Becoming a Clinical Nurse Educator: Job Description & Salary

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a clinical nurse educator? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a clinical nurse educator is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Clinical Nurse Educator

Clinical nurse educators oversee educational programs for nurses, patients and other clinical staff. While becoming a clinical nurse educator can be a solid professional choice, you should know what to expect in order to make an informed decision. Review the pros and cons below for more information on this career

Pros of a Career as a Clinical Nurse Educator
Higher than average salary (median wage of $66,100 in May 2014)***
Occupation is in demand**
Can choose from a variety of workplaces**
Training future nurses can be professionally and emotionally rewarding***

Cons of a Career as a Clinical Nurse Educator
Must have at least a bachelor's degree (master's preferred)**
Must be licensed****
May be exposed to diseases****
Work can be physically taxing and require hours of standing****

Sources: *National Student Nurses' Association, **Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, ***U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description

A clinical nurse educator, sometimes called a clinical nurse specialist or nurse educator, is a specially trained registered nurse (RN) in charge of educational programs for nurses. Working as a clinical nurse educator, you may supervise student nurses or conduct educational programs for nurses at all skill levels, helping them keep up with changes in the industry.

Some clinical nurse educators instruct patients and their families about illnesses and treatment options. These educators must develop budgets and meet with administrators to obtain funding for educational programs. They may have to work various shifts in order to meet with all staff members.

Some clinical nurse educators are faculty members at schools of nursing, but most teach in the real world rather than a classroom. Pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and home health agencies hire clinical nurse educators to provide patient and staff education. Although many clinical nurse educator duties involve instruction, as RNs they may use their nursing knowledge to attend to patient needs if they work in hospitals or long-term care facilities.

Career Prospects

Nursing is a high-growth career and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of clinical nurse educator would grow by about 19% from 2014-2024. There will be a need for clinical nurse educators to teach new nurses.

Salary Information

In May 2014 the BLS reported that most nurse educators earned a salary between $51,000 and $85,000. The best-paid nurse instructors lived in Massachusetts, Alaska, Rhode Island, California, and New Jersey.

What Are the Requirements?

Before you can pursue a career as a clinical nurse education, you will need to complete training to become an RN, as well as complete a bachelor's program in nursing and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Licensure requirements vary from state to state.

While many clinical nurse educators have a bachelor's degree, employers are increasingly requiring a master's degree. Nursing schools offer master's degree programs for clinical nurse specialists and nurse educators, which includes courses such as advanced physiology, health assessment, healthcare leadership and the role of the CNS.

Students may get the opportunity to specialize in areas like critical care or gerontology, as well as focus on clinical practice. Nurses who already hold a master's or doctoral degree in nursing can earn a nurse educator certificate from some nursing schools.

Useful Skills

In addition to holding a degree, clinical nurse educators must have a broad base of knowledge in nursing and be able to convey that information to others at varying levels of knowledge and skill. They must be flexible and creative, as well as have sound leadership skills. Clinical nurse educators should understand education theory and have a love for teaching.

What Employers Want

A look at job postings shows the diversity of workplaces for a clinical nurse educator. Regardless of the setting, employers are looking for someone with nursing experience. Degree requirements vary, with some employers requiring a graduate degree, while others look for applicants with a bachelor's degree. Here's a sampling of job postings from real employers in April 2012:

  • A corporation in Texas is seeking a clinical nurse educator to work with the nurses in its senior communities. The clinical nurse educator would design programs to improve the nursing staff's skills as well as implement quality control measures and ensure that the facility complied with federal and state regulations.
  • In Pennsylvania, a biotechnology company is seeking a clinical nurse educator to work with healthcare providers and patients on using the company's product and managing side effects. The clinical nurse educator would meet with business managers in healthcare providers' offices. The job requires five years of clinical experience, three years experience as a clinical nurse educator or a pharmaceutical sales person and a year of experience in home health care.
  • A children's home in Pennsylvania is looking for a clinical nurse educator with 5-7 years of pediatric or neonatal nursing experience. This person would evaluate the needs of the staff and design educational programs to address them. The nurse educator would also assist with complex technical nursing care problems.
  • A company in the Midwest is looking for a clinical nurse educator with at least three years of nursing experience to train and talk with hemophilia patients and their caregivers. The job involves travel between several states. Fluency in English and Spanish is desired.

How to Stand Out in the Field

While becoming a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is not a mandatory step for working as a clinical nurse educator, earning a master's degree in this field could open up more job opportunities and chances for advancement. A CNS chooses a specialty area, such as pulmonary care, cardiac care or obstetrics.

A CNS/CE can obtain certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACCN), depending on the specialty. If you work as a clinical nurse educator for a school of nursing, after a few years of experience you can take the National League of Nursing (NLN) certification examination and become a Certified Nurse Educator.

Other Career Options

If you enjoy teaching, but don't relish shift work and physical strain, you might want to consider a career as an academic nurse educator. Academic nurse educators teach at nursing schools in their specialty area. They need at least a master's degree and probably a doctoral degree in order to gain tenure and earn promotion to full professorships. Some schools offer baccalaureate-to-Ph.D. programs for nurses who want to get into academia.

Of course, as an RN you have a choice of many alternatives. You can specialize in various types of nursing, such as pediatrics, cardiovascular or nephrology. Advanced practice nurses have additional training in specific areas and can prescribe medicine in most states. In 2011, the BLS reported that the average salary for all registered nurses, regardless of specialty, was $69,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. in Health Education
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
    Certificate
      • Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Teaching and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Educator
  • Campus and Online Programs
    5. South University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Nursing with a specialization in Nurse Educator (MSN)
      • RN to Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Nurse Educator (RN to MSN)
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Education - Special Education and Wilson Reading System Certification
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
    Master's
      • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Education
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Trident University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education
  • Online Programs Available
    10. The University of Texas at Arlington

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Educaiton

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • M.S. in Health Education
  • BS in Early Childhood Administration
  • Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Educator

What is your highest level of education completed?

South University

  • Nursing with a specialization in Nurse Educator (MSN)
  • RN to Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Nurse Educator (RN to MSN)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Education - Special Education and Wilson Reading System Certification

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
  • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education
  • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

What is your highest level of education?