Nursing education – degrees, programs and careers


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Introduction to nursing education

After studying to become a nurse and working in clinical practice, you might want to continue your education and explore your field. There are various ways to specialize or advance in this industry. The next step could include a master’s degree or doctorate.

One option to advance in a nursing career is to focus on specialized education. Courses in this area are designed for registered nurses (RNs) who want to conduct research, teach, and explore educational opportunities. Many universities provide bridge programs, such as Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). These could significantly benefit nurses that are already practicing.

The projected nursing shortage and an increase in demand in the United States mean that there could be 175,900 openings for RNs every year up to 2029. To address this issue, more nurses would need to earn a degree and enter the workforce.

Nursing schools turned away 80,407 qualified applicants in 2019. Faculty shortages was the top reason named by many.

An increase in nurse educators could be a vital factor in ending the shortage. A nursing education degree program might equip you to design and implement these specific courses for students. It could also help you gain a position at a teaching hospital.

Types of nursing education certificate

Most career pathways with a nursing education goal require an MSN. Before that step, you might have taken one of several routes to become a BSN-RN. If you already know that you would like to specialize in teaching, but don’t have a master’s degree, an MSN in Nursing Education could benefit you.

There are several types of nursing education certificates. Each has its advantages, which depend on where you start from and what your goals are. Three common starting points are RN to MSN, BSN to MSN, and a standard MSN in Nursing Education.

Other possible programs include a Post-Master’s Nurse Educator Certificate, an MSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Nurse Education, or an MSN to Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Nurse Education. You could find those last 2 as bridge programs or as standalone courses.

These degree programs aim to prepare you for a role as a nurse educator. That could be in an academic or staff development environment. Most focus on academic areas like assessment, as well as having an advanced clinical aspect.

Teaching methods

The type of degree program you choose could impact the teaching style. It’s possible to find campus-based options for most MSN, DNP, and Ph.D. courses. There are also wholly digital formats for online MSN nursing education programs and other advanced degrees. Those who have family commitments might find web-based learning more flexible.

You’re most likely to find hybrid courses for nurse educator programs. The majority of the content could be taught online. However, there are on-campus requirements, which are usually used to provide teaching simulations. For practicing RNs, this style of learning could be convenient, as it allows you to study around your working hours.

Program contents and completion

Contents of the program will vary depending on the university and the type of advanced degree. MSNs usually include some core elements, a practicum, and track courses, which you select to define your focus. You might also encounter support options with clinical aspects.

Core components might cover ethics, safety, quality, research, and biostatistics. Topics like leadership, advanced pharmacology, curriculum design, and advanced pathophysiology often feature as education track courses. Universities may use role-play through a clinical simulation to give students something comparable to practical experience.

The different elements of a nursing education program provide numerous benefits. The core courses could enhance your knowledge and understanding of the field in general. The clinical aspect might be useful in a role at a teaching hospital or a more senior position. At the same time, the education content and simulation may prepare you for an educating role.

The number of course credits required varies by program and institution. You might find some with between 35 to 45 for MSNs, and a DNP could need 27 to 64. A Ph.D. often requires 50 to 77.

An MSN can take 2 years to complete, although it could be longer if you study part-time. A DNP could be earned in a year, and a Ph.D. in 3 years.

Application of nursing education degree programs

Nursing education degree programs could allow you to become a specialist and progress in your career. One application of these courses is to become a nurse educator. That would mean taking on a faculty position at a nursing school or working in a teaching hospital.

Students that graduate from these programs could have the necessary knowledge to gain certification from the National League for Nursing (NLN). There are 2 certifications available. One is for certified nurse educators (CNE) and the other for academic clinical nurse educators (CNEcl).

You could apply the content of a nursing education course to a broad range of activities, including developing programs of study, evaluating students, mentoring nurses, and overseeing clinical practice. Other roles might involve scholarly work, such as research and peer review, and speaking at conferences. Additionally, you might write grant proposals or evaluate

Career options as a nurse educator

Several pathways could be open to you once you’ve earned a nursing education degree. One option is to work at a nursing school. An MSN in nursing education could qualify you to teach students acquiring a Diploma in Nursing or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).

You may need to earn an MSN and a doctorate to teach on the faculty of a graduate-level nursing program or higher. There are also academic positions available, which include some educating but also focus on research. In these cases, hiring institutions might require certification from the NLN.

Other career options for nursing education degree holders include working with government agencies as a community educator, roles at teaching hospitals training nurses, and research and grant writing. Alternatively, you could work in a staff development or supervisor role in a clinic or healthcare setting. You might choose to become a consultant and evaluate curricula for educational institutions or work with certification bodies.

Nurse educators have an average salary of $76,315. However, this can vary based on your level of education and the institution that hires you. The salary range is from $56,000 to $103,000.

Degree program requirements

Many institutions make acceptance decisions on a rolling basis, which means you can apply for a nurse educator program at any time and receive a response within weeks. Others might have specific semester deadlines for you to register online, and you’ll receive a response within a few months.

Requirements vary by program. For example, some institutions might offer an RN to MSN bridge course, which you can take if you don’t have a BSN. Other master’s degree programs usually require a BSN from an accredited nursing school.

Institutions may set the minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) at 3.0, though provisional acceptance for 2.5 and above can happen. In these cases, professional experience can support your application. You may also need letters of recommendation.

An active RN license from the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) or equivalent is a likely requirement. Some courses might request proof of a minimum number of clinical hours.

For a doctorate, you’ll likely require an MSN unless you undertake a bridge program, such as an MSN to DNP. In that case, you might need a BSN or a master’s degree in health care. Otherwise, the requirements are primarily the same as for MSNs.

Accredited schools

Nursing education programs might vary in their advanced level and their curricula. However, an aspect to consider when you apply for a course is whether it’s taught at an accredited institution.

Certified schools use a particular framework for their nurse education degree programs. Certification can come from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The NLN also has nursing education standards, known as the Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA). If you receive a degree from an institution that isn’t accredited, it could prevent you from taking the NLN exam to become a CNE or CNEcl.

Besides the implication that you might not become a CNE, certification is an essential marker of course quality. Accrediting bodies promote excellence and integrity. Most use peer review and other forms of evaluation to assess course content, student services, and teaching methods.

As a student, you benefit if a course has independent standards to encourage continuous improvement. This evaluation could mean it’s more likely to be adapted to your needs.

There are ways to know if your course is from an accredited university or college. Institutions that offer nurse educator programs might display the information on their website or on the course page. The key text to look for is the accrediting body’s initials. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) website has a search function, which allows you to find certified schools that provide master’s degrees and doctorates.

Degree program costs

Teaching methods, the course level, and the institution can impact nursing education program costs. Many of them are offered digitally or as a hybrid, and this can reduce costs. MSN, DNP, and Ph.D. programs usually charge tuition fees per credit instead of an overall course amount.

An MSN in nursing education cost could range from $700 to $1,100 per credit. Many doctorates have fees of $1,000 or more for each credit. Programs taught on campus or those with on-site elements, such as simulation, might charge additional amounts for materials and other costs.

Scholarships and financial aid

Nursing education programs play a pivotal role in improving the care given by nurses and addressing the RN shortage. As a result, there are several funding opportunities that you might qualify for when taking this route.

Federal student aid or a national direct loan might be available to you. You would need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to determine if you qualify. Some states offer student loan forgiveness for nurses.

The Division of Nursing at the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) provides an Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship (AENT), an Advanced Nursing Education (ANE) grant, and a Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP). They can provide partial or full support in the form of books, tuition fees, and other expenses.

The US Department of Education offers the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program. It identifies nursing as an area of national need. The scheme provides fellowships to graduates with excellent academic records in financial need. You might find more information on applying through your educational institution.

The NLN also operates a foundation for Nursing Education Scholarship Awards, which provides up to $8,000 each year as assistance in pursuing advanced degrees to become a full-time nurse educator.

If you need further guidance, several websites can provide information. Some outline careers as a nurse educator. Others list standards for schools and courses or provide financial aid details.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing

This site has a search function to help you find an accredited school. It also has information about financial aid and fact sheets about nursing.

National League for Nursing

This website has details about the CNE and CNEcl examination and is an accreditation body. It’s also a resource for financial aid information, including scholarships specifically for nursing education programs.

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

This website has the details for the primary accreditation body for schools that provide nursing programs.

Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

This is the site for a national accreditation body that evaluates schools and nursing degrees.

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