Nurse Teacher (Nurse Educator): A Comprehensive Job Guide

Nurse educators are usually registered nurses (RNs) who have obtained advanced nursing degrees that allow them to teach and develop nursing curricula at colleges and universities, teaching and helping to train the future nurses of the world.

Nurse Teacher (Nurse Educator): A Comprehensive Job Guide

If you are considering a career as a nurse teacher (or nurse educator), you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about becoming a nursing instructor, from what education and certifications are required to salary and job outlook. So whether you’re just starting to explore this career path or are ready to take the next step, read on for all the information you need to become and succeed as a nurse educator.

Table of contents


  • A nurse teacher is an advanced practice nurse that is qualified to teach, train, and develop curriculum for nursing students and current nurses.
  • The job outlook for nurse teacher’s is excellent, with a 6% growth rate over the next 10 years, that translates to over 200,000 new jobs each year!
  • Most nurse teachers have advanced degrees (MSN or DNP), however you can still become a nursing educator with an ADN or BSN, and there is no national certification required (though, it is recommended).  

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What is a nurse teacher? 

Nurse teachers are healthcare professionals who use their experience, skills, and knowledge to teach and mentor other nurses or nursing students in a clinical or academic setting. 

A nurse teacher is also known as:

  • Nurse Educator
  • Nursing Instructor
  • Nursing Curriculum Coordinator
  • Nursing Education Consultant
  • Nursing Professional Development Specialist
  • Clinical Competency Coordinator

What does a nurse teacher do? 

Through their teaching, they provide guidance, support, and resources to help nurses (and students) continue their education and career advancement. Nurse teachers often work with nurses of all levels of experience, providing up-to-date information about the nursing profession and helping them stay current on practices, technology, diagnostic skills, and regulations. 

Nurse teachers can also give valuable advice on maintaining emotional well-being during their challenging studies and careers. With an ever-evolving medical landscape, nursing educators bridge gaps between educational institutions, health systems, and clinical facilities by ensuring up-to-date understanding of concepts and techniques necessary for healthcare practitioners.

Typically, a nurse educator will be responsible for the following tasks: 

  • Plan and deliver lessons in various settings
  • Evaluate nursing teaching materials for quality and accuracy
  • Develop or revise courses as needed
  • Supervise student nurses in clinical environments
  • Assess and review student performance regularly

For more information on a nurse educator’s objectives, check out the National League for Nursing’s eight core competencies for nurse educators.  

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Nurse educator 2022 job outlook and salary 

Nursing instructors are in high demand in the current job market, considering there is currently a nurse educator shortage, with nursing schools and universities vying for qualified individuals to join their teams.

The median annual salary for a nurse educator is $77,440.

The salary for nurse teachers in the United States is trending upward, with an annual salary ranging from $47,630 to as high as $125,930. However, most nurse educators currently earn between $61,390 (25th percentile) and $98,680 (75th percentile), and those in the top 10% make over $125,500 annually. The potential for wage growth depends on  skill set and experience levels of the teacher nurse. There may also be chances for advancement and higher pay based on location.

Top 5 highest paying states for nurse educator jobs

  1. California – $106,850
  2. Massachusetts – $102,620
  3. Hawaii – $102,520
  4. District of Columbia – $100,030
  5. Alaska – $96,100

Top 10 highest paying cities for nurse educator jobs

  1. Visalia-Porterville, CA – $146,700
  2. Charlottesville, VA – $109,450
  3. Los Angeles, CA – $109,310
  4. San Francisco-Oakland, CA – $108,630
  5. Boston, MA – $108,430
  6. Salt Lake, UT – $105,570
  7. Cumberland, MD – $104,940
  8. Riverside, CA – $103,390
  9. Bakersfield, CA – $102,900
  10. Ann Arbor, MI – $102,490

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How to become a nurse educator?

Steps to becoming a nurse educator

  1. Attend an accredited nursing programs/schools and graduate with BSN, ADN, or a nursing diploma. 
  2. Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses exam (NCLEX-RN) and obtain your RN state licensure.
  3. Gain bedside experience in the field (2-5 years is recommended). 
  4. Apply to graduate school for an advanced nursing degree (MSN). 
  5. Pursue real-world experience as an instructor
  6. Get certified: To obtain your Certified Nurse Educator (CNE OR CNEcl) licensure (which is optional), you must take and pass the NLN certification exam (see below for details). 
  7. Complete continuing education requirements depending on your state’s RN licensure requirements and any specialized certifications you obtain.

Educational requirements

Most nurse teachers have an advanced nursing degree, however, it is possible to teach in the field with just an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, but most employers prefer those who have obtained higher levels of education, such as a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. You’ll need to earn a doctoral degree to become a nurse teacher at the highest level (at colleges and universities)

To increase your career potential, including opportunities and earningsspecialized certifications and continuing education courses can help you build valuable knowledge in certain areas and demonstrate your commitment to the profession and its highest standards. 

With the current healthcare trends requiring nurses with more profound skills as educators and managers, obtaining an MSN or DNP can open up even more doors for professional advancement opportunities.

What certifications are required?

There are no mandatory certifications required for nurse teachers. However, the National League of Nurses (NLN) offers three certifications that are widely recognized, they are the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE), the Certified Clinical Academic Nurse Educator (CNEcl), and the Certified Academic Novice Nurse Educator (CNEn) certificates. As we mentioned above, the certifications and credentials can play a significant role in helping to advance your career, boost your earnings, and establish you as a subject matter expert. 

Usually, the CNE and CNEcl exams require at least two years of work experience in a health facility before you’re eligible to sit for the exam. But if you have earned an advanced degree, such as an MSN or doctoral degree in nursing philosophy, and hold an active registered nursing license, you don’t need to meet the “experience requirement” necessary to sit for the CNE exam, you’re already eligible. 

What skills are necessary to succeed as a nurse educator? 

Working in this career field requires several important skills, some core and some job-specific. First and foremost, a successful person in this field needs the ability to approach tasks proactively and problem-solve on their feet. Self-confidence, effective communication skills, and leadership will also serve them well. Additionally, they should have good organizational abilities as they will likely manage several projects simultaneously. Those wishing to get ahead should have excellent attention to detail and an understanding of the bigger picture regarding the bottom line. A great work ethic and resiliency can only help too! If you possess these skills or are eager to develop them over time, this could be your perfect career field.

What are the continuing education requirements for nurse teachers? 

Nurse educators have an obligation to maintain a level of professional development and educational competency. To achieve this, they must take part in continuing education activities such as attending workshops, conferences, seminars, and lectures. The number and type of activities can vary depending on their license, specialty, or the specific requirements set by various nursing organizations. For instance, some states may require nurse educators to complete a certain number of contact hours in a designated time period in order to remain licensed.

Whether mandated or voluntary, continuing education is essential for nurse educators and it can help them stay current with new medical technology and evidence-based practices while further developing their teaching skills. By doing these activities, nurse educators can be confident that they will remain informed on new best practices in the industry and stay current on healthcare policies and regulations.

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1. What is the difference between Certified Nurse Educator, Certified Clinical Academic Nurse Educator, and a Certified Academic Novice Nurse Educator?

A Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) is an RNs who have obtained an advanced degree in nursing and are now training and teaching other nurses or nursing students. They can work with undergraduate or graduate students, depending on the nursing education program they choose to work with. Clinical nurse educators may also develop and implement a method to evaluate how well nursing students provide care to patients or clients as they learn.

A Certified Clinical Academic Nurse Educator (CNEcl), also known as a clinical nurse educator, is responsible for helping nursing students learn during the clinical components of an academic nursing program. The clinical nursing instructor gets guidance from the faculty of the nursing program and has to provide accurate evaluations of learners’ performance in meeting expected learning outcomes to that same nursing program.

The Certified Academic Novice Nurse Educator (CNEn) certification is for nurses new to nursing education with less than three years of nurse educator experience.

2. Where can nurse educators work?

The term “educator” usually brings to mind a school or classroom, but nurse educators work in many places besides colleges and universities. Nursing instructors are found in almost every healthcare setting, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, psychiatric facilities, rehabilitation centers, public health clinics, and hospice care. 

3. What are some of the challenges that nurse educators face?

Nurse educators are tasked with an incredible responsibility: preparing the next generation of nurses to enter healthcare and pursue rewarding careers. However, this is easier said than done. Nursing educators face numerous challenges ranging from staying up to date on changes in the healthcare industry, to developing effective ways of teaching based on different learning styles among their students, to managing tight budgets while providing educational resources. It requires a dedication to excellence and creativity, requiring nursing instructors to be at their best daily. These challenges come with unique rewards and opportunities for growth and development within this career path. 

4. How long does it take to become a nurse teacher?

The traditional path would take about 6-10 years to become a nurse educator. It takes approximately four years to earn a BSN, plus additional years of experience in the field (minimum two years if you do not pursue a graduate degree). For those seeking an MSN or DNP, those programs are rough 2-4 years long. 

5. What are the types different types of nurse educator roles? 

There are many types of roles as a nurse teacher, here are several: 

  • Clinical Informatics Educator
  • Nursing Program Director
  • Nursing Education Consultant
  • Nursing Education Specialist
  • RN Faculty
  • Clinical Nurse Instructor
  • Nursing Instructor
  • Nursing Professor
  • Nursing Program Coordinator
  • Practical Nursing Instructor
  • Allied Health Instructor
  • And more!

6. Is there a shortage of nurse teachers? 

Yes. Across the nation, nursing schools are struggling with a faculty shortage, limiting how many students they can take in at a critical time when the professional registered nurse field is continuing to grow along with the demand.

AACN’s report on 2021-2022 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing found that U.S. nursing schools rejected 91,938 qualified applications from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs due to a lack of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.With budget constraints and an aging faculty, these schools are having trouble competing for qualified individuals against clinical sites that also offer jobs.

7. Is nursing education a specialty? 

Yes and no. Yes because most nurse educators, especially those developing nursing programs and teaching colleges and universities, have advanced degrees in nursing, with specialized education and training in specific areas of study. However, you can become a nurse educator with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and extra training in the form of NLN certification and continuing education. 

8. Is the National League for Nurses accredited? 

Yes, the NLN is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET). The NLN carefully chooses its continuing education programs based on the tried-and-true criteria and guidelines from IACET.

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9. What else can you do as a nurse teacher? 

There is a lot of opportunity for nursing educators, the following is a list of additional areas you can work as a nursing instructor (varies based on credentials): 

  1. Shape nursing programs
  2. Work on healthcare law and policy
  3. Contribute to textbooks
  4. Work in public health or administrative healthcare


Nurse teachers are an important part of the nursing profession and the healthcare industry. They play a vital role in educating the next generation of nurses and helping shape this critical field’s future. 

The educational requirements for becoming a nurse educator are rigorous, but the job prospects are excellent for those who have met all the necessary qualifications. Nursing educators can find work in various settings, including hospitals, universities, community colleges, and private clinics.

Nurse educators need to be skilled communicators and effective teachers. They must also manage their time effectively and handle stress well. These professionals also benefit from membership in organizations that support nurse educators and their work/careers.

The challenges that nurse educators face vary depending on their specific work environment or career stage. However, some of the most common challenges include maintaining up-to-date knowledge about nursing practices and teaching methods, dealing with challenging students or faculty members and managing competing demands on their time.

Next steps


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