Nurse educators teach students aspiring to become nurses. These instructors might work in an academic setting, such as a nursing school or university, or in a clinical setting at the bedside of patients, or a combination of both environments. Nurse educator jobs entail preparing for classes, advising students on educational goals, giving lectures, grading papers, developing a curriculum, meeting with other faculty and staff, and taking the time to enhance one's knowledge of nursing in order to better serve students. Some nurse educators might also have added responsibilities of publishing papers, conducting research, speaking at conferences or participating in professional organizations, as well as administrative duties. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2012, the majority of postsecondary nursing teachers worked in colleges and universities, professional schools or junior colleges, with other options in technical and trade schools or general medical and surgical hospitals (bls.gov/oes, 2013). Nurse educators may teach during the day, or on evenings or weekends. Nurse educators might also choose to teach for one of the online colleges and schools that host nursing programs.
How to Become a Nurse Educator
Requirements for nurse educator training can vary by state and by employer. ExploreHealthCareers.org (which is affiliated with the American Dental Association) describes nurse educators as registered nurses with advanced education. RNs need both formal nursing training and a license, according to the BLS. Nursing education programs may include subjects such as health assessment, health information management, health policy and organizational leadership, as well as field experience.
Most postsecondary teachers have a master's degree or higher, according to the BLS. Those who teach four-year programs in colleges and universities usually have a doctorate. In some cases, a master's degree may be sufficient, and many nurse educator programs are available at the master's level. Years of experience combined with a lesser degree may also be enough to satisfy teaching requirements in some settings. The following steps can help prepare nurse educators for their duties, although there is no guarantee of employment:
- Earn a high school diploma or equivalent.
- Complete a formal nursing program and become licensed as a registered nurse.
- Gain work experience as a nurse.
- Pursue graduate studies in nursing or nursing education. Master's degree programs may be designed for nurses who are working full-time, so courses can be taken on nights, weekends or online.
- Research state requirements for nurse educators and meet those qualifications.
- Apply at colleges, universities, nursing schools and the like in order to move into teaching on the post-secondary level.
Post-Education Requirements: Certification and/or State Licensing
Those who earn their master's degree in nursing might be able to begin teaching at nursing schools and some colleges. However, many postsecondary institutions require a doctorate in order to move into teaching. In many states, nurse educators are required to hold a valid nursing license. Continuing education is often required to keep the license current. Those who want to earn tenure might face several years of moving up through the ranks of a college or university. Optional certification is also available from the National League for Nursing which offers the Certified Nurse Educator designation.
Nurse Educator Job Growth and Average Salary
As enrollment at postsecondary institutions continues to rise, so does the need for teachers. The BLS predicts growth of postsecondary teachers at 17 percent from 2010 to 2020, with a positive outlook for nursing instructors and for employment in for-profit schools (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). The American Association of Colleges of Nursing points to a shortfall of nurse educators as one factor in the nursing shortage. As a result, nurse educator jobs are expected to be in good supply, according to ExploreHealthCareers.org. Growth might also be spurred by the fact that a high number of nurse educators are aged 50 or older, and might look to retirement in the coming years, according to the American Nurses Association.
The BLS reported a median annual income of $64,850 for nursing instructors and teachers at the postsecondary level in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent of earners made below $39,960, while the top 10 percent of earners made above $103,540 (bls.gov/oes, 2013). A nurse educator salary can depend upon the location, how many courses are being taught, attainment of tenure and related factors.
List of Related Careers
Though nurse educator training may lead to a position in teaching, some other career paths might also appeal to individuals with this background. Some of these potential career options might require additional experience or education:
- Medical and Health Services Managers: Oversee different aspects of healthcare facilities, from business concerns to patient care. Nursing service supervisors typically have administrative experience and graduate degrees in nursing or health administration.
- Microbiologists: Study the growth, development and other characteristics of microscopic organisms, including algae and bacteria. A bachelor's degree in this field may suffice for entry-level positions, whereas research positions typically require a doctorate, according to the BLS.
- Physician Assistants: Provide medical care under the supervision of doctors, which includes examining patients, offering diagnoses and suggesting treatment. These professionals usually have a master's degree from a formal training program for PAs as well as a license to practice.
Links to Sources and Associations
The following sources provide more information on becoming a nurse educator: