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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.

Multinational interns and professor having a discussion

Nurse Educators are Registered Nurses (RNs) who combine their extensive knowledge and hands-on experience to serve an indispensable role in the nursing field—training the next generation of skilled nurses.

Nurse Educators are responsible for helping prepare tomorrow’s nurses for the various 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.

By sharing their nursing expertise with others, Nurse Educators impart their experience and knowledge in both classroom settings and 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 transitioning into a Nurse Educator role. We will cover how to become a Nurse Educator and the specific duties, responsibilities, and salary* expectations for this important profession.

Nurse Educator Definition

What Is a Nurse Educator?

Nurse Educators focus on planning and teaching nursing care and patient satisfaction. They give lectures on standards and practices, oversee candidates’ clinical and lab work, assist in clinical research, mentor working nurses, and even provide patient care.

As the driving force behind the training of skilled nursing professionals, Nurse Educators combine clinical experience and academic expertise to prepare students with the necessary nursing skills to succeed. They are also responsible for determining educational curriculum and standards, preparing students to successfully transition out of academia, empowering new nurses to thrive in their profession, and improving systems that uphold nurse education.

Nurse Educator: Job Description

What Does a Nurse Educator Do?

Nurse Educators’ roles and daily duties are determined mainly by the part of the educational process they have chosen to impact. Some Nurse Educators spend most of their time preparing non-licensed students to enter the workforce and leading advanced degree programs for licensed RNs seeking additional skills. This can include curriculum building, teaching students, assessing educational outcomes, and conducting academic research.

Other Nurse Educators serve dual roles by combining 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. Their day-to-day responsibilities combine mentoring, coordinating clinical placements, streamlining processes, and aligning 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 and local institutions. They uphold and improve the systems and structures of nurse education and continually create new and innovative ways to approach nursing education.

Nurse Educator: Job Responsibilities

The Nurse Educator role combines traditional nursing duties with the additional responsibilities of instructing. The typical day-to-day of a Nurse Educator can include:

  • Designing curricula and developing programs of study
  • Teaching, evaluating, and advising 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
  • Maintaining clinical competence
  • Writing grant proposals

Nurse Educator Jobs

Where Do Nurse Educators Work?

Healthcare professionals in a hallway

Nurse educators teach in universities, technical schools, and hospital-based nursing programs. They also frequently work as administrators, consultants, or even independent contractors in various nursing education-focused areas. Within hospital and clinical settings, they help promote new nurses’ professional development and growth from novice to expert. Within university settings, they help students excel in the classroom.

Nurse Educator School & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Educator?

The path to becoming a Nurse Educator includes comprehensive education and work experience. Becoming a successful Nurse Educator requires a talent for management and mentorship, along with an ability to teach and instruct both in the classroom setting and on the floor of a clinic or hospital.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Nurse Educator?

To become a licensed Registered Nurse, you must complete an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) examination. To become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), you need to earn either a master’s in nursing or a doctoral degree.

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

1. Earn a BSN Degree

Earning an accredited nursing degree is the first step to becoming a Nurse Educator. Completing your BSN degree ensures your grasp of the fundamentals of nursing theory, hands-on clinical practice, and knowledge of different medical procedures.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Certification Examination

Upon completing your BSN degree, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN to earn your license and become a Registered Nurse (RN).

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

3. Earn an MSN Degree

After passing the NCLEX and attaining your RN license, you must pursue your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. MSN coursework is more advanced and builds on the knowledge you’ve gained in an undergraduate program.

4. Earn a Doctorate Degree

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

Nurse Educator Salaries

How Much Do Clinical Nurse Specialists Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers make an average salary* of about $82,000. Nurse Educator salaries in the 90th percentile, however, can reach an average of nearly $126,000 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
Local Government $127,590
Specialty Hospitals $101,030
Business Schools $99,050
General Hospitals $95,720
Psychiatric Hospitals $89,440

Top Paying States for Nurse Educators

State Average Salary
California $106,850
Massachusetts $102,620
Hawaii $102,520
Washington D.C. $100,030
Alaska $96,100

Top Paying Cities for Nurse Educators

City Average Salary
Visalia, CA $146,700
Charlottesville, VA $109,450
Los Angeles, CA $109,310
San Francisco, CA $108,630
Boston, MA $108,430
Salt Lake City, UT $105,570
Cumberland, MD $104,940
Riverside, CA $103,390
Bakersfield, CA $102,900
Ann Arbor, MI $102,490

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 12% through 2031, which is significantly more than the average for all occupations.

Nurse Educator Career

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

If you are an aspiring nurse wishing to enter the educational field, know that you’ll need to undergo a longer academic path. However, you will also have the opportunity to earn significantly higher compensation and be in a less stressful working environment that doesn’t involve as much direct patient care; a Nurse Educator could be a fulfilling career.

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