Nurse Educator Salary and Job Description

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The U.S. health care industry is experiencing a nursing shortage. This could lead to many issues, such as longer wait times for patients and degraded quality of services as health care facilities attempt to do more with less.

In response, the American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN) has put some primary solutions in place to address the problem. The first is to increase retention efforts to convince nurses to remain in health care. The second is to increase education efforts so a new generation of nurses may offset those who are retiring or switching careers.

This is exactly where nurse educators come into play. They’re responsible for educating and training the registered nurses of the future to deliver high-quality patient care. In addition to teaching the standardized curriculum that all RNs must complete, nurse educators also serve as mentors and resources for new nurses and current nurses who are continuing their education.

The work that a nurse educator does now pays years of dividends by developing wave after wave of competent, caring nurses. The nurse educator’s salary and long-term job security make it one of the most popular roles in health care today. However, all nurse educators need a foundational education, which a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program provides.

What Does a Nurse Educator Do?

A nurse educator is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) responsible for further developing active RNs or teaching and preparing nursing students to enter the health care workforce. Nurse educators may teach aspiring nurses who are just beginning their coursework, newly licensed RNs, active RNs who are seeking a specialty certification, graduate nursing students who aspire to become APRNs, or nurses who are switching roles.

The most common responsibilities of a nurse educator include:

  • Creating the course curriculum and selecting textbooks
  • Organizing the classroom structure and ensuring their students stick to the lesson plan
  • Overseeing all lab and clinical work and then providing detailed feedback for improvement
  • Conducting engaging lectures and promoting active discussion among their students
  • Supervising students who are serving as interns or in a student teaching capacity
  • Performing individual research about health care and how to improve it, as well as publishing their findings in peer-reviewed publications

The Nurse Educator in Different Settings

Although most nurse educators teach in the classrooms of colleges, universities, and schools, they also teach in hospitals and other health care facilities. With the advent of remote learning, nurse educators are now more accessible than ever through online coursework.

Nurse educators should generally be able to teach in academic and service (or clinical) settings. Academic settings are generally for covering textbook learning, whereas the service setting is where aspiring nurses gain hands-on experience working with patients or patient simulations that mimic health care scenarios.

To be effective as a nurse educator in an academic or clinical setting, the ideal candidate should be able to:

  • Facilitate learning and development with a diverse student body
  • Use proven and effective assessment and evaluation strategies
  • Employ effective communication and active listening skills
  • Fully develop a curriculum with specific and achievable program outcomes
  • Serve not only as a teacher but as a leader and mentor who inspires a passion for health care and learning
  • Perform in a clinical health care setting that follows the proper procedures and relevant health care guidelines
  • Effectively critique and develop students in clinical practice

Nurses considering this career path should remember that some nurse educators are specifically academic or clinical, while others serve in both capacities. Taking on both the academic and the clinical teaching roles usually has a direct impact on nurse educator salaries.

Nurse educator and nurse sitting and talking at a nurse’s station.

What Are the Three Main Roles of a Nurse Educator?

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) breaks down the profession of nurse educator into three main roles: collaborator, director of student learning, and role model.

1. Collaborator

Collaborators firmly believe in inclusivity, teamwork, shared decision-making, and combining resources for the sake of the group’s overall goal. Considering that a wide array of physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals deliver health care, teaching collaboration and teamwork has proved to be an effective way to prepare aspiring RNs to enter the health care workforce.

2. Director of Student Learning

In this academic role, the director of student learning must be able to effectively facilitate the education of a diverse student body. They oversee educators and students, ensuring each course provides the combination of resources and learning experience that is most conducive to their education. Additionally, they play a direct role in curriculum development and its subsequent evaluation for effectiveness. They also evaluate and assess the student body’s performance.

3. Role Model

Nurse educators should be effective teachers, but they also need to be effective mentors and role models. A role model conveys the professional and ethical components of being a health care worker, inspiring developing nurses to be patient-focused, compassionate, and caring. Effective role models lay the groundwork for a good bedside manner.

What Is the Current Nurse Educator Salary?

A number of factors influence a nurse educator’s specific salary, including education, experience, the employer, and region, to name a few.

The salary statistics website PayScale reports that the average nurse educator salary was about $78,000 as of December 2021. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers made a median annual wage of $75,470 as of May 2020.

Furthermore, the job outlook for nurse educators is promising, as the BLS projects the employment of postsecondary teachers to increase by 22% between 2020 and 2030.

How Do You Become a Nurse Educator?

Before stepping into the role of a nurse educator, one must first become a registered nurse and accumulate on-the-job experience. This starts with earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and getting licensed as a registered nurse.

Since nurse educators need to have a graduate degree, the next step is completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program through an accredited university. However, many nurse educators take their education a step further with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The DNP degree not only boosts the nurse’s educational acumen but may also make them more competitive in the job market and lead to a higher salary.

Finally, it behooves aspiring nurse educators to consider earning relevant certifications. The National League for Nursing administers the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) exam, which certifies that the individual has the qualifications and skills required to serve as a nurse educator. The National League for Nursing also offers the Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE®cl) certification.

In addition to an exam, each certification has specific eligibility requirements pertaining to licensure, education, and practice.

Take the First Step Toward Becoming a Nurse Educator

Educating nurses is one of the top priorities in health care today. The training and development of current and aspiring nurses is critical in offsetting the nursing shortage that is being caused by nurses retiring and switching careers. Those who choose this career path can reap the rewards of having a positive impact in addition to earning a nurse educator salary. However, the first step is education.

Individuals who are interested in becoming nurse educators should explore Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). With the program’s three concentrations and an accredited curriculum approved by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, students can feel confident in knowing they’ll get the education they need to enter the workforce as capable registered nurses ready to deliver quality patient care. Explore the program today to begin forging your path to becoming a nurse educator.

Recommended Reading:

Burnout vs. Compassion Fatigue in Nursing

The Importance of a Nurse’s Role in Patient Safety

Trauma Nursing in Vacation Cities


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage

Houston Chronicle, “What Are the Duties of a Nurse Educator?”

Incredible Health, “Overview of the Nurse Educator Position”

Indeed, “How to Become a Nursing Educator”

Indeed, “Learn About Being a Nurse Educator”

National League of Nursing, Certification for Nurse Educators

National League of Nursing, Nurse Educator Core Competencies

O*Net Online, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

PayScale, Average Nurse Educator Salary

Springer Publishing, “The New Nurse Educator: Second Edition – Educator Roles and Responsibilities: Teaching, Service, and Scholarship”

StatPearls, “Nursing Shortage”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Teachers