The nursing field offers many opportunities for specialization. These include the positions of nurse educator and nurse practitioner, each of which has its own distinct set of responsibilities, educational requirements and salary range. Both nursing specialties play an important role in the overall functioning of the health-care industry, which is becoming more complex as the demands upon it grow.
Nurse educators (NEs) are responsible for training other nurses, both practical and registered, while nurse practitioners (NPs) perform many of the functions normally reserved for physicians. According to the website of Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow, NPs focus "on health promotion and maintenance, disease prevention, and diagnosing and managing acute and chronic illnesses." NEs generally serve on the faculty of nursing schools or larger institutions that offer nursing curricula. The duties of NEs include developing curricula, as well as specific courses and programs of study; teaching nursing students; evaluating student progress; and documenting educational outcomes.
NEs and NPs, who already are specialized nurses, are likely to further narrow their focus within their respective fields. Most NEs teach courses related to a specialized area of medicine, be it cardiology, surgery, gynecology, or some other area. Likewise, NPs works in various specialized fields of medicine. Areas of specialization for both NEs and NPs are often related to what they emphasized during their nursing education.
NEs can be found in a number of educational settings, including both two-year and four-year colleges and universities, technical colleges, hospitals and hospital-sponsored nursing schools, home-care agencies, long-term care facilities and local and regional health agencies. NPs practice their specialty in primary care clinics; hospital departments, including emergency room and critical care units; nursing schools; doctors' offices; public health departments; and nursing homes and hospices. Some NPs even set up their own practices.
NEs and NPs both typically have at least a master's degree in nursing. It is not unusual for those who get into specialized areas of nursing education and practice to have pursued additional courses of study in order to prepare. Many NEs eventually decide to pursue a doctoral degree as they prepare to move into positions of leadership within the nursing education field.
The salaries of NEs range between $61,000 and $86,100, with a median salary of roughly $73,500, according to Salary.com. NEs in administrative positions can earn a substantial premium commensurate with their increased responsibilities. Salary.com reports that salaries for NPs range from $75,800 to about $89,400 with a median pay level of $82,590.
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