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5 Careers Options for Nurse Educators

One of the primary reasons for the nursing shortage is a bit of a “chicken or the egg” situation. The U.S. needs more registered nurses (RN) to fill clinical positions, but there aren’t enough nurse educators to help RNs through their schooling and training.

Ultimately, whether or not the nursing shortage is more effected by a lack of educators or fewer licensed nurses in the field, finding a solution to both is the most pressing. Individuals who pursue a nurse educator career are progressing the field in ways they may not even know.

What Roles Do Nurse Educators Fill?

Opportunities for nurses in an educational role expand beyond “teachers.” These professionals can serve as mentors and guides, helping both new and experienced nurses develop the skills they need to provide exceptional healthcare.

The following represent a few different career tracks nurses can take upon completing a Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Education online program:

1) Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE)

A CNE is responsible for educating nursing staff in ways that improve the overall quality of patient care — whether relating to “procedural” care or a new directive from hospital administration. They often work within hospitals or clinics, but they may also teach in other environments (such as academia or virtually via webinar-type settings). CNEs also design the instructional curriculum/programs they teach.

Salary potential ranges from $45,000 to $185,000 annually, with the national average being $93,629 according to August 2021 data from ZipRecruiter.

2) Nursing Instructor

Similar to a CNE in some respects, a nursing instructor is more likely to work in classroom and laboratory settings than in medical facilities. Like CNEs, they contribute to the curriculum being taught. In addition, nursing instructors are responsible for staying abreast of developments in the world of nursing to incorporate updates into their course content.

The national average salary for a nursing instructor is $60,349 according to August 2021 data from Indeed.

3) Simulation Lab Instructor

Practice makes perfect, but there’s little room for error when it comes to clinical practice. That’s why simulation labs are so important for helping nursing students learn certain clinical applications in a “risk-free” environment. Simulation lab instructors guide students through processes and procedures, such as administering injections. They observe performance and provide feedback to improve nurses’ skills and knowledge.

Patience is one key characteristic these instructors must have, as the simulation lab is a place where it’s “okay” for nurses to make mistakes (but also learn from them).

Nurses in this role can expect an annual salary of somewhere between $31,000 and $116,000. The national average of is $67,202 according to August 2021 data from PayScale.

4) Nursing Education Consultant

As a nursing education consultant, the focus is on improving the programs and curriculum related to a specific aspect or function within nursing education — whether at an educational institution, health system or private organization.

Nurse education consultants advise other nurse educators and assist them in creating effective tools for progressing the nursing vocation. Key skills among nursing education consultants include strong verbal and written communication, as well as leadership.

The current national average salary for a nursing education consultant is $74,298 as of August 2020 data from ZipRecruiter.

5) Dean of Nursing

While many institutions require a doctorate for employment as a dean of nursing, what really matters are advanced experience (both teaching and administrative) and leadership capabilities. Before pursuing this profession, nurses may build up their expertise in different nurse educator roles, such as those mentioned above. The primary responsibilities as dean of nursing include:

  • provide leadership and counsel to faculty and students
  • monitor trends in nursing education
  • be an active participant in research
  • ensure adherence to federal, state and university regulations
  • maintain accreditation standards
  • establish strategic partnerships with organizations (healthcare facilities, nursing associations and employment agencies)

The salary range for a dean of nursing position is between $75,000 and $181,000 with a national average of $116,596 according to August 2021 data from PayScale.

Nurse Educators: Leading the Future of Healthcare

Nurse educators are much more important than just a “cog” in the educational system. In fact, at this point, they are an invaluable component of nursing.

In whatever capacity they serve, nurse educators foster both personal and professional growth among their staff and students. They actively contribute to high-quality patient care. In essence, nurse educators are leading the future of healthcare with their expertise and efforts.

Learn more about the University of Southern Maine’s online Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Education program.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Nurse Faculty Shortage

Chron: School Dean of Nursing Function & Responsibilities

Daily Nurse: Spotlight: Simulation and Lab Instructor

Global Health: The Role of Nurse Educators

Indeed: How Much Does a Nursing Instructor Make in the United States

Nursing Education: Nursing Instructor

Nurse Journal: Nurse Educator Career Overview

Average Dean of Nursing Salary
Average Nursing Instructor with Simulation Skills Salary

Trusted Health: Clinical Nurse Educator

Clinical Nurse Educator
Clinical Nursing Education Consultant Salary
What Is a Nursing Education Consultant?


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