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Nursing Professor Career Guide

How to Become a Nursing Professor

If you’re an experienced nurse with a love of teaching, becoming a nursing professor could be just the job for you. 

While your memories of studying to be a nurse at university might consist of sleepless nights cramming for tests, have you ever wondered if a return to university as an educator would be the right challenge for you? And with a chronic shortage of nurses in the United States, becoming a nursing professor is a great way to put your talents to use and give back to the profession as a whole. 

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What Is a Nursing Professor?

Nursing professors are registered nurses (RNs) with advanced degrees who work to educate the future generation of nurses. Their day-to-day consists of teaching and researching at universities. They stay up to date with medical practices and teaching techniques to prepare students to be effective in the medical field.

Teaching nurses is a challenging but exciting career choice. If you’re interested in being on the forefront of changes in the nursing community, then this might be the career path for you. And with the U.S. currently suffering from a large vacancy of nursing educators, there's never been a better time to become a nursing professor.


What Does a Nursing Professor Do?

Nursing professors provide education and training for nurses at all stages of their careers—whether they’re first-year students or experienced nurses looking to further their professional development. They’re experts in the latest research and spend most of their time lecturing in universities.

But what does a nursing professor’s day-to-day work look like? 

  • Providing education at all levels. Nursing professors educate their students at a graduate or postgraduate level. You’ll be responsible for delivering lectures, creating instructional material, and evaluating your students by accurately grading their assignments.
  • Creating a curriculum. Curriculum and syllabus design are a big part of the job. A good nursing professor will take into account their students’ needs, ensuring they can thrive after graduating into an increasingly complex healthcare environment.
  • Staying current on research. You'll be expected to stay on top of new developments in your field and make sure important practices and knowledge trickle down to your students. You also might be conducting clinical research or perhaps presenting papers at conferences.
  • Motivating and inspiring your students. University can be a stressful time for a lot of people, and as a registered nurse, many of your students will look to you for guidance. Your job will involve mentoring students, taking a long-term view of their growth and encouraging them to reach their full potential in the field.

How Do I Become a Nursing Professor?

Step One: Become a registered nurse.

You’ll first need to get your bachelor’s degree in nursing. These usually take around four years of full-time study. But if you’ve already got an associate nursing degree, you may be able to apply for RN-to-BSN programs that allow working nurses to earn their bachelor’s degrees faster. 

Step Two: Earn your nursing licensure.

The next step is passing the NCLEX-RN exam and meeting any state requirements to be eligible for nursing licensure.

Step Three: Gain clinical nursing experience.

Some MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) or DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) programs require proof of clinical nursing experience before you can be accepted. And this will also be necessary for future employment after earning your degree. 

Step Four: Apply for an MSN or DNP.

After getting your clinical experience, you’ll be expected to pursue further education. Nursing professors working at a university or college generally need to have a DNP. An MSN typically takes about two years to complete, while a DNP varies. There are specific MSN Nursing Education programs that are uniquely positioned to help you take your nursing skills and translate them into teaching skills. Being able to combine these important disciplines is key for a successful nursing professor. 

Best Degrees for Nursing Professors

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations: offered in FL, IN, TX, and UT only.
  • Tuition and fees: $6,575 per 6-month term.

WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.

If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

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 and fees: $3,795 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion, $4,385 per 6-month term during graduate portion, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

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 (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking...

An online BSN degree program for registered...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 66% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition and Fees: $3,795 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Transfers: On average, students transfer 81 credits.

With over 35,000 BSN alumni, this is one of WGU's most popular online degree programs. View our RN to BSN degree guide.

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

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 and fees: $4,385 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

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.

Next Start Date

Start the 1st of any month—as soon as you complete enrollment!

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Our online university degree programs start on the first of every month, all year long.

No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!

Learn about online college admissions at WGU.

Compare Nursing Degree Options

There are BSN degree options to choose from. Compare them to find the best fit for you.

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What Skills Does a Nursing Professor Need?

Being a nursing professor is an intensive job. You’ll likely be lecturing, working on committees, and mentoring students. You’ll be engaged in doing extensive research on the latest science in your area of expertise. And you’ll have to do all of this while serving as a role model and inspiration for the students under your direction.

To be successful as a nursing professor you’ll need a mixture of skills. Some of these include: 

  • Ability to design a curriculum
  • Firm leadership
  • Strong clinical expertise
  • Clear sense of communication
  • Assessment and evaluation skills 
  • A passion for educating others

How Much do Nursing Professors Make?


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median average salary for a nursing professor was $75,470 in 2020. Those in the 90th percentile make around $133,420.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


There’s a 9% growth for post-secondary educators between 2019 and 2029. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), they turned down over 80,000 qualified applications, citing faculty vacancy rates as the key factor. Due to the shortage, those thinking about entering the profession should find plenty of opportunities for employment after finishing their studies.

Where Do Nursing Professors Work?


Nursing professors aren’t just found in university lecture halls. They can be found in most medical settings: hospitals, hospices, and even rehabilitation facilities. Some work in the private business sector, others give community workshops on CPR or educate school children. A good nursing professor is needed almost everywhere.

Interested in Becoming a Nursing Professor?

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

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