Nurse Educator

All nurses must attend a comprehensive nursing school program where they learn the medical skills necessary to care for patients in various settings. To teach them, most nursing schools employ experienced nurses who have specialized training in teaching, called nurse educators. Nurse educators not only have the benefit of years of working in the field, but they also have a passion for teaching.

Nurse educators work in nursing degree programs directly or for clinics and hospitals, supervising the clinical portion of nursing students’ education.

The first step in this career is to complete a nursing degree and gain work experience as a nurse. Next, aspiring nurse educators can complete a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) in nurse education, where they will gain the additional skills to train future nurses. 

Typical nurse educator programs can vary in length from 18 months to two years or more. Because nurses are typically working, most programs offer part-time options so that nurse educators can complete their education while still employed. Most nurse educator programs are offered online for the same reason. Online programs may be entirely remote or may require some on-campus visits for intensive coursework. 

In a nurse education program, students are required to take a variety of classes that include curriculum assessment, curriculum development, leadership, and research methods. Top nursing education programs will also require students to further their nursing skills with advanced classes such as pharmacology, nursing practice, and health and policy. As part of the program, students will often be required to complete hands-on experiences where they work directly with students in the classroom or clinic.  It is not uncommon for nurse educator programs to require a capstone or thesis project to demonstrate the knowledge and skills gained. 

If teaching nurses sounds like an exciting and rewarding field, keep reading to learn more about becoming a nurse educator, including certifications, top programs, and job outlook.

Nurse Educator Specializations & Degree Types

The most common degree for a nurse educator is a master’s of science in nursing (MSN). This advanced and specialized degree is in addition to a general associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. While there are many options for a master’s of science in nursing, nurses pursuing nurse education will complete a program that is focused on this field. For the most ambitious students, there are doctoral-level programs as well, although they are not necessary to work in this field.

Admissions Requirements for Nurse Educator Programs

Since most nurse educator programs are master’s degrees or higher, admission requirements can be comprehensive and rigorous. Most programs require applicants to have at least a bachelor’s of science in nursing, although some may accept students who have an associate degree. 

Other requirements include holding an unencumbered registered nursing license, prerequisite coursework, a minimum undergraduate GPA, and work experience. The most competitive programs may require letters of recommendation as well.

Nurse Educator Program Accreditation

Nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). It is essential for students to ensure that the nursing program they are attending is accredited, as it is necessary for certification and licensure in most cases. 

Accreditation by the CCNE or ACEN assures employers, licensing bodies, and patients that the program a nurse has completed has met a high standard of quality. In order to become accredited, programs undergo a rigorous review, during which the accrediting board evaluates all aspects of the degree, including faculty, facilities, curriculum, and student outcomes.

On-Campus Nurse Educator Degree Programs

South University

South University offers an on-campus master’s of science in nursing in nurse education at their Tampa, FL location. Throughout the course of this program, nurses learn how to develop curriculum, teaching methods, and evaluation techniques to train the next generation of high-quality nurses. In addition to classroom work, students will be expected to complete practicum experiences in order to test their new knowledge. In total, students must have 300 hours of practicum in order to graduate from this program. 

Required classes for this degree include health policy and health promotion, pathophysiology, evaluation of educational outcomes in nursing, pharmacology, and nursing research methods. The culmination of this degree is a four-credit graduate project in nursing where students will use their new skills to design a nurse education program. 

To be considered for admission, applicants must have an unencumbered RN license as well as at least a BSN. Other requirements include a 3.0 GPA and official transcripts. 

  • Location: Tampa, FL 
  • Duration: 68 instructional weeks
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $36,377 for the entire program

Jacksonville University

In just 18 months, students can complete the master’s of science in nursing clinical nurse educator program with a concentration in leadership at Jacksonville University. Hallmarks of the MSN at Jacksonville include small class sizes, eight-week-long courses with a flexible format, and access to an academic advisor to help students chart the best course for them. 

Since this degree is designed for working professionals, it is structured in a way that students can take a term off when needed for professional or personal reasons with no repercussions. There are also full-time or part-time options so students can choose their pace. 

Graduates of this program are eligible to sit for the Nursing Professional Development Certification (NPD-BC) exam. The leadership concentration portion of this degree prepares students for doctoral-level coursework should they wish to pursue additional education. All students must also take extensive research-based classes and hands-on clinicals in order to gain hands-on experience. 

  • Location: Jacksonville, FL
  • Duration: 18 months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $650 per credit 

Albany State University – Darton College of Health Professions

Students who have already earned a bachelor’s in nursing and want to pursue a career in nurse education can complete the master’s of science nurse educator degree at Albany State University Darton College of Health Professions. Upon completing this program, graduates will be prepared to work in an academic or healthcare setting providing clinical instruction to aspiring nurses. Most students complete this program in five semesters of full-time study, including one summer semester. 

Required courses for this degree include pathophysiology, pharmacology in advanced nursing practice, and curriculum development in nursing. There is also a full semester-long practicum and required research or thesis project included in this program. Classes start in August each year, and students generally complete the program as a cohort. In addition to having an unencumbered nursing license, applicants must have extensive undergraduate prerequisite coursework in statistics, research, health assessment, and pathophysiology. 

  • Location: Albany, GA 
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $47,114 per year

Southern Connecticut State University

The nurse education concentration at Southern Connecticut State University can be completed as part of an MSN or post-master’s certificate program. Through this program, students will learn leadership skills to improve client care and how to conduct original research and synthesize ideas from nursing and education to influence practices. All applicants to this program must be licensed in Connecticut as registered nurses.  

General nursing education coursework students will study include health promotion, disease prevention, and differential diagnosis. There are also nursing education-specific required courses such as curriculum development and teaching in nursing and the role of the nurse educator. A thesis is required to complete this program, regardless of the degree path chosen. 

  • Location: New Haven, CT 
  • Duration: Varies
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $9,884 per semester

Online or Hybrid Nurse Educator Degree and Education Programs

Arkansas State University – College of Nursing and Health Professions

The online nurse educator certificate at Arkansas State University College of Nursing and Health Professions can be completed as a stand-alone program or as part of a master’s of science in nursing. This certificate requires only 12 credits so students can complete the program relatively quickly. 

Students will gain education skills that will help transform them into dynamic and engaging educators. To help aspiring nurse educators keep pace with the changing educational landscape, students will be taught how to teach both in-person and online classes. 

To complete this certificate, applicants must either be enrolled in the MSN program or already have an MSN or BSN from an accredited institution. All students are required to complete clinical experiences in order to gain hands-on experience. Admissions are on a rolling basis, and students can start their studies at the start of any semester. 

  • Location: Jonesboro, AR
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $3,804 total cost

University of Central Florida – College of Nursing

The online nurse educator master’s of science in nursing at the University of Central Florida College of Nursing prepares nurses to teach in academic settings, at healthcare facilities, or in their community. Students are required to complete core courses as well as clinical ones and an internship. The internship can be completed in the student’s home area. Ambitious students can take three additional classes to earn a certificate in healthcare simulation, which is a new in-demand field. 

Applicants to this program must have an unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse. A bachelor’s degree is required, although it does not have to be in nursing. If the applicant’s bachelor’s degree is in a field other than nursing, the student will be required to take three additional prerequisite courses before starting the program. 

  • Location: Orlando, FL
  • Duration: Five semesters full-time and seven semesters part-time
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $1,151.72 per credit 

Duke University – School of Nursing

Students in the online MSN program at Duke University School of Nursing can choose from one of eleven majors, including nursing education. This 36-credit program is offered through distance learning, with campus visits required once a semester. These campus visits are two to five days and include intensive hands-on courses, chances to network with fellow students, and opportunities to get face time with faculty. A unique aspect of this program is that graduates will not only be excellent educators, but they will have a strong clinical base, so they will be experts at the skills they are teaching. 

To graduate from this program, students must complete 12 credits of core nursing coursework, 12 credits of clinicals, and 12 credits in major coursework. Applicants for this degree must submit GRE scores, three recommendations, a personal statement, and a current resume. To be considered for admission, candidates must have completed prerequisite coursework in statistics.    

  • Location: Durham, NC
  • Duration: Varies but must be completed in two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $11,460 per semester

Chamberlain University – College of Nursing

Chamberlain University College of Nursing’s MSN nurse educator track is offered through online learning. Graduates of this program will be prepared to teach current and future nursing students utilizing the most current teaching theories and techniques. 

To gain hands-on experience, students must complete 144 hours of practicum experience, supervised by top faculty and experienced nurse educators. Ninety-six of those hours are devoted to planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating an actual teaching experience. 

An integral part of this degree is curriculum development. Students spend a considerable amount of time learning how courses are created, why they are created, how they are, and how to craft their own highly effective courses. In addition, students are required to complete advanced nursing classes such as pathophysiology, health assessment, and pharmacology. 

  • Location: Addison, IL
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $675 per credit 

Ohio University – College of Health Sciences and Professions

Aspiring nurse educators can complete their master’s of science in nursing online at Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions. Since this program is taught through distance learning, students can continue to work while advancing their education. Skills gained with this degree include teaching strategy, how to evaluate educational activities, and creating staff development opportunities. Students will also learn to solve healthcare delivery challenges through nursing education. 

In total, students are required to complete 32 credits of coursework and 200 practicum hours to earn this degree. Enrollment is only once a year in the fall. Admissions are competitive, and students will need to submit proof of a BSN, professional goals statement, a current resume, three letters of recommendation, and proof of a current RN license. 

  • Location: Athens, OH
  • Duration: Five semesters
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $620 per credit 

Western Governors University

The online BSN to MSN in nursing education at Western Governors University is designed for busy nurses. Courses are completed one at a time, allowing students to focus on just one topic, and are measured in competencies achieved instead of time. This means students can complete classes where they have previous experience quickly and can spend more time on the subjects that are new to them. Tuition is charged per term no matter how many classes are completed, so ambitious students can complete their degrees at a lower cost. 

Core courses are the same for all the MSN degrees as WGU. Nursing education-specific classes include evolving roles of nurse educators in diverse environments, contemporary curriculum design, assessment and evaluation strategies, and emerging trends and challenges in 21st-century nursing education. A field experience is required as well as a capstone project, 

  • Location: Millcreek, UT 
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $4,385 per term

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Educator?

Nurse educators typically must complete bachelor’s and master’s of nursing degrees. This takes about six years of education post-high school. However, this time can vary depending on the level of work experience required and the length of the master’s program.

How To Become a Nurse Educator  – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a GED (Four Years)

The first step toward becoming a nurse educator is earning a GED or high school diploma. Most nursing programs require applicants to have one or the other. Students who want to go into nursing should focus on classes such as psychology, biology, health, chemistry, and math. 

Step 2: Complete a Nursing Program (Two to Four Years)

All nurse educators must first become nurses. They can choose to complete a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing. Associate degree programs often have extensive prerequisite coursework requirements, so applicants should carefully check the requirements before applying. 

Step 3: Pass State NCLEX Exam (Timelines Vary)

All states require candidates to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Passing this exam demonstrates a high level of competency in nursing and assures the state licensing board that the candidate has the necessary knowledge to work as a nurse. 

Step 4: Apply for State Licensure (Timelines Varies)

Each state has its own requirements for nursing licenses. Students should contact their local board to ensure they have the necessary qualifications. More details can be found in the certification and licensure section below. 

Step 5: Earn a Master’s of Nursing in Nurse Education (One-and-a-Half to Two years)

A master’s in nursing in nurse education is necessary to become a nurse educator. These degrees are available to registered nurses with bachelor’s degrees and can take 18 months to two years to complete. Most MSNs in nurse education programs are available online. 

Please note that candidates with associate degrees in nursing will have more qualifying coursework to enroll in MSN programs.

Step 6: Obtain Nurse Educator Certification (Timelines Vary)

Certification as a nurse educator is voluntary, although some employers may require it. Certification can also help with employability or advancement opportunities. More details can be found in the certification and licensure section below.

What Do Nurse Educators Do?

Nurse educators help train other aspiring nurses to enter the field or teach currently licensed nurses to help expand their competencies. Primarily they work in either academic or clinical settings. Here are some of the typical day-to-day duties:

  • Developing lesson plans for current or aspiring nurses
  • Teaching nursing classes both in person or virtually 
  • Evaluating educational programs to ensure they adequately prepare students
  • Providing assessments to students to evaluate their learning
  • Supervising clinical practices
  • Meeting with nursing students to help with coursework or to provide guidance

Nurse Educator Certifications & Licensure

All nurse educators must be licensed registered nurses in the state in which they practice. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all require that candidates pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). As an example, here are the requirements for the state of California:

  • Complete a California Board of Registered Nursing approved nursing program
  • Pass the NCLEX
  • Submit an online application
  • Provide original nursing school transcripts
  • Complete and pass a fingerprint background check

Certification for nurse educators is voluntary but can be a great resume builder as it demonstrates a high level of competence to employers and nursing students. The most common certification nurse educators earn is the Certification for Nurse Educators (CNE) through the National League for Nursing. To qualify to sit for this exam, candidates must have an unencumbered license to practice nursing and one of the following qualifications:

  • A master’s or doctoral degree in nursing with a major emphasis in nursing education 
  • A master’s or doctoral degree in nursing plus a post-master’s certificate in nursing education 
  • A master’s or doctoral degree in nursing and nine or more credits of graduate-level education courses 
  • A master’s or doctoral degree in nursing with an emphasis other than nursing education and two years of experience in the field in the last five years

How Much Do Nurse Educators Make?

Salaries for nurses aren’t differentiated by specialty by the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS May 2021). Currently, there are  234,690 nurse practitioners in the US, who have the same level of education as nurse educators. On average, they earn $118,040 per year. The percentiles for wages were:

  • 10th percentile: $79,470 
  • 25th percentile: $99,540
  • 50th  percentile (median): $120,680
  • 75th percentile: $129,680
  • 90th percentile: $163,350

PayScale (2022), a salary aggregating website, estimates from 1,167 salary profiles that nurse educators earn approximately $79,000 per year on average, with the bottom 10 percent earning $59,000 and the top 90 percent earning $107,000.

Nurse Educator Career Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives to a career as a nurse educator. 

Become a Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are nurses who have completed an advanced degree and are able to provide more independent care to patients. Typically they work with a specific population such as expectant mothers, the elderly, or children. Some may work in family practice, while others may work in surgical suites providing anesthesia or mental health clinics with clients with psychiatric concerns.  

  • Typical Education: Master’s of science in nursing or doctor of nursing practice
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), National Certification Corporation (NCC), Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), Dermatology Nursing Certification Board (DNCB), Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC), Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB), and Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) 

Become a Health Educator

Health educators help to improve the health of individuals or populations through targeted education programs. They are skilled at distilling complicated health issues into actionable and digestible components that clients can easily utilize. Most health educators are part of a larger healthcare delivery team such as a public health office, medical clinic, or hospital. 

  • Typical Education: Master’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Commission for Health Education Credentialing

Become a Nurse Case Manager

Often patients need more than just medical care. They need help coordinating the care they are receiving from various specialists as well as assistance accessing social services, medications, and health education. 

Nurse case managers are registered nurses who understand the complexity of this kind of care and work one-on-one with patients to help them get all the services they need. Not only do nurse case managers have outstanding interpersonal skills, but they also excel at advocating for their patients. 

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Case Management Association (ACMA), American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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