What Can You Do With an MSN in Nursing Education?

A nursing educator holds up a chest X-ray for students.
A nursing educator holds up a chest X-ray for students.

There are many ways to make a positive impact on the nursing profession. Some nurses devote themselves to clinical work, drawn to direct patient interactions. Others may prefer to have a more behind-the-scenes role, focusing less on direct patient care and more on nurturing the next generation of nursing professionals. If you’re in the second group, you may be a good candidate to become a nurse educator. An online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with an emphasis on nursing education can prepare graduates for success in nurse education. Read on for more about what you can do with an MSN in nursing education.

What Is a Nurse Educator? 

Becoming a nurse educator is the main goal for graduates of a nursing education program. 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 different professional and clinical backgrounds.

 Where Do Nurse Educators Work?

When employed in a hospital setting, educators may be responsible for teaching patients as well as other health professionals. Nurse educators may also teach in academic settings, clinical settings 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.

Nurse Educator Career Opportunities 

Employment opportunities for nurse educators 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. Additionally, the increase in accredited online nursing programs has provided more opportunities for educators to pursue remote teaching jobs. 

Nurse Educator Responsibilities

The duties assigned to a nurse educator depends on the setting in which they work and what education level they are teaching. 

In an Academic Setting

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 the 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

In a Hospital Setting

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

Salary and Career Outlook 

Currently, nurse educators are in high demand. Despite the nursing shortage, nursing programs nationwide have limited student capacity. This is due in great part to an insufficient number of faculty and clinical preceptors. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the national vacancy rate for nurse faculty is 7.2 percent, and over 80,400 qualified students were turned away from nursing programs during the 2019-2020 school year.

This shortage of nurse educators can work to your benefit. It’s a great time for current nurses to pursue a graduate degree and decide what to do with an MSN in nursing education, such as transitioning to an academic role. As a nurse educator, you can expect improved job prospects, job security and a competitive salary. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for postsecondary nursing instructors, teachers and educators was $77,440 in 2021, with the highest tenth percentile earning $125,930. While the most in-demand nurse educators hold a Ph.D., 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 Ph.D.

The Demand for Nurse Educators 

As the U.S. population continues to age, particularly the large Baby Boomer generation, the nation’s healthcare needs continue to increase. Current projections indicate that the supply of nurses won’t be enough to meet the expanding demand for nursing and healthcare services, placing the nation in a critical nursing shortage.

The BLS projects that between 2020 and 2030, over 276,800 new jobs will open for nurses. Two primary factors fueling this employment rise is the increasing demand for health care and nurses leaving the profession or retiring. This projection reflects the urgent need to build up the nation’s nursing workforce. 

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 healthcare industry. Among the primary reasons for the shortage of nurse educators is the challenge of finding faculty for nursing schools and the difficulty of locating sufficient clinical locations to train students.

What Can I Do with a Master’s in Nursing Education

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 clinical instructors in addition to working as an educator for a hospital or nursing school.

RNs with a Master of Science in Nursing Education can hold 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 professional journeys, highly trained nurse educators can receive attractive salaries, raises and bonuses.

The BLS reports that nursing instructors working for a college or university earn an average salary of $83,340. Those working in hospitals earn an average of $95,730. 

Why Earn an Online MSN in Nursing Education?

In order to understand what you can do with an MSN in nursing education, it is important to know that many employers prefer an advanced nursing degree for leadership roles, such as those 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 that prepares 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 lives of busy nursing professionals. By pursuing a nurse educator program online, 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 providing effective and compassionate care. While career advancement can be a large commitment, an online MSN in nursing education is an attainable goal for nurses with busy work schedules.

In an online format, for example, students can engage in 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 that is local to the student, convenient to where they live.

A Closer Look at SAU

The nurse educator specialty track at Spring Arbor University offers a unique approach to advance nursing practice through direct care application and integrated concepts from nursing and education. 

At Spring Arbor University, we provide a strong foundation in nursing and education theory, clinical application in the three Ps (physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology), and a uniquely structured nurse educator internship that allows you to put your educator skills to work in both clinical and academic settings. During your internship, you have an opportunity to advance clinical skills with guidance from 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. They develop skills through preceptorship, projects and discussions within SAU classrooms. Online students advance nursing practice through the development of an evidence-based practice project proposal that relates concepts learned throughout the program.

Nursing graduates of the SAU program 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.

Explore What You Can Do with a Master’s in Nursing Education 

Now that you know what you can do with a master’s in nursing education, it is time to decide if this career path is the right choice for you. An online MSN nurse educator program is a great choice 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. 

SAU’s online MSN Nurse Educator program can prepare students for success in nursing education. With a balanced learning format that allows professionals to continue working alongside their studies, students can learn the principles of nursing education, develop their teaching skills and beco

Recommended Readings: 

Top 15 Nursing Trends to Watch in 2022

Self-care for Nurses: How to Prioritize Yourself When Caring for Others

How to Thrive as a Christian Nurse


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Faculty Shortage

Indeed, Nurse Educator Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

National League for Nursing, Certification of Nurse Educators

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses