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Certified Nurse Educator

Certified Nurse Educator Career Profile
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Certified Nurse Educator
Video : Interview with a Nurse Educator

Nurse Educator Career Overview
Nurse educators combine clinical expertise and a passion for teaching into rich and rewarding careers. These professionals, who work in the classroom and the practice setting, are responsible for preparing and mentoring current and future generations of nurses.

A nurse educator is a registered nurse who has advanced education, including advanced clinical training in a health care specialty. Nurse educators serve in a variety of roles that range from adjunct (part-time) clinical faculty to dean of a college of nursing. Professional titles include Instructional or Administrative Nurse Faculty, Clinical Nurse Educator, Staff Development Officer and Continuing Education Specialist among others.

Choosing to be a nurse educator does not mean you have to give up your clinical role. A growing number of nurse educators teach part-time while working in a healthcare facility. This gives them the opportunity to maintain a high degree of clinical competence while sharing their expertise with nursing students.

Nurse educators combine their clinical abilities with responsibilities related to:
  • Designing curricula
  • Developing courses/programs of study
  • Teaching and guiding learners
  • Evaluating learning
  • Documenting the outcomes of the educational process.

Nurse educators also help students and practicing nurses identify their learning needs, strengths and limitations, and they select learning opportunities that will build on strengths and overcome limitations.

In addition to teaching, nurse educators who work in academic settings have responsibilities consistent with faculty in other disciplines, including:

  • Advising students
  • Engaging in scholarly work (e.g., research)
  • Participating in professional associations
  • Speaking/presenting at nursing conferences
  • Contributing to the academic community through leadership roles
  • Engaging in peer review
  • Maintaining clinical competence
  • Writing grant proposals

Nursing Educator Salary
Nurse educators working in academic settings typically are on a nine-month appointment (e.g., September through May). Opportunities to teach in the summer often are available, and this is compensated separately. Salaries vary greatly depending on rank, education (e.g., master's or doctorate degree), and institution type (e.g., a large academic health center vs. a small liberal arts college).

According to the US BLS, median salary for nursing instructors and educators was $67,480 in 2015. Median wages ranged from $41,490 at the 10th% to $112,680 at the 90th%.

Qualification for a Nurse Educator Career
At a minimum, nurse educators who work in academic settings must hold a master's degree. In order to be promoted to the upper academic ranks (e.g., associate professor and professor) and to be granted tenure, academic faculty typically must hold an earned doctoral degree. Nurse educators who work in clinical settings must hold the minimum of a baccalaureate degree in nursing, but more and more institutions are requiring the master's degree for such appointments.

Many master's degree and post-graduate certificate programs are available to prepare nurses specifically for the educator role. These programs, which are sometimes offered online, focus on the skills needed to prepare advanced practice nurses to teach, including instruction on the learning process, curriculum development, student counseling, program evaluation, and the principles of adult education.

Dozens of baccalaureate-to-PhD programs also are available for nurses prepared with a bachelor of science in nursing degree looking to pursue doctoral preparation. These programs, which include intense clinical experiences, attempt to move students through graduate level study at an accelerated pace.

Many federal and private sources of funding exist to assist students looking to pursue graduate nursing education. The recently passed Nurse Reinvestment Act includes a student loan repayment program for nurses who agree to serve in faculty roles after graduation. Similar programs also are available through the National Health Service Corps and the Bureau of Health Professions.

Nurse Educator Certification
The National League of Nurses (NLN) offers an examination to qualified candidates for the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) Credential. Candidates must be active licensed RNs with master's or doctoral degrees in nursing. Candidates with a nursing education degree must have 2 or more years of academic faculty experience within the past five years. Candidates holding a degree majoring a subject other than nursing education must have four or more years of academic faculty experience within the last five years.
>> Download NLN Nurse Educator Candidate Handbook (pdf)

Nurse Educator Career Outlook
This career is in extremely high demand because the United States is experiencing a serious nursing shortage. The US BLS projecst 35% employment growth for nursing instructors during 2012-22. Nursing schools nationwide are struggling to find new faculty to accommodate the rising interest in nursing among new students. The shortage of nurse educators may actually enhance career prospects since it affords a high level of job security and provides opportunities for nurses to maintain dual roles as educators and direct patient care providers.

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