Nurse Educator Resources: A Guide for Nurse Leaders

A nurse educator points to a skeleton while talking with a student.Research shows there is a shortage of nurse teaching faculty at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. This has many ramifications, including making it harder for aspiring nurses to complete the education they need to become licensed RNs. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), in 2021 nursing schools turned away nearly 92,000 qualified applicants from undergraduate and graduate nursing programs due to faculty shortages.

Students interested in helping address the nursing faculty shortage are likely to find that working as a nurse educator aligns well with their career goals. Below is information and a few resources that aspiring nurse educators can use to help them along their academic journey.

What Is a Nurse Educator?

Nurse educators are MSN-prepared registered nurses (RNs) who’ve obtained additional knowledge and certifications to teach nursing curricula to students. Where some nurse educators focus on teaching undergraduate students, others teach advanced coursework to RNs who are working toward their MSN or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Additionally, some nurse educators work in hospitals to provide continuing education to RN staff.

Role of the Nurse Educator

Nurse educators prepare tomorrow’s nurses with the education, skills, and clinical expertise to work as licensed RNs. They design and implement educational modules, grade assignments and exams, and assist aspiring nurses with their academic development. Professionals working in this field are employed in various academic settings, such as colleges, universities, hospitals, technical schools, and community colleges, among others.

Responsibilities of a Nurse Educator

The general duties of professionals working in this field are largely uniform regardless of the institution or environment they work in. Common responsibilities include the following.

  • Designing academic curricula for nursing programs
  • Training nursing students and RN staff
  • Evaluating educational materials
  • Mentoring nurse students
  • Monitoring and evaluating students’ progress
  • Grading assignments and exams
  • Monitoring changes in clinical practices

How to Become a Nurse Educator

Students interested in pursuing this career path must start by earning a college degree from an accredited institution. Below are the typical steps to become a nurse educator.

  • Earn a BSN: Aspiring nurse educators must begin by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. RNs with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can accomplish this by completing an RN to BSN program. This can take as little as two years. Students without prior college experience can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program that takes about four years. Numerous nursing school scholarships are available to qualified BSN and RN to BSN students.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN: The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) requires nursing school graduates to pass the NCLEX exam before they can apply to become licensed registered nurses. This computer-based test is offered at numerous times throughout the year at test center locations throughout the U.S.
  • Earn an MSN: Registered nurses interested in becoming nurse educators must continue their nursing education by completing a Master of Science in Nursing program. Scholarships for graduate students are also available to qualified applicants.
  • Gain work experience: Nurse educators often complete several years of clinical work experience before transitioning to teaching. Additionally, most MSN programs require applicants to have prior nursing experience to be considered for enrollment.
  • Pursue certification opportunities and become a certified nurse educator: The National League for Nursing offers several certification opportunities, including Certified Nurse Educator, Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator, and Academic Novice Educator. Certification helps establish professionals as experts in the field of nurse education.

Nurse Educator Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual salary for postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers was $77,400 in 2021. Salary ranges can vary based on factors such as experience, the type of employer or institution, and geographical region. The highest mean salaries are reported to be in California, Massachusetts, and Hawai‘i.

The BLS reports overall employment of postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers is projected to grow by 22% between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than what’s projected for the labor market as a whole.

Nurse Educator Resources

Below are some resources for aspiring nurse educators interested in learning more about the field.

Improving Health Care Through Education

Nursing schools throughout the U.S. must not only fill vacant faculty positions, they must create additional positions to meet increasing student demand. Aspiring nurse educators have the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise with future generations of nurses, and also help elevate the standing of the nursing profession itself. Additionally, job growth projections in the field indicate employment opportunities are vast.

Students who are interested in helping colleges and universities prepare tomorrow’s RNs can find fulfilling and rewarding careers as nurse educators.