How to Become a CNS in Alabama (A Complete Guide)

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Want to take your nursing career to the next level?

Want to diagnose and treat patients?

Being a Certified Nurse Specialist (CNS) allows you to achieve both! 

Since a CNS is a type of advanced practice nurse, achieving CNS status can help open more opportunities for higher pay and career advancement. 

But how do you become one? 

The process can certainly seem overwhelming, what with all the educational and licensure requirements. 

But we’re here to help you out! 

Here, we will take you through the whole process of how to become a CNS in Alabama.

We’ll list down all the requirements and answer FAQs to guide you. 

So if you’re ready, then let’s get right to it! 

How to Become a CNS in Alabama in 4 Steps

As mentioned earlier, a CNS is just one type of Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) in Alabama. 

There are three other types, namely nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists. 

A CNS, in particular, is focused on the diagnosis of patients. 

Don’t registered nurses do that already?

Unfortunately, no. As a registered nurse, your primary task is to monitor patients, administer their treatment, and provide patient care. 

On the other hand, a CNS can give a diagnosis and advice on treatment depending on the injury or illness of the patient. 

These are the four steps to becoming a CNS in Alabama:

Step #1: Become a Registered Nurse in Alabama

If you are a registered nurse in Alabama, you can proceed to Step 2.

Becoming an RN is a whole other process separate from becoming a CNS. To become an RN, you must do the following: 

  • Complete a Nursing Education Program
  • Apply for a license at the Alabama Board of Nursing (ABN)
  • Take the NCLEX

Complete a Nursing Education Program

You can choose between two programs – an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN). 

An ADN is a two-year course that teaches you the technical responsibilities of a nurse, like monitoring patients, updating charts, and doing basic healthcare procedures. 

On the other hand, BSN programs are four-year courses that include the ADN curriculum plus research and skills (laboratory) classes. 

Since the coverage of a BSN is more than the ADN program, it provides a stronger foundation for those seeking advanced practice. 

Most CNM programs require a BSN as the base educational background, though some may accept ADN graduates or those who take bridge programs. 

Apply for a License at the ABN

Once you graduate from your nursing education program, you need to apply at the Alabama Board of Nursing website under License by Examination

But before you apply, you need to complete the ABN’s requirements:

  • Social Security Number
  • Proof of legal presence in the US
  • Nursing Program transcript 

Transcripts should be submitted by your school in a sealed envelope to this address: 

Alabama Board of Nursing

P.O. Box 303900

Montgomery, AL 36130-3900

Take the NCLEX

After creating an account at the ABN, you need to register at the NCLEX website so you can take the exams. You will choose your exam date and venue on the site as well. 

The results of your exams will be sent to the ABN. You can check the results here

If you pass, you will be included in the Nurse Registry of Alabama. 

That completes your RN process! For more information, you can read this article

Step #2: Complete a Master’s or Higher Degree in Nursing

Becoming a CNS starts when you take a Master’s or higher degree in an accredited nursing institution, such as the University of South Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

As a CNS, you get to choose which population you want to focus on in Alabama: 

  • Adult-Gerontology
  • Neonatal
  • Pediatric 

When you become a CNS, you will be given more autonomy than a registered nurse. This is mainly because of the additional education units and specialty courses that you will take. 

Needless to say, higher-degree nursing graduates enjoy higher pay. 

A Master’s degree in nursing takes 1-2 years if you’re studying full-time, but if you are working as an RN while studying, you can expect it to extend. 

Once you complete your degree, you need to request your school to send your official transcripts to the ABN. You are not allowed to pass your transcript yourself. 

The school should pass your transcripts in a sealed envelope to this address: 

Alabama Board of Nursing

P.O. Box 303900

Montgomery, AL 36130-3900

Step #3: Get a Certification as a CNS from a National Certifying Agency 

There are two national certifying agencies recognized by the Alabama Board of Nursing that certify nurse specialists.

These are:

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) certifies Adult-Gerontology, Neonatal, and Pediatric Nurse Specialists.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) certifies Adult-Gerontology Nurse Specialists.

The AACN and the ANCC have their own list of certification requirements (such as passing the national certification exams), which you can find on their websites. 

Thankfully, they also provide a lot of information and resources to prepare you.

If your application is approved, you will become a nationally certified nurse specialist for the specific population you are trained to care for. 

Step #4: Apply for an APRN License in Alabama

And now for the final step!

First of all, make sure you have an active, unencumbered RN license in Alabama or a multi-state RN license from another compact state. 

Here are the remaining steps to take: 

  • Request your CNS program to submit an official transcript to the ABN in a sealed envelope or through an electronic transcript service. 
  • Login for the first time as a CNS on the ABN website
  • Attest to the completeness and correctness of all the details on the ABN website. 
  • Pay the application fee of $175. You may pay using a credit card or a debit card. 

And that’s how you become a CNS in Alabama!

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a CNS in Alabama

Got more questions about becoming a CNS? Here are some FAQs to help you. 

What is the difference between an RN and a CNS?

An RN provides direct care to patients. This includes monitoring their charts, doing basic medical procedures, and giving medication. 

On the other hand, a CNS has more of a supervisory role that does what RNs do but also provides their own assessment of the patient. They also have specialties that RNs don’t have. 

How much is the CNS application fee in Alabama?

The application fee is $175. This is paid through the ABN website when you complete your application. 

Do you have to become an RN to become a CNS?

Yes, you have to become a registered nurse first. You can apply for an RN license in Alabama through examination or endorsement. You can also make use of a multistate RN license if you are from another compact state.

A CNS is considered to be an Advanced Practicing Nurse and the application begins by entering your RN certification number. So being an RN is your first step. 

As a CNS can I have an independent contract for practice?

Yes, you are allowed to be an independent contractor as a CNS in Alabama. 

How much does a CNS in Alabama earn?

According to, the average annual income of a nurse specialist in Alabama is $112,096. But your salary can range from $91,000 to $134,000 depending on several factors, such as your number of years of experience, the city you are in, etc. 


The road to becoming a CNS is long especially if you aren’t a registered nurse yet. 

But the light at the end of this journey is that you can have more career opportunities (especially as an independent contractor).

You get to focus on a field you are passionate about and make a greater impact on the lives of your patients. You also get to earn a much higher salary.

We hope this helped you understand the CNS process.

Just follow our four steps and you’ll be well on the way to becoming a CNS in Alabama.

Best wishes!

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