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Healthcare Careers Nurse Educator Guide

Nurse educator jobs.

Nurse educators are critical members of the healthcare industry. In academic or hospital settings, nurse educators are charged with helping nurses with their educational goals. Nurse educator jobs are focused on training nurses on innovative new techniques that can increase their capabilities and improve patient health. Nurse educators are always working to ensure they know the latest and best techniques and strategies, ensuring they can teach their students about new methods of patient care. Nurse educator jobs can be in two different settings—hospital or academic. Depending on where educators work, they will have different and unique roles. It's important to understand the different roles different types of nurse educators can play in the healthcare industry, for nursing schools and nursing students.


White Woman Nurse Scanning a Bottle of Pills

Hospital nurse educator.

Nurse educators in a hospital setting play a crucial role in helping promote continuing education for RNs. Healthcare is always changing, and clinical nursing education is focused on helping close knowledge gaps and ensure the RN staff is up-to-speed on the newest trends and technologies. These educators assist RN staff in developing and maintaining their competencies, may help nurses prepare for additional certifications, mitigate errors, shorten training time for new hires, create clinical continuing education curriculum, and identify ways to improve processes at the hospital. They may use simulations, online education, or face-to-face education to help train nurses on new nursing practices. 

Hospital nurse educators have the ultimate goal of ensuring their clinical nursing staff is equipped for changing needs in their facility.  They are lifelong learners because they have to understand new technologies and be ready to take innovative new approaches.

Hilary Webb, WGU Indiana graduate

Academic nurse educator.

Academic nurse educators work in a nursing school or university setting and teach courses to nursing students who may be current or future nurses. Academic nurse educators may work in a hospital, teaching those who are working on their nursing diploma. Or these nursing educators may work for a community college, online college, or traditional university. They may teach coursework for nursing diplomas, ADN, or BSN degrees. Academic nurse educators are tasked with helping future nurses learn the ins and outs of nursing—helping them gain the knowledge and skills they will need to pass the NCLEX-RN and become a registered nurse. They may also work in BSN programs helping current nurses get the credentials and skills they need to advance their education. Nurse educators in this setting are key in helping both current and future nurses get the specific training they will need to be successful in their job. They may teach a wide variety of courses, from basic anatomy to advanced nursing methodology. They use simulations, online training, nursing tools, and specific examples to help nurses be prepared for what is ahead in their career. 

Ultimately nurse educators in an academic setting have a goal to help train up the next generation of nurses—preparing them for what it is like to work in all kinds of healthcare settings. They want to form nurses who are focused on great patient care and are ready to go above and beyond to serve.

A nurse manager speaks with a nurse in a hallway.

How much do nurse educators make?

According to the BLS, nurse educators earn about $74,000 per year, with the bottom 10% earning about $67,000 and the top 10% earning more than $121,000. The location where you work will play the largest role in your salary—nurse educators working in large medical or surgical hospitals will typically earn more than nurse educators working in junior colleges. Your experience and education level also play an important role in your salary as a nurse educator.

A happy young nurse walks down a hallway.

How to become a nurse educator?

There are several important steps to take if you want to become a nurse educator. You will need to:

  • Become a registered nurse. This is a vital first step because you'll need to be a nurse and have experience before you can move into a teaching position. You can become a registered nurse by earning a diploma, ADN, or BSN degree and then passing the NCLEX-RN exam. 
  • Gain experience. In order to be able to teach well, you'll need bedside experience that you can draw from. Gain as much experience as possible in order to be prepared for your work as an educator. It can often be beneficial to find a specialty—this will help you be competitive for a teaching position, particularly within that specialization.
  • Further your education. If you don't have a BSN, you'll need to earn that degree before becoming a nurse educator. You'll additionally need an MSN degree to be qualified to teach other nurses or future nurses. An MSN degree in nursing education will help you learn important teaching skills, enable you to prepare curriculum, give you innovative understanding of nursing technology, and more. 

Earn your BSN and MSN in one bridge program.

If you're currently a registered nurse but don't have a bachelor's degree, there are program offerings that will help you be prepared to earn both your BSN and MSN at the same time. WGU's RN to MSN bridge program allows you to do your BSN and MSN coursework and move through the programs more quickly—helping you graduate with both a BSN and MSN. Becoming a nurse educator means earning a master's degree—but don't be discouraged if you don't have a bachelor's degree. If you're a current RN ready to become a nurse educator, this bridge program could help you earn two degrees and move into an exciting new career.

A nurse and doctor speak with a man in full biohazard gear.

Nurse educator career outlook.

Employment of nurse educators is expected to grow 24% by 2026. This is much faster than the national average. Because many hospitals are facing a nursing shortage, there is high demand for trained nurses. Additionally, as more hospitals hope to reach magnet status, continuing education is key for them. This makes nurse educators a critical addition to hospital and academic staff.

Earn your nursing education degree.

Get started on the path to becoming a nurse educator by earning your MSN today.

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