How to Become a Nurse Educator
The U.S. health care system needs more and more nurses each year.i However, there aren’t enough faculty members in nursing education programs to help meet this demand. In fact, per the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, U.S. nursing schools turned away 68,938 qualified applicants during 2014-15 because they lacked the staff necessary to teach them.ii
If you’re an experienced nurse, you can help secure the future of the profession—and expand your own career horizons—by becoming a nurse educator. As a nurse educator, you will teach student nurses to care for patients in classrooms and in clinical settings. You may teach nursing students in two-year or four-year programs. It’s a rewarding career path that offers you the opportunity to have a lasting impact on the quality of patient care by training the next generation of nurses.
This short guide to becoming a nurse educator lays out the steps you should follow, what qualifications you should pursue, and how long it takes to become a nurse educator—as well as explaining what nurse educators do. For more information about the nurse educator career, including salary prospects and other information, please see “Nurse Educator Career Facts: Duties, Salary, and Job Outlook.”
If you’re wondering how long it takes to become a nurse educator, be advised that the process can last several years. Generally, nurse educator requirements include a RN license plus a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. In addition, you may need to obtain certification as a nurse educator to qualify for positions in many settings.
Step 1: Choose a Nurse Educator Degree Program
Finding the right educational program can be challenging, especially if you’re already employed full-time in the health care field. You should consider several factors when selecting a nurse educator degree program, including:
- Accreditation status for the university and the degree program
- The institution's reputation in the education and health care communities
- Availability of online courses for students already working full-time
- Graduation and hire rates
- Cost of the program after all scholarships and direct aid have been considered
Any one of these program characteristics can impact your overall success in pursuing a career as a nurse educator. We recommend choosing a university that offers personalized support from an admissions counselor.
Step 2: Complete Your Coursework
Once you’ve found your program and enrolled, you will need to complete your coursework. Courses for a nurse educator master’s degree can cover the following areas:
- Theories of education and learning
- Assessment and evaluation of student performance
- Curriculum design and development
- Special topics in pharmacology, physiology and other areas of medical research
- Educational technology for training nurses
- Teaching strategies for nurse instructors
- Reviewing and evaluating research in both nursing practice and nursing education
In addition, you will complete hands-on teaching practice in either a classroom or clinical setting. These courses and experiences provide you with the skills and competencies you need to educate future generations of nurses.
Step 3: Obtain Your Nurse Educator Certification
After graduating from your program, you will be eligible to pursue roles right away. However, we recommend you seek certification as a nurse educator as soon as you are eligible. While not all employers will require it, earning this national certification can help you stand out from the crowd.
The Certified Nurse Educator program offered by the National League for Nursing is open to licensed nurses who hold a master’s or doctoral degree and who have two years of experience teaching at an educational institution. To earn CNE certification, you will need to take an examination and pay a fee. Please visit the National League for Nursing for more information.
Becoming a nurse educator can take as little as two years of study at the master’s degree level if you are already a licensed nurse with a bachelor’s degree. If you choose to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice or other certification (such as Family Nurse Practitioner certification) or decide to study part-time, you may need more time.
Typically, you can gain certification in the field only after completing some entry-level service. Becoming a certified nurse educator can take another two years after you finish your graduate degree.
As a nurse educator, you will be responsible for ensuring your students’ success in both nursing theory and clinical practice. You may:
- Evaluate nursing curriculum, plan and deliver lessons
- Design courses or revise existing course material
- Assess student learning and identify their strengths and weaknesses
- Offer career development advice to student nurses
- Assist with finding clinical placement sites and/or observe students in clinicals
- Model best practices in patient care and nursing administration
It’s important to note that many nurse educators continue to practice as nurses while they teach. This is because educational employers want you to be able to offer teaching points grounded in real-world experience that reflects the current state of the field.
We hope you’ve found this list of steps to becoming a nurse educator informative. Launch your career as a nurse educator with one of the most trusted nursing schools in the region – Gwynedd Mercy University. Our Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Educator (MSN-NE) program provides practical education in a flexible format that fits with your demanding schedule.
In addition, we offer personalized support from skilled advisors who want to ensure you can achieve your goals quickly and in a cost-effective way. Contact us today to learn more about the MSN-NE program or begin your application.