology3
NURS 833Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum II-Adult/Gerontology3
NURS 834Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum III-Adult/Gerontology3
NURS 702Advanced Practice Nursing Adult-Gerontology Chronic Illness3
NURS 703Advanced Practice Nursing Adult-Gerontology Acute Illness3
Select one of the following two courses:3
Advanced Practice Nursing Adult-Gerontology Critical Illness
Processes of Aging (Offered regularly during fall semester or NURS 704)
Total Credits18

Pediatric Track

NURS 817Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum I-Pediatric3
NURS 818Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum II-Pediatric3
NURS 819Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum III-Pediatric3
ED PSY 640Human Development: Theory and Research3
SOC WRK 771Development of the Family Over the Life Span3
NURS 766Advanced Practice Nursing: Care of the Child and Family3
Total Credits18

Psychiatric/Mental Health Track

NURS 811Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum I-Psychiatric/Mental Health3
NURS 812Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum II-Psychiatric/Mental Health3
NURS 813Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum III-Psychiatric/Mental Health3
Theory 19
Multicultural Counseling
Trauma Counseling I: Theory and Research
Trauma Counseling II: Diagnosis and Treatment
Developmental Psychopathology
Adult Psychopathology
Total Credits18

Recommended courses may include the courses listed under this heading.

Additional Requirements

Allowance for Transfer Credit

If approved by the CNS option coordinator, one 3-credit course from an institution other than UWM may be transferred in to meet requirements of the certificate program.

Completion Requirements

Certificate program progression requirements will be consistent with the School of Nursing requirements for progression in graduate level programs. Students must complete all courses with at least a B- or better and a cumulative GPA of a 3.00 or greater in order to progress in the program.

Time limit

It is expected that students will complete the certificate within one year from time of enrollment.

Certificate Conferral

The certificate will be awarded upon successful completion of the requirements (i.e. once all grades for the certificate courses are officially recorded with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or greater). Successful completion of the certificate program will be noted on the student’s transcript.

Articulation with Degree Programs

  1. Credits and courses required for a certificate may double count toward meeting UWM graduate degree requirements subject to the following restrictions:
    • Degree programs must approve the courses from certificates that can double count toward the degree.
    • All credits taken in completion of certificate requirements may count towards a UWM graduate degree as long as they do not contribute more than 90% of the total credits needed to obtain the degree. (Note: Students in PhD programs must still complete the minimum residency requirements)
    • Certificate courses used toward meeting degree requirements must be completed within the time limit for transfer credit.
  2. Courses completed for a degree may be counted toward a subsequent certificate, subject to all certificate policy requirements.
  3. A course may count toward no more than one certificate and one degree.
  4. Students may not earn a certificate subsequent to a concentration in the same area.

Certification and Licensing

On completion of the CNS Certificate program, graduates with a population focus on adult/gerontology or pediatrics will be eligible to take the national CNS certification exams in adult/gerontology or pediatrics offered by American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC, 2013) or by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) Certification Corporation (AACN, 2014). Upon successful completion of the CNS certification exam, graduates may choose to apply for prescriptive privileges in the state of Wisconsin as an Advanced Practice Nurse Prescriber or APNP (Wisconsin DSPS, 2013). Currently, CNS certification exams are not available for the maternal/infant or psychiatric/mental health populations.