The Best Online MSN in Nursing Education Programs 2021

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The demand for healthcare continues to grow while nursing shortages plague many parts of the country. One prevalent reason for this shortage appears that as nursing applicants rise, many programs do not have enough nursing faculty or educators to meet the need. Nurse educators can find expanding career opportunities training the next generation of nurses at colleges and universities and hospital-affiliated programs. This guide explores how to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) with a focus in nursing education and provides information about career options in teaching and clinical settings.

Online MSN in Nursing Education Program Overview

We use our data-driven methodology to rank the top direct-entry master’s in nursing programs, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, program offerings, and online flexibility.

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Keep reading to find out more about job opportunities and information on how to apply to an online MSN in nursing education program, or click here to learn more about the best online MSN in nursing education programs on our list.

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What Can You Do With an Online MSN in Nursing Education?

Nurses with an MSN nursing education degree typically finds employment teaching at colleges, universities, and hospital nursing programs, training and advising nursing students. Nurse educators may also find well-paying careers in clinical and private settings, supervising nursing staff, conducting research, and developing continuing education and professional development programs for nurses seeking licensure or certification renewal. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 18% growth in employment for this in-demand advanced nursing specialty between 2019 and 2029.

College/University Professors
These nurse educators create and teach postsecondary-level nursing courses, advise students, develop curriculum, and conduct research. Some academic positions may require nurse educators to also earn their doctor of philosophy in nursing (Ph.D.) or doctor in nursing practice (DNP).
Clinical Instructors and Supervisors
These nurse educators work in hospitals and clinical settings directing staff training sessions, mentoring nurses, and developing policies to ensure quality patient care.
Nurse Education Consultants
Working in the public and private sector, consultants teach continuing education and professional development classes, assess training needs, and evaluate nursing programs.

What to Look For in an Online MSN in Nursing Education Program

Online nurse educator programs have emerged in response to the on-going national shortage of nurses and nursing faculty. Before enrolling in any degree program, prospective MSN nursing education students should consider key factors such as admission requirements, curriculum, online delivery formats, and accreditation.

Admission Requirements
Because every MSN program establishes its own admission requirements, students should make sure they meet their intended program’s specific undergraduate degree, minimum GPA, and standardized test score benchmarks. Most schools require completing prerequisite math, statistics, and natural science courses and 1-2 years of nursing experience.
Program Curriculum
An MSN generally covers advanced topics in areas such as community nursing, health promotion, disease prevention, policy, ethics, and research. The MSN nursing education specialty should offer a teaching practicum and a culminating capstone project on nursing education or administration.
Clinical Experience
Earning a master’s in nursing education online or in a traditional campus-based program requires the completion of supervised clinical rotations at an approved setting. Prospective online MSN students should find out if they can complete all clinical experiences near their home communities and the number of in-person hours required.
One of the most important metrics for assessing program quality, accreditation confirms that a nursing school has met national standards set by independent accrediting agencies. A degree from an accredited program assures prospective employers and state licensing boards that graduates have sufficient preparation for licensure and practice.
School Graduation Rate
A school’s graduation rate provides a reliable indicator of the program’s quality and the level of teaching. A high graduation rate indicates that the program has effectively prepared students to master the material needed to earn their degree.
Online Learning Format and Requirements
While online nurse educator programs offer some convenience, distance learners should make sure they have the required technological capabilities and self-motivation needed for online coursework. Keep in mind that synchronously delivered formats require specific times for virtual class meetings, while asynchronous delivery allows for more flexible access to courses and study materials.

Applying to an Online MSN in Nursing Education Program

Nurse educators must hold a valid registered nurse (RN) license and a graduate degree in nursing. An MSN serves as the minimum educational credential, although university nursing programs may prefer to hire faculty with either a DNP or Ph.D. MSN programs generally expect applicants to have completed specific prerequisites and nursing experience prior to admission.

Admission Requirements
Valid RN license and clinical experience; bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or a related field from an accredited school; transcripts; recommendation letters; personal statement; resume; completion of prerequisites; GRE scores and an interview (for some programs)
Clinical Requirements
At least 150 supervised hours in both clinical and academic settings
GPA Requirement
3.0 minimum
Other Requirements
Criminal background check and drug screening

Why Is Accreditation Important for an Online MSN in Nursing Education?

Accreditation is an important component in evaluating any degree program. Job prospects are higher with accredited degrees, and financial aid can depend on accreditation status. Check below for more benefits.

  • Accreditation organizations regularly evaluate MSN programs to make sure they meet nationally established standards for quality education. A degree from an accredited program confirms that graduates have the requisite knowledge and training to practice.
  • Most graduate nursing programs do not accept applicants from unaccredited BSN or other master’s programs; credits earned at an unaccredited school may not transfer to accredited programs.
  • State nurse licensure and national certification boards require candidates to hold degrees from accredited programs.
  • Students who attend an unaccredited institution do not qualify for federal financial aid.
  • Many employers prefer to hire or only hire graduates of accredited nursing programs.

Who Accredits Online MSN in Nursing Education Programs?

Programs and institutions are accredited by different accreditation bodies. The following are key accrediting bodies for nursing programs and institutions:

How Do I Know an Online MSN in Nursing Education Program Is Accredited?

Online MSN programs undergo the same accreditation process as campus-based programs, ensuring the same level of quality as a traditional degree. Before choosing an MSN program, students should check accreditation organizations’ websites to determine the accreditation status of their intended school. Because accredited schools always post their accreditation on their websites, be wary of programs that do not.

The schools in this guide and on pages have all been accredited by one or more of the major accrediting organizations.

Paying for an Online MSN in Nursing Education Program

Several factors affect the affordability of an MSN degree. State-sponsored public institutions generally cost less than private schools, but some schools charge higher tuition to out-of-state students. Accelerated programs or part-time options allow students to continue working while enrolled in school. Online programs help students reduce housing and transportation costs, although some degrees require distance learners to travel to mandatory on-campus residencies at their own expense.

Useful financial aid resources for MSN nurse education students can be found below. The most common funding options include government student loans, school and honor societies scholarships, foundational grants, and nonprofit assistance. Additionally, many states offer loan repayment programs. Students may also apply for private bank loans or work-study programs. Healthcare employers sometimes offer nurses tuition remission or reimbursement benefits conditional upon their continued employment.

Learn More About the Top Online MSN in Nursing Education Programs

  1. Gwynedd Mercy University

    Gwynedd Valley, PA

    This Catholic university, located in Lower Gwynedd Township, Pennsylvania, offers a master of science in nursing education that prepares learners to teach student nurses in clinical college programs.

    The 40-credit curriculum advances clinical knowledge and explores research skill development, providing students with clinical and teaching experience. Holding specialized accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), GMercyU's hybrid program requires a degree-seeker to complete 12 courses, along with a practicum experience.

    The rigorous curriculum comprises foundation courses and nurse educator concentration courses in the theoretical foundations of nursing, pathophysiology for advanced practice nurses, and advanced pharmacology.

    Each prospective student must hold a bachelor's degree in nursing with a 3.0 GPA or higher from a CCNE-accredited institution. Other admission requirements include a completed application, an unencumbered RN license, evidence of current clinical practice, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

  2. Baker University

    Baldwin City, KS

    BU, a private, liberal arts university in Baldwin City, Kansas, was established in 1858 as the first four-year university in the state. This school offers a master of science in nursing program, which prepares students to apply their skills in nursing education and nursing administration.

    Online MSN students can consider the nursing education or nursing administration tracks, depending on their career goals. Graduate students enjoy a 10% tuition discount if they earned an undergraduate degree from Baker.

    The nursing education track features a curriculum that integrates core master's-level concepts, education-focused courses, and advanced clinical foundations. In the nursing administration track, learners develop their communication, employee management, and team-building skills.

    An eligible applicant must hold a 3.0 GPA or higher, along with an unencumbered registered nurse license. Each candidate must provide official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and evidence that they completed a graduate-level statistics course.

  3. Messiah College

    Mechanicsburg, PA

    Messiah opened its doors in 1909 as a private institution that now offers one of the best online nurse educator programs in the nation, accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

    The online MSN offers a nurse educator track that prepares learners to teach and lead across several clinical and educational settings. The 39-credit curriculum explores nursing research design and methodology, health informatics, and teaching methods for clinical practice in nursing education.

    Degree-seekers typically complete their requirements within two years of full-time enrollment, paying an affordable tuition rate of $710 per credit. Graduates can pursue careers as clinical nurse educators in clinical practice settings or entry-level teaching positions in undergraduate nursing education programs.

    Each applicant should hold a bachelor's degree in nursing with a 3.0 GPA or higher from an accredited institution. During the admissions process, a prospective student must provide a completed application, official transcripts, a personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and a resume.

  4. Xavier University

    Cincinnati, OH

    The sixth-oldest Catholic and fourth-oldest Jesuit university in the United States, Xavier offers a master's in nursing education online degree to prepare nurses for educational, managerial, or consulting roles.

    Students can complete this Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education-accredited online MSN in 2-3 years. Enrollees pay an affordable tuition rate of $670 per credit hour. The 36-credit curriculum serves registered nurses who hold a bachelor's degree in nursing. Learners can specialize their degrees in education, forensics, or general studies.

    Each enrollee explores core courses in healthcare ethics for nursing leaders and health care policy for nursing leaders before completing two practicums and a scholarly project.

    Students develop leadership skills ideal for higher-level functions and responsibilities in healthcare environments. Courses occur in eight-week periods, but summer courses might be shorter. Part-time students typically enroll in one course at a time, while full-time students enroll in two at a time. Most online courses follow an asynchronous format, which offer added flexibility.

  5. Duquesne University

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Founded by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, Duquesne functions as a private Catholic university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Duquesne offers several flexible degrees, including one of the top master of nursing education online programs.

    Holding accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the online MSN prepares learners to sit for the nurse educator exam. Degree-seekers can choose from three start dates each year and do not need to complete the GRE for admission.

    Online learners benefit from several exclusive online services, such as online writing support, a nursing faculty mentor, and continuing education and conference opportunities. Enrollees typically complete their degree requirements within 2.5 years of full-time study.

    The 36-credit hour curriculum includes 12 courses and 225 clinical hours. Students can tailor their degrees to their personal interests and career goals by pursuing concentrations in forensic nursing or transcultural nursing.

Online MSN in Nursing Education Program FAQs

How much can you earn with an MSN in nursing education?

Salaries vary by degree level, certification, geographic location, and type of employer. In 2020, the BLS reported an annual average salary of $84,060 for postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers. Certified nurse educators working in hospitals and other medical settings earn the highest salaries. Community college teachers earn less than faculty working at four-year colleges and universities.

How long does it take to complete a nursing education program?

Most online nurse educator programs take between 18 and 24 months of full-time study. Nurses who need to continue working while enrolled in school may choose from several part-time options which may add a year or more. Accelerated programs can shorten program length to 18 months or less.

What is certification for nurse educators?

The certified nurse educator (CNE) credential, administered by the National League for Nursing, demonstrates a high level of professional competencies in nursing education roles and functions. RNs qualify for this voluntary certification by meeting all educational and clinical requirements and receiving a passing score on the 150-question CNE exam.

Is an MSN required to be a nurse educator?

Nurse educators need at least an MSN degree to teach at most nursing schools and postsecondary institutions. Universities usually require a doctorate for full-time faculty appointments. An MSN nursing education degree emphasizes curriculum design, student learning, informatics and technological applications, and assessment, preparing graduates for a variety of clinical, teaching, and administrative roles.

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