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Steps on How to Become a Nursing Professor


The U.S. continues to face a nursing shortage that’s challenging our healthcare system. Healthcare providers will need to fill 203,200 job openings for registered nurses (RNs) each year until 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


However, the ability to train new nurses and send them into the workforce is hindered by a shortage of another kind: a scarcity of nursing faculty, as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has reported. On average, nursing schools experienced an 8% faculty vacancy rate for the 2021-2022 school year; that was an increase from the 6.5% average vacancy rate they experienced for the 2020-2021 school year.


Educating future nurses is a critical function that will have a significant impact on the quality of healthcare. A nurse who aspires to become a nurse leader and who’s considering enrolling in online DNP programs can benefit from learning how to become a nursing professor.

What Does a Nursing Professor Do?

In teaching and training the next generation of nurses, nursing professors have numerous responsibilities. For example, nursing professors:


  • Craft and revise nursing curricula
  • Serve as mentors to and advise nursing students
  • Write and review nursing educational materials


The subjects that nursing professors teach in the classroom center on the domains of professional nursing education, as outlined by AACN. The domains cover topics such as:


  • Knowledge of nursing practice and an understanding of the scientific discipline of nursing
  • Person-centered care, with a focus on the individual patient
  • Nursing quality and safety
  • Interprofessional partnership and collaboration with other healthcare professionals
  • The use of informatics and healthcare technology in decision-making


Becoming a nursing professor also provides an individual with opportunities outside of the classroom, according to a 2022 report in American Nurse Journal. Specifically, nursing professors also have the chance to:


  • Pursue research
  • Prepare articles for publication in professional journals
  • Present nursing research at conferences
  • Provide input on public policy

Steps on How to Become a Nursing Professor

The path to becoming a nursing faculty member involves satisfying certain educational and experiential requirements. Those requirements and the steps in the process are detailed below.

Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse

Nursing professors come from the ranks of nurses, so the first step on the career ladder is to become an RN. Aspiring RNs can pursue nursing education in a few different ways. In particular, they can earn one of the following:



After satisfying the educational requirements, they need to:


Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Nurse educators have an average of around 10 years of experience working as RNs, according to nurse staffing agency ShiftMed. Their years of experience provide nursing professors with a wealth of knowledge in caring for patients and coordinating with other healthcare professionals. This can serve them well as educators.


In working as RNs, individuals acquire expertise in various key areas such as:


  • Administering medicines and healthcare interventions
  • Educating and counseling patients regarding their health
  • Making critical healthcare decisions
  • Obtaining health histories
  • Performing exams
  • Promoting health


The work experience that nurses have also enables them to acquire expertise in a specialty in which they can focus when they move into nursing faculty positions.

Step 3: Acquire the Right Skills

Working toward a job in nursing education also involves honing a wide variety of skills. According to Indeed, key skills for nurse educators include the following:


  • Skills in teaching, such as skills in verbal communication, providing instruction, and creating effective lesson plans
  • Skills in working with students, such as interpersonal skills, empathy, patience, and the ability to inspire
  • Leadership skills, particularly skills in mentoring and serving as role models
  • Written communication skills, which nursing professors can apply when conducting research or developing course materials
  • Skills in professionalism and teamwork

Step 4: Earn an Advanced Degree

RNs need to earn a graduate degree to serve as nursing professors, as the ANA Enterprise (a group comprising the American Nurses Association, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, and the American Nurses Foundation) explains.


Specific graduate degrees required to become a nursing professor include a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or a DNP degree. Nurses who’ve already earned an advanced degree but want to acquire expertise in a specialty also can complete post-master’s certificate programs.

Nursing Professor Salary

The median annual salary for postsecondary nursing teachers and instructors was $77,440 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. Those in the lowest 10% of the nursing professor salary range earned about $47,630 annually, while those in the highest 10% earned about $125,930 annually. Importantly, salaries can vary based on factors such as experience, geographic location, and type of employer (for example, a community college or a four-year higher education institution).


Employment prospects for nursing professors are very attractive. The BLS projects a 22% growth in the employment of nursing professors between 2021 and 2031. That growth rate significantly exceeds the BLS’s projected 5% growth rate for all occupations.

Securing the Future of the Nursing Profession

Working as a nursing professor is a great way for nurses to advance the profession and help ensure that our healthcare system has a capable workforce that can meet patients’ needs. It’s also an opportunity for nurses to give back to the field.


Nurses who are looking to move into nurse leadership roles, such as nursing professor, can explore Maryville University’s online DNP degree program to learn how it can help them achieve their professional goals. Offering concentrations that enable nurses to lead at the highest levels, as well as become nurse practitioners, the program can establish a solid foundation for career progression. Start working toward realizing your career ambitions today.


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