Nurse Educator Career and Education Overview

  • What You Will Do: Educate clinical staff, train and orient new nurses, teach students, develop professional development programs, create nursing curricula
  • Where Will You Work: hospitals, rehab facilities, universities, community health centers, and more
  • Employment Projections: By 2026 nursing roles in any specialty are expected to increase by 16 percent.
  • How Much Will I Earn: According to multiple courses nurse educators make between $55,000 and $95,000 annually.
  • How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Educator: Becoming a Nurse Educator requires that you get a master’s in nursing after you have your bachelor’s degree and are a licensed RN. A master’s will take about 2 years.
  • Requirements to Become One: Being a Nurse Educator requires that you be an RN, have a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s in nursing degree. You will need to become certified as a Nurse Educator through the National League for Nursing (NLN). Most programs require at least one year of nursing experience for entry.

A nurse educator is a nursing professional who teaches and trains future nurses in academic and clinical settings. They play a crucial role in shaping the future of the nursing profession by helping to prepare and educate new nurses.

To become a nurse educator, you typically need at least a master’s degree in nursing. Many nurse educators also have a doctoral degree in nursing or a related field. In addition to academic qualifications, nurse educators usually have several years of experience working as a registered nurse (RN) in a clinical setting.

  1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and obtain your RN license.
  2. Gain clinical experience working as an RN.
  3. Earn a master’s degree in nursing or a related field, such as education or healthcare administration.
  4. Obtain additional certifications, such as the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) credential.
  5. Gain experience working as a nurse educator in a clinical or academic setting.
  6. Pursue a doctoral degree in nursing or a related field to further advance your career as a nurse educator.

Nurse educators should have strong communication and interpersonal skills, as they will be teaching and mentoring nursing students. They should also be knowledgeable about nursing theory, practice, and technology. Good organizational and leadership skills are also important for managing educational programs and overseeing student progress.

  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse researcher
  • Nursing informatics specialist
  • Nurse manager or administrator

The job outlook for nurse educators is positive, with demand expected to grow in the coming years due to an increasing need for well-trained nurses. Nurse educators are employed in a variety of settings, including colleges and universities, healthcare facilities, and government agencies.

Eight Steps to Become a Nurse Educator

  1. Earn Your RN – You will need to become an RN by first getting an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a BSN from a school accredited by the CCNE or ACEN. Use our BSN guide to figure out the path for you.
  2. Pass The NCLEX-RN Exam – The NCLEX-RN exam is the national exam required to become an RN. We have NCLEX-RN exam guide as well as practice tests that can help you succeed on exam day.
  3. Earn Your MSN – Nurse Educator master’s programs will include courses in advanced practice nursing, evidenced based practice, pharmacology, and more.
  4. Complete Supervised Clinical Hours – Required clinical hours depend on the program and university. Some programs will not require any clinical hours during your training.a
  5. Become Board Certified – You will need to get certified as a Nurse Educator by taking an exam through the NLN.
  6. Obtain Licensure – State licensure as an RN is the only licensure required.
  7. Maintain Active Certification – To stay certified you must obtain 50 renewal credits or register and pass the Certified Nurse Educator exam again. You must also maintain active RN and BLS licenses.

What is a Nurse Educator?

Nurse Educators are master’s prepared nurses who focus on educating clinical staff and nursing students. Your role will be extremely important in ensuring that the level of care provided by healthcare professionals is up to date with research and is evidence-based. As a nurse educator you will be trained to integrate expert level clinical knowledge and nursing theory with your teaching skills and education training. You will be able to work in staff development as a part of a clinical team to train both new and experienced nurses. You will develop curricula for nursing courses in universities and assign and grade homework assignments for students. You will also have the opportunity to develop relationships acting as a mentor with students and the staff who you train.

How Do I Become a Nurse Educator?

To become a Nurse Educator you will need a master’s in nursing as well as a bachelor’s degree. You must be an RN to become a Nurse Educator as most programs require previous RN experience.

  • RN to MSN: If you are an RN but do not have a BSN there are programs that will enable you to earn both in 2 to 3 years.
  • BSN to MSN: If you already have a BSN, an MSN will take 2 years.
  • BSN to DNP: Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs will take around 4 years if you have your BSN.
  • MSN to DNP: If you have an MSN, a DNP program will take about 2 to 3 years.

Certification and Licensure: Becoming a Nurse Educator requires taking an exam through the NLN after you finish your master’s program. This exam ensures that you have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills to educate clinical staff and nursing students. Once you are certified you can begin working as a Nurse Educator. Outside of your regular RN license there is no licensure required to be a Nurse Educator. To stay certified you must take one of the following two paths for certification renewal:

  • Obtain required credits: You must earn 50 credits during each 5-year renewal cycle. These should be associated with at minimum one of the NLN’s Nurse Educator competencies. These credits should facilitate your professional development as a Nurse Educator.
  • Re-take the certifying exam: You can re-take the Nurse Educator certifying exam to renew certification.

Where Do Nurse Educators Typically Work?

You will typically work providing education in an environment that provides clinical care, such as a hospital or clinic, or at a university in a nursing program. If you choose to work in a clinical setting you will do things such as work on the floor training nurses and other clinical staff, or you will develop continuing education seminars. In nursing schools, you may work in the classroom educating students, or teaching them laboratory skills in a simulation setting. It is important to note that as a Nurse Educator you are still an RN, so if you decide to work in providing direct patient care, this is still an option. You may even take on nursing students as a preceptor and train them directly in a clinical setting.

How Much Do Nurse Educators Typically Earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics RNs in any specialty earn a median of $64,450 annually. Your salary as a Nurse Educator can vary depending on your experience as an RN, your experience working as a Nurse Educator, and whether your work in a clinical or university setting. According to various sources you will make anywhere in between $55,000 and $95,000 annually. Additionally, the national nursing shortage means that there is also a shortage in faculty qualified to train nurses. As a Nurse Educator you will be sought after to fill this role. Certain programs can help offset the cost of nursing education as well. If you work for a medically underserved community you could be eligible for loan forgiveness through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. If you received a Perkins Loan to fund your education you could potentially get this forgiven as well. Check out our state guides to see what other loan forgiveness programs may be available to you.

Online Nurse Educator Programs

Flexibility can be a lifesaver nowadays, especially when it comes to higher education. Online MSN programs offer options for aspiring nurse educators to complete their degree requirements online. Coursework and class lectures will be in a computer-based format, and little to no on campus time will be required depending on the program. Fully online programs and hybrid programs that are partially online enable to you keep up with your life commitments while pursuing a master’s in nursing.

What is a Typical Nurse Educator Curriculum?

Depending on what university you attend, your coursework will vary slightly. However, like what is offered at California State University Fullerton you can expect the following courses.

  • Assessment and Evaluation of Nursing Education
  • Theoretical Perspectives for nursing practice
  • Development and Evaluation of Nursing Curricula
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Instructional Design in Nursing Education
  • Advanced Health Assessment

Nurse Educator Resources

Denisco, S. M., Barker, A. M., (2016). Advanced practice nursing: Essential knowledge for the profession. Burlington, MA: Jones and Barlett Learning.

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