How to Become a Nurse Educator

A nurse educator in a classroom

If you’re a nurse with a passion for education and the future of nursing, becoming a nurse educator might be the perfect career path for you. Nurse educators are highly trained professors who often work in colleges and universities to educate and inspire the next generation of healthcare providers.

Keep reading to learn more about what steps you should take to become a nurse educator and make a difference in the field of healthcare.

Understanding the Role of a Nurse Educator

Before becoming a nurse educator, it’s important to understand what the job entails. Nurse educators play a vital role in the future of nursing, including teaching future nurses and working to improve patient care. They help write and advance curricula and act as role models and mentors for their students.

The main role of a nurse educator is to interact with students in many different aspects of their journey to become nurses. This includes:1 

  • Planning and teaching curriculum at universities and research hospitals 
  • Guiding students through early clinical rotations 
  • Advising on academic and career issues 
  • Overseeing independent studies, graduate projects, dissertations and research 
  • Evaluating and grading student work

Nurse educators must also demonstrate strong leadership skills, as they are expected to help advance patient care and advocate for patients as well as progressive nursing practices. It’s important that these professionals keep this in mind while also having the confidence to speak up about relevant issues in healthcare when possible.

Why Become a Nurse Educator?

There are other benefits to becoming a nurse educator in addition to being part of an ever-changing career field. Know that, as a nurse educator, you are making a difference not only in the lives of patients but also in the lives of students. Maybe it was a high school teacher who encouraged you to chase your dreams, or an undergrad professor who helped you learn to think about the world in new ways. In either case, most people can likely name one or two teachers who truly had a positive impact on their life. Now, as a nurse educator, it’s your turn to make a difference.

Effective nurse educators present the curriculum in ways that support the success of their students. You have the chance to inspire students to excel beyond their own expectations, and in doing so, you’ll make invaluable contributions to the future of the healthcare field.

Additionally, you can choose from a variety of career paths, meaning you can pursue what you’re passionate about. Some nurse educators decide to specialize in maternity and obstetrics, whereas others choose pediatrics. Still others find personal fulfillment in training the next generation of end-of-life care providers. It’s important that, as a nurse educator, you find enjoyment in the path you choose. Other career paths include: 

  • Clinical supervision in a hospital setting, healthcare agency or hospital-based nursing school 
  • Teaching part of the year and working one-on-one with patients the other part of the year 
  • Patient advocacy and education

Steps To Become a Nurse Educator

Because nurse educators are highly trained professionals, there are steps you must take in order to pursue this career. It’s important for future nurse educators to know the requirements for becoming a nurse educator—even though the journey may be long, the rewards could well be worth every step of it.

Earning an Undergraduate Degree

There are multiple paths you can take during the early stages of becoming a nurse educator. One of the most common is to first earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. For aspiring nurse educators who know early on that they want to follow this career path, earning a BSN is a great first step. In addition to preparing you to take the NCLEX-RN and earn a master’s degree in nursing, this program will also teach you everything you need to know to assume leadership roles in the healthcare field. 

If you are currently a nurse and want to take your career to the next level by becoming a nurse educator, there are alternative paths you can take as well. There are many accelerated programs available for current nurses to earn a master’s degree in nursing that don’t require you to have a BSN. However, if you are a registered nurse (RN), you can also choose to enroll in an RN to BSN program before earning your master’s. 

Another path you can take to your master’s degree in nursing is to earn an undergraduate degree in another field first. Although some universities offer master’s degrees in nursing for these kinds of students, having a background in healthcare would be a huge asset while you earn your degree, so keep that in mind when choosing what path fits your needs and goals.

Completing a Nurse Educator Program

After earning your undergraduate degree or deciding to elevate your career, the next step is to enroll and complete a nurse educator program—more specifically, a master’s degree in nursing. It may even be best to look for degrees with a particular emphasis, such as a Master of Science Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Education if you are solely planning to become an educator. 

Earning an MSN degree is typically required for nursing educators, but it also teaches students a variety of important skills that they’ll use in their everyday lives. Some courses include: 

  • Introduction to Advanced Registered Nursing 
  • Organizational Leadership and Informatics 
  • Translational Research and Population Health Management 
  • Advanced Health Assessment for Nurse Educators

Although it is possible to teach nursing with an MSN, it is not guaranteed that you will be offered a job. Different universities have different requirements when it comes to professors and full-time faculty members, so it may be a good idea to continue your education to the highest level.

Earning a Nursing Doctorate

A nurse educator is an exceptionally educated and trained professional, so if you truly want to pursue this career, earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is a good next step after earning your MSN. This degree program will guide nurses in applying research to improve healthcare systems and enhance patient outcomes, which is a common goal of nurse educators.

Additionally, DNP graduates will possess advanced knowledge and skills that show their expertise in the field of nursing. While earning your DNP, you will study many advanced nursing courses, including: 

  • Patient Outcomes and Sustainable Change 
  • Leadership for Advanced Nursing Practice 
  • Emerging Areas of Human Health 
  • Population Management

Throughout the course of a DNP program, you will experience a practice-based curriculum that can prepare you for a wide variety of careers and specializations, and for becoming a leader within the healthcare field. This includes a role in academia within practice-based programs, teaching the next generation of nurses and generating new knowledge through innovation of practice change.

Passing the CNE Certification Exam

Although it’s not required in order to practice, earning a certification as a nurse educator will not only show your dedication to the field but will help you to fully establish your specialty. The National League of Nurses (NLN) offers both the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE®) certification and the Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE®cl) certification.

There are many requirements to meet before taking these exams, including having nursing licensure, proof of practice and graduate-level education. It’s important to ensure that you satisfy all the requirements if you decide that earning one of these certifications aligns with your career goals.

Grand Canyon University’s College of Nursing and Health Care Professions is committed to graduating students who are prepared to enter the field of healthcare as competent leaders of the field. GCU offers a variety of degrees for aspiring professionals, including a pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing, a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a variety of online nursing degrees. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to get started at GCU today. 


1Retrieved from All Nursing Schools, What You’ll do as a Nurse Educator in December 2021 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

Loading Form

Scroll back to top