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Top Questions: MSN in Nursing Education Online

FAQ About Earning an MSN in Nursing Education Online

The master's in nursing education is a degree that offers graduates a nice variety of career options. It's primarily for BSN-prepared RNs who want to earn the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) credential, but this MSN prepares you for many different instructional roles. You can choose a teaching and education career in a hospital or other clinical setting, at a college, or in the community.

Students learn to develop, design, deliver, and evaluate education curriculum. They study curriculum and instruction for the academic setting and professional staff development, and learn to provide RN education in special population care units. They also develop listening and advising skills, which are essential when working with patients learning to manage a new or ongoing health condition.

Quite often, nurse educators find a blended career works to their advantage. Many nursing professors also spend time working directly with patients, teaching workshops in clinical care settings, or participating in health advocacy efforts in their community. It's also common for nurse educators who work in hospitals, healthcare systems or nonprofit organizations to teach college courses part time, either on campus or online.

With an online master's degree in nursing education, you can pursue a career mix that meets your needs. The links below will help you get started.

What Is a Master of Science in Nursing Education?

The MSN in nursing education is a graduate degree for BSN-prepared RNs who are interested in a teaching career. Students can learn core teaching skills, while developing advanced skills in different instructional methods. MSN students also gain specialized knowledge of teaching/learning principles, student assessment, evaluation techniques and much more.

University of North Carolina Wilmington's offers RNs the opportunity to get this valuable and flexible master's degree without taking time off from work or breaking the bank in the process. It's also one of the nation's shortest master's programs in nursing education: only 36 credit hours.

The MSN Nurse Educator program is fulfilling and demanding. It attracts a variety of nurses, from the seasoned nurse to the newer grad.

What Courses Will I Take in a Nursing Education Master's Program?

Master's courses in nursing education help you achieve teaching competency for professional and academic learning environments by building essential knowledge in a variety of instructional areas. Students in UNCW's MSN Nurse Educator program complete that focuses on:

Online courses for an MSN in Nursing Education program
  • Teaching and learning theory
  • Evidence-based practice in didactic, clinical, and online teaching
  • Pharmacotherapeutics and Pathophysiology
  • Advanced health assessment and diagnostic reasoning
  • Informatics and technology
  • Research and evidence-based practices in nursing education
  • Population health, finance and policy applied to nursing education

Students also take a nursing elective of their choice and complete a nursing education practicum composed of two courses in sequence. During the practicum, students work with a nurse educator mentor in a healthcare or academic setting.

Dr. Carolyn Kleman, Assistant Professor, UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online program
I would like students to become more familiar with the policy process and with their potential to influence policy.

What Will I Learn in a Nursing Education Master's Program?

You will learn instructional strategies for groups and individual learners. This includes didactic, clinical and distance education nursing courses.

What Will I Learn in a Nursing Education Master's Program?

Didactic courses are traditional courses. They involve face-to-face instruction in a college classroom – or through virtual means – or a professional development setting. Clinical courses involve teaching nursing students or staff members in a healthcare setting or through a simulation scenario. Educating patients about their conditions and treatments may also be a part of a clinical course. Distance learning is online education, whether it takes the form of a college course, a continuing education workshop or another type of internet-based learning.

During MSN studies, students begin to understand how RN practice and teaching pedagogy work together. They develop expertise in teaching/learning theory so they can create effective teaching strategies for students in any format. They craft tools for teaching specific subjects and audiences, and learn to give helpful feedback. And during the teaching practicum, they gain confidence and techniques for working with diverse learners.

 Mandy Triplett, 2018 UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online graduate and RN in the education department at Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount, North Carolina
I'm getting to use what I learned in the whole program in my day-to-day work. … I have already taken a couple of the projects and implemented changes at my professional level and made it better.

Spotlight: What Is Pedagogy, and How Does it Apply to Nursing?

Pedagogy is essentially the art and practice of teaching. It focuses on understanding what motivates students, and how to meet their educational needs. It also highlights teaching methods for different content, audiences and learning situations.

MSN pedagogy centers on best practices in nursing education. It also offers different instructional models for didactic, clinical and online courses. In UNCW's online MSN Nurse Educator program, pedagogy involves learning through research, case studies, peer-to-peer discussion and practicum experience. Even if you've never taught before, you'll gain expertise in:

What Is Pedagogy, and How Does it Apply to Nursing?
  • Course structures and objectives
  • Learning goals and strategies
  • Lesson planning
  • Exercise and assignment design
  • Quiz and test design
  • Grading and feedback technique
  • Evaluation tools and processes

Pedagogy does not stop with the end of your degree program. It's a part of your teaching life that can evolve and change as you gain experience, work with different learning communities, and develop your own best practices along the way.

 Tammy Hussey, 2018 UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online graduate
While most 57-year-old nurses are planning for retirement, I wanted to be an inspiration to younger nurses. I wanted to be a transformational leader, giving them motivation to continue their education, connecting with the staff and showing them that anyone can overcome barriers if they truly want something.

Do Many Nurse Educators Teach College Courses?

A shortage in nursing faculty is resulting in rejected nursing school applications

Yes. In fact, many community colleges actively recruit MSN graduates to teach in their nursing programs. Universities do as well, primarily for undergraduate courses. However, it's important to note that some nursing programs require faculty to have a doctoral degree.

The nursing faculty shortage in higher education has become so severe in some areas of the country that thousands of qualified nursing school applicants are now being turned away due to a lack of qualified instructors. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that over 80,000 bachelor's and graduate school nursing applicants were turned away for this reason in 2019 alone.

Nurse educators working in academia are also important role models and mentors for students who are on their way to becoming an RN or ready to move up the nursing career ladder. These instructors bring vital clinical training and experience to their teaching that helps students connect theory to practice. When nursing professors collaborate with healthcare providers as part of their teaching, students can benefit even more.

Dr. Diane K. Pastor, Assistant Professor, UNCW MSN Nurse Educator program online
I love contributing to the next generation of thought leaders and caregivers.
 Carolyn Hunter, UNCW Master of Science Nurse Educator online student
I want to be the one to work with and encourage those new nursing students, let them know my story and let them know that with hard work, dedication and consistency of application, they can be who they want to be and they can obtain whatever they want to obtain. I'm a living witness. I never thought I'd be where I am now.
 Carolyn Hunter, UNCW Master of Science Nurse Educator online student

Does My Nursing Education Program Need to Be Accredited?

Yes, if you want the best funding options for school and career prospects after graduation, accreditation is key. Here's why:

Accreditation required for financial aid
  • Graduate students must be enrolled in an accredited degree program to receive state or federal financial aid. This includes loans, grants, scholarships and other forms of financial support.
  • Government tuition reimbursement, loan repayment and loan forgiveness benefits for healthcare workers are not available to RNs who graduate from an unaccredited nursing program. Employers who offer these benefits often follow the same policy.
  • Employers commonly require a master's degree from an accredited college or university for nursing educator jobs. This is true for most hospitals and healthcare systems, in higher education, and for many government and nonprofit agencies.

Getting your MSN from a nursing program without accreditation becomes a very risky proposition when you consider these rules and circumstances.

Why Is Accreditation Important to Employers?

Employers know that graduates of accredited nursing programs have received the right education for their career field from a credible institution. They also know that to earn accreditation, programs go through a rigorous review process. The nursing curricula must be aligned with current professional standards; professors must have the right degrees and qualifications; and all operations must be financially sound. Accreditors also look at graduation rates and the percentage of graduates employed in their field.

UNCW's online MSN Nurse Educator program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The university also holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Is it Tough to Get Accepted to a Master's Program in Nursing Education?

online MSN programs often have streamlined admissions process

It can be, but you can improve your odds with a little research. Your best bet is to find a nursing master's program that's a good match for your needs, qualifications, goals and budget. Then focus on your strengths. While most MSN programs have a 3.0 GPA requirement, some have alternate ways to meet admissions if yours is lower than that threshold. If you have a full-time job, consider programs that cater to working RNs.

Online programs are often the best bet. Many have the capacity to work with a larger number of graduate students than traditional master's programs do, which increases the odds that all qualified applicants will be able to secure a spot. Even some of the most selective schools admit more students to their online degree programs than their on-campus versions.

Accelerated online master's programs are most likely to have a streamlined application process for RNs. Students who apply to UNCW's online MSN Nurse Educator degree program can sometimes get a decision in as little as a week once they submit all required materials. This enables applicants to claim their place in the next graduate class quickly, often months before they might hear back from other schools.

What's the Admissions Process for Graduate Programs in Nursing Education?

There are a few standard requirements for graduate school nursing admissions, though the documentation required and extra materials you submit will vary by program.

UNCW MSN Nursing Education admissions checklist

Must haves (for most nursing education programs):

  • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited college or university
  • An active nursing license
  • Graduate school application
  • Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
  • A GPA on previous college coursework that meets minimum program standards

Additional requirements (for some programs):

  • GRE or MAT scores
  • Application essay or statement of plans
  • Letters of reference from former professors and/or nursing supervisors
  • 1-3 years of clinical experience

To be considered for admission to UNCW's online MSN Nurse Educator program, applicants should meet all criteria on the must-have list above and have a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. You do not have to submit GRE or MAT scores. You may do so, however, if you have a lower GPA but meet all other criteria for admission. See the program's admissions checklist for further details.

No GRE required for UNCW MSN online programs

Can I Apply If I Have a Bachelor's Degree in Education?

A bachelor's in education is a great qualification for teaching in general, but nurse educators must also have the clinical knowledge and experience gained as an RN, as well as the evidence-based practice skills you learn with a BSN. You'll find that the majority of graduate programs in nursing education require RN licensure (or eligibility for licensure) and a BSN degree.

Learn more about our MSN in Nurse Education online program

Do Graduate Schools Accept Transfer Credits?

Many do, though the number of transfer credit hours can be limited. UNCW accepts up to nine credit hours of graduate transfer credit, but courses without an equivalent in the MSN Nurse Educator program may not be applicable to the degree. Check with the admissions office for additional information.

My BSN Program Did Not Require Statistics – Will I Need It for My MSN Degree?

UNCW requires a statistics course for the MSN Nurse Educator degree

You might. Contact prospective graduate programs to confirm their policy.

UNCW requires a statistics course for the MSN Nurse Educator degree, but if you don't have one, no problem. You can take statistics at UNCW while you're working on your MSN courses. You can also transfer in an undergraduate statistics course from another school, as long as you earned a grade of B- or higher.

What Is a Nurse Educator Practicum?

apply knowledge and teaching skills with practicum

In a nurse educator practicum course, students apply the knowledge and teaching skills they have learned throughout their MSN studies, usually during an internship or in another instructional capacity in either a hospital setting or an academic institution.

At UNCW, online MSN Nurse Educator students participate in a two-part practicum. Throughout the two practicum courses (NSG 596 and NSG 597), students develop, design, deliver and evaluate an original educational innovation project focused on evidence-based practice. Students will create their education project under the supervision of an experienced educator, based on didactic, clinical and/or online education principles. MSN students also disseminate the project to the academic community.

How Does a Practicum Benefit Students?

put learning theory into practice

Students who participate in an instructional practicum as part of their master's in nursing education benefit by putting learning theory and teaching strategy into practice. They also receive important feedback from professors and mentors as they assume a new professional role.

Often, you'll have the opportunity to develop curriculum for an actual academic and/or healthcare audience. Some MSN students are able to get direct teaching experience working with the populations they hope to serve after graduation, including undergraduate nursing students.

Regardless of the form it takes, a practicum is a bridge to independence as a nurse educator. The experience and support you get can help ease the transition to your next career in nursing.

Is a Specific Number of Practice Hours Required?

It depends on your graduate program and how their practicum or other practice requirement is structured. UNCW requires a total of 186 practice hours, encompassing both practicum courses and another 18 hours of built-in practicum in the health assessment course.

Most MSN practice hours will require a preceptor

Will I Need a Preceptor?

Many MSN programs in nursing education do require that students have a preceptor, especially when teaching duties are involved. However, check with programs directly to confirm their practicum policies.

UNCW requires a total of 186 practice hours for MSN Nurse Educator program

Students in UNCW's online MSN Nurse Educator program must have a preceptor for their practicum experience. To be approved, the preceptor must be employed at the practicum site and have the following qualifications:

  • Active North Carolina nursing license (or an active license in the state where the student's practicum hours will be completed)
  • MSN degree from an accredited nursing program, preferably in nursing education
  • Three years of teaching experience in a clinical or educational setting

What Is the Certified Nurse Educator Credential?

The Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) and Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNEcl) are credentials awarded by the National League for Nursing (NLN). Like other certifications in advanced areas of RN practice, they denote expertise in a specialty field — in this case, nursing education.

CNEs must re-certify every five years

Earning an advanced nursing education credential is a high achievement and one that can set you apart professionally. It signals that you have the right preparation to teach in a college or university nursing program as well as hospitals or other healthcare settings. With your CNE, you can also work directly with patients and their families.

CNEs must re-certify every five years to ensure their knowledge, skills and pedagogy remain up to date. They may do so by meeting practice and professional development requirements or by taking the most current version of the certification exam.

How Do I Qualify to Take the CNE or CNEcl Exam?

To sit for either exam, you must hold a master's or doctoral degree in nursing and meet other qualifications based on your method of preparation for an instructional role. See the CNE Candidate Handbook and CNEcl Candidate Handbook for further information.

What Does the CNE Exam Cover?

The standard CNE exam is composed of 150 questions. It covers the following major content areas, testing each candidate's ability to:

Facilitate learning 22%
Use assessment and evaluation strategies 19%
Participate in curriculum design and evaluate program outcomes 17%
Engage in scholarship, service and leadership 15%
Facilitate learner development and socialization 14%
Pursue continuous improvement in the academic nurse educator role 12%

As a whole, the exam focuses on the basic elements of nursing instruction. It tests the candidate's knowledge as well as his or her capacity for teaching students, professional staff and patients.

What Is the Minimum Passing Score on the CNE Exam?

The CNE is graded on pass/fail basis

The National League for Nursing does not publish a minimum passing score for the standard CNE exam. Instead, test takers receive a pass or fail result based on the number of answers they get correct on the version of the exam they take. There may be two or more versions of the exam available at a given time.

Scores are based on 130 of the 150 questions. The remaining 20 questions are unscored sample items that may be used on future versions of the exam. See the NLN's FAQ page for additional details on scoring.

What Is the Career Outlook for Nurse Educators?

Labor market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies projects that national demand for nurse educators will grow by 16% through 2027. There is even better news in North Carolina, where Burning Glass predicts demand will grow 23% over the same period.

Where Do Nurse Educators Work?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most nursing instructors in America work for colleges, universities, professional schools and medical/surgical hospitals. Many also work for nonprofit organizations. Some MSN graduates teach in technical and trade schools as well, or even in business schools.

46% of clinical nurse educators in north carolina work for a regional hospital or healthcare system

In North Carolina, 46% of clinical nurse educators work for a regional hospital or healthcare system, including university-run care facilities. Another 22% work for the state or the military, including the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Roughly 12% work for private companies in biotechnology, data science, health insurance or other fields.

One in five CNEs in North Carolina works in other areas of education, and many teach in college and university nursing programs across the state.

 Mandy Triplett, 2018 UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online graduate and RN in the education department at Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount, North Carolina
I went into the MSN program thinking I would go into academia. I was at the bedside then, so I thought that was the only avenue I could take. Now that I have been in the MSN program, met the people and seen the avenues it has taken me, I realize professional development is where I want to remain. I want to stay in acute care and help our current nurses grow and continue to learn.

Spotlight: Opportunities for Nurse Educators in Higher Education

The most recent Faculty Census Survey reveals a significant need for nurse educators who want to become full-time college professors. As of 2017, 70% of full-time nursing program faculty were at or nearing retirement age. While about 20% teach into their 60s or beyond, higher education is clearly facing a wave of vacancies in the years ahead — and recruiting its next generation of faculty members.

Nursing schools are in need of new faculty

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing surveyed 1,015 colleges and universities with vacant full-time nursing faculty positions going into the 2018-2019 academic year to collect data on nursing program staffing needs and hiring preferences. The survey also noted the obstacles schools face in recruiting new faculty members. A look at the data reveals that MSN nurse educators with a flexible attitude and a diverse skill set are the most sought after for full-time positions.

More than two-thirds (70%) of AACN survey respondents needed new faculty willing to teach both clinical and classroom courses. Almost as many, 63%, looked for candidates with the right specialty mix for their program. One in five schools sought faculty who could perform research in addition to their teaching duties.

The survey results also indicated that well-qualified job candidates often have their pick of teaching positions. Approximately one-third of nursing programs surveyed cited competition for qualified candidates as a major barrier to hiring full-time nursing faculty. One in four schools also struggled to find enough qualified candidates in their geographic area, including rural programs. Each of these conditions spells excellent opportunity for MSN graduates in nursing education who want to teach at the college level full-time.

What Is a Typical Nurse Educator Salary?

Salaries for MSN nurse educators can differ depending on where they want to work and the populations they choose to serve. The following tables offer a sampling of jobs for MSN nurse educator graduates, along with average salaries for those positions.

Hospital and Healthcare Average Salary
Oncology Nurse Educator $93,923
Clinical Instructor $90,108
Nursing Professional Development Specialist $83,860
Clinical Nurse Educator $83,200
Diabetes Educator $82,515
Online Nurse Educator $79,452
Lactation Consultant $78,452

Sources: ZipRecruiter (December 2021)

Colleges and Universities Average Salary
Full Professor $140,543
Associate Professor $95,828
Assistant Professor $83,362
Instructor $62,926

Source: American Association of University Professors (2021)

Note that salaries in higher education also vary by institution and teaching discipline, especially for MSN graduates new to the field. Professors teaching graduate students in nursing master's or doctoral programs have the best chance of earning more at each academic rank.

Which Nursing Education Skills Are Most in Demand?

Employers, of course, value teaching ability and clinical skills. They also expect nurse educators to understand different learning styles and use a variety of instructional methods. Job candidates with experience creating or running educational programs are in demand as well.

In North Carolina, employers also seek nurse educators with skills in management or specific areas of patient care. Below are the top skills requested in North Carolina.

Specialized Competitive Advantage Salary Premium
Staff management Staff development Critical and acute care
Program development and evaluation Behavioral health Oncology
Curriculum development Perioperative Surgical services
Needs assessment Quality management Project management

Source: Burning Glass Technologies (2018-2019)

Will I Need Additional Certifications or Licensure?

Certifications can be a competitive advantage for nurses

Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) is one of the top certifications requested by employers across the nation. Optional certifications commonly requested for nurse educators include those that many BSN RNs already have:

  • Basic Life Saving (BLS)
  • Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS)
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP)
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS)

Pharmacist, nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist licensure can also be valuable to employers seeking nurse educators. However, no special license other than your RN is required for most positions.

Where Are Nurse Educators in Demand in North Carolina?

Durham-Chapel Hill metro area has the sixth-highest concentration of nursing educator jobs in the country

The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area has the sixth-highest concentration of nursing educator jobs in the country, at an average salary of $87,930. The state's Piedmont and Southeast Coastal regions are also seeing robust employment in the profession. In fact, theirs is the highest concentration of all non-metro areas in America.

Charlotte, Raleigh and Asheville have stronger demand for nurse educators than other parts of the state as well. This includes their adjacent suburbs and surrounding rural areas.

Will Employers Care That I Earned My Master's Degree Online?

It's unlikely because the numbers are in your favor. A recent study by the Urban Institute found that 52% of master's program students in America now study fully or partially online for their degree. Of that group, 31% of students enroll in programs that are 100% online. Employers are seeing, and hiring, more master's graduates from online degree programs than ever before, especially in healthcare fields.


Graduates students in America now study fully or partially online for their degree

- Urban Institute

What's the Average Tuition Cost for an Online Master's in Nursing Education?

The average cost per credit hour for a master's in nursing education program is $537.25 for in-state students studying online. That means you would pay $19,978 in tuition for the typical 37-credit course sequence required to complete the degree. A program that requires 41 credit hours, which is also quite common, could cost you $22,031 instead, while a 33-hour program would be closer to $17,729.

Costs can change considerably based on the type of school you choose, however. The average online tuition rate per credit hour for a nursing education master's degree at a private college or university is $669 for in-state students. At elite private schools, the average is closer to $1,743. At public colleges and universities, $444 per online credit is average, but some programs can run as high as $793 per credit for in-state students. The table below, based on these figures, illustrates how much your total cost can vary depending on the MSN program you choose.

Total Tuition Cost: MSN Nursing Education

College or University 33-hour program 37-hour program 41-hour program
Average High Average High Average High
Private $22,746 $57,219 $24,753 $64,491 $27,429 $71,463
Public $15,906 $26,169 $16,428 $29,341 $18,204 $32,513

The price of your education includes more than tuition, however. Make sure to account for any student fees or cost differentials for online students when evaluating potential MSN programs. Over time, these extras can add hundreds of dollars (or more) to the final cost of your degree.

UNCW's 36-hour MSN Nurse Educator degree is one of the most affordable programs in North Carolina. It's also one of the best values in the nation, at only $295.29 per credit hour. UNCW keeps instructional fees low as well, to reduce the total cost of a master's degree for working nurses. If you're a North Carolina resident, you can earn your MSN for $10,630.44, including all tuition and fees.

Can Graduate Nursing Students Qualify for Financial Aid?

As long as you attend an accredited MSN program, you can apply for state and federal aid. Qualifying for aid depends on your income and the cost of your education, but you may be eligible for options such as grants or scholarships.

UNCW offers a number of scholarships that you may qualify for as a nursing student. also has a helpful list of funding opportunities for RNs.

 Mandy Triplett, 2018 UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online graduate and RN in the education department at Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount, North Carolina
Don't say, 'When x, y and z happens, then I'll do it,' because it will never happen. Don't procrastinate. You're not too old, you're not too young. Money is not an excuse — there's money out there. There are loans, grants, scholarships. If you're waiting for the perfect time, you're not going to find it. Just do it.

Can I Use My Military Education Benefits to Pay for a Graduate Degree?

Yes, as long as you have adequate active duty or veteran's education benefits and your branch of the armed forces approves your master's program. You must be enrolled in an accredited program education to qualify for military tuition assistance.

Learn more about our MSN in Nurse Education online program

Do Employers Offer Tuition Reimbursement for Master's Degrees?

Many employers do offer tuition reimbursement, especially in the healthcare field. Check with yours to see if you qualify. CNN Money reports that in addition to signing bonuses, tuition reimbursement is becoming one of the top hiring incentives for RNs across the country.

Do Nurse Educators Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness?

Yes, though your eligibility for loan forgiveness, repayment and cancellation programs as a nurse educator may be tied to service in a high-need nursing shortage area. This is a requirement for many federal loan assistance programs for RNs available through the U.S. Department of Education and Health Resources and Services Administration.

You may also qualify for HRSA's Faculty Loan Repayment program if you are from an economically or environmentally disadvantaged background. If you're a prospective UNCW graduate student living in North Carolina, be sure to check out the Forgivable Education Loans for Service (FELS) program as well.

Will I Have to Quit Working Full-Time to Get an Online Master's Degree?

No, you can keep your job and still get your degree. Many nurses work full-time while they study online for an MSN. Staying connected to your RN field may even be to your advantage as a future nurse educator. You can continue to gain RN experience that will benefit you as an instructor and sharpen your clinical skills in areas of nursing you plan to teach later.

 Mandy Triplett, 2018 UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online graduate and RN in the education department at Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount, North Carolina
I never had a problem emailing an instructor and saying, 'Hey, this came up.' They said, 'We understand you're a professional and you're full time. You're trying to grow, and we are going to work with you.'
 Mandy Triplett, 2018 UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online graduate and RN in the education department at Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount, North Carolina
 Tammy Hussey, 2018 UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online graduate
I won't say it was easy working full-time and taking care of my father…who has Alzheimer's disease. But the support of my professors and peers gave me the encouragement to continue.

How Much Study Time Will I Need?

Plan for 12-15 hours of study time per week

Graduate school courses demand significant thought and effort, but planning ahead makes them more manageable. It's a good idea to set aside a little more study time than you think you'll need until you get in the groove of online learning.

For example, if your workload for the week is mostly reading, writing a short response paper and posting on the discussion board, give yourself 8-10 hours of study time. If your week involves complex projects, collaboration with classmates, or a research paper, give yourself 12-15 hours. In either case, adjust your routine as needed to figure out what works best for you.

"In trying to determine the time required for an online accelerated course, consider the assignments as your class time and projects just as if it was a physical course. Then add your study time into consideration." — , Lecturer, UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online program

Carolyn Hunter, UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online student
When you go into this nursing program, you need to be focused and stay on top of all of those assignments. Don't say, 'Tonight, I'm tired.' Go ahead and do it anyway. You can easily get behind. Go into it with a determination that you can do anything.

How Fast Can I Finish My MSN Degree?

Earn your MSN in nursing education in one year

It's hard to complete any type of master's degree on campus in under two years, much less a nursing degree. Online MSN programs are tailored to the working RNs and their needs, allowing many students to finish much faster than would in a traditional program.

Accelerated online degree programs are the best option for motivated students whose priority is to earn their degree and CNE credential quickly. At UNCW, you can get your MSN Nurse Educator degree in half the time you might spend in a traditional master's program, even as few as 12 months.

How Do Online Classes Work?

Login to online coursework

Each school has its own online portal and course system that allows you to login to your classes and work with the materials your professor provides. If you have ever used a portal like Blackboard or Canvas as an undergrad, you'll probably feel right at home.

Even if you've never taken a course online, the learning modules you will follow and complete are designed to be user friendly. You'll have a course syllabus to guide you as well. It spells out requirements and provides the key information you need about readings, assignments, deadlines, grading criteria and more.

Simply follow your professor's directions, and complete a new module each week.

 Mandy Triplett, 2018 UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online graduate and RN in the education department at Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount, North Carolina
My family is excited for me and proud of me. My daughters think it's pretty cool to do homework with mom … I really get to model what I expect out of them.

Will I Work With My Professors Online?

Although you won't have face-to-face lectures or meet your professor in his or her office, there is still plenty of opportunity to work with each instructor in your online classes. Here are some of the ways you can interact with your professors online:

  • Email your professor anytime, even directly from your online portal.
  • Have a real-time meeting via video conference on your computer or smart phone.
  • Start a message board thread for questions about assignments or other aspects of the course.
  • If your professor leaves you feedback after you submit an assignment, respond with your own questions or comments to start a discussion.
  • Invite your professor to participate in a group video chat with classmates, perhaps about a research paper or a project.
  • If your professor is fine with texting or phone calls, that may be an option too (check your course syllabus for communication policies).

 Dr. Lorie Sigmon, Assistant Professor, UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online program
[UNCW] programs are fast-paced, interesting and challenging. Faculty are available, flexible and encouraging.
r. Brandy Mechling, Assistant Professor, UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online program
Since my youth, I had a passion for nursing and teaching. I value lifelong learning and enjoy sharing what I have learned with others.
r. Brandy Mechling, Assistant Professor, UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online program

Will I Work With the Other Students in My MSN Program?

get to know your online classmates

Contact and collaboration with your RN peers is a valuable part of the learning process. In addition to the ongoing interactions you'll have on course discussion boards, students can work together in other ways. You may decide to team up for a presentation or form an online study group. You might even do research with a team or partner. Designing a clinical project that multiple classmates can execute at different sites is also an option.

Each graduate nursing cohort contains RNs from different backgrounds and fields of nursing, which also gives students the opportunity to "talk shop" with peers who understand nurse life. This makes for a more productive discussion about teaching, especially concerning the common challenges nurse educators face.

"It is a lot of work but very much worth it! You will enjoy forming communities with other students who share similar professional goals." — , Assistant Professor, UNCW MSN Nurse Educator program online

Will I Need a Technology Upgrade to Take Online Courses?

If your computer is old, you might need a new one for online study

If you're already in the market for the latest Mac, PC or tablet, it makes sense to get your new device before starting online courses. But if you're happy with what you have, or simply not ready for something new, it's okay. Online courses are often designed to take advantage of the most recent generation of technology, but they will likely work fine on your current system.

If the computer or device you'll be using for online courses is more than four years old, consider bringing your operating system, web browser and word processing software up to date. Then make sure you're all set to stream video, chat and use a webcam. Depending on the course, you may also have to create videos, presentations, or spreadsheets.

Check with your MSN program to see what they recommend or require.

Do Online Degree Programs Have Services for Military Members or Veterans?

Yes. While some services for active duty military and veteran students may be provided through your online master's program, in most cases you will also work with representatives from veteran's affairs or other offices at your school. You can get help applying for benefits, registering for classes, filing the correct forms and other types of assistance.

The Military Times named UNCW one of the best colleges for veterans in 2019. The university has a strong commitment to active duty military members, veterans and their families. See the Office of Military Affairs for detailed information about the array of services and supports available to master's degree students in nursing education.

I Might Need Writing or Research Help. Is that Common for Graduate Students?

Don't worry, many graduate students in nursing and other disciplines find they need this type of support at some point in their studies. Though online resources will vary by campus, most schools make it a priority to help students improve their academic writing and research skills.

Nursing graduate students at UNCW have several good resources for writing support, including the Online Writing and Learning (OWL) service. OWL consultants provide feedback on paper drafts and other written assignments. You can also use the online Assignment Calculator to create a detailed work plan for a research paper, based on the due date and the time you have left to write it.

UNCW's William Madison Randall Library offers online resources for MSN students as well. You can use the extensive nursing research guide, meet with a librarian and more. The university's interlibrary loan service will even deliver books to your home or find you an electronic copy.

What If I Need Tech Support at Night or On Weekends?

Support services for students

Many nursing schools now offer round-the-clock tech support for graduate students, given that an RN's work and study schedule may differ from other students. Check with MSN programs directly to learn more about the resources they provide.

Online MSN Nurse Educator students at UNCW have 24/7 phone and live chat support, as well as helpful guides and troubleshooting tools. It's all available in the Canvas portal where you access your courses. If you are having issues with university email or networks, or trouble logging into Canvas, the UNCW Technology Assistance Center is also an option.

Do Online Master's Students Have a Graduation Ceremony?

Yes. In fact, many nursing programs invite online students to come to graduation. Crossing the graduation stage to receive your diploma is a rite of passage, and it can be a wonderful experience. It's also an opportunity to share this important accomplishment with your professors, family and classmates.

UNCW encourages online MSN Nurse Educator students to join their peers on campus for graduation. The university also live streams the ceremonies for those who cannot attend. You can even view past graduation ceremonies in the online video archive.

"When I walked across the graduation stage, I not only felt a sense of accomplishment for myself, I also realized the potential to create a positive change for the future of my nursing staff." — , 2018 UNCW MSN Nurse Educator online graduate

Learn more about our MSN Nurse Educator online program!

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