How to Become a Nurse Educator

Explore the Duties, Responsibilities, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Group of medical professionals using a tablet

If you think about it, Nursing Educators are one of the most important professionals in healthcare. They are responsible for training and preparing the next generation of nurses. For this reason, they fill a critical role within the medical realm. Not only do Nurse Educators oversee various types of training, but they teach others how to perform an accurate assessment of the needs of each patient.

Our career guide will teach you everything you need to know about becoming a Nurse Educator, including the educational requirements, certifications, and daily tasks. We will also cover how long it generally takes you to launch into this new career. Continue reading to learn about the benefits and challenges of this vital pathway in the nursing profession.

(Click here to see our full list of the highest paying nursing jobs)

If you’re interested in this pathway, you can also click here to learn how to become a Registered Nurse.

Nurse Educator Definition

What is a Nurse Educator?

Nursing Educators help prepare the next generation of nurses. Although it depends on their experience and employer, they might manage classes for a diploma program, associate degree program, or bachelor’s degree program. In addition, they can teach at higher levels and offer refresher courses for nurses who would like to reenter the field.

Nurse Educator: Job Description

What Does a Nurse Educator Do?

The primary goal of Nursing Educators is to equip aspiring nurses for success. In addition, they perform several other duties, such as maintaining clinical standards in a medical organization, compiling grant proposals, performing research for laboratories, and evaluating curriculums for other nurse educators.

Nurse Educator Duties

Some of the day-to-day job responsibilities of a Nursing Educator include:

  • Counseling and mentoring students
  • Grading assignments
  • Joining faculty meetings
  • Presenting at professional conferences
  • Training students to use a simulation lab
  • Determining the best approach to undertake a course of study
  • Facilitating group discussions within a classroom
  • Creating curriculums and coursework
  • Instructing students on teaching practicums and/or research projects
  • Supervising students during their clinical rotations

Healthcare worker measuring a patient's blood pressure

Nurse Educator Skills

It might sound obvious, but Nurse Educators should possess an innate desire to help others reach their full potential. Excellent communication skills are also essential to becoming an effective Nurse Educator, as you’ll need to turn complex material into easily understood terms. Lastly, you’ll need the same attention to detail and focus under pressure required from any nursing career.

Becoming a Nurse Educator might be a great fit for you if you:

  • Offer clinical expertise
  • Maintain subject mastery
  • Bring evaluation and testing skills
  • Have curriculum and course development skills
  • Have superior teaching skills
  • Have strong communication skills
  • Have a love of teaching and mentoring

Where Do Nurse Educators Work?

Nurse Educators might work in facilities like the following:

  • General medical and surgical hospitals
  • Colleges
  • Universities
  • Professional schools
  • Medical companies

Nurse Educator Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Educator?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Nurse Educator?

In order to be qualified for the role of a Nurse Educator, you will likely need to complete each stage of becoming a Registered Nurse. This means you must graduate from an accredited nursing program, pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam, and obtain experience in your chosen specialization.

Many Nurse Educators also earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, which is often the minimum education requirement for this profession. Some might even seek a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D. in Nursing) before pursuing a Certified Nurse Educator exam from an accredited association.

If you’d like to become a Nurse Educator, then you’ll typically need to follow these steps:

1. Earn a BSN Degree

The first step is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Earning a BSN degree will set you up for better job opportunities, higher earning potential, and a greater job outlook.

Applicants of BSN programs will usually submit various application materials, such as academic transcripts, GRE scores, personal essays, and letters of recommendation.

Core nursing classes during a BSN program may include the following topics:

  • Professional Nursing
  • Health assessment
  • Family Nursing
  • Medical and surgical care
  • Nursing management
  • Psychosocial nursing

Young adults using computers in a classroom

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Licensure Exam

Next, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has developed two exams to test the competence of aspiring Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) or Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs).

Learn more about the NCLEX and what to expect with their FAQ section.

3. Gain Experience in Your Specialization

If you’d like to become a Nursing Educator, you must also gain hands-on experience in the field and your chosen specialization. By acquiring this experience, you’re helping to establish the level of expertise that is required to teach aspiring nurses.

4. Earn an MSN Degree

A graduate degree might also be required to become a Nurse Educator. This means that you will at least need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. However, many nurse educators also hold doctoral degrees. This is especially true if you’d like to teach full-time at the university level.

An MSN degree program can typically be completed in a span of 18 months to two years. We recommend choosing an MSN program that is specialized in education or administration. These programs generally include a teaching practicum that will serve as a great way to prepare for your first job as a Nurse Educator.

5. Earn Certification

One of the best ways to set yourself up for a successful job is by earning your certification. An excellent certification choice for a prospective Nurse Educator is the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE), which is offered by the National League for Nursing.

To meet eligibility requirements for the CNE exam, applicants will need to qualify for Option A or B:

  • Option A
    • Licensure
      • Documentation of valid licensure/ certificate or other documentation of unencumbered practice in the country of residence
    • Education
      • A master’s or doctoral degree in nursing with a major emphasis in nursing education or
      • A master’s or doctoral degree in nursing plus a post-master’s certificate in nursing education or
      • A master’s or doctoral degree in nursing and nine or more credit hours of graduate-level education courses
  • Option B
    • Licensure
      • Documentation of valid licensure/ certificate or other documentation of unencumbered practice in the country of residence
    • Education
      • A master’s or doctoral degree in nursing (with a major emphasis in a role other than nursing education).
    • Experience
      • Two years or more of employment in a nursing program in an academic institution within the past five years.

See the National League for Nursing’s FAQ page to learn more about eligibility requirements.

Nurse holding a red plush heart

Nurse Educator Salary

How Much Do Nurse Educators Make?

Several factors may affect the salary of a Nurse Educator, such as your geographic location, level of education, and experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average Nursing Educator earns about $82,000 per year or around $39 per hour. In fact, Nurse Educators that earn salaries in the top ten percent can make more than $125,000 per year.

Some of the top-paying states for Nurse Educators include California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Washington D.C., and Alaska.

Nurse Educator Job Outlook

What Is the Job Outlook for Nurse Educators?

While the BLS does not offer specific job outlook data for Nursing Educators at this time, they do forecast the overall growth for Postsecondary Teachers through the next decade. According to the BLS, overall employment of Postsecondary Teachers is expected to grow 12 percent by 2031. This is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations (5%).

Begin Your Career as a Nurse Educator

If you’re a nurse who’s interested in the future of healthcare and have a love of teaching, then a career as a Nursing Educator might be ideal for you. As a Nurse Educator, you can be a mentor and role model for students who study nursing at colleges, universities, and professional schools. Throughout your career, you’ll have the opportunity to influence the evolution of nursing and healthcare. That’s quite a travel package!

If you’re an aspiring nurse but don’t know where to begin, you can enroll in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program or several other nursing programs at Unitek College.