Why Become a Nurse Educator?

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Because of the current nursing shortage, the U.S. health care industry is in a precarious situation. Many nurses are opting for early retirement, leaving due to burnout, or changing career paths entirely. Between that trend and the increased demand for health care services due to an aging population, the picture becomes clear that the country needs to devise a solution quickly to offset the shortage.

The only way to solve the nurse shortage is to educate a new generation of nurses at the university level. In addition to efforts to retain current nursing resources, nurse educators will play a pivotal role in helping to restore balance.

Current and aspiring nurses may wonder why become a nurse educator when nursing offers so many other career paths. Entering the workforce as a registered nurse (RN) provides one part of the solution to the nursing shortage, but without educators to train the nurses of the future, the shortage will inevitably continue. In 2019, for example, U.S. nursing schools turned away more than 80,000 qualified applicants to bachelor’s degree and graduate programs in large part due to faculty shortages, along with budget constraints and lack of clinical sites and classroom space, American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) notes.

Becoming a nurse educator requires an advanced education, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and several years of experience. Training the next generation of nursing professionals can be a rewarding, meaningful career.

A smiling nurse educator works with two students.

Why Become a Nurse Educator? How They Shape the Future

RNs make a positive impact in their patients’ lives every day, but nurse educators leave a lasting legacy. That’s a big reason why becoming a nurse educator is such a critical endeavor: Their work ensures that there will be knowledgeable and reliable nurses for current and future generations.

Nurse educators shape young minds in a variety of settings. They may work in a classroom at a college or university teaching aspiring RNs in a nursing program. They may also work in a hospital or other health care facility, developing newly licensed RNs who are just beginning their careers. Both paths provide the opportunity to shape the future nursing landscape and directly combat the country’s shortage of nurses.

Nurse educators also earn competitive salaries. Postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers made a mean annual salary of $82,040 in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Nurse Educator?

Nurse educators contribute to solving the nursing shortage in different ways. Their work environment and students determine their role and responsibilities.

For instance, the responsibilities of a professor of nursing or nursing education consultant in an academic setting would be different from those of a clinical nursing educator or clinical lab instructor supervising hands-on patient care.

For nurse educators in a classroom setting, responsibilities include:

  • Mentoring nursing students
  • Creating and delivering class curriculum
  • Fostering classroom discussion
  • Reviewing educational materials
  • Remaining up to date on clinical practices and procedures
  • Evaluating students and tracking their progress

For nurse educators in a hospital setting, responsibilities include:

  • Mentoring RNs and helping them adapt to their new careers
  • Creating clinical lesson plans using real patients and simulations
  • Reviewing new medical technologies
  • Remaining up to date on clinical practices and procedures
  • Directly overseeing RNs’ clinical practice and facilitating learning
  • Helping RNs develop patient care plans
  • Evaluating and critiquing RNs’ performance

How to Become a Nurse Educator

All nurse educators need to be experienced nurses, which means devoting many years to education and clinical work in a hospital or health care facility. The following steps are part of the typical journey to becoming a nurse educator:

  1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
  3. Obtain licensure in the state of practice
  4. Accumulate on-the-job experience as an RN in a hospital or health care facility
  5. Earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  6. Earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) (optional but recommended)

Specialized certifications are critical in establishing the skills and knowledge necessary to be an effective nurse educator. Those who wish to teach in a clinical setting should consider the Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE-CL) certification. Those who wish to teach in an academic setting should look into the Certified Academic Nurse Educator (CNE) certification. Both are offered through the National League for Nursing and help nurse educators stand out to potential employers.

Furthermore, an MSN is a versatile degree that can open the door to a number of careers beyond nursing education. For students wondering about expected MSN salary ranges, nurses with an MSN degree made a median annual salary of approximately $98,000 as of March 2022, according to PayScale.

Begin Your Journey to Becoming a Nurse Educator

Why become a nurse educator? Answering that question means recognizing the pivotal role they play in educating and developing the next generation of RNs. Their instruction both in the classroom and in clinical settings lays the groundwork for the future of health care.

Additionally, becoming a nurse educator is a strong career choice for those looking for job security. The health care industry won’t fix the nursing shortage overnight, and mentors will continue to be needed to impart their skills and knowledge to future generations of nurses.

All great educators must learn before they teach, and Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is a great place to start. HPU can be a critical step toward becoming a nurse educator, as it offers three specializations: Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.

Find out how Hawai‘i Pacific University can help you make a difference.

Recommended Readings:

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 Faculty Shortage

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage

Betterteam, Nurse Educator Job Description

Indeed, “How to Become a Nursing Educator”

National League for Nursing, Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNEcl®)

National League for Nursing, Certified Nurse Educator (CNE®)

PayScale, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

StatPearls, Nursing Shortage

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

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Teachers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses