How to Become a Nurse Educator | Salary & Programs

10 Min Read Published June 28, 2024

Nurse educators have the distinct honor and profound responsibility of training the next generation of nurses. This guide will explore how to become a nurse educator, including required education, duties, and salary expectations. Read on to learn if this prestigious specialty suits your nursing journey.

How to Become a Nurse Educator

What is a Nurse Educator?

Nurse educators are masters-prepared nurses who instruct and evaluate nursing students. They teach aspiring nurses the skills and competencies to bridge the gap between didactic learning and clinical practice. While nurse educators generally work in academia, some work in clinical settings as clinical nursing instructors.

Nurse educators wear many hats as nursing teachers, mentors, and hands-on instructors. They accomplish several tasks daily, including developing coursework curricula, teaching courses, evaluating educational programs, overseeing clinical rotations, and conducting research. 

Popular Online Nurse Educator Programs

Sponsored
Walden University
Walden’s online programs for nursing meet rigorous standards for academic quality and integrity, and the School of Nursing teaching faculty all hold doctorates. With three degree completion options, you can choose a bachelor’s in nursing path that makes sense for your busy, unpredictable schedule.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY, RI and CT. Certain programs have additional state restrictions. Check with Walden for details.

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Grand Canyon University
GCU’s RN-BSN program is tailored to meet the needs of the RN adult learner and to maximize the strengths that the working RN already possesses. Transfer up to 90 credits and earn a BSN in as little as 12 months. GCU’s online classes allow you to study at the times that work for your schedule while still enjoying a close connection with your classmates and instructor via online discussions.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Arizona State University - Online

When you earn an ASU nursing degree, you are gaining skills from a respected and accredited institution. Our online nursing degrees are accredited by the Arizona State Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

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How to Become a Nurse Educator

Becoming a nurse educator requires a graduate education, plenty of experience, and a lot of dedication and passion. The following is a step-by-step guide to becoming a nurse educator.

1. Become a Registered Nurse

Before becoming a nurse educator, you must be a registered nurse (RN). You can earn your RN license by attending an accredited 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. You'll then sit the  National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and apply to become an RN in your state.

Notably, if you pursue an ADN, you must complete a BSN or attend a specific ADN-MSN nurse educator program to continue down this career path. While available, these bridge programs may be more sparse than traditional nurse educator tracks.

2. Gain Clinical Experience

In general, you'll complete at least two years of clinical nursing experience before applying to a graduate nurse educator program.

While some Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs will accept students directly from a BSN program, you'll have a hard time finding a nurse educator program that will. Nurse educators need clinical experience to broaden their knowledge and inform their teaching techniques. 

3. Earn an Advanced Nursing Degree

All nurse educator positions require a graduate nursing degree from an accredited program. You'll most commonly earn this degree by attending a 2-year Nurse Educator MSN Program.

However, if you already have an advanced nursing degree, you can attend a post-graduate certificate program to prepare for this role. Post-graduate nursing certificates can take a year or less, depending on the program and your existing credits.

4. Acquire a Nurse Educator Certification

After completing your education, you can work as a nurse educator. However, you can become eligible for more high-quality employment opportunities by pursuing a nurse educator certification.

The National League for Nursing (NLN) offers three nurse educator certifications:

Certification Expiration Who's it For?
Certified Novice Nurse Educator (CNE®n) 3 years (non-renewable) New graduates from nurse educator programs who want to verify their education and competencies to employers.
Certified Academic Nurse Educator (CNE®) 5 years Nurse educators who want to specialize in teaching in academic settings, like two or four-year colleges.
Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE®cl) 5 years Nurse educators who want to specialize in teaching in clinical settings, like hospitals and healthcare facilities.

>> Show Me Online Nurse Educator Programs

What Does a Nurse Educator Do?

Nurse educators are responsible for preparing the next generation of nurses for clinical practice. Nurse educators may work in academia or clinical settings and perform a wide range of duties.

Those in academia prepare lesson plans, deliver lectures, proctor tests, and hold office hours. Comparatively, clinical nursing teachers perform hands-on education, overseeing clinical rotations and evaluating students' hands-on skills.

A non-exhaustive list of nurse educator duties includes:

  • Developing lesson plans
  • Teaching courses
  • Evaluating educational programs
  • Overseeing students’ clinical practice
  • Serving as a mentor on academic and career issues
  • Promoting discussions among students
  • Attending faculty meetings
  • Documenting outcomes of educational processes
  • Serving on University-based committees
  • Engaging in research activities
  • Speaking at nursing conferences
  • Maintaining clinical competence
  • Writing grant proposals

Nurse Educator Programs

This specialty nursing career requires a graduate education. In your nurse educator program, you'll attend various classes, culminating in an education and direct patient care practicum. Your practicum will be at least 90 clinical hours and may be split into two parts depending on the school you attend.

Though every MSN curriculum is different, accredited nursing programs follow the American Association of Colleges of Nursing framework in The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing. This document outlines the essential curriculum contents and core competencies for nurse education programs nationwide.

>> Show Me Online Nurse Educator Programs

Nurse Educator Program Requirements

Though every MSN Nurse Educator program is different, most have similar entry requirements, including:

  • Two years of nursing experience
  • BSN completion with a 3.0 GPA
  • All official transcripts
  • Unencumbered, active RN license
  • Two or three professional references
  • C or better grade in undergraduate Statistics
  • Statement of professional and/or academic goals
  • Professional resume or curriculum vitae
  • Admissions interview
  • GRE and TOEFL tests, if applicable

Master of Science in Nursing Program Core Elements

An MSN in Nurse education typically takes 33 to 39 credit hours. Universities design their programs to satisfy the nine core elements of MSN education, as outlined in the AACN's framework:

  1. Background for Practice from Sciences and Humanities 
  2. Organizational and Systems Leadership 
  3. Safety and Quality Improvement in Nursing
  4. Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice 
  5. Informatics and Healthcare Technologies 
  6. Health Policy and Advocacy 
  7. Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes
  8. Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving Health
  9. Master’s-Level Nursing Practice

You'll also attend specific courses related to nursing education and education theory, including:

  • Assessment and Evaluation in Nursing Education
  • Evidence-Based Practice for Patient-Centered Care
  • Philosophy, Theory, and Role
  • Facilitating Student Learning and Teaching Innovation
  • Curriculum Development in Nursing Education
  • Innovations in Clinical Teaching & Evaluation
  • Educational Program Evaluation & Accreditation

Popular Online Nurse Educator Programs

Sponsored
Walden University
Walden’s online programs for nursing meet rigorous standards for academic quality and integrity, and the School of Nursing teaching faculty all hold doctorates. With three degree completion options, you can choose a bachelor’s in nursing path that makes sense for your busy, unpredictable schedule.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY, RI and CT. Certain programs have additional state restrictions. Check with Walden for details.

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Grand Canyon University
GCU’s RN-BSN program is tailored to meet the needs of the RN adult learner and to maximize the strengths that the working RN already possesses. Transfer up to 90 credits and earn a BSN in as little as 12 months. GCU’s online classes allow you to study at the times that work for your schedule while still enjoying a close connection with your classmates and instructor via online discussions.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Arizona State University - Online

When you earn an ASU nursing degree, you are gaining skills from a respected and accredited institution. Our online nursing degrees are accredited by the Arizona State Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Nurse Educator Salary

Nurse educators in post-secondary universities earn an average annual salary of $86,530, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2023.  However, ZipRecruiter estimates a higher average income of $102,263 annually or $49 per hour.

They earn the most in local government, excluding schools and hospitals, with the BLS reporting an average income of $136,450 for nurse educators in that industry. Other top-paying industries include physicians' offices, medical and surgical hospitals, and specialty hospitals.

>> Show Me Online Nurse Educator Programs

Top 5 Highest Paying States for Nurse Instructors

State Annual Salary
District of Columbia $111,130
Oregon $109,110
New York $102,980
New Jersey $101,540
Nevada $99,320

Top 5 Highest Paying Cities for Nurse Instructors

City Annual Salary
Norwich-New London-Westerly, CT-RI $144,100
Visalia-Porterville, CA $128,320
New Haven, CT $122,570
Bakersfield, CA $118,250
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA $115,220

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed 28 June 2024

What is the Career Outlook for Nurse Educators?

There is a critical need for nurse educators in academia. Young, experienced, and talented educators are essential to continuing to educate new and upcoming nursing students. Without filling these vacancies, the nursing profession will continue to suffer from a shortage of experienced nurses.

>> Show Me Online Nurse Educator Programs

Where Can a Nurse Educator Work?

Nurse educators can generally work in academic settings like universities or clinical settings like hospitals. Some roles you can attain as a nurse educator include the following: 

  • Clinical faculty member
  • Nursing school dean/assistant dean
  • Professor
  • Administrative nursing staff
  • Specialist in continued education
  • Unit-based educator
  • Hospital-based educator
  • NCLEX educator

How to Pay for an MSN Degree 

Attending a graduate nursing program is always expensive. However, that shouldn't deter you from pursuing your dream career as a nurse educator. There are several ways to pay for an MSN degree, including grants, scholarships, and academic loans.

Read the Nurse.org guide to paying for nursing school to learn more about these options and find one that suits you!

>> Show Me Online Nurse Educator Programs

Popular Online Nurse Educator Programs

Sponsored
Walden University
Walden’s online programs for nursing meet rigorous standards for academic quality and integrity, and the School of Nursing teaching faculty all hold doctorates. With three degree completion options, you can choose a bachelor’s in nursing path that makes sense for your busy, unpredictable schedule.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY, RI and CT. Certain programs have additional state restrictions. Check with Walden for details.

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Grand Canyon University
GCU’s RN-BSN program is tailored to meet the needs of the RN adult learner and to maximize the strengths that the working RN already possesses. Transfer up to 90 credits and earn a BSN in as little as 12 months. GCU’s online classes allow you to study at the times that work for your schedule while still enjoying a close connection with your classmates and instructor via online discussions.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Arizona State University - Online

When you earn an ASU nursing degree, you are gaining skills from a respected and accredited institution. Our online nursing degrees are accredited by the Arizona State Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Additional Information about Nurse Educators

Interested in learning more about becoming a nurse educator, joining a professional organization, and networking? Check out some of these nurse educator resources:

Earn Your Nursing Degree Online
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$70,000 - $90,000 Non-Bedside RN Masters Nurse Educator
Kathleen Gaines
MSN, RN, BA, CBC
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

Read More From Kathleen
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