After a successful career as a registered nurse, the next step is to advance and help the next generation of nurses prepare to make a difference. Online master’s programs in nursing education provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to become effective instructors and administrators in classroom and clinical health settings.
In order to create this year’s rankings of the best online master’s programs in nursing education, we analyzed data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the U.S. Department of Education and publicly available data and information from each institution on the list. All schools in this list are fully accredited.
The online nurse education master’s degree introduces =evidence-based teaching and student assessment practices and provides clinical education elements to prepare students for a career in nursing education. Nursing education is a diverse career field that customization to areas of expertise (e.g. forensic nursing) and receive the same education as on-campus counterparts. As an online student, you may be required to complete an in-person practicum to satisfy program requirements. As you complete the MSN program, you should expect to develop the following skills and knowledge:
Finally, as an MSN degree holder, you can qualify to take the Nursing Certification for Nurse Educators from the National League of Nursing.
Although curriculum varies by degree program and academic specialization, you may take courses in the following topic areas in your graduate program.
This course teaches students about clinical research practices, including conducting study evaluations, meta-analyses, clinical guideline development and strategies in evidence-based practice. Students engage in research study narrative reviews that helps them learn how to draw conclusions that can be applied to nursing practice.
In this course, students consider the relationships between clinical theory, research and nursing practice. Instruction covers theoretical models and how they can be translated into real-world nursing situations.
In this course, core functions of the nurse educator are examined, specifically educational assessment and evaluation of curriculum and nursing students. Graduate students in the course review evidence-based assessment practices, testing methods and evaluation development.
Through this class, nurse educator students learn about nursing curriculum design. From meeting accreditation standards to clinical instruction, this class discusses how to create innovative coursework in RN-based higher education settings.
Nurse educator students take this class to study modern, recognized approaches to teaching in clinical nursing and laboratory environments. This course also covers evaluating and assessing student work in lab/clinical settings.
Students in this class review how technology is altering both teaching and student learning in today’s nursing classroom. They gain skills to incorporate technology into their curriculum development and lesson planning, learning how to best leverage technology for effective student engagement and instruction.
To enhance the learning process, you may select an academic concentration for a nursing education master’s degree. While the core curriculum and clinical experience inform how you will teach, an academic specialization can influence who and what you teach. Below are just a few examples of educational concentrations in nursing education.
Students develop clinical knowledge of teaching nurses about illness prevention, health promotion and treatment of older adults.
Students study healthcare delivery in community settings, learning how to emphasize and teach about providing nursing care outside of primary health settings (e.g. hospitals).
This track prepares students to educate nurses on providing effective care to patients who have experienced trauma-induced care (e.g. victims of sexual assault).
Nursing educators gain an understanding of preparing other nurses to assess, evaluate and care for patients with complicated mental health and psychiatric illness and disorders.
This concentration emphasizes how to teach nursing that recognizes and accounts for patients from different backgrounds and cultures to minimize disparity in treatment and care.
Curriculum in a nursing education master’s program is divided between core coursework, specialized concentration classes, electives and a practicum. However, depending on the specific institution, you may be required to complete a research-based thesis or capstone project in your area of interest. A capstone demonstrates your understanding of nursing education research methodologies and knowledge of evidence-based teaching practices. The practicum is the culminating experience for your graduate degree. These are in-person and supervised learning experiences where you work with a preceptor in your local area to complete clinical hours in a health setting specific to your areas of teaching interest (e.g. elder care agency, human service organization). You’ll complete a set number of clinical hours (which can range from 120 to 168+ hours), meet regularly with your preceptor via videoconferencing and other online technologies and complete other practicum assignment requirements.
The number of online master’s in nursing education programs means careful research is required. The first item to consider is the program’s accreditation. Like the overall university, schools of nursing and their academic programs should also be accredited. Accreditation demonstrates the curriculum, faculty and facilities meet recognized national quality standards. Attending an accredited program is also required to secure and maintain a nursing license and sit for any type of additional nursing certification examination. For nursing education, the central accrediting body is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). However, nursing education programs and schools of nursing may also hold accreditation from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Secondly, prospective students should review the clinical experience (practicum) requirements of all prospective schools. Some online nursing education master’s programs require you to complete a “residency” – an on-campus clinical experiences, instead of one in your local area. Travel can be a significant hurdle and you may not want to take on the additional cost and time burden to enroll in a program that does not allow for local, hands-on training.
Nursing is an expansive field with multiple sub-discipline fields, such as emergency medicine, pediatric nursing and gerontology. A master’s in nursing education helps students augment their clinical education with theoretical and strategic teaching practices. With that knowledge, graduates can apply their skill sets in any of those disciplines, both within and outside of academia. Although becoming a faculty member at a school of nursing or running a nurse education program in a hospital may be the primary outcomes for an individual with a master’s in nursing education, it isn’t the only career path.
Nursing instructors work in schools of nursing and deliver lectures in classroom settings and provide hands-on clinical training to nursing students.
Health educators work in a variety of health settings such as community health organizations or nursing clinics and work in the promotion of healthy behavior adoption and disease prevention.
Nursing administrators oversee nursing programs and are responsible for the day-to-day operations, including staffing, regulation compliance and overall health service delivery.
Chief nursing officers are senior leadership professionals that manage all nursing services and activities in a hospital and develop innovative approaches to patient care strategies.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Healthcare is one the largest and fastest growing industries in the country. An aging population is placing extraordinary demands on healthcare services, according to the American Association of Colleges and Nurses. In fact, that demand is projected to cause a shortage in trained and qualified registered nurses by 2030. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the country will need another 438,000 nurses between 2016 and 2026. This growing demand for nurses places an emphasis on the need for more educators and teachers to prepare the next generation of healthcare providers.
For additional support in your graduate education journey, you can turn to professional nursing associations and organizations. As a member, you can participate in annual conferences, get subscriptions to journals and other publications, receive mentorship, find jobs and apply for scholarships and grants.
The AACN is a national organization comprised nurses and nurse educators from around the country that provides members access to publications, mentoring programs and member-only scholarships.
The American Nurses Association is the largest organization representing nurses in the United States, with more than 4 million members that serves as a legislative policy advocate and provides scholarships, training programs and a fellowship program in Washington D.C.
The NLN is the central association for nursing education professionals with more than 40,000 individual members that offers certification programs, hosts conferences and provides scholarships to members.
The PNEG is a network of nursing educators that connect virtually through Facebook and newsletters, as well as in-person through an annual conference.
As you decide on whether to apply to a nursing education master’s program, cost is an important factor. It’s important to note that the practicum element of an MSN program may also have additional fees in addition to tuition,which drive up the total cost of a degree. However, before rushing out to take on student debt, review some of the options below that could help defray the total expense of a graduate degree.
Most nursing departments and schools of nursing provide scholarships for graduate students completing an MSN degree. For a single example, Chamberlain University offers the Clinical Educator Scholarship for graduate students in its MSN – Educator specialty track.
Due to the size of the nursing industry, you may be able to find scholarship opportunities from nursing associations and foundations. For example, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing offers several scholarships for graduate student nurses.
As a prospective nurse educator, you may want to consider the National Health Services Corps’ loan repayment program. To qualify for loan repayment, you must commit to working either full- or part-time in a designated, high-need area for at least two years.
Another loan repayment option is the Faculty Loan Repayment Program (FLRP) offered by the Health Resources Administration (HRSA). This program provides loan assistance of up to $40,000 for qualified educators and have a commitment to work as a nursing faculty member at an approved institution for at least two years.
The HRSA also sponsors a number of nursing scholarships for disadvantaged students, as well as a low-interest loan program for graduate nursing students.
You should submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid to see if you are eligible for financial aid for your graduate education. A second option is to take out loans from the U.S. Department of Education.