Nurse Educator: Job Description, Salary, and How to Become One

Here's everything you need to know about the job description, responsibilities, salary expectations, and path to becoming a nurse educator. Careers

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If you're passionate about nursing and want to make a significant impact on the profession by educating and inspiring future nurses, consider the fulfilling career path of a nurse educator.

Below we explore the job description, responsibilities, salary expectations, and the path to becoming a nurse educator, and also highlight the diverse roles they can fulfill.

Nurse Educator Job Description

A Nurse educator is a nursing professional who teaches and trains various learners, including nursing students in academic institutions and currently practicing nurses in clinical practice areas.

Nurse educators in an academic setting are called nursing faculty members and have the opportunity to shape the industry's future through teaching and mentoring in classrooms and clinical experiences.

Outside of academic institutions, the nurse educator's role includes providing continuing education and supporting the development of currently practicing and new nurses. Nurse educators in this setting are called clinical nurse educators (CNEs). Rather than instructing students, nurse educators in a healthcare setting support working nurses through experiential learning opportunities to promote their professional development.

In addition to teaching, nurse educators are expected to be leaders and advocates for change in nursing practice and patient care through evidence-based practice.

Nurse educators work in various settings, including colleges, universities, professional schools, general medical and surgical hospitals, and technical and trade schools. One of the benefits of being a nurse educator is the variety of roles they can fulfill, including:

  • Clinical nurse educator: teaches advanced clinical skills and competencies to nurses in hospital clinical units. Usually has a graduate degree but not always.
  • Nursing instructor: teaches patient care in the classroom and in clinical placements to nursing students enrolled in colleges and universities. Usually has a graduate degree.
  • Professor of nursing: teaches at a college or university. They can serve as a student advisor, mentor, and expert in the field of nursing, so they may do research and publish results. A doctorate is strongly preferred.
  • Simulator lab director: maintains the simulation lab and conducts clinical skills training as part of a university nursing program or hospital education group. Usually has a graduate degree.
  • Dean of nursing: manages administrative functions, sets priorities, and develops programs for nursing schools; also participates in long-term university planning and policy setting. A doctorate is required.

Another benefit of working as a nurse educator is the flexible schedule. Many RNs who previously worked shift work (e.g., 12-hour and night shifts) enjoy the flexibility nurse education provides, including holidays off and traditional daytime working hours.

Nurse Educator Responsibilities

A nurse educator has many responsibilities, such as training nursing students in the classroom, documenting student progress, and developing patient care plans with nursing students in a medical facility. Other responsibilities of nursing faculty include:

  • Mentoring and teaching current and future nursing students
  • Designing, delivering, and evaluating educational curricula
  • Writing and reviewing educational material, like textbooks

CNE's in the clinical setting provide education and evaluation to nursing and patient care staff and facilitate evidenced-based research within specialized areas of nursing. Their responsibilities include:

  • Providing educational leadership to patients and care providers to enhance specialized patient care within established healthcare settings
  • Assisting patients and caregivers with educational needs, problem resolution, and health management
  • Collaborating with medical providers, patient care staff, and unit management in the planning, implementation, and delivery of educational curricula
  • Initiating skill development programs within the parameters of established care models
  • Providing direct and specialized nursing services to an assigned group of patients within nursing protocols
  • Developing patient care plans, incorporating evidenced-based research and national standards
  • Educating technical and patient care staff in using new equipment, supplies, and instruments.

Nurse Educator Salary

Nurse educator salaries vary widely, depending on education and experience, workplace, geographic location, and position.

The median annual salary for post-secondary nursing instructors is $78,580, ranging from $47,760 to $127,290, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Nurse educators at general medical and surgical hospitals earn a median of $95,720 annually, while those at community colleges earn a median of $75,960.

How to Become a Nurse Educator

The educational requirements to become a nurse educator begin with enrollment in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program (BSN). After completing a bachelor's degree, you must pass the NCLEX-RN to become licensed as a registered nurse (RN).

In remote and rural areas and regions with severe nurse educator shortages, some community colleges may hire instructors with a BSN, but most academic institutions require advanced degrees, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from an accredited MSN program.

Nurse educators who work with postgraduate students require a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP).

Related: 10 Best DNP Programs in 2023

The National League for Nursing (NLN) is the premier organization for nurse faculty and leaders in nursing education. The NLN developed competencies to address both the specialized role of the nurse educator and competencies for graduates of all types of nursing programs and provide ongoing education programs.

If you're debating a career as a nurse educator, now is an excellent time to consider your options in light of the state of our current healthcare system. The staggering shortage of nurses in the nursing workforce is contributing to the shortage of nurse educators, and according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, U.S. nursing schools turned away more than 91,938 qualified applicants to undergraduate and graduate programs in 2021, and most indicated that faculty shortages were a top reason.

If you want to be a nurse educator, there has never been a better time to make a profound impact on the nursing profession.

Editorial Team / Admin

Carly Elliott has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Hospice Palliative Care and Home Health.

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Specializes in ER, Med Surg, Ob/Gyn, Clinical teaching. Has 10 years experience.

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