How to Become a Nurse Educator

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. Are you currently a licensed RN in the U.S.?
Are you currently a licensed RN in the U.S.?

Nurse educators play a critical role in shaping the healthcare industry by preparing students to become the nurses of the future. It’s a challenging yet rewarding position that can have a direct impact on how providers deliver quality care. It’s also a role that demands cultivated knowledge and extensive experience.

For those interested in how to become a nurse educator, it’s important to understand the education, licensing, and experience requirements to pursue this profession.

 nurse in white coat smiles as she poses working on laptop

What Does a Nurse Educator Do

Nurse educators use their healthcare acumen to prepare nursing students for the profession. Several of their key duties directly relate to education, such as developing lesson plans, grading papers, and evaluating student performance. At the same time, they’re also registered nurses who can continue to administer care to patients.

Nurse educators nurture students’ skills in a combined academic and clinical setting. They can serve as faculty members at a nursing school or in a teaching hospital, using real-world clinical scenarios to provide students with hands-on training and experience in a controlled setting. They can teach general nursing courses or focus on a specialized area of healthcare, such as pediatrics or oncology. Their own nursing experiences inform their lesson plans to offer students more real-world scenarios.

Because the world of healthcare is in constant flux, it’s important for nurse educators to stay up to date on the profession’s evolving laws, technologies, and methodologies. Therefore, it’s common for nurse educators to regularly attend conferences and read journals and papers to remain informed. Some nurse educators may also conduct research and analysis to enhance their understanding of specific concepts and methodologies.

Steps to Become a Nurse Educator

Becoming a successful nurse educator requires a unique combination of teaching and nursing skills.

For instance, nurse educators need a deep understanding of the various educational theories and principles that support an effective curriculum. They must also know how to design a curriculum that nurtures a nursing student’s growth. Additionally, their leadership must encourage and motivate students to achieve certain goals.

Because nurse educators are commonly practicing nurses, they need to possess specific skills consistent with delivering quality healthcare to patients. They must have strong critical thinking skills and attention to detail. They must also be excellent communicators, as they’ll often need to discuss intricate health details and instructions with patients without ambiguity. They must also exhibit compassion and be emotionally resilient.

Step 1: Fulfill the Education Requirements

The first step toward becoming a nurse educator is to earn a bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate students develop the foundational skill set needed in the nursing profession. For example, registered nurses can enroll in the online RN to BSN program from Maryville University to attain this degree.

Aspiring nurse educators often then pursue a master’s degree in nursing, as it meets most minimum education requirements for the position. Professionals who wish to work at a university may want to pursue a doctorate, as most universities require that their educators hold a terminal degree.

Step 2: Fulfill the License, Certification, and Registration Requirements to Become a Nurse Educator

Because nurse educators are often still practicing nurses, they must be licensed by the states where they work. License requirements vary from state to state, but there are two consistent ones: Nurses must have a degree from an approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). The National Council of State Boards of Nursing provides state-specific details.

Certification is not required to become a nurse educator, but some employers hire only certified candidates. Certification provides prospective employers with further proof of one’s nursing knowledge and skills. Nursing professionals can attain general certification through an organization such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center, or they can attain certification in a specialized area of healthcare. For instance, nursing professionals can earn a pediatrics certification from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, and those interested in ambulatory care can become certified through the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Gaining professional experience is a critical aspect of becoming a nurse educator. The proficiency nurses gain in the field can often extrapolate into the examples and lessons that educators use in either an academic or clinical setting. Typically, nurse educators must cultivate several years of clinical experience before they are considered for a position.

Nurse Educator Salaries

According to PayScale, the average salary for nurse educators is around $73,600. There are a few factors that can contribute to an educator’s pay, including level of experience and location. For example, seasoned nurse educators working in a city with a high cost of living may earn more than a new nurse educator working in a small town.

Employment Outlook for Nurse Educators

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 15 percent increase in the employment of postsecondary teachers between 2016 and 2026, a category which includes nurse educators. In contrast, the BLS forecasts only a 7 percent average increase among all positions.

Explore Nursing Career Options

Nurse educators combine the worlds of healthcare and academics to ensure high-quality care continues for future generations. The position’s unique goal of cultivating healthcare’s future nurses makes it one of the most exciting positions in the medical industry. Learn how Maryville’s online RN to BSN program can help you establish the building blocks that lead to a rewarding healthcare career.


American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing

American Nurse Today, “Your Path to Becoming a Nurse Educator”

American Nurses Credentialing Center

Explore Health Careers, Nurse Educators

Maryville University, Career Opportunities for Nurses: Opening Doors With a BSN

PayScale, Average Nurse Educator Salary

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Interview With a Nursing Instructor”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Teachers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

World Health Organization, Nurse Educator Core Competencies