How Can I Become a Nursing Professor?

Research what it takes to become a nursing professor. Learn about licensure and education requirements, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Adult Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Nursing Professor?

A nursing professor teaches postsecondary students the classes they need to complete a nursing degree or certificate program. These professors must have a master's or doctoral degree in nursing, and they must also have their nursing license. Nursing professors develop lesson plans, lead instruction and assess the students in their classes. They may also be involved in research and publish their findings. Nursing professors may be employed by colleges, universities, professional schools, hospitals, trade schools, technical schools, business schools or educational support services.

Degree Required Master's degree at minimum; doctoral degree required by most four-year schools
Education Field of Study Nursing
Other Requirements Clinical training and nursing licensure required, teaching experience recommended
Key Responsibilities Teach patient care to nursing students in classroom and clinical settings, develop instructional plans, lessons and assignments, assess students' progress, conduct research to participate in advancement of field
Job Growth (2014-2024) 19%*
Average Salary (2015) $73,150*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Education Options for Nursing Professors?

Your first step is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.), a 4-year program where you could learn about the nursing profession, health promotion and patient care. You'll be expected to complete a clinical practicum where you would work in a clinical setting, completing state requirements for nursing licensure. The clinical practicum gives you first-hand experience working with doctors and nurses, caring for patients, taking vitals, dispensing medication and more. Nursing courses could teach you subjects like:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Health assessments
  • Pharmacology
  • Public health
  • Nursing theory and practice

Some schools offer accelerated B.S.N. to M.S.N. (Master of Science in Nursing) programs, which would allow you to complete both degrees in roughly 3-4 years. In an M.S.N. program, you could choose a nurse educator (NE) concentration, a specialization that could prepare you to be a nursing professor. About two years in duration, you might study teaching modalities and technologies, nursing research, public policy and curriculum development. Towards the end of the program, you would complete a nurse educator internship where you could practice teaching in the classroom.

While some 2-year colleges may hire instructors with master's degrees, most 4-year schools require professors to hold doctoral degrees. Some schools offer B.S.N. to D.N.P. (Doctor of Nursing Practice) or Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) programs. You could also choose a doctoral program that accepts students who hold M.S.N. degrees.

In a doctoral program, you would spend a significant portion of your time engaged in research and writing. Topics of study might include nursing practice, healthcare statistics, health informatics, public health and health policy. You would be expected to take comprehensive exams and write a doctoral dissertation in order to earn your doctorate.

How Do Nursing Professors Gain Teaching Experience?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that it can take up to ten years to become a fully tenured professor ( While you're in school, you should gain as much teaching experience as possible; this can be accomplished through graduate teaching assistantships available in master's and doctoral programs.

Working under the supervision of a nurse educator or professor, you could assist educators, observe the teaching process and develop your own teaching style. You might develop lesson plans, grade papers and prepare instructional materials. You could eventually be responsible for teaching classes on your own.

How Does a Professor Search for Jobs?

Before applying for a teaching position, you'll need to put together a resume that reflects your education, teaching experience, skills and commitment to the advancement of research in nursing. Membership in a professional nursing organization or association may be a good addition to your resume as well.

Online job boards like are a possible resource for aspiring nursing professors. Networking is also a valuable career resource; you could attend lectures at colleges and universities and introduce yourself to school administrators as well as faculty members.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Those seeking an advanced nursing role but not necessarily a professorship may want to consider becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). These nurses need a master's degree or a D.N.P. Different APRN roles include nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist and nurse midwife. All of these APRNs conduct research, much like nursing professors do, in addition to seeing patients. Rather than teaching aspiring nurses in a classroom, they teach patients and families about health and wellness.

The work of psychologists, sociologists and historians is similar to the work of a nursing professor. While they do not teach classes, they all conduct research and may publish their findings, which is something that postsecondary professors typically do. Psychologists need a master's or doctoral degree, while sociologists and historians need a master's degree in their field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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