What is a Nurse Educator?
Put simply, Nurse Educators teach current nurses or entry level students to become a nurse or advance their nursing degree. Nurse educators combine their passion for teaching with their specialized nursing knowledge. They work in both the classroom and in the clinical setting, directly teaching the information and skills necessary for a successful nursing career. In the past, nurse educators simply had a great deal of clinical experience, some basic education coursework and a passion for teaching others.
We have 521 Nurse Educator Programs in our database. Recently, schools have developed specialized degrees giving nurses a more involved teaching education, particularly reputable universities that offer Nurse Educator programs online, which are typically a Master's of Science in Nursing degree focused on nurse teaching education.
Find a Nursing Education MSN Specialty Program
Below, you can find accredited online MSN programs that are currently accepting applicants into their program. Note that all of the programs we have listed are sponsored programs and they may require an RN license to be accepted into their program.
What Does a Nurse Educator Do?
Educators can work in all facets of the educational system; some work in hospitals creating staff programs, other work in colleges teaching nursing students and others develop NCLEX exam questions and the specific curricula that all nursing programs must follow.
One of the main benefits of becoming a nurse educator is the flexibility of your schedule. While it is possible to pursue a tenured position in a University nursing program, some educators also choose to teach only a few classes or freelance with textbook publishers or test preparation companies. Nurses who work as college educators will likely have summers, holidays and most weekends off, all of which may facilitate a good work-life balance.
Nurse educators prepare students for their nursing career by designing, implementing and evaluating curricula. They assist students in developing their clinical skills and ensure that they have a solid understanding of the requisite coursework.
Earning a Nurse Educator Degree
Working as a nurse educator requires that the nurse is constantly assessing her students and evaluating their progress. Flexibility is a must, simply because lesson plans often need adjustment, depending on the needs and learning style of their students.
“Nurse educators prepare students for their nursing career by designing, implementing and evaluating curricula.”
While its recommended that nurses have a few years of clinical experience before beginning to teach, there are programs that will allow a nurse to move seamlessly from an undergraduate degree into a graduate program.
Graduate education is preferred, and in many cases required, to be a nurse educator. Some employers may consider hiring a nurse who is enrolled and actively pursuing their advanced degree, though that is at the discretion of the hiring manager. Higher-level careers, such as the Dean of Nursing or a Professor at a college, will require a doctorate degree for consideration.
The Path to Nursing for Teachers
Written by Kelli Dunham, RN, BSN
Current teachers and education majors in search of job security and flexibility might consider pursuing a career in nursing. There are a few different paths that can lead to the initials RN after your name. The best path for you depends most on the schooling you have already completed and what programs are available in your area.
Accelerated BSN Programs
If you already have a bachelor’s degree or are very close to graduation, an accelerated BSN (Bachelors of Science in Nursing) program may be right for you. Accelerated BSN programs are a relatively new type of nursing program, created for second career students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. Most accelerated BSN programs require students to complete all of the prerequisite courses before starting the program (usually basic science sources, e.g. anatomy, physiology, chemistry and biology).
The majority of these programs require 12-15 months (year round) to complete and are very intense and time-consuming with classes six days a week. Some programs require students to refrain from taking outside employment while in the program. Even if the school doesn’t enforce a school only policy, it would be very difficult to complete an accelerated BSN program while teaching, especially if it is in your first few years. If you’re interested in these programs, you’ll probably need to secure enough loans or family support to be able to pay your bills without working.
Direct Entry MSN Programs
If you have already completed a bachelor’s degree with a non-nursing major and you would like to pursue an MSN degree (Masters of Science in Nursing), you may consider a Direct entry MSN program. An MSN degree is required to become an advanced practice nurse.
Graduates of direct entry MSN programs receive both a BSN degree and an MSN degree. First, you complete the requirements for the BSN and take your licensure exam. Once you receive your RN license, you proceed to the MSN part of the program. Direct entry MSN programs are not common, but if you’re sure you want to pursue an MSN they can save you a lot of time and money.
If you are interested in teaching nurses (i.e. becoming a “nurse educator”), a direct entry MSN program is one path to consider. You will want to seek part-time nursing employment while in school, because most university level nursing programs won’t employ an educator who doesn’t have some clinical experience in nursing.
Still Working on Your Bachelors Degree?
If you have not yet completed a bachelor’s degree in teaching and your university offers a BSN (Bachelors of Science in Nursing), you may want to simply switch to the BSN program. This will definitely not be the shortest path and you will undoubtedly lose a number of credits. However, if you are receiving federal student aid you might consider it your first choice. Once you have a bachelor’s degree you are no longer eligible for some sources of federal aid, like Pell Grants.
Most likely, you will be required to apply for admittance to the nursing program, because nursing programs often have more stringent requirements than general university admissions. It may be worth applying to another school that has a nursing program with a good reputation, both to see what kind of classes that accept for transfer and what kind of financial aid they offer.
How Teachers Should Choose a Nursing Program
As a teacher seeking a career in nursing, you will first pick an appropriate path. Then, compare specific nursing programs to determine which best meets your needs.
Careful Selection of An Accelerated Program
An accelerated program will probably be the first choice for most teachers going into nursing. However, while these programs can be very effective for the adult learner, many of these programs have sprouted up very quickly and the quality of education varies widely. Make sure you pick a program that has been open for more than a few years and inquire about the NCLEX pass rate. You should also ask to speak to one of their working graduates about how they felt their education prepared them for the day to day responsibilities of their nursing position. You should also ask what percentage of students complete the program.
Assessing Clinical Placements
The best nursing programs integrate their clinical, in-hospital learning with the classroom material. Ask if the nursing classes dovetail their information so that it is presented at approximately the same time frame as students might expect to encounter in their clinical rotations. For example, is the pediatric component of the nursing program taught when students are rotating through a pediatric floor?
Because of the nursing shortage, many nursing schools are increasing their enrollment in an attempt to graduate more qualified nurses. In some areas this can lead to shortage of clinical sites and scheduling complexities and so in some schools, the clinical component takes place mostly during second or third shift or on weekends. While this can still be a valuable clinical experience, ask if any of your rotations will take place during the busier times at the hospital. There are certain procedures and certain skills (such as learning to talk to doctors) that are hard to practice any time other than first shift on weekdays.
Ask About Faculty
You will also want to inquire about faculty qualifications, such as what percentage of the faculty are doctorally prepared and what percentage of clinical faculty are currently practicing in the area they will be teaching. An ICU nurse, even a very qualified one, might not be the best person to shepherd you through a psych mental health facility.
Assessing Online Options
As a second degree or second profession nursing student, you might be very tempted by the convenience and flexibility of an online course. Although an on-line course can be very convenient, a completely online course may not work for everyone, especially if you are not comfortable with technology or you need to hear in addition to see information in order to learn most effectively.
However, if you desire some online aspects, there may be hybrid programs available in your local area that allow you to take classes mostly online but be able to meet with instructors and fellow students a few times a semester. In this type of situation, you will probable have access to group clinical rotations as well. Ask if you can test drive one of the beginning courses to see if it works for you. Assess carefully: do you understand the format? Does the syllabus make sense and are the expectations for both students and instructors clear? Is there a way to contact instructors other than email, for example can you phone them for clarification or send a text? Do instructors hold office hours when you can reach them by chat? What are the qualifications of the instructors?
Reasons to Consider Nursing Education
Written by Kelli Dunham, RN, BSN
- Job Security: The demand for registered nurses varies from region to region but in general nurses, especially nurses who have at least a bachelor’s degree, will continue to be in demand throughout the lifespan of anyone in beginning or mid-career today.
- Healthcare sector growth:
Despite the fact that nursing education is seriously underfunded, and although recent economic downturns have meant that the nursing shortage is growing at a slower rate than initially predicted, the employment outlook for registered nurses is still very good.
- Employment opportunity in nursing: According to the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 26 percent from 2010 to 2020 which is faster than almost any other non-technology based profession type. In addition, nurses are the largest percentage of hospital staff and provide much of hospital patient care and long term care.
- Compensation opportunity: Most nursing advocates agree that nurses are not compensated commensurate with the impact they have on healthcare outcomes. However, nurses are certainly paid a more than living wage: the average income for a registered nurse in 2010 was just over $64,000 a year. For nurses with experience, advanced degrees and specialized certifications, the number can reach as as high as $140,000 a year. For certified registered nurse anesthetists the reported average annual salary in 2005 was $160,000.
- Nursing and Teaching work well together: If you’ve already taught for a few years you might feel that if you switch to a nursing career, you’ll have wasted your time building up your teaching skills. This is not the case; in nursing, skills like multi-tasking, being able to explain things quickly and concisely, being able to evaluate learning and understanding how people and systems and work will all come in handy. You’ll even use very teaching specific skills like classroom management; if you’re working on a hospital floor trying to juggle the competing demands of patients, administrators, other nurses, doctors and family members.
- Make a difference: If you’re interested in profession where your skills and expertise will make a difference, nursing is a great choice for you. Nurses touch their patients and their families deeply, often during some of the most difficult times of their lives. According to Gallup Polls, nurses are consistently named among the most trusted of all professionals.
- Flexibility as a Nurse Educator: Although theoretically school teachers have short days and long vacations, any teacher will tell you in practice, it doesn’t work that way. Teachers not only have to deal with meetings involving both parents and administrators, they spend much of their off time planning lessons and grading papers. Summers are often shortened by weather emergencies as well. In many nursing jobs, however, if you can emotionally leave your work at the job, you are really off until your next shift, especially if you can get your documentation done quickly. This means when you get to leave the hospital, you’re actually done for the day. And if you’re looking for a nine month schedule it’s still possible: become a school nurse!
Working as a Nurse Educator
Written by Kelli Dunham, RN, BSN
You may be surprised to know that the nursing educator shortage is even worse than the nursing shortage and that nearly 40,000 qualified students are turned away from nursing schools each year, mostly because of lack of qualified faculty (source).
A qualified nurse with some teaching experience should be able to find employment opportunities as as a highly sought after (if not entirely fairly compensated) nurse educator.
What Is A Nurse Educator?
The term nurse educator sometimes means a nurse who provides educational guidance and content to other nurses on a hospital floor or unit. More commonly, however, a nurse educator is a nurse with a Master’s or Doctorate who is working in an academic environment, educating undergraduate or graduate nursing students. Sometimes a nurse with as little as a bachelor’s degree may be able to work as a nurse educator, for example, teaching in licensed practical nursing program.
The highest number of nurse educators prepare students for entry level into practice positions, that is, they teach students who are working towards their RN license. However, nurse educators are also needed to train graduate students and students who are bridging from an associate degree or bachelor’s degree to a master’s level or doctorate level training.
Is Nursing Education Right for Me?
If you enjoy the activity of teaching and are interested in bringing it to the nursing field, your skills will very much be in demand. As a nurse educator you would help to alleviate the nursing shortage by training future nurses and you will also be influencing the future of the profession in general. You may even be involved in nursing research or in helping to influence public policy in issues of healthcare.
If you are beginning your second/nursing career later in life, being a nurse educator might be a medium term goal for you so that you can move away from the physical stress of floor nursing as you near retirement age. Another option for nurses anywhere in the lifespan is to work part-time as a nurse educator, picking up either clinical classes or work as an adjunct lecturer, and still practice part-time direct care nursing. Some nurse educators also teach online classes, which is another way to increase the possibilities of finding work without leaving your geographic area.
It should be noted that one of the drawbacks of being a nurse educator, and one of the reasons colleges have trouble attracting qualified faculty, is an experienced floor nurse can often make more than a nurse educator, even without a master’s degree. This is even more pronounced with nurses who have advanced training (usually a master’s degree and a nurses practitioner license); a nurse who can make an average salary of $100,000 working in the clinical sector might only be offered $60,000 at their first teaching job.
Steps to Becoming a Nurse Educator
If you’ve already finished your bachelor’s degree in education, you’ll want to seek admission into a program that offers a bridge from non-nursing bachelor’s degree to masters’s in nursing. You can get your master’s in nursing with a specialization in nursing education. If you’re interested in the role of nurse practitioner (which includes diagnosing and prescribing) in addition to teaching. you can also find programs that bridge from a non-nursing bachelor’s degree to a master’s in nursing with a specialization in the relevant nurse practitioner program.
Once you have your MSN and some clinical experience in the nursing field, you can apply for nurse educator jobs. Tenure track jobs will usually require that you pursue a doctorate degree, either in nursing or in education. In addition, the National League for Nursing recently created a certification exam for nurse educators ( source). Although not yet required at many institutions, passing the test is one way to demonstrate your competence in, and commitment to, nursing education.
Why Should Teachers to Get Into Nursing?
If you’re a teacher frustrated with teaching itself or your inability to find a teaching job, switching to a career in nursing might make sense for you. You’ll need to assess whether nursing is a good fit, then pick a specific academic path, and then a specific program. You may consider combining both teaching and nursing by working as a nurse educator.
The articles in this section (written by Kelli Dunham, RN, BSN) highlight the reasons why teachers make excellent nurses and how to transition from teaching to a career in nursing.
Nurses Have Career Flexibility
Classroom teachers who are burnt out or find themselves not quite right for the classroom environment have limited options for finding other jobs using their teaching degrees and expertise.
“I wasn’t interested in being an administrator, I don’t want those kind of headaches, but it seems like the lateral options in teaching are limited unless I wanted to be a professional standardized test tutor,” said Tina Ashley, a Florida teacher turned nurse. There are many choices within nursing; you can vary the type of facility where you work or the population you work and still be able to work as a nurse.
For example, if you are working in the ICU and decide you no longer want to work in the hospital, you can work in a pre-hospital setting. Or you can get a job in urgent care, or spend time working in a community health program or a primary care clinic. And if you’re no longer interested in bedside or direct patient care you can work as a administrator, consultant or even as a nurse-writer.
What You Should Know Before Making the Switch
Written by Kelli Dunham, RN, BSN
Although there is no way to 100 percent predict how any given individual will react to any specific career situation, there are ways to learn about the health professions before you quit your teaching position, pack your bags and head off to nursing school.
If you want to read popular accounts of healthcare, stick to books written by people who have actually worked as a nurses (eg the Echo Heron series) or who are very familiar with the profession of nursing such as Suzanne Gordon. You might also want to get involved in nursing forums, student nurse listservs, or read blogs kept by practicing nurses. Also, read research about newly licensed nurses and their satisfaction with the profession.
Watch Nurses At Work
The best way to understand about what nurses do and whether you would enjoy it on a daily basis is to observe registered nurses at work. This can be as simple as noticing what the nurse does at your primary care provider’s office or chatting with nurses in the elevator when you go to visit a friend who is hospitalized. If that doesn’t work for you, find any nurse who is in your inner or even outer social circles: extended family, community groups, church, neighbors, and ask if you can talk with them. Then ask if they know any other nurses you can talk with. If you chat with enough nurses in enough different expertise areas, you’ll get any idea if this profession is for you.
Find A Mentor
If there was someone from your nursing interviews that you found interesting or with whom it seems you had a particularly positive rapport, ask if they could mentor you in the beginning of your nursing career. Although mentoring means different things to different people, in the early stages it could be as simple as exchanging emails with you about whether you’d be a right fit for a nursing profession.
Many hospitals and nursing homes have volunteer programs that allow you to do specific tasks like bringing water to patients or residents or helping run social activities. In these type of situations, you’ll be able to observe nurses as they work, see what type of tasks they do, how they manage their time, and what their daily work lives are like. You’ll also probably get to interact with nurses and also get ideas of nursing specialties or types of nursing careers that might be good for you.