Magazine article American Nurse Today

Your Path to Becoming a Nurse Educator

Magazine article American Nurse Today

Your Path to Becoming a Nurse Educator

Article excerpt

LOOKING for new professional challenges? Consider teaching nursing. This country has a growing need for academic nurse educators--nurses who teach students enrolled in formal academic nursing courses. The National League for Nursing defines academic nurse educator as a "specialty area and advanced practice role within professional nursing." In this article, we use the terms nurse educator and faculty member interchangeably.

Why should you think about making nursing education your career? First, it can be highly rewarding to educate the next generation of nurses. It's exciting to see the nurses you've taught help to improve patient care and lead the profession. Secondly, the nurse educator role offers variety and flexibility, with each day bringing different activities and challenges. Other advantages include flexibility in types of positions available and the variety of education programs, roles, and settings.

Types of nursing education programs range from practical nurse to doctor of philosophy (PhD). Settings range from vocational programs to colleges to research-focused universities.


Educational institutions set faculty requirements based on their own expectations as well as those of regulatory agencies and accrediting organizations. However, some general qualifications exist. Nurse educators must hold a current, active nursing license and, depending on the position, may need other state credentials for advanced practice.

Academic preparation

Generally, nurse educators must have at least a master's degree; doctoral preparation is preferred. Although most employers require a graduate degree in nursing, some schools accept a non-nursing graduate degree or major if nursing is the applicant's first degree. Applicants with a PhD (a research-focused doctorate) are attractive to nursing schools with a research mission. Some schools accept applicants with a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree (a practice-focused doctorate); check with the nursing program you're interested in to be sure. Some may accept applicants with a doctor of education (EdD) or doctor of nursing science (DNSc) degrees. Having completed academic courses in educational theory and practice is a plus.


Educational programs look for faculty with expertise in a clinical specialty or content area, such as evidence-based practice, management, nursing education, health policy, ethics, pharmacology, or pathophysiology. Several years of registered nurse (RN) experience as well as specialty certification may be required. If you hold a doctoral degree, you may be expected to have research experience.

Types of positions

Nurse educators may teach full time or part time. Some positions are year-round; others are 9-month academic appointments. Many educators start as part-time clinical instructors or specialty course lecturers.

Most academic institutions appoint full-time educators to a certain rank, such as instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, or professor. The rank at hiring depends on clinical practice experience, academic preparation, and type of educational institution. Nurse educators may work toward a higher rank by achieving organizational requirements.

Educators are appointed to one of two tracks.

* Tenure-track educators are expected to meet certain academic standards within a specific number of years to achieve tenure status. Once tenured, they have more academic autonomy and greater permanency in the organization.

* Nontenured educators typically have contracts for a certain period.

Roles and responsibilities

Nurse educator roles include teaching, advising, service, practice, research, and scholarship. Within each category, performance expectations depend on the type of appointment, rank, and institution. Faculty roles may vary according to the mission of the college or university. …

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