The Clinical Nurse Specialist Post Graduate Certificate is designed to provide advanced practice nurses with preparation as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) for nurses with a Master’s or Doctoral in Nursing prepared for other roles or population groups.  The student will choose one of the following populations: adult/gerontology, pediatric, or maternal/infant/women’s Health.

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.


Applicants must meet the following requirements to be eligible for admission to the program:

  1. A minimum 3.0 (4.0 scale) cumulative grade point average (GPA) is required in previous undergraduate and graduate programs.
  2. Prerequisites: Graduate courses (3 credits each) in physiology, physical assessment, and pharmacology are required with a grade of B or better. Physiology and physical assessment must be within the previous five years and pharmacology must be within three years. Note: Evidence of prescriptive authority granted through a state board of nursing will be accepted in place of graduate pharmacology.


  • 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 in to a certificate program.

Credits and Courses

The CNS Certificate consists of 18 credit hours of coursework. All courses are 3 credits each and are offered in a three-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 coursework 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
Select 9 credits; recommended courses may include the following:9
Special Topics Seminar: (with subtitle “Advanced Practice Nursing-Adult/Gerontology Acute Illness”)
Special Topics Seminar: (with subtitle “Advanced Practice Nursing-Adult/Gerontology Chronic Illness”)
Processes of Aging
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
Select 9 credits; recommended courses may include the following:9
Special Topics Seminar: (with subtitle “Advanced Practice Nursing-Pediatric Acute Illness”)
Special Topics Seminar: (with subtitle “Advanced Practice Nursing-Pediatric Chronic Illness”)
Special Topics Seminar: (with subtitle “Theoretical Foundations for Child Health”)
Family Theory and Intervention Strategies for Advanced Nursing Practice
Development of the Family Over the Life Span
Total Credits18

Maternal/Infant Track

NURS 814Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum I-Maternal/Infant3
NURS 815Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum II-Maternal/Infant3
NURS 816Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum III-Maternal/Infant3
Select 9 credits; recommended courses may include the following:9
Special Topics Seminar: (with subtitle “Advanced Practice Nursing-Health Promotion for Women and Childbearing Families”)
Special Topics Seminar: (with subtitle “Advanced Practice Nursing-Women and Childbearing Families with Acute and Chronic Health Conditions”)
Special Topics Seminar: (with subtitle “Special Topics Seminar with subtitle Maternity and Perinatal Care”)
Issues in Women's Health and Development
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
Select 9 credits; recommended courses may include the following:9
Multicultural Counseling
Trauma Counseling I: Theory and Research
Trauma Counseling II: Diagnosis and Treatment
Developmental Psychopathology
Adult Psychopathology
Total Credits18

Additional Requirements

Transfer Credit

No more than 20% of the required credits may be taken at an institution other than UWM. These courses are subject to Graduate School transfer policy and must be approved by the director of the certificate program.

Grade Point Average Requirement

A minimum cumulative 3.00 grade point average in certificate courses taken at UWM is required.

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.

Time Limit

Certificate program time limits shall be established as follows:

  • 18 or fewer credits/Three years from initial enrollment in the certificate sequence.
  • 19 or more credits/Four years from initial enrollment in the certificate sequence.

For certificates that are designed as add-ons to degree programs and are awarded concurrent with the degree, the time limit shall be the same as that of the degree program.


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.