“Nursing is a profession experiencing nearly unprecedented growth, especially as the Boomer generation continues to age and needs more health care, and considering the growing number of nurses in the field who are themselves reaching retirement age,” says Adriane Stasurak, DNP, RN, ANP-BC, core faculty member of Capella University’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

While teaching nurses is just one function for a nurse educator, there’s an urgent need for exactly that role. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 16% from 2014 to 2024.

What Is a Nursing Educator?

“There are two roles for nursing educators,” Stasurak says. “A faculty role and a role within a practice setting for professional and career development.” That means that nursing educators are either working in an educational environment, like a university where they teach future nurses or are employed within a health care practice setting, educating nursing and other professional staff members.

Related jobs to explore include:

  • Teaching nursing students or providing advanced education in an academic institution
  • Leading nursing education programs at a college or university
  • Educating or supervising nursing staff in a health care facility
  • Facilitating professional development in specialty practice such as informatics or care coordination
  • Working in an administrative leadership capacity in areas such as quality improvement or risk management.

Related Experience and Education

A nursing educator position is not entry-level. “These are highly experienced nurses,” Stasurak says. “They’re clinical experts, often mid-career.”

In an academic setting, one needs a master’s degree to teach in a BSN program or a doctorate to teach in an MSN or more advanced program.

For educators who want to teach within a health care practice setting, the requirements may vary from system to system. “You may see some of the high-profile settings requiring a doctorate, but generally, that’s seldom a requirement outside of the university setting,” says Stasurak. “However, a master’s is becoming prevalent.”

Nursing educators, whether in academic settings or clinical practice, should consider specializing at the master’s degree level in the area they want to teach. Specialties can include:

  • All aspects of clinical care (e.g., adult health, pediatrics, women’s health, geriatrics)
  • Leadership and Administration
  • Health Policy
  • Informatics
  • Care Coordination
  • Community Health

There are also post-master’s certificates, education degrees, and specialized certifications such as the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE), which may be able to help nursing educators further their careers, seek promotions, and find teaching opportunities within health care systems or at colleges and universities.

Qualities of Effective Nursing Educators

Christy Davidson, DNP, RNC-OB, Director of Academic Success for Capella, notes that there are many qualities a successful nursing educator will need beyond degrees and certifications, whether in an academic or practice setting. “They have to be contemporary in their practice,” she says. “They must understand the professional landscape and how the profession is evolving.”

“They need great communication skills, and they have to understand the diverse learning styles among multiple populations. But most of all, they should certainly maintain their educational curiosity and be open to lifelong learning.”

Capella offers the following programs that focus on nursing education:

The competencies for Capella University’s MSN and RN-to-MSN, Nursing Education and the PhD in Education, Nursing Education are designed around  the National League for Nursing (NLN) Core Competencies of Nurse Educators© and are designed to meet the educational requirements for the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) credential offered by the NLN.


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