How to become an Academic Nurse Educator

Academic nurse educators are, at a minimum, state-licensed registered nurses (RNs) who are clinically trained. This means the nurse must hold either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN). After receiving their degree, the graduate must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and, upon passing, will be eligible for licensure as an RN.

In general, most RNs who become academic nurse educators work in their clinical fields for at least a few years before deciding whether or not to earn their master’s of science in nursing (MSN) degrees. Obtaining an MSN is not a requirement for the academic nurse educator. So, while there is no fixed path to becoming a nurse educator, many nurses do receive advanced general training in specialized MSN programs with a concentration on nursing education.

What do Nurse Educators Do? 

An academic nurse educator is an educator who teaches the nursing curriculum to aspiring or professional nurses. While the title ‘Nurse Educator’ is not a formal designation, it does refer to an RN who works in a clinical or administrative position, supervises training programs, and provides clinical and classroom education in nursing.

The academic nurse educator teaches and advises students at various levels of the nursing profession, provides instruction and training to students, and supplies continuing education (CEs) opportunities to established nurses.

Nurse educators work in a myriad of settings, but some of the most common ones are:

  • Universities
  • Community colleges
  • Trade schools
  • Hospitals

Nurse educators may also serve as faculty and on other types of college committees. They often sponsor student nurses’ organizations, attend and/or make presentations at nursing conferences, and write grant proposals.

Nursing professors generally hold a doctoral degree in nursing. Nurse educators, in contrast, typically hold an ADN, BSN or MSN and have several years of clinical expertise.

My role at Pocket Prep

I am a Bachelor’s-trained RN (BSN) with 14 years of clinical experience and have worked in various areas of nursing. Recently, I have transitioned out of the clinical setting and into a new role at Pocket Prep.

As Pocket Prep’s Academic Nurse Educator, I focus on maintaining and expanding Nursing and Nursing School exam prep offerings. I am responsible for maintaining all of our nursing exams and their content, which currently covers 28 exams. I also proactively manage educational materials with rapidly changing industry guidelines and protocols.

Nursing education and evidence-based practice are my focus areas here at Pocket Prep. Through exam prep, I can share my knowledge with nursing students and professional nurses seeking to gain various certifications and further their careers.

Getting CNE certified 

For those who train as academic nurse educators, the CNE certification solidifies their role as educators in a specialty practice area. It allows for faculty to show their expertise in this specialized role.

CNE is a formal designation for the RN who has met the requirements for and passed an official examination administered by the National League for Nursing (NLN). The NLN is a national organization of faculty and educators providing voluntary accreditation to nursing education programs through their Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation. Once obtained, the CNE certification must be renewed every five years.

To take this examination, the nurse should hold an active and unencumbered RN license to practice, as well as a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing with a primary emphasis on nursing or one of the following:

  • Post-master’s certification in nursing education
  • Nine or more credit hours of graduate-level education courses
  • An emphasis in a field other than education combined with at least two years of employment at an academic institution within the past five years

Applicants who meet the above qualifications must prepare and apply for the examination. The application fee is $400 for NLN members and $500 for non-NLN members. This fee is often reimbursed by the applicant’s employer once the exam is successfully passed.

Exam details

Once registered, the applicant has 90 days to schedule and complete the computer-based examination, consisting of 150 questions. The exam tests for competencies in six areas, including:

  • Facilitate learning (22% of the exam)
  • Facilitate learner development and socialization (15% of the exam)
  • Use assessment and evaluation strategies (19% of the exam)
  • Participate in curriculum design and evaluation of program outcomes (17% of the exam)
  • Pursue systematic self-evaluation and improvement in the academic nurse educator role (12% of the exam)
  • Engage in scholarship, service, and leadership (15% of the exam)

Several resources can be helpful. The NLN has published a book to prepare candidates for the CNE exam called, The Scope of Practice for Academic Nursing, and provides a self-assessment examination.

Another resource is us! Pocket Prep offers a 500-question NLN CNE exam prep tool, a detailed and comprehensive way to prepare.

Once the examination has been successfully passed, CNE certification is granted for a period of 5 years. The five-year renewal cycle is based on the currency of practice in nursing and changes associated with teaching and learning. The purpose of requiring certification renewal is to ensure the nurse has continued to expand their knowledge relevant to the full scope of the academic nurse educator role.

Perks to CNE certification

Though CNE certification is not a requirement for academic nurse educators, it is a fantastic way for nurse educators to demonstrate their qualifications within the nursing world. For RNs holding a master’s or doctorate in nursing, CNE certification serves as an excellent means for career advancement; it can pave a path to a fulfilling career in a field with high demand for skilled nursing professionals.

There is a well-documented shortage of nurses in the United States today, and to fill open positions, novice nurses must be trained by qualified educators. Many hospitals, universities, and nurse training programs prefer that nurse educator applicants have their CNE certification. Others require the nurse educator to obtain certification within a certain period after being hired.

CNE certification is a specialized field of nursing created to establish nursing education as a specialty area of practice. CNE’s engage in various roles and functions, and nursing education can take place in a multitude of settings. The opportunities as a CNE are vast. Is this the right path for you? I hope this blog has helped to answer your questions.