Best Online MSN in Nurse Educator Programs

Nurse educators train licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs). They impart the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience needed to provide effective and appropriate care, and play a crucial role in delivering quality healthcare to an aging U.S. population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs face a projected 15% job growth rate through 2026; more than twice the average for all other occupations. As demand for RNs increases, so does the need for qualified nursing educators to prepare them for the workforce.

Nursing educators must hold a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree with a nurse educator focus, along with several years of professional experience and a current RN license. In order to meet the demand for both RNs and nursing instructors, numerous colleges and universities have expanded their degree offerings. Many schools known for offering on-campus nursing degrees now offer some of the nation’s best online MSN in nursing education programs.

1. South University

A private, nonprofit college located in Savannah, Georgia, South University 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 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. Providing hands-on opportunities for skills development, this MSN nursing education online degree includes eight practicum hours in nurse education and concludes with a graduate project in nursing. Students can complete South’s program in as little as two years, after which they qualify to design and implement continuing education programs for nurses.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA. South allows applicants to transfer equivalent coursework from other accredited institutions. South is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

2. Sacred Heart University

A Catholic, liberal arts school located in Fairfield, Connecticut, Sacred Heart University offers a direct entry online master of science in nursing (MSN) that does not require a bachelor’s in nursing or the GRE. Designed for working registered nurses (RNs), Sacred Heart’s online nursing programs 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 such as healthcare policy. Specialization courses include more advanced practice coursework in areas such as pathophysiology and pharmacology, as well as training in instructional methods.

3. Capella University

Capella University’s online MSN with a specialization in nursing education is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) and a license as a registered nurse. 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. 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 remains entirely asynchronous 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

There are many factors to consider before you select an MSN 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 looks at 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 applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited school. Applicants without a bachelor’s degree, or those who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, are often required to strengthen their knowledge base and skill set by completing a bridge program or prerequisite coursework.

Applicants must also possess a valid RN license, and some schools request standardized test scores. Those that do require tests typically accept scores from either the GRE or MAT. Most online MSN in nursing education programs also require applicants to demonstrate a 3.0 GPA or higher.

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

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

Program structure also influences length. Cohort-based programs are becoming more common in the nursing field. In a cohort program, candidates take classes alongside the same group of students throughout their degree. The cohort model often allows students to develop lasting professional connections that benefit them throughout their careers; 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 Students

Each school crafts a curriculum designed around core educational goals, and 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 present at 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: In this course, candidates study the various pharmacological principles impacting disease process and progression. Students examine real-life case studies to learn about adverse reactions, medical selection factors, and current ethical issues facing medical professionals. Coursework also explores practical topics such as 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 and apply teaching methodologies in diverse settings, including classrooms, hospitals, and community health centers.
  • Evaluation Strategies and Methods: In this course, students review the ethical, legal, and regulatory issues that impact nurse educators. They also learn to identify and quantify key student learning outcomes and evaluate the efficacy of various instructional methodologies in different educational settings and contexts.
  • Instructional Strategies: Emphasizing contemporary teaching and learning strategies in nursing education, this course addresses topics such as adult learning theories, ethical issues, and pedagogical philosophies. Students explore emerging technology’s role in instructional design and implementation, as well as field-specific teaching practices.

Internship Component

Similar to their on-campus counterparts, most MSN in nursing education online programs require students to complete an internship or supervised teaching experience as they approach graduation. Although guidelines vary by school, most curricula include 300 hours of supervised, hands-on experience. While MSN programs typically assist on-campus students with internship placements, online students are often required to submit their internship location for approval prior to starting their program. Each institution sets its own 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: This credential is administered by the National League for Nursing (NLN). 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 have extensive professional experience in diabetes management may become a CDE 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 schools compliance with academic standards set by accrediting bodies. 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, as well as 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: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, which confers national accreditation, and Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, which confers programmatic accreditation.

Job and Salary Outlook

Job Opportunities for MSN in Nurse Educator Graduates

Due to high job demand and a versatile skill set, nurse educators enjoy a variety of career options. Many choose to teach in college classrooms or professional nursing programs. Others continue to work as nurses, taking on leadership or managerial positions. Wherever they choose to practice their profession, nurse educators play a key role in addressing the nationwide nursing shortage.

Medical and Health Services Managers

Median Annual Salary: $98,350

A medical and health services manager’s duties vary depending on their workplace. They may work in private multi-practice facilities, hospitals, or community clinics. Many managers hold degrees in health administration.

Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner

Median Annual Salary: $92,551

These nurse practitioners conduct complete physical exams, administer medicine, and assist doctors during complex medical procedures or surgery. In certain states, they may write prescriptions under doctor supervision. This career requires ARNP certification.

Nursing Director

Median Annual Salary: $82,933

Nursing directors develop and implement patient care standards. They supervise all direct care and support personnel to ensure efficient patient service delivery. Since this is a senior position, experience is generally required.

Clinical Nurse Manager

Median Annual Salary: $80,840

Clinic nurse managers monitor their facility’s budgetary and operational resources and ensure compliance with existing regulations and industry standards. They are also charged with selecting, training, and retaining qualified personnel.

Nurse Educator

Median Annual Salary: $73,394

A nurse educator may design curricula for nursing education programs, participate in clinical personnel performance evaluations, direct learning activities, and manage program documentation.

Source: PayScale, Nov. 2018

How Much Do MSN in Nurse Educator Graduates Make?

BLS projects a 15% job growth rate for postsecondary teachers through 2026, more than double the 7% projected rate for all occupations. Location, however, plays a large role in job demand and salary potential. The District of Columbia pays postsecondary teachers more than any other state, followed by New York, Connecticut, California, and New Jersey. As the table below demonstrates, professional experience level also impacts earnings.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Median Salary for Mid-Career Median Salary for Late-Career
Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner $92,551 $89,000 $98,000 $104,000
Clinical Nurse Manager $80,840 $73,000 $78,000 $85,000
Nurse Educator $73,394 $67,000 $69,000 $80,000
Certified Diabetes Educator $64,983 $57,000 $64,000 $71,000
Health Educator $44,133 $39,000 $46,000 $54,000

Source: Payscale

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations provide nurse educators with support and direction, helping them achieve their career objectives, professional development, and continuing education. Some professional associations hold annual conferences, host regional and national lecture series, and provide members with networking and mentoring opportunities.

American Association of Diabetes Educators: AADE’s website features a career portal for CDEs, various tools and resources for diabetes educators, and a continuing education (CE) program. AADE is an accredited CE provider.

National League for Nursing: With more than 40,000 individual and 1,200 institutional members, the NLN offers extensive networking opportunities. The organization also sponsors professional development programs, testing services, and nursing research grants.

Professional Nurse Educators Group: PNEG’s annual conference provides members with a rich networking forum and the chance to exchange ideas and information about innovations in nursing education and patient care.

Financing Your Online MSN in Nurse Educator Program

Funding your MSN in nursing education degree begins with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA website contains information about federal scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs for both undergraduate and graduate students. Nursing students can also turn to professional organizations for financial aid opportunities, as well as private companies and nonprofit groups committed to helping finance the next generation of professional nurses.

Scholarships for MSN in Nurse Educator Students

AfterCollege-American Association of Colleges of Nursing Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Although this scholarship program accepts applications from students enrolled in bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral nursing programs, it prioritizes applicants pursuing careers as nurse educators. Finalists are contacted after the initial selection process, and may need to submit up to six letters of recommendation and a list or copies of their published articles.

Amount: $2,500

American Association for Men in Nursing Scholarship

Who Can Apply: AAMN accepts applications from male undergraduate and graduate nursing students. Graduate students must be licensed RNs. All applicants should be current AAMN members who have completed at least one academic term in their program. Recipients receive additional funding to attend the annual conference, where they are expected to give a 15-minute presentation.

Amount: $1,000 (undergraduate level), $1,500 (graduate level)

Anna May Rolando Scholarship Award

Who Can Apply: This program accepts applications from nursing students with disabilities, although graduate students are given priority. Applicants must provide verifiable documentation of their commitment to serving and working with the disabled community. Applicants must submit a 1-2 page essay, three letters of recommendation, and a Medical Verification of Disability Form.

Amount: $500.00

Dr. Lauranne Sams Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship program is administered by the National Black Nurses Association, Inc. (NBNA). Applicants must be current NBNA members pursuing a bachelor’s or advanced nursing degree. The scholarship committee considers applicants’ academic achievement, community service, and financial need.

Amount: $5,000

National Hispanic Health Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Although applicants do not have to be of Hispanic descent, they must show verifiable professional affinity for the health of Hispanic communities. Along with other required documents, applicants must submit a personal statement describing their interest in Hispanic health issues and how they plan to address these issues during their nursing career.

Amount: Varies

NLN Foundation for Nursing Education Scholarship Awards

Who Can Apply: To qualify, candidates must be enrolled in a master’s- or doctorate-level nursing education program. Applicants should submit a proposal describing their program of study and how it relates to NLN’s mission and core values, their individual career goals, and their financial need.

Amount: $8,000

Nurse Corps Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, this program is open to students pursuing a diploma, associate, bachelor’s, or graduate-level nursing program through an accredited U.S. college or university. Scholarship recipients must agree to serve in a critical shortage facility after completing the program.

Amount: Tuition, fees, books, clinical instruments and/or supplies, uniform, and $1,363 monthly stipend

Nurses Educational Fund (NEF) Edith M. Pritchard Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Applicants must hold a current and unencumbered RN license, hold membership in a professional nursing organization, and be enrolled as a master’s or doctoral student in an accredited program. At the time of application, scholarship hopefuls must have completed at least 12 credits and achieved a minimum 3.6 GPA.

Amount: Varies