Answer: RNs who complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree in nursing education are qualified to provide instruction and clinical training to students at colleges and universities and in hospital-based nurse training programs. Graduates from these specialized MSN programs may also be involved in designing curricula for nurse training programs, assessing the effectiveness of nurse training protocols, and providing continuing education to practicing nurses seeking additional training.
Nurse educators are clinically trained, state licensed RNs who have the professional knowledge and skills to teach nursing to students and practitioners in clinical and academic settings. They work in teaching hospitals and clinics, at colleges and universities with schools of nursing, and at technical schools and community colleges with nursing degree and certificate programs.
In addition to offering direct training to nursing students, nurse educators can be involved in research related to curriculum development and pedagogy, writing grant proposals for educational programs, advising nursing students, and working with clinical teams to better inform patients and institute improvements in treatment protocols. Nurse educators may also provide mid-career continuing education to practicing nurses who seek and/or require additional training.
While the term “nurse educator” is not a formalized title, it is the generally accepted designation for RNs with the specialized training necessary to oversee and administer formal instruction in the practice of nursing. There are several routes to becoming a nurse educator. RNs who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and who have worked in an academic or clinical nurse training program for several years may advance into nurse educator roles. However, it is more typical for nurse educators to hold a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing. Specialized training in nursing education is offered through dedicated MSN in nursing education degree programs.
With the proper qualifications, experienced nurse educators with an MSN degree may advance into senior administrative positions and full-time faculty placements at institutions with nursing programs. However, a doctoral degree is often required for those seeking tenured positions at most colleges and universities.
An MSN in nursing education is a master’s level degree with a curriculum designed to prepare RNs for work in the field of nurse education and training. Students in an MSN program with a nursing education specialization take courses in curriculum development and design; theories of adult education; assessment and evaluation methodologies; and educational technologies. They also complete a core MSN curriculum that covers advanced topics in the clinical practice of nursing. This may include courses in pathophysiology, pharmacology, biostatics, healthcare informatics, research methodologies, and the principles of evidence-based practice in nursing.
Like other types of MSN programs, MSN in nursing education programs require applicants to hold an active and unencumbered RN license. Students who enter an MSN in nursing education program with a bachelor’s degree can typically complete the requirements in roughly two years of full-time enrollment. There are also programs that offer a pathway (RN to MSN) for students with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN); these programs take closer to three years for full-time students to complete. For RNs who already hold an MSN in another specialization, there are programs that offer an abbreviated, eight-to-12-month pathway to earning an MSN in nursing education.
While nurse educator MSN programs provide some advanced clinical training (usually 500 hours), they are not designed to prepare students for additional licensure. However, graduates from MSN in nursing education degree programs are eligible to apply for the CNE credential, a professional certification offered by the National League for Nursing (NLN). CNE certification is voluntary; nurse educators are not required to hold a CNE credential. However, nurse educators who have met the qualifications for CNE certification may have a competitive edge when applying for certain jobs. The CNE credential is conferred once a qualified candidate has passed an exam administered by the NLN. Additional information about CNE certification is available on the NLN website.