Are you a practicing nurse? If so, you understand how much impact your nursing professors and mentors have had on your ability to deliver quality care every day. You could fill that same crucial role for future nurses or for current nurses looking to sharpen their skills.
If you love the nursing profession and you enjoy helping and teaching others, a nurse educator role may be perfect for you. Or maybe you’re interested in other aspects of nursing education beyond hands-on teaching. An advanced degree in nursing education can open a variety of opportunities for fulfilling and high-earning career paths. Learn how to become a nurse educator below and what this career looks like.
What Is an MSN in Nursing Education?
Some registered nurses (RNs) continue their education to receive a master’s degree in their field, known as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Through an MSN program, nurses can advance their clinical skills and core knowledge of their profession. Nursing students can choose from various education programs for their MSN, some of which include a specialized focus on a particular career area. For example, you could obtain an MSN focused on nurse administration or an MSN with Family Nurse Practitioner preparation.
Another of these specializations is nursing education. A nurse educator MSN is the perfect choice for any nurse who wants to advance their nursing education overall and focus especially on the instructional side of nursing. For most, this means teaching other nurses, but as we’ll see, it can include other careers, as well.
What Is a Nurse Educator?
The MSN in nursing education is most associated with nurse educator jobs. Becoming a nurse educator allows an RN to make lasting contributions to the profession by training other medical professionals. Nurses’ own clinical experience combined with teaching expertise helps them transfer their skills to nurses-in-training. Nurse educators can hold a variety of jobs, teaching in either classrooms, clinical settings, or both. There are three main types of nurse educator careers:
- Clinical nurse educator: Some become a clinical nurse educator to help nurses gain hands-on experience while explaining processes and best practices to them. Nurse educators in hospitals may also teach experienced nurses at times, such as when new protocols are put in place.
- Instructional nurse faculty: Many nurse educators teach in academic settings, such as in a university classroom. A nurse educator MSN qualifies you to teach students working to become RNs, LPNs/LVNs, or current RNs seeking advanced Masters degrees.
- Staff development nurse: Some nurse educators may work in community health agencies, training staff for their new roles or providing ongoing training to help them enhance their skills.
Nurse educators are needed now more than ever. As an aging workforce retires and job openings for nurses grow at a faster rate than any other occupation in the U.S., nurse educators will play a crucial role in training new nurses to fill these positions. Nurse educators also help current nurses fulfill continuing education requirements so their skills remain sharp.
Where Does a Nurse Educator Work?
Nurse educators can teach in a variety of contexts. Some places where you could potentially teach as a nurse instructor include:
- Community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities
- Trade and technical schools
- Distance learning programs
- Psychiatric and substance misuse centers
- Government and community health agencies
- Home care organizations
- Long-term care facilities
What Does a Nurse Educator Do?
You may still be wondering what nurse educators do day-to-day. In other words, what is a nurse educator’s job description? Day-to-day responsibilities may look different depending on the type of training a nurse educator provides and the educational setting they provide it in. Some nurses may divide their time between part-time clinical work and teaching roles. Others may fully devote their career to educating others. A nurse educator’s students could be nursing students, current nurses, or other types of healthcare professionals.
Some common nurse educator roles include:
- Designing course curriculum
- Evaluating and improving current educational programs
- Giving lectures in a classroom setting
- Facilitating and guiding class discussion
- Assessing students’ learning through assignments and tests
- Leading clinicals to help develop nurses’ practical skills
- Giving students constructive feedback
- Mentoring and advising students to help them enter the field successfully
- Staying on top of trends and research in the field
- Contributing to scholarly work on nursing education
- Participating in professional associations
- Working in quality improvement and risk management
- Implementing research practices that are evidence-based
- Providing development programs, leaders within healthcare organizations
Nurse educator jobs are likely to combine many of these responsibilities and possibly more.
How Much Do Nurse Educators Make?
A practical question to ask if you’re considering this career path is, what is a nurse educator’s salary? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), California is one of the top-paying states for nursing instructors and teachers — these professionals earn an average annual salary around $100,000. If you live outside of California, check BLS data to see what nurse educators make on average in your state since these averages can vary significantly throughout the country.
The amount nurse educators earn also depends on factors like where they work and their level of experience. According to BLS data, more nurse educators teach in colleges, universities, and professional schools than in any other setting. The highest earners in the field work in general medical and surgical hospitals, followed by psychiatric and substance misuse hospitals, government institutions, and business schools and computer and management training programs. Whatever setting you work in, a nurse educator degree will prepare you for a high-paid role.
How Do You Become a Nurse Educator?
The main requirement to become a nurse educator is the nurse educator MSN degree. Before you can enter this degree program, you need to meet certain prerequisites. These prerequisites can differ from program to program, so you should look into the requirements at institutions where you may apply. Generally, you’ll need to have a nursing degree, either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from an accredited institution. You’ll also need to be licensed as an RN.
Once you meet the necessary requirements, you can apply to a nurse educator MSN program. After working hard in your master’s program and graduating, you’ll be prepared to apply for entry-level roles for nurse educators. If you entered your MSN program straight from your undergraduate program, you might need to gain some clinical experience before qualifying for certain nurse educator jobs.
No certifications are required for nurse educators, but some may choose to study for and take an exam to earn a Certification for Nurse Educators, awarded by the National League for Nursing (NLN).
What Else Can You Do With a Master’s in Nursing Education?
Teaching is the most common career path for those with a nurse educator degree. However, it’s far from the only option. Some nurse educators start out teaching and eventually transition to more administrative roles, for example, while others may never teach in a classroom or clinical setting. Let’s look at some other potential career paths you can pursue with an MSN in nursing education.
1. Shape Nursing Programs
Nursing instructors may be able to take an active role in shaping their own course curriculum. But some nursing instructors play essential roles in shaping the curricula for a whole nursing program. Some ways nursing instructors can do this is by serving as a(n):
- Committee member: Nursing faculty often take on other roles in addition to teaching. For some nursing professors, this may include serving on a department committee that periodically evaluates program curricula, for example. Committee responsibilities are typically not a nurse educator’s focus, but they may be an additional way of helping to shape the program and, ultimately, the nursing profession.
- Program director or department chair: More experienced professors may become nursing program directors or department chairs, taking on administrative responsibilities for interviewing and hiring new instructors and for supporting existing faculty in their roles. Many department chairs receive a higher salary or have a lighter course load to compensate for the extra work this role entails. More than a quarter of department chairs also receive an additional summer salary.
- Dean: Some faculty may be appointed the dean of their college of nursing. A Dean of Nursing is a prestigious role that involves administratively overseeing and representing the college of nursing. Responsibilities may include setting policies, making long-term plans for the direction of the school, and fundraising through connections with donors.
- Independent consultant: Some professionals with an MSN in nursing education may work as independent consultants, helping various teaching institutions evaluate and improve their programs. Consultants can also help hospitals and other healthcare facilities develop effective training procedures for their staff.
2. Contribute to Textbooks
Nursing students know how important their textbooks are to helping them absorb all the subject matter they’re expected to learn. But have you stopped to consider who wrote those textbooks you marked up and cracked open time and time again as a student? Textbooks are written by subject matter experts who also understand how to deliver new information to students in a way that builds on previous knowledge and aids comprehension.
The advanced knowledge of nursing paired with the instructional expertise you get from a nurse educator degree can be a great recipe for someone who wants to become a nursing textbook author or editor. Of course, writing skills are also essential to this role. Publishers will likely want to see evidence of advanced writing skills. Some nurse educators may choose to take additional classes to sharpen their writing abilities or may gain experience with professional writing through publishing research.
Most textbook authors work with an academic publisher on a contract basis. Rather than being paid a salary, they are typically paid a percentage or dollar amount for each book sold. Textbooks that are widely adopted by nursing programs, then, can generate a lot of profit for the book’s contributors. Textbook publishing as a whole generates more than $8 billion of revenue annually in the U.S.
3. Educate Patients
Some nurses with a nurse educator degree may choose to continue doing clinical work full-time as an RN or may primarily focus on clinical work while taking on some teaching roles. These nurses may be interested in becoming patient educators, using their teaching skills to instruct patients, which may include:
- Explaining a patient’s diagnoses to them and their loved ones
- Outlining treatment options to help patients make an informed decision
- Describing medical processes and procedures in layman’s terms
- Walking patients through their personalized treatment plan
- Demonstrating how to use specialty medical equipment
- Educating patients on ways to optimize their health at home
- Answering patients’ questions about their condition and care
Consider all the jargon used in the medical community. Patients unfamiliar with all this terminology can easily become lost and overwhelmed — especially when their minds are clouded by anxiety or other emotions associated with their medical situation. Doctors and nurses providing clinical care don’t always have the time or the expertise needed to sit down with patients and provide the answers and detailed explanations they may need. Patient educators can dedicate their focus to this role, enhancing patients’ understanding and, in turn, the quality of their care.
4. Work in Public Health
Many public health organizations have recently been in the spotlight, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). International and national organizations like these, along with smaller organizations at the state and local levels, can play critical roles in promoting healthy communities.
A vital aspect of public health is educating the public. The CDC includes informing, educating, and empowering people about health issues as one of the 10 essential public health services. If you’re passionate about public health services and have an MSN in nursing education, you can help people in your local community or beyond learn about ways to improve their health and wellbeing.
Working in public health roles may also include advocating for underserved populations or studying health-related issues that are especially pertinent to your particular community. Nurse educators who work in public health may eventually choose to use their unique experience and expertise to teach public health nursing courses.
Enroll in the MSN Nurse Educator Program at Holy Names University
If you’re ready to take that first step toward a fulfilling career as a nurse educator, consider the MSN Nurse Educator program at Holy Names University. In this program, you’ll learn to develop and implement nursing curricula, teach in a clinical or academic setting, and evaluate student learning. Through our hybrid class model, you can enjoy a program that fits into your lifestyle. Classes meet just one weekend each month. In between these sessions, students work on their studies online under the guidance of their experienced professors.
Holy Names University offers the Logan Scholarship, which covers 50% of tuition, to those students planning to teach in academic health science centers or departments of nursing in public education institutions (e.g., UC, Cal State, community college, or vocational educational centers).
If you’re a current nursing student or you’re an RN looking for a way to open up new career opportunities, take a moment to learn more about our MSN Nurse Educator program and consider applying today. You could play a crucial role in educating future generations of nursing professionals.