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Nurse Educator Or Nurse Admistrator: Choose Your Path

Nurses with a BSN who are looking to transition into a leadership or instructional nursing role should consider becoming a nurse educator or nurse administrator. While both roles have certain elements in common, there are a number of distinct differences. Nursing professionals who want an advanced nursing degree should carefully consider what each specialty offers to determine the option best suited to their career goals.

Nurse Educators

Nurse educators can be found either in a classroom setting or working in practice settings set up within hospitals and research clinics. As mentors, nurses are needed to help prepare new nurses and provide practicing nurses with the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs well.

Educational Responsibilities of a Nurse Educator

Nurse educators have a broad spectrum of responsibilities. These can include developing nursing curriculum and designing new courses of study, as well as instructing students and evaluating their educational progress. They also monitor the educational process, observing the outcome of the various programs created and implemented. This monitoring process helps ensure that courses achieve their desired outcomes in teaching students, adapting, and making changes as needed. In the clinical setting the nurse educator is responsible for implementing the most current research and standards of care into the clinical practice.

Additional Nurse Educator Responsibilities

Other responsibilities for nursing educators may include engaging in research within various medical settings and participating in panels and discussions hosted by nursing associations. They also speak and present at nursing conferences and may be called on occasionally to write grant proposals and engage in peer reviews. Naturally, due to the advanced nature of their responsibilities, nurse educators must maintain a high level of clinical competency. Some nursing educators engage in part-time teaching while still working in the clinical environment; this allows them to keep pace with the highest levels of clinical knowledge and competency while also assisting the next generation of nurses rising up in the ranks.


Nurse educators teach within their chosen specialties. These specialties include acute care, cardiology, pediatrics, family health, and psychiatric disciplines, among others. By teaching within their specialties, nurse educators are able to impart real-world experiences and knowledge to their students.

Necessary Qualities of a Nurse Educator

The necessary qualities of a nurse educator include being a good communicator, a creative thinker, and an expert in a particular area of instruction. Nurse educators tend to be future-oriented, taking their knowledge of current trends in nursing and envisioning where those trends might lead in the future.

Nurse Administrators

A nurse administrator oversees the management of the nursing staff at medical facilities, clinics, and health care institutions. Responsible for a wide range of areas, administrators focus on the safest and most cost-effective way to get assignments and duties completed. Unlike the nurse educator, the nurse administrator focuses more on strategic management of personnel, patient care, and resources while maintaining and supporting regulating policies.

Responsibilities of a Nurse Administrator

In addition to the overall management of the nursing staff, a nurse administrator directs a wide range of projects. The nurse administrator oversees the staff, providing reviews when needed and working to ensure all activities are efficiently and safely coordinated. Critical thinking and problem analysis are necessary key skills in the role of nurse administrators.

Important Factors of Nurse Administration

Nurse administrators are often given flexibility in the way they get their jobs done. For example, some positions for nurse administrators require the creation and use of procedures that don't conflict with current policies. For this reason, creative thinking is a definite plus as the nurse administrator has the authority to choose the manner in which the job gets done.

Nurse administrators often operate in two different arenas. They oversee the operations and functions of staff, dealing with personnel issues, and addressing any concerns. At the same time, they are part of the administrative branch of their organization, which means they need to focus their attention on areas that range from financial implications to human resources to protocol compliance.

Differences between Nurse Educators and Nurse Administrators

Nurses interested in bringing their professional expertise to an academic environment may be best suited toward becoming a nurse educator. On the other hand, those interested in more of an organizational slant in their nursing experience might well consider becoming a nurse administrator. The nurse educator will have predominant contact with nursing students, while the nurse administrator will usually have more contact with nursing personnel, as well as patients and medical staff.

Leadership-oriented nurses seeking career advancement should consider either nurse educator or nurse administrator as potential goals. Both paths offer great opportunities and provide nursing professionals with the ability to carve out roles best suited to their skill set. The online Master of Science in Nursing at the University of Saint Mary offers two specializations: Nurse Educator and Nurse Administrator. Whichever path you choose, you can get started at the University of Saint Mary. Click here to learn more.