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Career and Technical Education (CTE) | Health Science | New Teacher Advice

How to Become a Teacher with a Nursing Degree: 4 Steps to Follow

April 12th, 2022 | 8 min. read

Mike Cescon

Mike Cescon

With past experience in teaching, a couple of degrees in writing, and an upbringing immersed in medical jargon, Mike is positioned well to hear out the most common questions teachers ask about the iCEV curriculum. His goal is to write content that quickly and effectively answers these questions so you can back to what matters - teaching your students.

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If you’re a nurse looking to get into teaching, you’re not alone. Hundreds of nurses every year are deciding to shift careers and become teachers. For many of them, teaching is the chance they’re looking for to give back to the industry and play a hand in inspiring the next generation of medical professionals. 

But what options are out there for a nurse who wants to teach? And what steps can you take to shift careers into teaching?

As a health science curriculum developer, we speak to thousands of nurses who have successfully transitioned from the medical industry to teaching. Depending on the type of teacher you want to become, it can be much simpler than you might expect. 

In this article, you’ll discover four decisive steps you can take to become a teacher with a nursing degree: 

  1. Decide What You Want to Teach
  2. Determine the Educational Requirements
  3. Earn Your Teaching Credentials
  4. Find a Position

By the end of this article, you’ll understand how to become a teacher with a nursing degree as well as what career options are available out there for you.

Step 1: Decide What You Want to Teach

Copy of best-nursing-assistant-lesson-plans-high-school (1)The first question prospective teachers have to ask themselves is: What do I want to teach?

After all, there are several different opportunities out there for nurses looking to get into teaching. Depending on your preferences, your journey to becoming a teacher may look very different from a colleague’s or friend’s. 

What Teaching Options Are Out There For Nurses?

Do you have an idea of what subject you want to teach? Would you prefer middle school, high school, college? Do you even plan on working in public education at all, or would you prefer to remain in the medical industry?

These are all valuable questions to consider asking yourself. However, if you’re just looking to find out what options are out there, don’t worry. Here are some of the teaching professions that nurses can take up:

  • CTE Health Science Teacher - Working at the middle school and high school levels, CTE health science teachers instruct their students in foundational and work-based healthcare skills that they can use to pursue careers in the medical industry. This is a popular pathway for nurses looking to exit the medical industry and pursue a career in public education.

  • Clinical Nurse Educator - Also known as nursing instructors, these professionals work either in the classroom or a clinical setting to educate future nurses on the skills and knowledge they’ll need to successfully care for patients. Nursing instructors can find employment either at universities or medical facilities, making this pathway a good fit for nurses who want to teach within the medical industry. 

  • Professor of Nursing - Working at the university level, professors of nursing instruct and train their students in all aspects of nursing so they can go on to earn their degrees and begin their careers. Usually their duties involve crafting their course curriculum, delivering lectures, and keeping up to date on the latest research and trends in nursing. This role would work well for nurses looking to shift completely into higher academia. 

Though there are other career options out there, these are the primary teaching pathways that nurses can pursue. 

Whether you decide to choose one of these pathways or another, the next step is to figure out what kind of further education—if any—is needed to earn a teaching position.

Step 2: Determine the Educational Requirements

Copy of best-nursing-assistant-lesson-plans-high-school (2)So you have your nursing degree, and probably years of experience in the field. Your next question is probably something like: Is my degree enough to earn me a teaching position?

Well, the answer to that depends mainly on what kind of teacher you’ve decided to become. 

As a minimum, middle and high schools require that teachers possess a bachelor’s degree in order to teach. While these degrees are sometimes in education, they don’t necessarily have to be. 

On the other hand, if you want to teach within the medical industry or at the university level, typically you’ll have to obtain some kind of graduate degree that designates you as a teaching specialist. 

The educational requirements for some of the more common teaching professions in nursing include:

  • CTE Health Science Teacher - A bachelor’s in nursing and a nursing license are usually sufficient to become a CTE health science teacher, since they teach middle school and high school. However, depending on the school, you may also have to earn a teaching certification to maintain a faculty position.

  • Clinical Nurse Educator - It’s required that nurse educators have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and heavily recommended that they also obtain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a teaching focus if they want to succeed in this career path long term. Depending on the institution you work for, you may also be required to pass the Certified Nurse Educator exam to become employed.

  • Professor of Nursing - A Master of Science in Nursing is the minimum requirement to become a nursing professor, while a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the recommended long-term degree to obtain. Because professors work at the university level, they are expected to possess advanced degrees like this. 

The reality is that not all teaching positions have the same educational standards. For example, many secondary school positions would be more than satisfied by your bachelor’s in nursing. At the same time, college-level or clinical education settings will likely expect you to pursue a more advanced degree. 

In other words, if you’re not interested in going back to school to earn an advanced nursing degree, then your options will likely be limited to secondary school programs. 

Regardless, now that you have an idea of the educational requirements of your dream job, you’re ready to take the next step: obtaining what teaching credentials you need. 

Step 3: Earn Your Teaching Credentials

Copy of best-nursing-assistant-lesson-plans-high-school (3)Now that you have an idea of the educational requirements for your dream job, your next question should be: Do I need to earn a certification to become a teacher?

Under most circumstances, yes, you will need to earn teaching credentials. How this looks will vary depending on the role you seek.

In many states for instance, a bachelor’s in nursing and a current nursing license are all you need to get started as a CTE health science teacher. After you’re hired, however, you may need to enroll in a teaching certification program to learn essential pedagogy skills. 

On the other hand, if you want to pursue a teaching career in higher education, you’ll likely need to enter an advanced university degree program that will train you to teach in a clinical or collegiate setting. 

Some of the credentials you can pursue to become a teacher include:

  • Provisional or Emergency Certification - If you want to start teaching right away, some states allow you to acquire a temporary license to teach, often called an emergency certification. This license grants you the ability to teach in public schools for 1-3 years while you work on more permanent credentials. However, typically the only way to obtain this certification is to be sponsored by a school district that needs you.

  • Teaching Certification - Enrolling in a teacher certification program is one of the most popular options for those seeking to teach in public schools. These programs train you in practical teaching skills like lecturing and classroom management so that you’re prepared to run a classroom. Generally, these programs take a year or two to complete, and cost much less than pursuing advanced degrees.

  • Advanced Nursing Degree - If you want to become a clinical nurse educator or nursing professor, your next step is to apply to a master’s or doctoral program at a university. Pursuing an MSN or DNP will take years of study and can be quite expensive, but they will also provide you with the most thorough qualifications to teach. 

Whatever program you decide to pursue to earn your credentials, there are general standards that each program has in common. For instance, you’ll likely be expected to meet a minimum GPA standard, take exams demonstrating your knowledge of pedagogy, and complete a period of student teaching under the supervision of a certified instructor. 

Once you’ve completed these requirements, you should be able to then apply for a permanent teaching license. And just like that, you’ll have earned your teaching credentials. The only thing left now is to find a job!

Step 4: Find a Position

Copy of best-nursing-assistant-lesson-plans-high-school (4)Perhaps the most important step of becoming a teacher with a nursing degree is the last: finding a position that will suit you well. However, based on the pathway you’ve taken thus far, this process can take a few different forms. 

If you’re looking to become a CTE health science teacher, you should check out education websites, virtual job boards for teachers, and maybe contact your local school districts to see if there are opportunities available in existing CTE programs. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a position as a clinical nurse educator, then local hospital, college, and university job boards may be the best places to start. Nurse instructors can find employment in any of these settings, which opens up more options for you, job-wise.

Most importantly, regardless of whether your applications get rejected a few times, don’t lose heart. Healthcare is an industry that’s constantly expanding, and that means every year there are more and more open positions for teachers specializing in healthcare.

For instance, with the shortage of nurses,jobs for clinical nurse educators are expected to grow by 7% by 2029. Similarly, the job outlook for CTE health science teachers is also positive due to the high demand for healthcare workers throughout the country. 

If you’ve followed the steps of this article, earned the necessary credentials, and are committed to becoming a teacher, then it’s only a matter of time before you find your dream position. 

Still Not Sure Teaching Is the Right Path for You?

Rest assured, thousands of nurses have been where you are right now: feeling a draw toward teaching, but unsure whether it’s the right choice for them, and wanting to know what it would take to become a teacher. You’re not alone. 

In this article, you’ve learned the broad strokes of how to become a teacher with a nursing degree. If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to leaving your day-to-day duties behind and starting a brand new career at the head of a classroom. 

However, what this article hasn’t touched upon is whether teaching really is the right path for you to take. In particular, becoming a high school health science teacher has benefits and drawbacks you might never have considered, though it’s essential you have a grasp on them before you take the leap.

If you want more insight into what it means to become a CTE health science teacher, check out this article on challenges to consider before leaving the medical industry to teach. It goes in-depth into three of the main factors that future teachers have to consider before shifting careers:

Consider These Challenges Before Switching to Teaching