What Are Nurse Educators?
Nurse educators are registered nurses who have chosen to teach aspiring nurses. They might be on the faculty in community colleges, universities, technical or vocational schools, nursing schools and the like. Nurse educators often have advanced knowledge and clinical skills, and might continue to work with patients even after becoming teachers. Some with many years of teaching experience might advance to administrative roles. For more information, see our nurse educator career page.
Nursing Education Program Information
Many colleges and universities offer master's degree programs for nursing educators. These programs can be entirely online, or they might be a hybrid format of clinical work and classroom instruction. A doctorate might be required to teach at some schools, especially four-year universities. Doctorate programs often have a strong research or clinical practice element.
Students who enter master's level or doctoral level nursing education programs explore elements of both teaching and nursing, such as teaching strategies, classroom assessment, curriculum design, advanced nursing theory, nursing concepts, and technology advancements in nursing and educational platforms.
Nursing Education Program Types
Nursing education students can choose from options such as master's and doctoral degree programs. Entry into these programs generally requires a registered nursing license and in some cases, several years of hands-on experience in a clinical setting.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs:
- Usually take two to three years beyond a bachelor's degree, depending on a student's schedule.
- May cover in-depth clinical work and focus on classroom education skills, including communication and teaching strategies.
- Often designed for working RNs.
Ph.D. in Nursing Education programs:
- Typically require between one and three years of study after the master's degree, depending on the course load.
- Offer options for in-depth clinical work and research in nursing as well as instruction and assessment techniques for the post-secondary teaching environment.
- Often designed for working professionals, and may be available entirely online.
Formal nursing education programs can help prepare students to pursue the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) designation, which requires passing the certification examination. According to the National League for Nursing, the CNE designation demonstrates expertise in core competencies, as well as professionalism and leadership skills useful for faculty positions.
Nursing Education Course Descriptions
While nursing education schools offer programs with various emphases, most share a basic core curriculum. The following are a few of the more common courses that can be found in nursing education programs:
- Theories of Education: Application of nursing knowledge in the learning environment and instruction on evaluating learning outcomes.
- Evidence-based Evaluation: Critical assessment of educational and learning methods in relation to nursing instruction.
- Quantitative Research: Understanding and developing studies, variables, validity, sampling and measurement.
- Curriculum Design: Exploring learning theory, courses required by accreditation standards and instructional design models focused on nursing.
- Healthcare Leadership: Focus on healthcare principles, best practices used by nurse leaders and development of a professional leadership plan.
Nursing Education Specialties
Students at nursing education schools might choose to focus on particular specialties in the hopes of teaching them to aspiring nurses. These specialties can include, but are not limited to:
- Labor and delivery
- Nursing informatics
- Mental health
With additional education and/or experience, graduates of nursing education programs might go on to pursue career possibilities outside the scope of the nurse educator role. Some of these career paths might include:
- Education Administrators: Oversee academics, research and student services at institutions of higher learning. This position may call for several years experience as a nurse educator.
- Microbiologists: Study how microscopic organisms affect the body and health. Those in this occupation often work closely with others in the healthcare field. A Ph.D. is generally needed.
- Biochemists: Explore how biological processes such as growth, aging, cell development and heredity affect health. Work in this field may prove relevant to the emerging healthcare technology. A doctorate or professional degree is common.
Links to Sources and Associations
The following websites offer more information about nursing education: