Best Online MSN in Nurse Educator Programs

By Staff Writer

A master of science in nursing (MSN) with a specialization in nursing education opens doors to roles at postsecondary schools, hospitals, and medical centers. Nurse educators teach nursing students and design appropriate-level curriculums for new nurses pursuing their associate degree, and experienced nurse practitioners (NPs) fulfilling continuing education requirements. Nurse educators hold registered nurse (RN) licenses and certified nurse educator credentials.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a job growth rate of 20% in nurse education from 2018-28. The median annual salary for the profession reached $74,600 in 2019, which may encourage individuals to pursue the necessary education -- a master's degree and a doctorate -- to become four-year institution faculty members. Higher education employs the most nurse educators, whose positions may combine teaching and research. Hospitals pay the highest annual mean wages at $121,180.

South University

This private, nonprofit college located in Savannah, Georgia, offers an online MSN degree with a specialization in nurse education. This 54-credit program includes 20 core credits in advanced nursing practice and 34 credits in nurse education. South University schedules five- and 10-week online courses within a quarter system. Required education courses train nurses in teaching methods, curriculum development and design, and assessment strategies.

This online MSN provides hands-on opportunities for skills development and includes eight practicum hours in nurse education, concluding with a graduate project in nursing. Students can complete South University's program in as little as two years, after which they qualify to design and implement continuing education programs for nurses.

Each applicant must possess a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) with a minimum 3.0 GPA. South University allows applicants to transfer equivalent coursework from other accredited institutions. South University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Sacred Heart University

This Catholic, liberal arts school located in Fairfield, Connecticut, features a direct-entry online MSN that does not require a BSN or GRE scores. Designed for working RNs, the online nursing programs at SHU start six times per year and feature self-paced, completely asynchronous courses.

Students who take one eight-week class per session can complete the 39-credit program in two years. The MSN program offers several specializations, including nursing education. This RN-to-MSN nurse educator online specialization requires 180 clinical practicum hours and qualifies graduates to sit for the exam to become certified in nurse education.

Four core courses prepare RNs for advanced practice and include topics in healthcare policy. Specialization courses include more advanced practice coursework in areas, such as pathophysiology and pharmacology and training in instructional methods.

Capella University

Capella's online MSN with a specialization in nursing education is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Each applicant must hold a BSN and an RN license. The 54-credit MSN nursing education online program prepares RNs to teach nursing courses in hospitals or online.

It includes eight core courses, five specialization courses, and a 100-hour practicum. Core courses include advanced practice topics, such as evidence-based practice, and a capstone project. Specialization courses include training in curriculum design, teaching strategies, and assessment.

Online students may select Capella's Guided Path or FlexPath. The guided option provides more structure and guidelines, while the flexible path offers entirely asynchronous delivery and enables students to pay one fee per 12-week session, regardless of how many courses they take. Students in the FlexPath can complete the MSN in as little as a year and save on tuition costs.

MSN in Nurse Educator Programs Online: An Overview

Students should consider many factors before choosing a master's in nursing education online, including admission requirements, program length, curriculum content, internship opportunities, and licensure or certification requirements. While most institutions post program details on their websites, this section explores some important aspects to keep in mind as you research schools.

Admission Requirements for an Online MSN in Nurse Educator Program

Most MSN nurse educator online programs expect an applicant to hold a BSN from an accredited school. Candidates without a bachelor's degree, or those who hold a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field, typically must strengthen their knowledge base and skill set by completing bridge programs or prerequisite coursework.

Applicants must also possess valid RN licenses, and some schools request standardized test scores. Programs that require tests typically accept scores from either the GRE or MAT. Most online master's in nursing education programs also require each applicant to demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA.

How Long Does it Take to Complete an Online MSN in Nurse Educator Program?

Like most master's programs, an online master's in nursing education comprises 36-39 credits, including a capstone course and field experience. Full-time students usually earn their degrees within two years, while part-time candidates may spend up to four years completing a program. Some schools offer accelerated MSN nurse educator online programs that enrollees can complete in 16-18 months.

Program structure also affects degree length. In a cohort program, candidates take classes with the same group of students throughout the program. The cohort model allows enrollees to develop lasting professional connections. However, students in a cohort must follow a set, relatively rigid course schedule.

In contrast, self-paced and asynchronous programs permit candidates to complete coursework and review lectures at their convenience. While self-paced courses offer less support and structure, they can make it easier to earn a degree quickly.

Example Courses for Online MSN in Nurse Educator Programs

Each school crafts a curriculum designed around core educational goals. Coursework for MSN nurse educator online programs often varies considerably between institutions. Some basic courses, however, play a fundamental part in any well-rounded MSN nurse educator program. Many curricula include some variation of the courses described in the following five examples.

Advanced Health Assessment

This course examines how functional, physical, psychosocial, and spiritual health assessment factors appear in different life stages and among diverse populations. By studying advanced assessment techniques, students learn to take focused patient health histories using the latest documentation standards in the field.

Advanced Pharmacology

Candidates study the pharmacological principles affecting disease process and progression. Students examine real case studies to explore adverse reactions, medical selection factors, and current ethical issues facing medical professionals. Coursework also covers pharmacological management and patient education.

Curriculum Development

Coursework offers a survey of emerging curriculum trends, accreditation and regulatory standards, and vital components of curriculum design. Prospective educators learn to develop innovative and relevant curricula to apply teaching methodologies in diverse settings, including classrooms, hospitals, and community health centers.

Evaluation Strategies and Methods

Students review the ethical, legal, and regulatory issues that affect nurse educators. They also learn to identify and quantify key student learning outcomes and evaluate the efficacy of instructional methodologies in different educational settings and contexts.

Instructional Strategies

Emphasizing contemporary teaching and learning strategies in nursing education, this course addresses topics in adult learning theories, ethical issues, and pedagogical philosophies. Students explore technology's role in instructional design, implementation, and field-specific teaching practices.

Internship Component

Similar to their on-campus counterparts, most master's in nursing education online programs require each student to complete an internship or supervised teaching experience. Although guidelines vary by school, most curricula include 300 hours of supervised experience in the field.

While MSN programs typically assist on-campus students with internship placements, online students are often required to submit their internship location for approval before starting their program. Each institution sets standards and criteria for acceptable internship locations. In some instances, the internship experience culminates in a capstone project or final paper.

Certifications and Licenses This Program Prepares For

  • Certified Nurse Educator

    The National League for Nursing (NLN) administers this credential. Although it is not required to practice as a nurse educator, many facilities prefer to hire CNEs. The certification designates a nursing education specialist who may conduct formal teaching courses for LPNs and RNs in settings like hospitals, two- and four-year colleges, and technical schools.

  • Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator

    Also offered through the NLN, this credential demonstrates competence at facilitating the clinical aspects of nursing education. A CNE-CL provides their school with fair and accurate student performance assessments in accordance with programmatic academic standards and expectations.

  • Certified Diabetes Educator

    Nurse educators who hold an MSN and possess extensive professional experience in diabetes management may become CDEs through the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators' unique program. CDEs provide diabetic patients with individualized disease management education and qualify to lead community outreach programs related to diabetes prevention and management.

Accreditation for Online MSN in Nurse Educator Programs

Accreditation demonstrates a school's compliance with academic standards. While the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) do not accredit schools or programs themselves, both organizations oversee accrediting bodies and ensure that they maintain high-quality processes and procedures.

Both ED and CHEA recognize several organizations that confer regional, national, and programmatic accreditation. Six of these are regional accrediting bodies, which assess state-owned, nonprofit, and degree-oriented colleges and universities.

National organizations accredit mostly private, for-profit schools with religious affiliations, along with vocational and technical schools. Regional accreditation is generally considered more prestigious than national accreditation.

Programmatic accrediting agencies review single-purpose programs or institutions. The nursing education field acknowledges two dominant accrediting organizations: CCNE, which confers national accreditation, and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, which confers programmatic accreditation.

Job and Salary Outlook for Nurse Educator Graduates

The positions listed below highlight the opportunities awaiting nursing education program graduates. From high-level administration to teaching and research, these rewarding and challenging careers offer median salaries of over $75,000. Length of employment and geographic location affect salaries, along with employer type. General and surgical hospital managers tend to earn annual salaries that exceed $100,000.

Medical and Health Services Managers

These professionals oversee medical facilities, departments, and physician groups and ensure quality healthcare delivery and compliance with laws, regulations, and policies. Most states require medical and health services managers to pass national licensing examinations.

Median Annual Salary: $100,980

Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner

These highly-trained primary care providers become NPs working with specific patient populations, nurse anesthetists assisting surgical patients, and nurse midwives providing care throughout pregnancy and delivery. An ARPN needs an RN license and national specialty certification.

Median Annual Salary: $96,873

Nursing Director

Nursing directors manage nursing employees at large medical facilities and hospitals. They formulate policies and procedures, monitor nurse performance and patient care, and provide job training and supervision. These supervisors must hold an RN license.

Median Annual Salary: $87,273

Clinical Nurse Manager

These managers coordinate hospital nursing staff, including scheduling, responding to questions or complaints, and working with colleagues to formulate policies that enhance patient care. Clinical nurse managers often hold licensure as RNs or advanced practice nurses.

Median Annual Salary: $82,386

Nurse Educator

Nurse educators teach nursing students at hospitals and higher education institutions, where they may also conduct research. They also develop and teach continuing education courses. Most hold an RN license, along with national certification.

Median Annual Salary: $75,399

Resources for MSN Graduates

The five resources featured below support MSN nursing education students and graduates with networking, mentors, professional development, and national certification. The list below includes information about tuition discounts, grant and scholarship funding, and student loans.

  • American Association of Diabetes Educators This association's 12,000 members include nurses, pharmacists, and dieticians with a shared goal of improving healthcare for diabetics. Members can access more than 50 hours of free continuing education opportunities and patient education handouts. The job board features positions for diabetes educators. Members receive a 10% discount for online education at Capella University.
  • National League for Nursing An organization that specifically serves nurse educators, NLN offers professional development and teaching resources, along with research grants. Its members include educators from postsecondary institutions and healthcare organizations. NLN administers and offers preparation courses for the certified nurse educators exam and the academic clinical nurse educator certification exam.
  • Professional Nurse Educators Group This virtual network of nurse educators from across the country hosts an annual national conference on professional nursing education and development. PNEG also offers mentorship for new nurse educators, recognition of leaders and contributors to the field, and a virtual discussion group.
  • Guide to Nursing Scholarships and Grants This page lists more than 70 funding opportunities for nursing students, including those planning to pursue MSNs in nursing education. The scholarships and grants apply to all degree levels.
  • Federal Student Aid Nursing education students demonstrating financial need can apply for federal funding on this website through the FAFSA form. Sources include grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, and loans. The site features a loan simulation calculator that compares different repayment plans and links to other potential aid sources.