How to Become a Nurse Educator
If you are a nurse who is interested in the future of nursing and passionate about teaching, a career as a nurse educator might be a great fit. As a nurse educator, you will help guide the next generation of nurses and play a key role as a mentor, teacher, and role model for nursing students.
If you would like to advance your nursing career and teaching appeals to you, these steps guide your path:
1. Understand the role of a nurse educator
Nurse educators prepare nursing students for the transition from school to a professional work setting. They work with both nursing students and clinical professionals who need continuing education or training.
A good portion of a nurse educator’s day may be spent in a classroom or office setting, preparing for classes, giving lectures, advising students, grading papers, handling administrative work, and keeping up with current nursing knowledge. In addition, some nurse educators may work in hospital/clinical settings, providing staff education and development. Possibilities in the job description include:
- Design curriculum and instruction to help ensure courses meet the state accreditation requirements.
- Prepare and deliver lectures and lead classroom discussions
- Oversee lab and clinical education
- Provide feedback as students work and interact with patients.
- Supervise student teaching, internships, and research.
In addition, many nurse educators are involved with research and evidence-based practice efforts, growing the scientific base for the practice of nursing.
Although patient treatment is not a primary job duty for nurse educators, they often supervise nursing students as they work with patients.
2. Become an RN
If you aren’t already a registered nurse, becoming one is your first step.
You may qualify to become a registered nurse by earning your associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing; however—to become a nurse educator you will eventually need to earn your master’s degree.
Herzing University offers many unique degree pathways for students to earn their degree in nursing and become an RN:
- ADN/ASN program. Enroll in our Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) program and get the education required to become a registered nurse in 2 years or less.
- 3-year BSN program. For students with no prior experience in nursing, our Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program puts you on a path to earn your nursing degree in 3 years.
- Accelerated BSN program. If you have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field, our ABSN program can help you earn your second degree in as few as 20 months.
- MSN Direct Entry. Or, you may qualify for our Direct Entry MSN program and start earning your master’s degree right from the start.
- ASN/BSN Bridge options. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), paramedics, military medics, Respiratory Therapists (RT), and Cardiovascular Technologists (CVT) may be eligible for shorter ASN and BSN bridge pathways.
- RN to BSN. If you are already an RN with an associate degree, you can take our online RN to BSN program to earn your BSN in 1 year or less.
** Program availability varies by campus. Please click through to each program for details.
Once you have graduated from a college or university, you certify as a registered nurse by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and meeting the board of nursing requirements in your state. Then you will be ready to get your first job as an RN.
Gain experience as a registered nurse
Three years of hands-on nursing is often needed before you can begin teaching; however, this varies based on academic institutions.
3. Enroll in a nursing education program
After gaining experience as an RN, the next step to becoming a nurse educator is enrolling in nursing education program at the master's degree level.
Our BSN to MSN in nursing education online pathway for RN-BSNs can be completed in 16 months when attending full-time; we also offer an Accelerated RN to MSN in Nursing Education program for RN-ADNs. We emphasize key teaching skills including curriculum development, instructional strategy, assessment and evaluation strategies.
With 6 start dates per year you won’t have to wait around too long to get started.
For nurses who already hold an MSN we also offer a post master's nursing education certificate option so you can get the education you need in less than a year.
4. Complete your clinicals and graduate
Graduating with a master’s degree in nursing education takes more than online classwork. Herzing’s nurse educator program includes two on-site clinicals with a preceptor in an approved nursing education or staff development setting.
Our goal is to prepare you for real success in a teaching environment, and the clinical portion of the curriculum is crucial to build the nursing education skills you need to thrive!
5. Get certified
Certification is not currently required for nurse educators, but it can help increase your earning potential and help you stay competitive in the job market. Nurse educators earn certification from the National League for Nursing (NLN) by taking the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) exam. To qualify to take the exam, you’ll need:
- An active, unrestricted RN license
- A Master of Science in Nursing degree
- A completed nursing education course at an advanced level.
We recommend you get certified to help give you an edge in the job market and get off to a fast start in your new career.
Frequently Asked Questions
Nurse educators may work in a variety of academic or professional health-related settings, such as junior colleges, technical or trade schools, universities, or surgical or teaching hospital administration. They may find jobs based on their area of expertise and employer and may teach full or part-time.
Nurse educators can hold a variety of positions; here a few of the most common careers in nursing education:
- Clinical nurse educator
- Nursing curriculum instructor
- Nursing instructor
- Facility instructor
- Professor of nursing
- Dean of nursing
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for a nurse educator is $82,040 per year.* Salaries can vary based on location, education, and experience. Discover the average nurse educator salary in your state and learn more about a career in nursing education.
With Herzing University you are never alone. It’s our goal to provide all students an affordable, career-driven education. Financial aid options include:
- Loan options – Federal & private
- Scholarships & grants
- VA / military benefits
- Other sources of financial aid
You can find an estimate for tuition and expenses by using the Herzing University tuition wizard.
You can earn your MSN in nursing education in as few as 16-20 months depending on the degree you currently hold. We recommend you sit for the Certified Nurse Educator exam. It’s not a requirement, but it will give you an edge on the job market. Completing the MSN in Nursing Education program from Herzing University makes you eligible to register for the exam.
Once you pass the exam and become a certified nurse educator you’ll have the credentials you need to start making an impact on the lives of nursing students in a clinical or college/university environment.
You’ll need a great education, plenty of clinical experience, excellent communication skills, a passion for healthcare and a real desire to make a difference—and an eagerness to share your experiences with others. The best teachers are those who are truly passionate and pass that along to their students. A great teacher goes a lot further than the essentials.
Perhaps most important is a commitment to a life of learning. If you possess these crucial skills for a nurse educator, this might be the career you’re looking for.
Start your career as a nurse educator
With a master’s degree and a certification, you’re ready to look for your first job as an educator!
As a nurse educator, you can help prepare the next generation of nurses and touch countless lives. The demand for educators is growing - are you ready to answer the call? If you’re ready to have a positive impact on the nursing field, now is a great time to start on the path to a rewarding new career as a nurse educator.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2021. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.
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