A Blueprint for Becoming a Nurse Educator

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Experienced nurses can redefine their nursing careers by transitioning to nurse education. By becoming a nurse educator, a nurse can move away from clinical practice to focus on cultivating future generations of nursing professionals. Pursuing higher education is usually the best way to become a nurse educator. Master of Science in Nursing programs offer nurse education curricula that discuss the foremost theories and practices used in nurse education. Upon graduation from an MSN program, nurses are equipped with the tools they need to develop nursing curricula, teach courses, and contribute to nursing academia as a whole.

What Does Becoming a Nurse Educator Mean for Your Career?

Being a nurse educator is radically different from specializing in clinical nursing practice. Rather than working to solve the issues of patients in a clinical setting, nurse educators train students and facilitate their learning. Nurse educators should be able to develop and implement education plans that feature an array of different teaching methods, such as simulations, online education, and traditional face-to-face lectures. As educators, nurses become mentors who are vital to stimulating progress in the nursing field.

Nurse Educator Job Responsibilities

Nurse educators are primarily responsible for designing and teaching nursing curriculum. To do this effectively, they must be adept at evaluating the learning needs of students and using their observations to implement the optimal teaching strategies. The MSN courses on curriculum development and teaching strategies are critical to mastering this skill set. In addition to delivering their own lessons, nurse educators may also be tasked with evaluating the performance of other nurse education programs. This involves reviewing other educators’ methods and consulting with them directly or through communication with management to improve their performance. To prepare their students for these administrative responsibilities, MSN programs also highlight a nurse’s role as a member of the faculty.

Skills Nurse Educators Need to Succeed

Nurse educators need a flexible set of skills to perform well in both academic and clinical settings. Master of Science in Nursing programs point student nurses in the right direction by offering them the opportunity to develop the following practical skills:

Leadership. Nurse educators must become leaders who can set meaningful educational goals for their students and implement plans that can help them achieve those goals. To this end, MSN programs cover the nurse educator’s role as a leader in the classroom.

Mentorship. While leadership is a way to set goals and drive students toward them, nurse educators use mentorship to leverage their own experience and knowledge to guide others. Mentorship skills allow educators to maximize their impact on their students’ education.

Research. As members of academia, nurse educators must also contribute to the study of nursing practice. Through their coursework, Master of Science in Nursing students experience the leading research techniques used by nurse educators today.

Interpersonal Communication and Presentation. Communication is central to education, as students are more likely to understand information that has been communicated articulately. Communication skills are also valuable to faculty members, as a good communicator is well equipped to present research findings to others and network with peers.

Becoming a Nurse Educator

After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing, it may be unclear what steps to take to become a nurse educator. Here is a breakdown of the typical career trajectory for nurse educators:

Earn a bachelor’s degree, ideally in a nursing-related field to develop a foundation of nursing skills.
Obtain a license to practice as a registered nurse.
Gain several years of hands-on experience in nursing practice.
Earn a Master of Science in Nursing.
Acquire a nurse educator certificate from the National League for Nursing (NLN).

Nurse Educators Are in Urgent Demand

In April 2018, CNN shared the American Nurses Association’s prediction that the United States “will need to produce more than 1 million new registered nurses by 2022 to fulfill its health care needs.” This places pressure on nursing schools to produce a higher volume of qualified graduates without sacrificing the quality of their educational programs. There are simply not enough nursing faculty members to teach incoming nursing students; the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that nursing schools turned away 64,067 applicants in 2016 because of insufficient faculty and facilities. As a result of schools’ being understaffed, there is continuous growth in the number of jobs available for nurse educators. The median salary for nurse educators was $71,260 in 2017.

Different Types of Positions for Nurse Educators

Not all nurse education jobs are the same; some positions are year-round, while others are nine-month-long jobs in academia. Likewise, nurse educators can teach full time or part time. The rank of a nurse educator typically depends on his or her clinical experience and academic credentials. While all jobs involve teaching, advising, service, practice, research, and scholarship in nurse education, the work environment can vary across the different positions. Students who pursue academic nurse education may find themselves teaching in classrooms or leading courses online using distance learning software. Those who choose clinical nurse education would instead serve as mentors in active health care environments, teaching nursing techniques to the local team.

Becoming a nurse educator requires commitment to learning the different processes involved in teaching nursing curricula to student nurses. The most direct path to learning these skills is first becoming a registered nurse, then gaining several years of work experience to develop clinical competence, and later earning a Master of Science in Nursing to learn how to teach nursing students. MSN graduates should have lucrative career advancement opportunities ahead of them, such as entering a career in academia or pursuing further certifications in their current fields.

Learn More:

For professionals who aspire to an advanced career in nursing, Ohio University’s online MSN program helps students gain the skills and experience necessary to take their nursing careers to the next level. Learn more about Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Nursing.

Recommended Reading:

Master of Science in Nursing Curriculum

Unlicensed Personnel Vs. Nurses: Education Is Critical

Nine Laws and Regulations Nurse Practitioners Should Know


Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages

American Nurse Today, Career Options for Nurse Educators

American Nurse Today, Your Path to Becoming a Nurse Educator

American Association of Colleges of Nursing

CNN Money