Becoming a Nurse Educator in 5 Steps

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Nurse speaking to room of people

If you already have a bachelor’s degree and want to become a nurse, it makes sense to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Even outside of hospitals and clinics, MSN-educated nurses have opportunities to put their expertise into use. Among many other exciting positions, becoming a nurse educator may stand out to you if you’re interested in educating future nursing leaders and directly addressing the nursing shortage.

An often under-addressed element of the nursing shortage stems from a lack of nurse educators. This shortage in nurse educators has had a ripple effect, making it challenging for nursing schools to hire additional faculty and increase the number of students admitted into their programs.

As a result, qualified nurse educators have become very high demand for the foreseeable future — meaning that As a result, qualified nurse educators have become very high demand for the foreseeable future — meaning that becoming a nurse educator is just one more reason to earn your MSN degree on top of bringing more nursing leaders into the profession. Here we’ll review the five steps to becoming a nurse educator and provide the knowledge you will need to make an informed decision.

1. Research What a Nurse Educator Does

Nurse educators are an essential part of the nursing profession, preparing students in school to transition into a professional nursing setting. They oversee the lab and clinical education of students and lead classroom discussions, design curricula and provide help and feedback. There is always more to learn and teach within the profession, and you should learn more about the role before committing yourself on a path toward nursing education.

While requirements may vary slightly from state to state and school to school you need a Master of Science in Nursing degree and at least a few years of work experience to teach the next generation of nurses. Whether you want to teach now or think you might later, there are things you can do to position yourself for a nurse educator role beyond being passionate about nursing.

2. Earn Your MSN Degree

To work as a nursing educator, you will need to have earned a master’s degree. Offered at both Marquette’s Milwaukee campus and the Pleasant Prairie learning site, the Direct Entry MSN program allows second-degree students to leverage their non-nursing bachelor’s degree to earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree in 19–21 months.

During this full-time, five-semester program, you will learn from a rigorous curriculum that integrates a blended learning model of online or on-campus nursing theory courses, on-site skills labs and clinical simulation, and clinical courses at top healthcare facilities in metro-Milwaukee, southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The program is challenging, but worth it for students who are excited and passionate about a career in nursing. With hard work and dedication, you can earn your MSN and enter the workplace as a practicing nurse.

3. Gain Experience as a Nurse

Before you can become a nurse educator, you should first gain experience as a practicing nurse across a variety of specialties and care settings. Tobin Tito, a Marquette University clinical nursing professor for the Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, shared his journey toward nursing education. Having previously graduated from Marquette, he worked as an intensive care unit nurse before being tapped for a supervisory position within his hospital. “I was assigned to teach a lot of newly graduated nurses, serving as their preceptor. My favorite part of my role was teaching the nurses new skills and sharing how to transition into clinical practice.” Eventually he decided to follow his passion and became a nurse educator at Marquette.

“Dive into as many roles as possible before taking this position, because being able to see all of the different perspectives of nursing helps provide that educational aspect,” Tobin advises. “I have a lot of general knowledge in nursing just because of the different positions that I’ve been in, so it helps me relate to different types of nurses and provide that to the students — and the students see that all the time, especially when I teach clinicals.”

4. Enroll in a Nurse Educator Program

After earning an advanced nursing degree and working in the field, if you want to become a nurse educator, you may choose to achieve nurse educator certification. While not required to be employed and practice as a nurse, this certification is recommended as a valuable post-graduate credential. You can earn this certificate through the Marquette University College of Nursing’s post-graduate teaching certificate program for nurse educators, which readies graduates and experienced nurse educators to sit for the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE®) exam.

While many nurse educators don’t anticipate this career path, once they experience it, they develop new perspectives and excitement about their role in developing the future nursing workforce. In fact, many tenured nurses who decide to leave the bedside choose to use their wealth of knowledge as nurse educators. Other experienced nurses opt to teach while working as a nurse part-time.

5. Obtain CNE Certification

Passing the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE®) exam is not required but is a highly desirable and recommended when becoming a nurse educator. Nurse educators who have earned certification from the National League for Nursing through the CNE exam can increase their earning potential while opening up more career opportunities in the future. Students will need to meet eligibility requirements before sitting for the CNE exam, with more information available through the National League for Nursing. Marquette offers a nursing educator certificate to be completed to qualify for the CNE.

Put Yourself on the Path to Success

If you’re ready to start working toward becoming a nurse educator and have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, Marquette’s Direct Entry MSN program in Pleasant Prairie can help you on the path to this new career. Contact us today to learn more.

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