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How to Become a Nurse Educator

An in-depth look at the duties, responsibilities, schooling, requirements, certifications, job outlook, and salary expectations for today’s Nurse Educators

Multinational interns and professor having a discussion

Nurse Educators are registered nurses who combine their extensive knowledge and instructional skills with hands-on experience to serve an indispensable role in the field of nursing: training the next generation of skilled nurses.

Nurse Educators are responsible for helping prepare tomorrow’s nurses for the myriad challenges of working in the healthcare field. They integrate advanced knowledge of not just the medical profession and its practices, but also of the day-to-day patient care that makes up the bulk of a nurse’s job.

In being the best, most knowledgeable nurses they can be, Nurse Educators impart their experience and knowledge in both classroom settings as well as on the floor, to ensure the next generation of nurses carries on the highest level of skill and competency.

Experienced and skilled Nurse Educators rank amongst the top 10% of nurses in the country in terms of pay.

(Click here to see our full list of the highest paying nursing jobs in the U.S.).

Continue reading this career guide if you’re interested in specializing in the Nurse Educator role. We will cover how to become a Nurse Educator as well as the specific duties, responsibilities, and salary* expectations for this vital profession.

Nurse Educator Definition

What Is a Nurse Educator?

Nurse Educators focus on the planning and teaching of nursing care and patient satisfaction. They give lectures on standards and practices, oversee candidates’ clinical and lab work, assign homework, assist in clinical research, mentor working nurses, and even provide actual patient care. They are the driving force behind the training of skilled nursing professionals, combining clinical experience and academic expertise to train students in nursing skills. They are responsible for determining educational curriculum and standards, preparing students to successfully transition out of academia, empowering new nurses to thrive in the nursing profession, and improving systems that uphold nurse education. The Nurse Educator not only does it all with skill and dedication, but ensures that future generations of nurses will do the same.

Nurse Educator: Job Description

What Does a Nurse Educator Do?

The role of a Nurse Educator offers several different career pathways, and their daily duties are largely determined by the part of the educational process they have chosen to impact. Some Nurse Educators spend the majority of their time preparing non-licensed students to enter the workforce as well as implementing advanced degree programs for licensed RNs seeking advanced skills. This can include curriculum building, teaching students, assessing educational outcomes, and conducting academic research.

In addition to the teaching role, many Nurse Educators serve dual roles that combine teaching with actual nursing practice. These Nurse Educators continue to provide patient care while teaching less experienced nurses and students in their field of work. In this role, their day-to-day responsibilities combine mentoring, coordinating clinical placements, streamlining processes, and coordinating continuing education.

Nurse educators also assist in life-care planning, teach patients how to navigate the insurance landscape, consult in legal or forensic capacities, and even work toward policy improvement in government or institutions. They uphold and improve the systems and structures of nurse education and continually create new and innovative ways to approach nurse education.

Nurse Educator: Job Responsibilities

The role of a Nurse Educator carries more responsibilities than the typical nurse, as it combines all the responsibilities of traditional nursing with the additional role of educating. The typical day-to-day responsibilities of a Nurse Educator can include:

  • Designing curricula
  • Developing classes and programs of study
  • Teaching students
  • Advising students
  • Evaluating students
  • Evaluating and revising educational programs and individual classes
  • Promoting discussion among students
  • Overseeing students’ clinical practice
  • Serving as a role model and mentor for students
  • Documenting outcomes of educational processes
  • Engaging in scholarly work (e.g. peer review, research, etc.)
  • Speaking at nursing conferences
  • Contributing to the academic community via leadership roles
  • Maintaining clinical competence
  • Writing grant proposals

Nurse Educator Jobs

Where Do Nurse Educators Work?

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Nurse educators teach in universities, and technical schools, as well as hospital-based nursing programs. They also frequently work as administrators, consultants, or even independent contractors in a wide variety of nursing education-focused areas. Within hospital and clinical settings, they help promote the professional development and growth of new nurses from novice to expert. Within university settings their role is more focused on background education typically in classroom environments.

Nurse Educator School & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Educator?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Nurse Educator?

The path to becoming a Nurse Educator requires comprehensive education and work experience. Being a Nurse Educator requires a talent for management and mentorship, along with an ability to teach and instruct both in classroom settings as well as in practical form out on the floor of a clinic or hospital.

To first become licensed Registered Nurses, prospects must complete an Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree and pass the NCLEX-RN examination. Becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), also requires earning either your nursing master’s or doctoral degree.

Here is a closer look at the necessary steps to becoming a Nurse Educator:

1. Earn a BSN Degree

Earning an accredited nursing degree is the first step to becoming a Nurse Educator. Your BSN degree combines the fundamentals of nursing theory with actual hands-on clinical practice to develop knowledge of different medical procedures.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Certification Examination

Upon earning a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) in order to earn your license and become a Registered Nurse.

(Click here to read our NCLEX-RN Exam Review & Study Guide).

3. Earn an MSN Degree

After passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and attaining an RN license, you must then pursue your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. MSN coursework is more advanced, building on the knowledge gained in an undergraduate program.

4. Earn a Doctorate Degree

According to the American Association of College of Nursing (AACN), aspiring nurse educators who seek a career at the highest level at colleges or universities should obtain some doctoral degree in nursing. Those who have completed Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Nursing Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs are considered to be those best suited to becoming nurse educators. Nursing Ph.D. programs will heavily emphasize research, while DNP programs mainly focus on clinical practice.

Nurse Educator Salaries

How Much Do Clinical Nurse Specialists Earn?

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers make an average salary* of about $83,000.

Nurse Educator salaries in the 90th percentile, however, can reach an average of $133,000 per year.

Top Paying Industries for Nurse Educators

Nurse Educator salaries can vary dramatically based on employer or location. For example, here are some of the top-paying industries for Nurse Educators.

Industry Average Salary
General Hospitals $121,180
Psychiatric Hospitals $93,650
Colleges & Universities $83,240
Junior Colleges $75,430
Trade Schools $73,100

Top Paying States for Nurse Educators

State Average Salary
Washington D.C. $157,560
Florida $122,050
California $101,930
New York $97,750
Connecticut $97,350

Top Paying Cities for Nurse Educators

City Average Salary
Washington D.C. $120,980
Rochester, NY $108,480
New Haven, CT $107,320
Los Angeles, CA $106,740
Sacramento, CA $104,430
Savannah, GA $103,220
San Diego, CA $102,160
Bridgeport, CT $102,080
New York, NY $101,860
Binghamton, NY $98,820

Job Outlook for Nurse Educators

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report the specific job outlook projections for Nurse Educators, they do report that overall employment for postsecondary teachers is projected to increase by 9% through 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations (4%).

Nurse Educator Career

Are you ready to start your career as a Nurse Educator?

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If you’re the type of individual who can juggle a wide range of responsibilities, and is as comfortable working with patients as you are with working with students, the role of a Nurse Educator could suit you well.

If this sounds like you, rise up to the challenge and begin your career journey by earning your BSN degree at Eagle Gate College.