Becoming a nurse educator requires a high level of education and practical expertise in the nursing field. Nurse educators play a vital role in the healthcare system, training the next generation of nurses to prepare them for work in the modern medical world.
That’s a critical issue. Many nurses are at or nearing retirement age. The demand for new nurses to move into the profession is only expected to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects there will be more than 3.3 million nurses working in the country by 2026, a 15 percent increase from current levels.
Nurse educators have a chance to directly help fill the demand for nurses. They will be at the forefront of educating a new generation of nurses.
What Nurse Educators Do
Nurse educators design the curriculum for nursing undergraduate and graduate degree programs. They often teach the courses themselves. They also help manage the clinical practice nurses must have to earn their degrees.
Nurse educators also serve as mentors to new nurses, helping guide their education and training.
Some who work as nurse educators also continue to spend time in the profession outside of teaching, practicing any number of nursing specializations. They may continue to hold a job providing patient care in a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office. Others move into research in the medical field.
Nurse educators work at universities and junior colleges. In some cases, they will rise to the level of a dean over a nursing school. Some may also work on the staffs of large hospitals, providing continuing education for nurses.
Demand for nurse educators is growing as the need for more nurses rises. Salaries also are competitive. The BLS reported the median annual salary for nurse educators reached more than $75,000 in May 2016.
Most nurse educators first obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing. They then must pass a standardized exam and earn a state license to practice as a Registered Nurse (RN). Many RNs earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) as part of an organization’s hiring requirements, or to pursue career advancement.
Master of Science in Nursing
The next step toward becoming a nurse educator is to earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN). Many working RNs who wish to become a nurse educator will take courses online to earn their master’s degree, allowing them the flexibility to arrange their class schedule around a busy professional life. Earning a master’s degree allows nurses to teach at the university level.
Doctorate In Nurse Education
For those wishing to reach the highest levels in the nurse educator profession, earning a doctorate often is required. This allows a nurse educator to reach a full, tenured position as a professor at the university level. It also opens the door to the top positions in clinical research.
The National League of Nurses offers a Certified Nurse Educator certification, although it is not required for all jobs in the field.
There are many reasons to become a nurse educator. Perhaps the most important is the critical role they play in shaping the future of the profession. Few people in the healthcare industry play as important a part in training the next generation of professional nurses.