Our nation’s ability to build and retain a highly educated nursing workforce capable of delivering competent, compassionate care lays on the shoulders of nurse educators. As advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), nurse educators are highly trained professionals tasked with teaching nursing students receiving their associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree and/or receiving continuing education. Nurse educators serve as full-time or part-time faculty members in various academic settings to share their clinical knowledge with the younger generation. Most nurse educators will specialize in teaching courses in their specialization, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, medical-surgical, nursing informatics, or women’s health. Nurse educators demonstrate and teach cutting-edge patient care techniques to spark an interest in the nursing profession among students.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 56,840 nurse educators teaching across the United States are making an average yearly salary of $70,650. Nurse educators earn an average annual income of $72,210 at four-year universities and $65,780 at junior colleges. The highest paid nurse educators can be found in specialty hospitals where they bring home a whopping $116,210 on average each year.

Beginning Salary

When RNs first advance into the role of nurse educator, they’ll likely land in the bottom tenth percentile of earnings with a yearly income around $39,830. However, it’s important to note that nurse educators with years of experience and tenured positions at larger universities often make handsome six-figure salaries beyond $107,080 annually.

Key Responsibilities

Nurse educators have the primary responsibility of designing, implementing, assessing, and revising academic curricula for training nurses with the latest evidence-based practice skills. On a typical day in the classroom, nurse educators can be found creating syllabi, developing course materials, carrying out lesson plans, advising students, identifying unique learning needs, arranging clinical simulations, giving out learning assessments, grading assignments, and documenting outcomes from the educational process. Many nurse educators will also engage in scholarly research work in their nursing departments and present at conferences. Nurse educators help to maintain the highest clinical standards possible by preparing qualified nurses.

Necessary Skills

Being a successful nurse educator will require that you fine-tune your communication skills to clearly explain complex health conditions and teach technical practices in a manner students will understand. Nurse educators must be resourceful and creative in finding various different ways to present key concepts for optimizing the learning process. Being detail-oriented with stellar organizational skills is a must for nurse educators to get their teaching materials ready for class. Nurse educators should have the leadership skills to supervise clinical rotations and give nursing students the feedback they need to grow. Students may find certain lessons difficult, so educators need to have the patience to review the materials and maintain a positive learning atmosphere.

Degree and Education Requirements

For teaching at the diploma or associate’s degree level, nurse educators will need to obtain at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited four-year nursing school. To advance into teaching at a four-year college or university, it’s usually required that nurse educators hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). RN-to-MSN programs may be best for those already registered without a bachelor’s. Following a degree track specifically related to Nursing Education will make certain you’re taking the right courses, such as curriculum design, educational technology, teaching pedagogy, learning assessment, and clinical evaluation. Going the extra step to receive a Ph.D. or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) will unlock opportunities for educating nurses at the graduate level.

Pros and Cons of the Position

Working as a nurse educator will provide plenty of rewards and challenges that you should weigh beforehand. On the positive side, nurse educators often report a tremendous level of job satisfaction in being able to train and mentor future nurses. Nurse educators have a vast amount of flexibility in selecting the specialty coursework they teach. It’s easier for nurse educators to apply for grant funding to conduct innovative research in their interest areas. There’s an extremely high demand for nurse educators, so job stability is practically guaranteed. Of course, nurse educators also bring home a handsome yearly salary that can cross into six-figures. Yet, nurse educators must invest significant time, money, and energy into their own schooling before teaching. Staying licensed with continuing education is required. Nurse educators working in clinical settings can spend hours standing and observing their students in training. Nurse educators also may miss working directly with patients.

Getting Started

After you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree, the first step is to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and become licensed through your state’s board of nursing. Nurse educators need to have experience in the field, so start gaining clinical experience in entry-level staff nursing positions. With time, you can move into a specialty area that you’re interested in, such as cardiac care, oncology, or psychiatrics. Once you’re enrolled in your master’s program, you’ll be required to complete teaching practicum for gaining hands-on experience leading lectures and discussions in the classroom. This will qualify you for assuming most faculty positions, but you may want to consider a doctoral degree for advancement. Becoming a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) through the National League for Nursing (NLN) is advised for the greatest professional credentials. You’ll need to have RN licensing, at least a master’s degree, two years of teaching experience, and passing exam scores.

Future Outlook

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that over 68,000 qualified students are turned away from bachelor’s and master’s nursing programs annually due to a critical shortage of faculty. Since the average age of nurse educators is currently 53.5 years, a wave of upcoming retirements will make the shortage even more worrisome. New nurse educators should have no trouble finding numerous job openings at community colleges, universities, health science institutions, and hospital-based clinical training centers. In fact, Indeed.com reports that the listings for nurse educator positions has increased by 50 percent in the last year alone. CNEs will be in particularly high need for training our country’s next generation of registered and advanced practice nurses.

Overall, nurse educators serve a prominent role in our healthcare industry by being the role models that shape the newest nursing professionals for delivering patient care. Nurse educators are critical players in guiding nurses through the learning process and fostering optimal preparation for today’s diverse, ever-changing healthcare environments. As a nurse educator, you’d have the valuable chance to combine your clinical expertise and passion for teaching into one rewarding, in-demand career.

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