Best Online MSN in Nurse Educator Programs

July 16, 2020 | Staff Writers

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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.

Top Online MSN in Nurse Educator Programs

Rank School Location
1 Gwynedd Mercy University Gwynedd Valley, PA
2 Baker University Baldwin City, KS
3 Messiah College Mechanicsburg, PA
4 Xavier University Cincinnati, OH
5 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
  1. Gwynedd Mercy University
    Location

    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
    Location

    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
    Location

    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
    Location

    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
    Location

    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.

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 NurseJournal.org 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.
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