Qualifications to Become a Nursing Educator

Qualifications to Become a Nursing Educator

If becoming a nursing educator is your goal, a lack of knowledge and preparation can keep you from achieving it. Drawing information from our network of industry professionals, we’ve created this guide to help you understand and pursue the qualifications to become a nursing educator.

Qualifications to Become a Nursing Educator

To become a nursing educator, you must have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing. You’ll need to obtain credentials like RN, APRN, and CNE. Educators must also possess substantial clinical experience in professional and academic settings, coupled with strong teaching and administrative skills.

Stethoscope on a wooden desk, right next to a desktop monitor and keyboard

As you pursue a nursing educator pathway, you could also choose to get a doctorate and continue to get additional certifications. We have compiled various resources to provide insights into the necessary qualifications and credentials for aspiring nurse instructors.

EducationBSN or RN to BSN, MSN, DNP or PhD (optional)
Licensure and certificationRN, APRN certification, CNE or CNEcl
Clinical experienceAt least two years of professional clinical experience in various healthcare and academic settings
Teaching and administrative skillsEducational strategies and teaching methodologies, curriculum development, instructional design, and assessment, administrative work
Leadership and academic involvementLeadership skills in professional or academic settings
Continuous professional developmentPursuit of continuing education programs and additional certifications
Industry and academic connectionsEstablish a professional network and collaborate with academic partners

Educational Requirements for Nursing Educators

To start your career as a nursing educator, you’ll need to meet specific educational benchmarks. These vary depending on your starting point and career goals, although generally, they range from undergraduate to potentially doctoral levels.


Earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is one of the main requirements to become a nurse educator. A BSN typically takes four years of full-time study. During your undergraduate years, your coursework will cover:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Fundamentals of Nursing Practice
  • Nursing Ethics and Law
  • Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice


Do you have an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN)? Complete a BSN through the best online RN to BSN programs that have been evaluated by us. While RN to BSN programs build upon your ADN knowledge and clinical experience, you can still expect to learn courses like:

  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Nursing Leadership and Management
  • Community and Public Health Nursing
  • Nursing Informatics and Technology


Whether you prefer a traditional on-campus or an online master’s in nursing program, an MSN is among the top credentials for aspiring nurse instructors. As a criterion for teaching nursing courses, you must gain foundational knowledge in topics such as:

  • Nursing Education Theories and Principles
  • Curriculum Design and Development
  • Instructional Strategies and Evaluation Methods
  • Advanced Pathophysiology and Pharmacology


Pursuing a doctorate is optional, although it includes options like a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) for those focused on research and scholarly teaching or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) for a more practice-focused pathway. Whether you choose a DNP or a PhD in nursing, the program will demand a thesis or capstone project to showcase your expertise, often in areas like:

  • Nursing Education Leadership and Administration
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods
  • Healthcare Policy and Advocacy
  • Theoretical Foundations in Nursing Education

Licensure and Certification

To thrive as a nursing educator, you’ll need to secure specific licenses and certifications that demonstrate your expertise and commitment to this vital field. These credentials are part of the qualifications needed to instruct nursing students and shape the next generation of nurses.

Initial RN Licensure

Your first step to becoming a nursing educator is to become a Registered Nurse (RN). Nursing educator eligibility requirements involve completing a nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). The premier nurse licensure exam will test your knowledge in:

  • Client Needs: Safe and Effective Care Environment
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Psychosocial Integrity
  • Physiological Integrity
Nurse checking a patient's bed controls

Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

Should you choose to specialize further, you’ll have an option to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). This involves postgraduate education and additional licensure. APRNs often serve in specialized roles, such as nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists. Here, you’ll need to prove your expertise in:

  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Role and Practice Specific to APRN Role

Certification for Nurse Educators (CNE)

After gaining experience in nursing and education, you could consider the Certification for Nurse Educators (CNE), a mark of professionalism and expertise in the academic field. Obtaining the Certification for Nurse Educators highlights your role as a leader in nursing education, as you specialize in:

  • Facilitation of Learning
  • Curriculum Design and Development
  • Assessment and Evaluation Strategies
  • Academic Nursing Education

Academic Clinical Nurse Educator Certification (CNEcl)

As a specialized certification, the CNEcl focuses specifically on educators who work directly with nursing students in clinical settings, guiding future nurses in practical, hands-on patient care.

A CNEcl is an alternative to CNE. Consider getting the Academic Clinical Nurse Educator Certification so you can still be recognized for your specialized skills in:

  • Clinical Teaching and Evaluation
  • Curriculum Design for Clinical Education
  • Assessing Student Learning in Clinical Settings
  • Fostering Clinical Reasoning and Judgment

Clinical Experience and Research Work

To become a nursing educator, you need to have a solid background in hands-on nursing care. When you look at nursing education job qualifications, they will often require real-life clinical experience and research work, which are the types of knowledge you’ll eventually pass on to students.

Professional Experience

In the role of a nurse educator, your professional experience helps you teach the next generation of nurses with confidence. Working in different areas of nursing provides you with a broad understanding of patient care. Your practical and theoretical knowledge will guide you in training future nurses.

You usually need at least two years of nursing work experience under your belt. Your experience should cover various areas of nursing, such as critical care, pediatrics, or community health.

Academic Contributions

Your academic contributions demonstrate your dedication to the nursing field. Being active in research and publishing your work shows that you’re knowledgeable about current trends and developments in nursing. It also means you’re equipped to design courses that prepare nurses for today’s challenges and future advancements in healthcare.

  • Research activities: Involvement in research can enhance your credibility as an instructor.
  • Publication of work: Articles or studies you’ve published can serve as educational resources for students.
  • Development of training materials: Experience in creating educational content, like simulations or lectures, is useful for future teaching.
Senior nurse doing a lecture in class, while joined by a male colleague on stage

Leadership and Academic Involvement

In your journey to becoming a nursing educator, you’ll discover that leadership skills and active participation in the academic community are valuable. These qualities help shape the future of healthcare by influencing both student nurses and the nursing profession itself.

Leadership and Mentoring in Nursing Education

As a nursing educator, your role goes beyond just teaching; you take on leadership positions that are necessary for advancing the field. For example, having experience in leadership roles, like becoming a nurse administrator or head nurse, can contribute to your credentials.

Meanwhile, mentoring lets you guide students and less experienced faculty. This involves offering career advice, providing academic support, and sharing your clinical expertise.

Academic Governance

Your involvement in the academic governance of your institution is also a cornerstone of your role as a nurse educator. Here’s what your participation might involve:

  • Committee membership: Serve on various academic committees that make important decisions affecting the future of nursing education.
  • Policy-making: Engage in the development and revision of institutional policies, keeping them aligned with the evolving needs of the nursing profession.
  • Accreditation processes: Assist in preparing for accreditation reviews, which help maintain high educational standards.

This active engagement in governance positions you at the heart of the academic community and allows you to influence the nursing education landscape significantly.

Teaching and Administrative Skills

A combination of teaching and administrative skills are also necessary qualifications for nursing education roles. You need to develop key teaching and administrative skills that will empower you to design engaging curricula, assess student progress effectively, and manage classroom technology.

Educational Strategies

It’s a prerequisite for nursing faculty positions to facilitate various teaching techniques to cater to different learning styles. You must learn how to use evidence-based practice to inform your teaching methods and guarantee the highest quality of education. You also need to incorporate group work and simulation for hands-on learning experiences.

Curriculum Design and Assessment

As your nursing education career progresses, you may reach the point where you’ll need to develop curriculum outlines that align with educational standards and industry needs. You need to create evaluation tools to measure student progress and curriculum effectiveness. The curriculum must incorporate strategies to bridge the gap between nursing practices and theories.

Technology in the Classroom

A nursing instructor also needs to integrate online platforms to support interactive learning and make educational resources accessible. It will be your responsibility to stay abreast of the latest educational technology to enhance your teaching strategy. You need to use technology to track student progress and provide timely feedback.

Connecting With Students

Establishing a responsive and open communication channel with students is another valuable skill if you want a career in nursing education. As you gain your degree or clinical experience, you’ll discover how to adapt to the needs of your students by offering individual support and mentorship. You must foster an inclusive and respectful learning environment that encourages student participation.

Administrative Work

Getting qualified as a nursing educator also entails being efficient in managing course scheduling and student records. You need to stay organized with planning and resource coordination for smooth course delivery. Learning how to handle reporting and compliance documentation meticulously to meet institutional and accreditation requirements is a part of this career path.

Male nurse holding a clipboard

Continued Professional Development

When aiming to become a nurse educator, your growth in the field doesn’t stop. You’re expected to stay current with medical and teaching practices through ongoing education.

  • Consider getting the Nursing Professional Development (RN-BC) board certification to showcase your competency in your specialty post-initial RN licensure.
  • Attend workshops and seminars from various nursing associations and educational institutions to maintain your expertise.
  • Acquire continuing education units, especially if your state requires them to renew your license and certifications.

Industry and Academic Connections

Having our own community of industry professionals and academic advisors, we’ve experienced how building strong industry and academic connections contributes to career success. In this rapidly growing field of teaching nursing, professional networks and partnerships with educational institutions can offer valuable resources and opportunities for growth.

Professional Networks

Engaging with professional organizations is a strategic move for any nurse educator. Here are some benefits and ways to connect:

  • Networking opportunities: Regular events and conferences allow you to meet peers and leaders in the field.
  • Professional development events: Access to webinars, workshops, and certifications can enhance your skills.
  • Advocacy groups: Organizations often lobby for policy changes that can impact your role and responsibilities.

Academic Partnerships

As a nurse instructor, collaborating with academic institutions can make sure your teaching strategies, subject matter content, and learning objectives are at the forefront of the education sector.

  • Curriculum development: Work with colleges to create impactful programs that equip students with the necessary skills.
  • Research opportunities: Engage with research universities for nursing degrees to influence teaching methodologies and healthcare outcomes.
  • Mentorship programs: Partner with universities to mentor upcoming nurse educators and share your expertise.

Related Questions

How Can Nurses Become Educators?

To start your path as a nurse educator, you’ll need to move beyond the role of registered nurse by obtaining an advanced degree like an MSN. Gaining experience teaching others, such as becoming a mentor or preceptor for new nurses, can also lay the foundation for your nursing educator career.

What Nursing Educator Pathways Can I Pursue?

You can pursue nursing educator specialties like clinical nurse leadership, informatics, and simulation education. Having a specialization that aligns with healthcare needs, such as certification in nursing education, increases job prospects while also contributing to your professional growth and the betterment of nursing education.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Educator?

In general, becoming a nurse educator takes at least eight years — this includes completing a four-year bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree, followed by a two- to four-year master’s of science in nursing (MSN) program, and at least two years of clinical experience. After becoming an RN, your journey may take longer as you gain more experience and acquire more certifications.


By meeting the necessary educational requirements, obtaining relevant licensure and certifications, and gaining practical clinical experience, you can lay a solid foundation for your career as a nursing instructor. Familiarize yourself with these qualifications to become a nursing educator, so you can empower the next generation of nurses.

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