How To Change From a Nurse to Teacher (Careers and Skills)

Updated March 30, 2023

If you're a nurse considering changing career paths but still want to make a difference in the lives of others, you can become a teacher. Working as an educator may be an excellent second career, especially if you have a passion for teaching. Understanding the differences between a nurse and a teacher can help you decide if you have what it takes to become an effective educator.

In this article, we discuss what a nurse and teacher are, explore the career paths from a nurse to a teacher and learn how to change from nursing to teaching.

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What is a nurse?

Two health care professionals look over medical files. One wears a dark blue scrub top with a stethoscope. The other person wears a scrub top with a colorful print.

A nurse is a highly trained health care professional who provides treatment, support and advocacy for patients. They play a crucial role in nursing homes, clinics, hospitals and the community. They can work with various patients, from newborns to the elderly. Nurses can have a wide variety of responsibilities, including:

  • Assisting physicians and other medical professionals in performing medical procedures

  • Collaborating with the medical team to create plans for patient care

  • Providing education and advice about health and how to manage illnesses

  • Documenting patients' medical histories

  • Dispensing treatments and medications as necessary

  • Checking and operating medical equipment

  • Administering diagnostic tests

  • Observing and monitoring patient health and vital signs

Read more: Learn About Being a Nurse

What is a teacher?

Teachers are professional educators who provide knowledge to prepare students to continue their studies to enter the job market. Their primary role is to deliver classroom instruction to help students learn. To do this, a teacher typically carries out the following tasks depending on their level of education and the school where they work:

  • Creating and delivering effective lessons

  • Grading student work and offering feedback to students and parents

  • Managing classroom supplies

  • Creating and reinforcing classroom rules

  • Preparing learners for standardized tests

  • Monitoring learners outside the classroom

  • Collaborating with other teachers, staff and school administrators

  • Learning various teaching methods to increase their effectiveness

Aside from the typical teaching duties, an exceptional teacher does more than relay information to students. They strive to inspire learners in all areas of their lives, not just academics. The primary goal of many teachers is to become role models for their students. Teachers not only teach learners, but they learn every day themselves.

Related: Should I Become a Teacher? 20 Reasons To Consider the Career

Shared skills between a nurse and teacher

The two occupations might differ, but the skills that make a successful teacher and nurse are very similar. These transferable skills include:


As a nurse or a teacher, it's essential to be patient, understanding and calm to solve any unexpected conflict. When you're patient with your students or patients, you can give them room to learn and grow and allow them to practice patience themselves. Their improvements can create a healthy work environment.

Related: The Importance of Being Patient and How To Develop Patience


Communication skills include speaking, observing, listening and emphasizing. These skills can occur as verbal, nonverbal and written communication. Good communication between patients and nurses is crucial for the success of customized medical care for each patient. Likewise, teachers' excellent communication skills are necessary for students' academic success.

Instruction skills

Teachers explain unfamiliar concepts to students and help them understand them. That's also relevant for nurses. For example, nurses might have to teach patients about home management of an illness or instruct patients on how to operate their heart monitor. They might also have to show first-time parents how to bathe their newborns. Knowing how to help people learn and understand concepts is a valuable skill in both careers.

Related: Top 6 Teaching Skills That Employers Look For

Problem-solving skills

Problems may arise in any situation, and nurses and teachers need the skills to solve them. For instance, if the Wi-Fi is malfunctioning, and a teacher has all their lecture materials stored in an online file storage service, they can find an alternative way to present the lesson and have the students do the planned activity. If patients refuse to take their medication, nurses can devise a way to encourage them to receive treatment.

Related: What Are Problem-Solving Skills? Definitions and Examples

Dedication to lifelong learning

Both nursing and teaching rely on continuous learning. Lifelong learning can give nurses the problem-solving and critical thinking skills needed to resolve problems they may encounter while caring for patients. When nurses know new procedures, policies and techniques, they may influence health care by:

  • Decreasing the chance of errors

  • Reducing mortality rates

  • Improving patient outcomes

  • Creating strong collaborative relationships with coworkers and patients

Teachers with a lifelong learning mindset are willing to learn creative teaching methods. They can take professional development courses and collaborate with other educators to develop innovative ideas to achieve better student outcomes. In addition, teachers who engage in lifelong learning can set an example for their students, practicing what they teach. This can encourage their students to become lifelong learners, and effective teachers might share their experiences working through the learning process.

Related: Top 10 Skills To Include on Your Teacher Resume

Career paths for a nurse to teacher

If you're interested in the future of nursing and have a passion for teaching, a career as a teacher might be right for you. The career path you choose may depend on your nursing specialty and choice of employer. As you gain experience in the field, you might fulfill administrative or leadership roles. Some positions you can hold as a nurse educator include:

Professor of nursing

A professor of nursing teaches at the university level. They implement lessons to prepare nursing students adequately for the challenges presented by all aspects of the field of nursing. To keep up with the current needs in the field, nursing professors revise their programs when and where necessary. Like nurses, nursing professors usually specialize in areas with the most experience, such as acute care, mental health or pediatrics.

Besides classroom teaching, nursing professors conduct clinical research, supervise and advise students and present scholarly work at nursing seminars or conferences. They may also work as a committee chair or as a dean of the college of nursing where they teach.

  • Average annual salary: $57,969 per year

Related: Roles Beyond the Bedside: How to Become a Nurse Educator

Nursing instructor

A nursing instructor teaches classroom courses. They teach students for entry into nursing positions at all degree and certification levels. They might teach other nurse educators, researchers or administrators in any health care setting. Nurse instructors also have a role in the continuing education of practicing nurses.

  • Average annual salary: $62,879 per year

Clinical nurse educator

A clinical nurse educator instructs clinical components of nursing. They teach nurses who work in health care facilities the knowledge and skills needed to provide the best care to their patients. They often work in clinics and hospitals or academic settings. Clinical nurse educators schedule and provide continuing education as in-services via webinars or in person. They design their teaching plans based on students' needs, nursing theories and educational learning theories.

  • Average annual salary: $87,353 per year

Read more: How To Become a Nurse Educator in 7 Steps (With FAQs)

Nursing curriculum coordinator

A nursing curriculum coordinator identifies education requirements and training for nursing staff. They also design and conduct programs for nurses. Coordinators usually ensure courses are current and compliant with national and state accreditation. They also help recruit and train qualified instructors and initiate curriculum revisions or updates. Nursing program coordinators may also assist in budget formation for equipment and supplies and create annual program reports. In addition, they help establish clinical faculty and clinical site standards.

  • Average annual salary: $102,372 per year

Related: 30 High-Paying Jobs in Education (Plus Salaries and Duties)

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How to change from nursing to teaching

Here are the steps you can take to change from nursing to teaching:

1. Become a registered nurse (RN)

To become an RN, earn a nursing degree and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Obtaining an RN license is crucial to becoming a nurse educator, as educators typically teach from their own nursing experience.

2. Gain work experience as an RN

Nursing educators usually have several years of clinical experience as an RN performing duties such as caring for patients or collaborating with other medical professionals.

While obtaining nursing work experience, you may also specialize in a specific area of nursing, such as oncology nursing, cardiology or pediatrics. Working as an RN can help you gain hands-on experience in your chosen specialty.

Related: How To Become a Teacher With a Nursing Degree (Plus Tips for Success)

3. Obtain a master's degree

A nursing educator usually pursues a master's degree in nursing. This program can help you further develop your skills in nursing and deepen your knowledge about your specialty.

If you're planning to teach full time at the university level, you may need to earn a doctorate, such as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DPN). If you want to work in other settings, such as community colleges and vocational schools, a master's degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), may meet the requirements. A vocational school or community college may accept a bachelor's degree.

Related: Types of Master's Degrees in Nursing

4. Get certified

You can earn nursing educator certifications to boost your credibility as a nurse educator. Some certifications relevant to nursing educators include the Certified Academic Nurse Educator (CNE-CL) and Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) certifications. These certifications are optional but may give you a competitive edge in your field. You can earn them from the National League for Nursing (NLN) by taking the CNE or CNE-CL examination, where you need at least an active RN license and an MSN.

Related: 7 Nursing Certificate Programs and Their Requirements

5. Apply for jobs

Once you have acquired the necessary qualifications, consider applying for a teaching job. Update your resume to include all relevant certifications, education, experience and skills. In addition, proofread your resume and ensure the accuracy of your information.

To search for a teaching job, you can look for jobs on job sites like or directly approach organizations or institutions where you're interested in working. You can also contact your professional network to look for relevant job leads. Before attending job interviews, prepare and practice your answers to questions about your skills, credentials and experience that apply to teaching positions.

Related: 35 Nurse Educator Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

6. Keep your knowledge and skills current

Once you're hired as a teacher, update your nursing knowledge and skills to ensure you provide your students with the most current and accurate instruction possible. To stay current, consider reading news about your industry, pursuing continuing education courses or attending conferences. Taking advantage of professional development opportunities can help you become the best possible teacher.

Related: Nurse Educator Cover Letter Examples and Templates

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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