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How to Become a Nurse Educator

A nurse educator is a nursing professional who has decided to take on role of teacher. Working in both clinical and classroom settings, these nurses fill a critical need in the health care system as mentors, trainers, and role models for the next generation of nurses.

Where Do Nurse Educators Work?

Nurse educators are employed in colleges, universities, hospital-based nursing schools, technical schools, and health care facilities. An increasing number of nurse educators work as distance teachers in accredited online education programs, and some are members of medical research teams. Some nurses choose to continue treating patients throughout their nurse educator career, keeping abreast of new advancements and current practices in the nursing field and passing them along to their students.

Nurse Educator Academic Requirements

The academic requirements for nurse educators depend on the educational level and the school setting. In a clinical setting, a baccalaureate degree may be sufficient. However, many college and university nursing programs favor a master's degree for teachers.

In order to be effective teachers, nurse educators must be lifelong learners. The design and implementation of relevant nursing programs requires them to stay up-to-date with advances in health care. They must recognize changes in nursing practice and adapt their teaching method and curriculum in response to innovations in nursing science. A growing number of nursing degree programs provide an option that allows nurses to specialize in nursing education. These programs prepare nurses to practice clinically as well as teach.

After completing a master's or doctoral degree, nurse educators are eligible to become a National League of Nursing (NLN) Certified Nurse Educator (CNE). In addition to earning a master's or doctoral degree, CNE requirements include two years of full-time teaching at a college or university, becoming licensed as a registered nurse, and successfully completing a certification exam. Although this certification is not required for employment as a nurse educator, it allows nurse educators to demonstrate their expertise and can improve a nurse educator's employment opportunities and professional reputation. Nurses who are credentialed have proven that they are prepared to serve as role models and leaders in nursing education.

Nurse Educator Job Outlook and Salary

As baby boomers begin to retire and the U.S. demographic shifts towards an older population, the demand for qualified nursing professionals is on the rise. There is currently a shortage of nurses to satisfy the growing demand. This is due in part to a critical shortage of nurse educators needed to train new nurses. The NLN reports that nursing schools must graduate at least 30 percent more nurses to meet the increasing demand. Nursing schools are currently turning away students due to a shortage of teachers. This shortage means that nurse educators have many opportunities for employment and will enjoy job security for years to come.

PayScale reports that nurse educators annually earn between $48,000 and $92,000. Nurse educators who earn salaries at the high end of this spectrum generally hold doctoral degrees and work as high-ranking administrators in nursing schools. Although nurse educators may in some cases be paid less than registered nurses working in hospital settings, the job of nurse educator is intellectually stimulating, offers independence and flexibility, and can be extremely rewarding.

Source: Nursing@Georgetown, nurse educator programs

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