Education Requirements to Teach Nursing

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As of 2011, there is a significant shortage of nursing faculty.
As of 2011, there is a significant shortage of nursing faculty. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

According to the American Association of the Colleges of Nursing, in the 2009-2010 academic school year, nursing colleges around the nation turned away 54,991 qualified applicants because of a lack of sufficient nursing faculty. Students interested in delving into the field of nursing may wish to consider the nurse educator role given the amount of opportunity that is expected to exist as nursing schools scramble to find qualified educators.

Undergraduate Education

Nurse educators need to be registered nurses with a nursing license in order to work in the post-secondary education field and train other nurses. This requires the completion of a bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited college or university. Because nurse educators need to go on to obtain advanced degrees, an associate degree in nursing will not typically suffice. There are, however, some schools with master's programs that allow students to bridge from the associate to the master's degree. Even these programs tend to require students to obtain the bachelor's degree in the process of working towards the master's degree.

Master's Degree

A master's degree is the minimum requirement to teach undergraduate nursing students. As in most post-secondary disciplines, educators typically need to have a degree higher than the level they teach. Nurses with a master's degree typically teach associate and bachelor's degree students. Many nursing graduate schools offer master's degree specializations or post-master's certificates in nursing education in order to train nurses interested in teaching undergraduate nursing students. Master's degrees in nursing typically take one to two years to complete.

Doctor of Nursing Practice

Nurses who wish to teach at the graduate level and educate both undergraduate and graduate students can pursue the Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP degree. The DNP degree is commonly offered at many nursing schools across the nation and is primarily designed to prepare students for advanced nursing practice in a clinical setting. The degree can, however, qualify nurses to teach at the college level, especially if they have additional post-graduate training in nursing education. Nurses with the DNP degree tend to teach coursework that emphasizes the practical side of the nursing profession.

PhD and Doctor of Nursing Science

The PhD and the Doctor of Nursing Science degree both provide nurses with the necessary education needed to teach graduate and undergraduate students. These degrees are typically more focused on the scientific and theoretical aspects of the nursing discipline and can prepare nurse educators to teach many of the advanced nursing science courses that students often take. These degree programs can typically take four or more years to complete, depending upon the intended area of specialization and research.

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