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How to Become a Nursing Instructor

December 10, 2020  |  Category: Nursing

A nursing instructor guides students through a lesson in a nursing lab.

Many nursing programs across the country receive more applicants than they can accommodate. According to CNN, approximately 50,000 nursing program applicants are rejected each year. Even though the applicants may be qualified, nursing programs don’t have large enough facilities or enough instructors. Becoming a nursing instructor or educator can help resolve this issue.

Experienced nurses who work well with patients and are great at communicating with other nurses may choose to become educators in the field. Those who are interested in becoming leaders, educators, and instructors for the next generation of nurses can consider earning a Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in education.

What Does a Nursing Instructor Do?

Registered nurses who are passionate about their careers can give back to their healthcare communities in several ways. For example, they can teach nursing students in a variety of clinical facilities, from hospitals to labs to clinics. Nurses can also find positions in academic settings, including at the postsecondary level, where they can help ensure that nursing students develop a strong foundation in procedures and principles before practicing patient care in the field.

Nurse educators and instructors teach the curriculum that has been approved by nursing leadership and program accreditation requirements, when applicable. One of their duties is to stay up to date on healthcare policies, studies, and research. Other responsibilities include developing new courses, offering training sessions, and leading seminars. Nursing instructors give lectures, assign and grade homework, oversee labs, and develop relationships with nursing students. As active nurses in the field, they lead their nursing students by example.

Steps to Becoming a Nursing Instructor

Working as an instructor in a nursing program can be a rewarding experience. Nurse educators have access to the latest research and technology and work alongside experts in the field. They can also constantly sharpen their skills as they teach new cohorts of students.

Earn a BSN

The path to becoming a nurse educator or instructor begins with many of the steps taken to become a registered nurse or nurse practitioner. Aspiring nursing instructors begin by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and passing the NCLEX-RN exam.

Gain Teaching Experience

Teaching in classroom or clinical settings can be a rewarding career move for nurses with a BSN. Registered nurses with two to three years of experience in the role can qualify to teach in licensed vocational nursing (LVN) or licensed practical nursing (LPN) programs. Practical experience makes nurses good candidates for instructor roles. Registered nurses with at least two years of clinical experience can also serve as guest lecturers for Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs.

Earn an MSN

To teach full time or attain a faculty position at a college or university, registered nurses need to earn a master’s or doctorate in nursing as well as the necessary state licensure. An MSN degree can qualify nurses for a variety of advanced clinical and classroom nursing positions. Some MSN programs offer an education track or concentration to specifically prepare registered nurses for careers as nursing instructors. By taking MSN courses, learning theory, and receiving assessments, nurses learn how to design curricula and establish a teaching pedagogy for their own courses.

Nursing Instructor Salary and Career Outlook

As of 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 59,680 nurses work as nursing teachers and educators across the country. Most nurse educators work in colleges, universities, and professional schools. However, many also work at junior colleges and trade schools. The BLS projects the employment of these professionals to grow by 20% between 2019 and 2029, as the demand for nursing instructors is growing with the demand for registered nurses and nurse practitioners.

Nurse educators have flexibility regarding where they can work, as they can teach in hospitals, clinics, colleges, or community centers. Their salaries will vary based on job location, facility, education level, and experience. However, the median annual salary of nurse teachers and instructors is $74,600, according to the BLS. The highest-paid nursing teachers work in general medical and surgical hospitals, earning a median annual salary of $121,180.

Pursue a Master of Science in Nursing

Registered nurses contribute to the medical field in a variety of ways, from caring for patients to helping mentor new nurses in their units. Those who find that they are particularly adept at mentoring other nurses, explaining concepts, and teaching policies may want to consider going back to school and becoming nursing instructors.

Nurses can pursue the Education Track of AdventHealth University Online’s Master of Science in Nursing program to prepare for their roles as instructors. Courses include Advanced Physical Assessment, Pathophysiology, and Pharmacology for Nurse Educators; Learning Theory and Curricular Development; and Teaching Methods and Strategies for Nurse Educators.

Learn more about earning a Master of Science in Nursing online.

Recommended Readings

BSN vs. MSN: What’s the Right Path for You?

Seven Effective Leadership Styles in Nursing

Social Media and Nursing: Tips for Nurses to Promote Health Online


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “Fact Sheet: Impact of Education on Nursing Practice”

Balance Careers, “How to Get a Job as a Nurse”

CNN Business, “Nursing Schools Are Rejecting Thousands of Applicants — in the Middle of a Nursing Shortage”

PayScale, Average Nurse Instructor Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses