Clinical Nurse Instructor Career Guide

5 Min Read Published September 18, 2023
Clinical nurse instructor

What is a Clinical Nurse Instructor?

Clinical nurse instructors, otherwise known as adjunct faculty in academia, are Registered Nurses that teach the clinical component of a didactic course. 

Simply put, a clinical nurse instructor works with students to give them real-world training and enhance classroom education. Clinical nurse instructors are essential to the nursing curriculum. 

As the nursing shortage continues to rise, so does the need for experienced clinical instructors. In this guide, we explain what a clinical instructor is, how much they make, and how to become one.

Skills You Need to Be a Clinical Nurse Instructor

Clinical Nurse Instructors must have certain important qualities in order to succeed in their career: 

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Patience
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication
  • Resourcefulness
  • Strong writing skills
  • Organization skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Clinical expertise
  • The ability to be a team player
  • The ability to handle conflict effectively

Show Me All Specialized MSN Programs

What Do Clinical Nurse Instructors Do?

Clinical nurse instructors directly supervise and evaluate students’ progress during nursing clinical activities.

Instructors are assigned groups of students, ranging from 4 students to 10 students, depending on the guidelines of the institution. Here are some of the duties of a clinical instructor:

  • Instruct students on medication administration and proper technique and bedside procedures
  • Serve as an expert in nursing knowledge and the safe delivery of medication administration
  • Supervise and monitor clinical activities, application of new nursing skills, theories and knowledge application in classroom and clinical settings
  • Provide critique and constructive feedback to students and evaluate student clinical performance
  • Stay informed about changes and innovations in their field
  • Integrate evidence-based practice with the delivery of patient care and established priorities to facilitate students learning
  • Serve as a mentor and use teaching strategies to foster student learning, success, and retention

Show Me All Specialized MSN Programs

Clinical Nurse Instructor Salary

According to the BLS, the mean annual nursing instructor salary is $84,180 as of May 2022. While the BLS does not differentiate between clinical nurse instructors vs. academia nursing faculty, it is important to note that clinical nurse instructors often hold other positions, whether in a hospital or another academic institution. 

The number of clinical nurse instructors in the United States is small in comparison to the number of bedside nurses throughout the country. So while there is a shortage in the number of instructors, there is also a smaller number of positions available. 

Pay will also depend on a number of factors including:

  • The number of days the instructor teaches clinicals
  • The type of program -- ADN, BSN, or MSN
  • If the program is at a smaller college or community college vs a large University
  • If the program is at a state school or a private university.

All of these factors will impact the salary of clinical nurse instructors. 

Highest Paying States for Clinical Nurse Instructors

  • Massachusetts - $106,690
  • Nevada - $105,610
  • California - $104,150
  • DC - $101,680
  • New York - $100,200

Highest Paying Cities for Clinical Nurse Instructors

  • Visalia-Porterville, CA   - $121,290
  • New Haven, CT - $119,920
  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA - $113,580
  • Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN  - $112,940
  • Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV - $111,460
  • Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH - $109,620

Data via BLS, May 2022

What is the Career Outlook for Clinical Nurse Instructors?

According to an AACN’s report on 2019-2020 Enrollment,  "U.S. nursing schools turned away 80,407 qualified applications from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2019." There is an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, and clinical preceptors, making the need for clinical instructors higher than ever!

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Instructor

Becoming a Clinical Nurse Instructor happens after gaining experience as a Registered Nurse

Step 1. Get a BSN degree

To gain employment as a clinical nurse instructor you first have to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing

A BSN is a traditional four-year degree that provides you with foundational knowledge in topics ranging from health assessments and pathophysiology to anatomy and pharmacology. BSN programs incorporate clinical rotations through the various care departments in hospitals and clinics, exposing students to a wide range of patients to provide well-rounded nursing education.   

>> Click to See RN-to-BSN Programs

Step 2. Take the NCLEX-RN

Once you have earned your Bachelor of Science in Nursing, you will be eligible to take the examination required to become a Registered Nurse. This test, called the NCLEX-RN, or National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Every state has its own requirements for licensure and process for exam registration, so make sure that you are familiar with the requirements as they apply to you and your locale. Furthermore, the nursing program must be accredited in order for you to sit for the NCLEX.

Step 3. Gain Experience

Through clinical rotations, students are exposed to a wide range of care settings. Gaining expertise in a field such as med surg, pediatrics, or psychiatry is important prior to becoming a clinical nurse instructor. 

Step 4. Get an MSN degree

Most clinical nurse instructors hold a Master’s degree in nursing, either as an advanced practice nurse practitioner or a nurse educator. While this is not a requirement for every state, most major nursing programs prefer to hire clinical nursing instructors that hold an advanced degree. 

Some states, like Pennsylvania, will allow clinical nurse instructors to have a BSN if they are enrolled in an MSN program with completion in five years. Instructors will have to submit specific requirements to the state and if the MSN is not completed within five years they will not be allowed to work as a clinical nurse instructor until it is. 

New Jersey, on the other hand, requires an MSN degree for this position. It is important to note that this depends on the clinical site. For example, an individual could work for a University in Pennsylvania but if the clinical site is in New Jersey then they must possess an MSN degree. 

>> Click to Compare MSN Programs

Why Become a Clinical Nurse Instructor?

A clinical nurse instructor is a rewarding and fulfilling position. You have the ability to educate future generations of nurses and impact their growth in an ever-changing field. To thrive in this career, you must love teaching, working with students, and functioning in a different capacity in the nursing profession. 

Find Nursing Programs

$70,000 - $90,000 Clinical Nurse Instructor Bachelors Masters Non-Bedside RN
Kathleen Gaines
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
Go to the top of page