Nurse Educator Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A nurse educator's median annual salary is around $66,000, but is it worth the lengthy education requirements? Read real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming a nurse educator is right for you.
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A Nurse Educator Career: The Pros and Cons

Nurse educators coordinate educational programs for health care personnel, perform research and generally work to improve the field of nursing. Read on for pros and cons of the nurse educator career path.

Pros of a Career as a Nurse Educator
35% job growth expected from 2012-2022)*
Decent salary ($71,000 mean salary in 2014)*
Possibility of tenure*
Global market for nurse educators**
Job satisfaction**

Cons of a Career as a Nurse Educator
Education requirements (associate's degree or higher to teach at community colleges/doctoral degree to teach at 4-year colleges)*
Stress of managing students*
Evening hours*
Other nursing jobs may pay more*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National League for Nursing

Career Information

Most nurse educators work for 2- or 4-year colleges, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Traditionally, nurse educators are licensed registered nurses (RNs) who have gone on to earn graduate degrees in nursing, generally with an emphasis on nursing education, in order to teach future nurses the practice and profession of nursing.

Nurse educators working at the college level typically have a blend of online and classroom teaching duties, as well as clinical practicum work. In the classroom, you might teach courses such as nursing history and philosophy or pharmacology. Clinical practicum work will involve taking students on rounds on varying hospital floors, teaching them how to care for patients, document treatments and use medical and technical equipment. Throughout the school year, you'll assess your students' progress and counsel them on career choices.

Hospitals and medical services companies also hire nurse educators, because of their ability to teach the varied elements of nursing practice. Working for hospitals, you might develop and maintain continuing education programs for staff, enabling them to keep up-to-date with the latest technology and best practices. Working for a medical services company, you might develop training programs for medical offices and hospitals to instruct staff on how to administer new medications or use new technology.

There are a variety of personal qualities that are necessary to have or develop as a nurse educator. You will need to be able to clearly explain techniques and accurately document treatment plans. As you work with nursing students, you will need to demonstrate calm, compassionate respect and care for patients, which will help them conduct themselves in the same manner. You will also need to be organized in order to manage multiple students and patients, keep track of educational requirements and keep up-to-date with the latest developments in the field.

Salary and Job Prospects

According to the BLS, postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers earned a mean salary of $71,000 in 2014. Jobs for postsecondary nursing educators were projected to grow 35% from 2012-2022, which is considerably faster than average.

Teaching at community colleges may involve teaching classes in the evenings or on the weekends, and while tenure is available at some universities, some schools are moving away from offering tenure-track positions toward offering yearly contracts. Part-time job opportunities will be more plentiful.

What Are the Requirements?

Educational Requirements

Nursing educators who teach at community colleges typically have masters' degrees, and those who work at universities typically hold doctoral degrees in nursing. For positions in hospitals or for medical services companies, you may be eligible if you have a bachelor's degree, an RN license and work experience.

Earning a bachelor's degree in nursing will involve taking coursework such as the fundamentals of nursing, pathophysiology and pharmaceuticals. You will also complete a nursing practicum that will involve your spending time in various clinical settings, putting into practice what you've learned in the classroom.

It generally takes two years to earn a master's degree in nursing and six to earn a doctoral degree. Both programs would involve coursework in curriculum development, educational technology, teaching strategies and research. A teaching practicum will also be required. Doctoral programs generally add coursework on statistical methods, qualitative research and the role of the professor, in addition to a doctoral dissertation.

Licensing Requirements

After you earn your bachelor's degree, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to earn your RN license. While all states require licensure, individual states have their own requirements.

What Employers Are Looking For

Employment postings for nursing educators and instructors vary in terms of what education is required. Most employers ask for experience in an academic setting, and a nursing license is required. Below is a sampling of real job postings from May 2012:

  • A health management services provider in Maryland sought a nurse educator to provide education, clinical in-services and training on injectable pharmaceutical products. The nurse educator would organize and deliver education, facilitate discussion groups and present workshops. Nurse practitioners and those with rheumatology/GI experience were preferred.
  • An Illinois community college posted an opening for a tenure-track faculty position teaching courses for their undergraduate nursing programs. The nursing instructor would teach classroom and clinical courses. A current RN license and a bachelor's degree in nursing with graduate coursework was required. Two years of clinical nursing practice and teaching experience was preferred.
  • A Kansas university advertised for an assistant/associate professor of nursing to teach in their graduate nursing program. Job duties included classroom and online teaching, student advising, recruitment and administration. Applicants should have a doctorate in nursing, prior university-teaching experience and computer skills.
  • A New York City nursing school was seeking a full-time professor to perform teaching, research and guidance duties. Applicants needed a doctorate in nursing, an RN license and expertise in a specialty area, such as acute care, psychiatric/mental health or maternity nursing.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Beyond earning the required nursing license, you could earn a professional credential to specialize in an area of nursing, such as nephrology or oncology. Meeting stringent credentialing requirements may serve to demonstrate your commitment to excellence in your field.

To sit for the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) exam offered by the National League for Nursing, you need to have 2-5 years of experience in an academic faculty role and to hold an RN license and a master's or doctoral degree with coursework in nursing education.

Other Fields to Consider

Medical Lab Technician

If you are more interested in a lab position and don't want undertake years of schooling, a career as a medical lab technician might be a good profession for you to consider. They collect samples and perform a variety of lab tests. You will need an associate's degree or a post-secondary certificate, and depending upon the state where you plan to work, you may also need to be licensed. The BLS projected that job opportunities in this field would grow 13% from 2010-2020, about as fast as average. The median salary for medical lab technicians in 2011 was $37,000.

Physician's Assistant

If you would prefer to have more direct contact with patients, working as a physician's assistant (PA) might be a better choice for you. PAs operate under the supervision of a doctor and are trained to examine, diagnose and treat patients. A bachelor's degree is required, along with two years of study in an accredited PA program, which generally leads to a master's degree. Like nurses, PAs are required to be licensed. This field is projected to grow rapidly, with a 30% increase in job opportunities expected from 2010-2020. The median salary for PAs in 2011 was $89,000.

Medical Services Manager

Coordinating the activities of an entire medical facility is the job of a medical or health services manager. If you would prefer to manage something larger than the educational activities of an organization, then you might consider this field. These jobs typically require a bachelor's degree, and jobs were expected to grow 22% from 2010-2020. Medical services managers earned a median salary of $86,000 in 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Educator
      • M.S. in Health Education
      • Master: Higher Education - Online College Teaching
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
      • Undergraduate in Early Childhood
    Certificate
      • Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Education Specialist - Nursing Education
      • Ed.D. - General Education
      • EdD - Learning Analytics in Higher Education
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • M.Ed. - General Education
      • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Teaching and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Benedictine University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MPH - Health Education and Promotion Focus
      • Nurse Educator MSN
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Educator
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Nursing Education - Master's
  • Online Programs Available
    9. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
      • Master of Education - Elementary Education
      • Master of Education - Secondary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma

Featured Schools

The George Washington University

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

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Nursing/Nurse Educator
  • BS in Early Childhood Administration
  • Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices

Are you a US citizen?

Northcentral University

  • Education Specialist - Nursing Education
  • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Benedictine University

  • MPH - Health Education and Promotion Focus
  • Nurse Educator MSN

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?

Baker College Online

  • Nursing Education - Master's

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