What Can You Do With an MSN in Nursing Education?

Nurses looking at X-rays
Nurses looking at X-rays

Perhaps you were thinking about continuing your nursing education but are wondering what type of program might be best for you. Have you ever considered becoming a nurse educator? If you have a passion for teaching and a desire to share your clinical expertise, this track may be a great fit for you. Completing an online MSN nurse educator program will prepare you for a career shaping the next generation of nurses. Numerous accredited online programs exist to help you advance your nursing career and solidify your commitment to lifelong learning.


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What is a Nurse Educator?

Nurse educators are registered nurses who hold an advanced degree and have completed advanced clinical training. They are the professionals tasked with training and mentoring nursing students from diverse professional and educational levels. When employed in a hospital setting, educators may be responsible for teaching patients as well as other health professionals. Nurse educators may teach in a classroom setting, a clinical setting or a combination of both. They are employed by a variety of organizations including colleges and universities, hospital-based schools of nursing, technical colleges, hospitals and online nursing programs.

The increase in accredited online nursing programs has provided more opportunities for educators to pursue distance teaching jobs. Employment opportunities are diverse and can range from adjunct (part-time) clinical faculty to dean of a college of nursing. With increased experience, nurse educators may advance to management positions, develop continuing education programs for working nurses or write textbooks.

Responsibilities of Nurse Educators

The duties assigned to a nurse educator depends on the setting in which they work and what education level they are teaching. Those who work in an academic setting may be responsible for:

  • Designing and implementing course curriculum incorporating evidence based practice.
  • Utilizing learning platforms that engage the learners.
  • Assessing learning by preparing, assigning, administering and scoring assessments.
  • Documenting the outcomes of the educational process.
  • Providing instructional feedback and recommendations for improvement.
  • Coaching, mentoring and advising students.
  • Remaining current with new trends and developments in field of expertise.
  • Attending educational workshops.
  • Engaging in scholarly work (e.g. research) and/or writing grant proposals.
  • Presenting at nursing conferences.
  • Participating in professional associations.

Nurse educators employed in a hospital setting working directly with students may be responsible for:

  • Developing and implementing course curriculum to ensure proper skills are being taught.
  • Leading clinicals and working hands-on with students to impart practical knowledge.
  • Designing learning experiences that will continually strengthen skills.
  • Monitoring and testing students’ progress to gauge their development.
  • Serving as a professional role model to aid students’ transition into the field of nursing.
  • Staying abreast of the latest trends by reading trade journals and attending seminars.

Nurse educators working directly with hospital staff and/or patients may be responsible for:

  • Participating in the orientation of new employees.
  • Providing support, education, guidance and assistance to the patient care team.
  • Evaluating the skills and competency of nursing staff.
  • Utilizing evidence-based approaches and frameworks to develop educational programs.
  • Implementing and evaluating educational programs for nursing staff.
  • Promoting ongoing professional development.
  • Supporting quality assessment and improvement initiatives and processes.
  • Assessing a patient’s current knowledge and providing education about their diagnosis.
  • Developing an individualized plan of care and documenting patient progress.

Job Market

Currently, there is a strong need for qualified Nurse educators. Despite the current nursing shortage, nursing programs nationwide have limited student capacity due, in great part, to an insufficient number of faculty and clinical preceptors. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACCN), there is a 7.9% national nurse faculty vacancy rate and over 75,000 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing programs in 2016.

This shortage of nurse educators can work to your benefit. It’s a great time for current nurses to pursue an online MSN in Nursing Education and transition to an academic role. As a nurse educator, you can expect improved job prospects, job security and a competitive salary. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for nurse educators is $81,350 with some earning upwards of $100,000. While the most in-demand nurse educators hold a PhD, MSN-prepared nurses are qualified to teach and lead clinical classes. If you want to work in research or teach master’s degree students, your master’s degree can serve as a stepping stone to a PhD.

The Demand for Nurse Educators

As the population in the United States ages, particularly the large Baby Boomer generation, the nation’s health care needs continue to increase. Current projections indicate that the supply of nurses won’t be enough to meet the demand for nursing and health care, placing the nation in a critical nursing shortage.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that by 2028, over 371,100 new jobs will be open for nurses due to increasing demand for health care and to nurses leaving the workforce. This projection reflects the need to replace nurses that leave the workforce or retire.

The shortage of nurses is exacerbated by the shortage of nurse educators. More nursing faculty are needed to educate more nurses and meet the demand of the industry. Between 2011 and 2012, 64 percent of nursing programs in the United States turned away qualified nursing school applicants. Among the primary reasons for this are a shortage of nurse educators, the challenge of finding faculty for nursing schools and the difficulty of locating sufficient clinical locations to train students.


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Employment Opportunities and Financial Gains

Nurse educators are needed not only in colleges and universities, but in hospitals to help educate nursing staff and mentor new RNs. Many hospital units hire nurse educators to help with continuing education for staff nurses and guide them in their career choices. Many nurse educators work as a clinical instructor in addition to working as an educator for a hospital or nursing school.

RNs with a Master of Science in Nursing Education can work in a variety of settings and positions, such as clinical instructor, unit nurse educator-assistant professor or professor. In addition to the satisfaction of guiding new nurses as they begin their journeys in the nursing field, highly trained nurse educators can receive a bump in pay.

The BLS reports that nursing instructors working for a college or university earn an average salary of $80,380. Those working in hospitals earn an average of $123,760. The top 90 percentile of nurse educators earn a salary of $129,070.

Why Earn an Online MSN in Nursing Education?

At a minimum, nurse educators who want to be employed in an academic setting must possess a master’s degree. Those who want to work in a clinical setting must possess at least a bachelor’s degree but an MSN is preferred by employers. Many nursing schools now offer specialization in Nursing Education which will prepare graduates to serve as teachers. Spring Arbor University offers an online MSN/Education program as well as an online RN-MSN/Education track for those with an associate’s degree.

Online MSN programs take into account the life of busy nursing professionals. With a nurse educator online program, you will be able to access classes and curriculum on your own schedule. This allows you to easily balance work, family and school. You can complete your supervised field experience in both online and traditional settings. These programs allow you to complete your practicum in a setting close to home.

Advance While You Work

Qualified nurses are needed to guide the future generations of nurses in learning to provide effective and compassionate care. While career advancement is a commitment, an MSN in nursing education is an attainable goal for nurses with a busy schedule.

In an online format, for example, students can work on coursework and listen to lectures at times that suit their shift schedules, lifestyles and family commitments.

In addition, some MSN programs, such as the online MSN-Ed program at Spring Arbor University, offer the opportunity to complete the clinical component in an area local to the student, convenient to where they live.

A Closer Look at SAU

The Nurse Educator specialty track at Spring Arbor offers a unique approach to advance practice through direct care application and integrated concepts from nursing and education. Spring Arbor University provides a strong foundation in nursing and education theory, clinical application in the three Ps, and a uniquely structured Nurse Educator Internship that allows students to put their educator skills to work in both clinical and academic settings. During the internship, students have an opportunity to advance clinical skills with a master’s-prepared nurse and apply effective teaching strategies in traditional and online academic settings.

Students also participate in learning experiences that draw from current practice while applying new insight and developing skills through preceptorship, projects, and discussions within the SAU classroom. Online students advance nursing practice through the development of an evidence-based practice project proposal that relates concepts learned throughout the program.

Nursing graduates are well-prepared to advance nursing practice as staff, patient, or nursing student educators. Once degree requirements are completed, graduates are eligible to sit for the NLN Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) exam.

The Gift of Education

Now that you know the function of a nurse educator and how to prepare for such a position, it is time to decide if this career path is the right choice for you. An online MSN nurse educator program is ideal for those who wish to work in the field of nursing and feel they are suited to be a teacher.

The best nurse educators possess exceptional theoretical and clinical knowledge as well as superb leadership and communication skills. If this sounds like you, now is the time to pursue advanced education. An online MSN is an easy way to get started on the path to career success.


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