What Do Nursing Schools Look for in a Nurse Educator?

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a nurse educator, there’s no better time than the present. Nursing schools around the country are facing a serious faculty shortage. The average age of a doctorate-trained nurse educator was 60.5 years old in 2010. Nursing schools are already finding it hard to fill all of their faculty position with qualified candidates; eight percent of full-time and seven percent of part-time nurse educator positions went vacant in 2012. Young nurses aren’t pursuing careers in education; many new nurse educators are often older men and women who want to pursue academic careers after decades of clinical practice.

The career outlook is bright for any young nurse who wants to embark on an academic career. When you go back to school online to earn your BS in Nursing, you’ll be qualified to pursue the advanced degrees nursing schools require. But in order to get the best teaching position for you, you’ll have to consider what you want from your teaching career, and what kind of environment you want to teach in. The needs of community colleges, comprehensive colleges and research institutions are different, and your job search will change depending on what you want to focus on in your career.

Research Institutions Want Scholar Nurses

If you want an academic career based on a solid foundation of research, you’ll want to secure a tenure-track position in a research institution. The good news is that there are plenty of these positions available for the nurse educator with a doctoral degree. You’ll still have to prepare yourself for this career path early in your academic career, however.

To impress the dean and faculty of a research institution, you’re going to have to show that you’re passionate about making breakthroughs in your area of interest, and that you’re capable of securing funding, conducting and publishing important research. Securing a postdoctoral fellowship can help you demonstrate your research abilities to potential future employers, as well as give you the professional experience and connections you need to excel in the academic arena. Even if you are not going after a tenure-track position, research institutions will expect you to contribute to the school’s body of research. You’ll need to be disciplined and focused, with strong interests in a specific area of nursing science, so you can communicate exactly what you can contribute to a school’s faculty.

Even though a research institution will be very interested in your ability to contribute to the scholarly reputation of the school, candidates with strong teaching skills will stand out. Make sure to take advantage of any opportunities you may have to take education courses as part of your doctoral studies.

Comprehensive Universities and Community Colleges Want Teachers

Comprehensive universities — those that are more focused on awarding baccalaureate and Master’s degrees and less on performing research — will be more interested in your teaching abilities.
They may not require you to have a doctorate in order to teach, but you will need at least a Master’s — and a doctorate is preferable for the best pay and most job security. Comprehensive institutions will be more interested in candidates who have some interest in scholarship, particularly studying and developing new teaching or clinical practice methods.

If you are interested in teaching but not so interested in conducting research or publishing papers, the place for you is at a community college. Community college nursing programs are entirely focused on training new nurses, but you will need at least a Master’s degree to teach at a community college. You may be able to get a teaching job at a community college without a Master’s degree if you agree to earn one within a certain amount of time.

If you want to pursue a career teaching nursing at a community college, you should make courses in education a significant part of your post-graduate work. You may even want to focus on a Master’s in Nursing Education if you want a teaching-focused position at either a community college or a comprehensive university.

The demand for nurses is expected to explode in coming years, just as many nurse educators are facing retirement and nursing schools are struggling to recruit qualified faculty. A career in nursing education could provide many opportunities to advance quickly and distinguish yourself, whether you want to focus on teaching clinical settings or conducting your own original research.