Nurse Educator Job Description: How to Help Cultivate the Next Generation of Nurses

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Doctor of Nursing Practice

A senior nurse teaching her trainee

Nurse educators are critical to the success of large-scale health care systems, as they prepare student nurses for their careers of compassionate, life-saving work. In today’s landscape, the number of patients seeking health care is increasing while the number of nurses in the workforce is declining, creating an unprecedented demand for skilled nurse educators. Upon learning more about the nurse educator job description, nursing professionals may determine that pursuing higher education to teach nursing students is a lucrative and rewarding career move.

Typical Nurse Educator Responsibilities

Nurse education positions vary greatly in responsibilities, depending on the specific work environment. In academic settings, like colleges and universities, nurse educators may be instructional faculty members who work in classrooms or administrative leaders who help coordinate educational initiatives throughout their institutions’ schools of nursing. As faculty members, nurse educators will likely also be responsible for performing or participating in research and publishing their findings to help advance the nursing profession.

Nurse educators may also work in clinical settings, such as hospitals or private practices. In these work environments, the educators’ job is to provide their students with hands-on training. The instructional methods used in clinical settings may vary from those used in the classroom, but in both situations nurse educators must be able to lead with authority and motivate their students. They can achieve this by positioning themselves as mentors, rather than instructors. By developing a genuine student-mentor relationship, nurse educators can bring the subject matter to life and inspire engagement with the coursework.

Nurse Educator Qualifications

To become a nurse educator, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have a high level of competency in clinical nursing settings and a comprehensive understanding of the concepts they will be teaching. An applicant must be a licensed nurse who holds at least a bachelor’s degree. But a bachelor’s degree will only be acceptable for the most basic clinical educational settings. Although a master’s degree will qualify prospective nurse educators for some university-level jobs, doctoral degrees are highly preferred by academic institutions.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is a great option for nurses looking to transition into teaching nursing at a university or health care organization. Exposure to the advanced theoretical and clinical concepts featured in the DNP curriculum can help graduates qualify for advanced positions in academia as well as clinical training and development programs.

Nurse Educator Traits

Like all teachers, nurse educators must be patient leaders who can communicate competently and advocate for the success of their students. These are some traits nurse educators should aim to develop through completion of the DNP curriculum and in the field:

  • Leadership: To optimize their effectiveness in instructional situations, nurse educators must be able to set goals for their students and guide them to achievement.
  • Instruction: Nurse educators can’t only be experts in their field, they must also have a thorough understanding of instructional methods that will allow them to manage the flow of information between themselves and their students.
  • Advocacy: Nurse educators should understand how to advocate for the ongoing success of their students by promoting their rights and interests.
  • Communication: Teachers must be able to communicate their lessons in a variety of different ways, especially through speaking and writing. Their communication skills will help them develop positive teacher-student relationships that facilitate better learning.
  • Evaluation: To ensure that nursing students’ skills are growing at a reasonable pace, nurse educators must understand how to assess and evaluate student progress, then use their observations to improve their instructional methods.

The Future for Nurse Educators

The U.S. health care system is experiencing a significant rise in demand for skilled registered nurses and nurse practitioners. In fact, even after discovering that approximately 2,955,200 registered nurses were actively working in 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that there will be a 15 percent growth in the number of registered nurse positions from 2016 to 2026 — that equates to 438,100 new jobs. To fill these positions, schools and health care institutions will need to hire talented nurse educators.

Although the median wage for nursing instructors was $71,260 in 2017, the top 25 percent of earners bring home a salary in the range of $93,830 annually. This earning potential is often influenced by years in the field and educational credentials, therefore a DNP degree may help upwardly mobile nurse educators increase their income.

Nurse educator job descriptions vary from position to position, as do the prerequisite qualifications for each job. By earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, prospective nurse educators can significantly expand their options for clinical and academic teaching jobs.

Learn More

Place yourself on the cutting edge of nursing practice by earning your online DNP degree from Regis College. Speak with an enrollment adviser today about how Regis College’s online MSN to DNP program can help prepare you for your future in nursing.

Recommended Readings:

What Can I Do with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Career Outlook: How to Become a Nurse Researcher

Career Outlook: How to Become a Nurse Consultant



American Association of Colleges of Nursing


Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructor

Bureau of Labor Statistics

National League for Nursing

World Health Organization