How to Become a Nurse Educator

Image of professional woman smiling at camera
Written by Ann Real, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
An experienced nurse explains how to become a nurse educator to a younger nurse.

If you’re passionate about shaping the future of healthcare, you might be wondering how to become a nurse educator. The nursing workforce is now the largest among all healthcare occupations, surpassing doctors by almost fourfold. With nearly 1.7 million new nurses entering the field every year, there’s a growing demand for nurse educators.

Meanwhile, educational institutions across the country face faculty shortages, causing nursing schools to limit student capacity. There are simply not enough nurse educators to keep up with the influx of nursing students.

Are you ready to answer the call? This article will address common questions and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to enter this meaningful specialty.

Nurse Educator: Career Snapshot

  • Mission: Shaping the future of nursing by educating and mentoring aspiring nurses.
  • Responsibilities: Designing curriculum, teaching nursing courses, mentoring students, and conducting research.
  • Workplace settings: Universities, colleges, hospitals, and healthcare organizations
  • Career path: Nursing degree followed by advanced education in teaching and nursing education

What Is a Nurse Educator?

A nurse educator is a specialist who teaches and trains aspiring or current nurses, passing on their expertise through classroom instruction, hands-on training, and mentorship. Their goal is to equip students with all the necessary knowledge and skills to confidently apply what they’ve learned academically to real-world patient care situations.

There are various types of nurse educators, each specializing in different areas of nursing education and training:

  • Clinical nurse educators teach and train nurses in places like hospitals and clinics.
  • Academic nurse educators work in universities and colleges.
  • Staff development nurse educators provide education and training within healthcare organizations.
  • Continuing education nurse educators develop programs for practicing nurses to maintain licensure and stay updated on advancements in the field.
  • Nurse educator specialists focus on specific areas of nursing education, such as mental health or pediatric nursing, providing focused training and expertise in these areas.

Where Do They Work?

When considering how to become a nurse educator, it’s important to decide whether these work settings are a good fit for you. Examples of work environments for this role include:

  • Acute care facilities
  • Community colleges
  • Community care centers
  • Educational institutions
  • Government agencies
  • Healthcare organizations
  • Nursing schools
  • Public health agencies
  • Research institutions
  • Universities

What Do Nurse Educators Do?

Another essential thing to consider when learning how to become a nurse educator is what exactly you’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis. The daily tasks of nurse educators vary depending on their work setting. Nonetheless, typical responsibilities include:

  • Developing curriculum and lesson plans.
  • Delivering lectures and facilitating discussions.
  • Conducting hands-on training and simulations.
  • Evaluating student performance.
  • Providing mentorship and guidance.
  • Staying updated on advancements in nursing.
  • Precepting newly hired nurses.

To get a better idea of the work involved in this role, check out a sample nurse educator job description.

How to Become a Nurse Educator

Becoming a nurse educator involves a combination of education, clinical experience, and professional certification. Here are the general steps to enter this specialty:

1. Get a Nursing Degree

Obtain a nursing degree — either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) — from an accredited nursing program. While a BSN is often the minimum required qualification for nurse educators, many choose to pursue an ADN degree for quicker entry into the field. Afterward, you can advance your education through bridge programs such as RN to BSN.

2. Obtain a License

The next step after completing your nursing program is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed registered nurse (RN).

3. Gain Experience

Working as a nursing mentor or preceptor provides hands-on experience in educating future nurses. Other nursing specialties to consider for skill-building include:

5. Earn an Advanced Nursing Degree

Want to take your career to the next level? Consider pursuing a master’s in nursing education degree. Some institutions, such as prestigious universities and research centers, prefer to hire nurses with master’s of science in nursing (MSN), doctor of nursing practice (DNP), or doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees for teaching roles.

6. Attain a Certified Nurse Educator Certification

Want to boost your professional credibility on your nurse educator resume? One way to do this is to become a certified nurse educator. Requirements can vary based on the specific certification you are pursuing. Here are certification options for you to consider:

Keep in mind that the CNE credential is considered the top choice for nurses pursuing academic careers. An MSN degree is a minimal requirement for this credential.

What Is a Typical Salary for a Nurse Educator?

In the U.S., the average nurse educator salary is around $86,530 a year. Just keep in mind that your earnings can vary widely depending on your education, certifications, location, years of experience, and type of teaching workplace.

This is the average annual salary breakdown for different workplaces:

  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $106,620
  • Educational support services: $93,100
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools: $86,900
  • Technical and trade schools: $85,580
  • Junior colleges: $81,900

To find out what you might earn in your location, check out the latest nurse educator jobs on IntelyCare.

How to Become a Nurse Educator: Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a nurse educator?

It usually takes about five to eight years to enter the field, depending on your career path. If you want to teach at a higher educational level, a PhD is often preferred, which can take even longer. Here’s a general timeline:

  • ADN: 2 years
  • BSN: 4 years
  • MSN: 2 years
  • DNP: 2 to 4 years
  • PhD: 3 to 6 years

How do I transition from clinical nursing to a teaching role?

To transition from clinical nursing to a teaching role, consider gaining relevant education and experience, such as pursuing a master’s degree in nursing education or completing a teaching certificate program. Additionally, seek opportunities to shadow or assist experienced nurse educators, develop teaching skills, and network within the nursing education community.

What professional organizations can I join?

Joining professional organizations for nurse educators can be a great step to expand your network and stay updated on industry trends. You might consider joining associations like:

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)
  • Association of Community Health Nursing Educators (ACHNE)
  • Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD)
  • National League for Nursing (NLN)
  • National Organization of Practical Nursing Education and Service (NAPNES)
  • Organization of Healthcare Educators (OHE)

Find Nursing Opportunities on IntelyCare

Now that you know how to become a nurse educator, it might be time to take the next step in your career. IntelyCare is your go-to resource for matching you with nursing jobs in your preferred specialty.