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Clinical Nurse Educator Career Guide

How Do You Become a Clinical Nurse Educator?

Nursing is an essential profession. That's why it’s critically important that nurses are properly and continually educated, not only in the classroom but also in the field. This is precisely the role of a clinical nurse educator: to provide important teaching for nurses at all levels to ensure they have the knowledge they need to positively impact patients, clients, and medical center residents.

A clinical nurse educator educates and assesses student learning and competency in the healthcare setting.  They play an important role in assuring that students are confident and competent in the provision of patient/client/and family interventions. 

Anyone with a particular passion for healthcare and an aptitude and patience for education will find the career of a clinical nurse educator to be fulfilling and rewarding.

Nurses in training learn about setting an IV.

What Is a Clinical Nurse Educator?

Clinical nurse educators, or CNEs, are nurses with a passion for educating other nurses who work in healthcare environments the knowledge and skills needed to provide the best possible care. A nurse educator is usually a highly respected nurse with strong organizational and leadership skills. 

A clinical nurse educator makes the education of students their top priority.  They can work with undergraduate or graduate students, depending upon the nursing education program they choose to work with.  Clinical nurse educators may develop and implement a method to evaluate the learning of nursing students as they provide care to patients or clients.  

What Does a Clinical Nurse Educator Do?

The role of a clinical nurse educator mainly requires collaborative work between healthcare setting interprofessional teams, nursing faculty teaching in the classroom, and students assigned to clinical learning experiences in the healthcare setting.  This requires that the clinical nurse educator has a great degree of competence related to caring for patients, clients, and families. In particular, the responsibilities of a clinical nurse educator include: 

  • Leading, educating, and assessing nursing student skills, knowledge, and clinical judgement
  • Collaborating with nursing course faculty or working independently to develop, implement, and test student evaluation processes
  • Running a pre and post clinical briefing session for students to facilitate student’s learning related to experiences the student’s will or have had in the clinical setting
  • Researching methods for improved student education in a clinical setting
  • Implementing strategies and learning opportunities for nursing students in the clinical setting to assure students function within the policies and standards of the healthcare environment.
  • Tracking the learning, competency, and clinical judgment of the nursing student throughout their assigned clinical learning experience and sharing that information with the the student and course faculty
  • Educating nursing students on optimal task performance

These and other responsibilities often define the role of a clinical nurse educator, a nursing professional with considerable skill, knowledge, and clinical judgement regarding current patient care standards and processes.

How Do I Become a Clinical Nurse Educator?

Individuals interested in becoming a clinical nurse educator must first meet the necessary educational requirements. In particular, this means becoming a nurse and earning a bachelor’s degree. You will likely need experience as a nurse in order to adequately teach nursing, so spending time working in the field is key. 

The career path to a nursing educator position also requires a master’s degree, available through an expedited RN-to-MSN program or a BSN to MSN in nursing education. If you have already completed your master's degree in nursing, you may want to pursue a post-master's certificate in nursing education. These programs will focus on the educational aspects of nursing and give you insights into proper instruction, curriculum, and more. 

Best Degrees for Clinical Nurse Educators

Nursing – Education (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

This MSN – Education online nursing program for RNs includes a...

This MSN – Education online nursing program for...

This MSN – Education online nursing program for RNs includes a BSN program component and is a substantial leap forward for an aspiring nurse educator.

  • Time: 74% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 42 months.
  • Tuition: $4,685 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion; $4,795 per 6-month term during graduate portion.

Sample careers and jobs this online nursing degree will prepare you for:

  • Nurse Educator
  • Nursing Faculty
  • Program Director
  • Academic Clinical Nurse Educator

Given the growing nurse educator shortage, earning your MSN with a focus in education is both a rewarding decision and a solid career move.

Nursing Education – Post-Master's Certificate

A specialty certificate in nursing education for nurses with...

A specialty certificate in nursing education for...

A specialty certificate in nursing education for nurses with MSNs.

This program will prepare you to teach the next generation of nurses.

  • Time: 12 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,795 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Nurse Educator
  • Nursing Faculty
  • Program Director
  • Academic Clinical Nurse Educator

Hospitals and other facilities need nurse educators. Earn your Post-Master's Certificate in Nursing Education and step into a role inspiring and empowering caregivers. This program will prepare you to sit for the National League for Nursing Certified Nurse Executive (CNE) exam.

Nursing – Education (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

A master's in nursing education program for nurses with BSNs....

A master's in nursing education program for...

A master's in nursing education program for nurses with BSNs.

This degree will prepare you to teach the next generation of nurses.

  • Time: 80% of grads finish within 2 years.
  • Tuition: $4,795 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Nurse Educator
  • Nursing Faculty
  • Program Director
  • Academic Clinical Nurse Educator

Hospitals and other facilities need nurse educators. Earn your MSN – Education and step into a role inspiring and empowering caregivers.

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A man in a suit talks to a group of doctors.

What Skills Does a Clinical Nurse Educator Need?

Clinical nurse educators must possess an in-depth understanding of both nursing operations and best educational practices. As a result, they typically operate with a well-defined skill set, which allows them to make a difference in the lives of patients and nurses.

  • Interpersonal communication: The ability to correspond effectively with all nursing staff to convey concepts to be learned and adopted.
  • Healthcare expertise: The ability to fulfill all the roles of a nurse, independent from your ability to teach them.
  • Engaged teaching: The ability to provide dynamic education to nurses in all positions to enhance the ability of those nurses to fulfill their responsibilities.
  • Educational research: The ability to research and implement improved teaching techniques, to improve a nurse’s ability to retain information once taught.
  • Leadership: The ability to serve as a leader in educating nursing staff members, and as an exemplar when demonstrating exactly how newly learned concepts are to be performed.
  • Student evaluation: The ability to assess how well nursing staff members are learning information as it is taught.
  • Public speaking: The ability to effectively deliver a public address to a group of nurses looking to improve their own skill sets.

These and other skills form the basis for a successful clinical nurse educator, an individual who can both teach and implement nursing best practices to improve patient outlook and quality of life.

How Much Do Clinical Nurse Educators Make?


The exact salary of a clinical nurse educator depends on a wide variety of factors, including employer, employer location, years of experience, education, maintained accreditations, and their nature of hire.

In general, the salary of a clinical nurse educator averages $82,000 per year. This means that the top 10% of earners receive as much as $112,000 per year, whereas the lowest 10% of earners take home roughly $,000 per year.


What Is the Projected Job Growth?


The career outlook for a clinical nurse educator is positive in the years to come. As an industry, the field of healthcare is expected to add the most jobs of any market by 2024. In addition, nursing occupations are expected to rise 7% from 2019 to 2029, a growth rate faster than the average expansion forecasted across all occupations.

Though the exact rise in clinical nurse educator positions will depend on sustained demand across active healthcare communities, there is a continued need for hands-on nursing education within a hospital, clinical, and other medical settings.

As populations continue to age and require help to address chronic health issues, the need for expert nursing education—to inform best treatment methods, therapy techniques, and other procedures—is only expected to grow in parallel.

Where Do Clinical Nurse Educators Work?


Most often, clinical nurse educators work alongside all other nursing staff members in a medical setting. Commonly employed by hospitals, nursing clinics, outpatient centers, rehabilitation facilities, and any other medical environment requiring specialized care, clinical nurse educators provide on-site education to other employed nurses.

Clinical nurse educators must also provide nurses with an understanding of their facility’s technical resources—including computers, handheld monitors, therapy devices, and a variety of other tools. This means that they must maintain proximity to both the onsite nurses and the instruments themselves.

Clinical Nurse Educator FAQ's

In order to be a clinical nurse educator, you must complete the educational requirements to become a nurse, including earning a bachelor's degree. In addition, you will need experience in the nursing field, followed by earning a master’s degree in an associated field like nursing education. These types of programs will give you a good foundation for the proper educational and instructional necessities of the field. You may also choose to consider a PhD in nursing. 

A clinical educator is tasked with a variety of developmental and training related duties in a healthcare facility. They oversee efforts to assure staff and patient safety via staff training. 

Nurse educators instruct, educate, and mentor aspiring nurses as they complete their education and training, research methods for improved nursing education, and implement appropriate learning opportunities for nursing students.

Interested in Becoming a Clinical Nurse Educator?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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