Nurse Educator Professional Certification Guide

Nurse educators are highly skilled licensed RNs who train nursing students and provide ongoing education for professional nurses. They can be found in various settings, such as universities, community colleges, trade schools, and hospitals. A nurse educator is an informal term for RNs who oversee training programs, teach nursing in both clinical and classroom settings, and offer guidance to students at all levels of the nursing field. 

Unlike nursing professors, who often hold a doctoral degree, nurse educators typically have a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) and extensive clinical experience. Nurse educators receive specialized training in educational techniques and teaching methods to train the next generation of nurses.

Nursing programs offer diverse specializations, allowing students to tailor their education to their interests and career goals. Whether it’s pediatrics, oncology, critical care, or public health, there’s a nursing specialty to suit almost every interest. However, despite the high demand for nurses, there’s a limited capacity in nursing education programs due to a faculty shortage and clinical placement sites. This limitation means many qualified nursing college applicants are turned away each year, making nursing college admissions exceptionally competitive. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports 91,938 qualified applicants were turned down in 2021 due to a nursing faculty shortage.

There are two primary levels of teaching in the nursing field, which are determined by one’s educational qualifications. The pre-licensure level includes students pursuing a nursing certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program but still need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The post-licensure level includes students with a BSN, MSN, or doctorate and practicing nurses who have already obtained their RN designation.

Various academic and clinical healthcare settings, such as colleges, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities, need qualified educators to assist in training the next generation of nurses. A nurse education certificate sets graduates apart in academic and practice settings that constantly evolve and adapt to improve patient care. 

Read on to learn about four nurse educator certification credentials, the difference between academic and professional certifications, and featured online academic programs to become a credentialed nurse educator.

Certified Nurse Educator (CNE)

The Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) certification is administered by the National League for Nursing (NLN). 

The benefits of CNE certification are numerous. A CNE credential demonstrates a high level of professional achievement, contributes to higher standards and practices in nursing education, and can enhance job opportunities and career mobility. The CNE certification is the most popular, with 12,268 CNEs as of July 2023. In 2022, the NLN reported 1,177 applicants and a 64 percent pass rate for the CNE exam. 


  • Active and unrestricted RN license
  • Post-master’s certificate, master’s or doctoral degree in nursing education
  • Experience in nursing education (optional) 


  • Every five years

Exam Fee: 

  • $400 (NLN members)
  • $500 (non-members)

Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNEcl)

Becoming a Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNEcl) is a prestigious accomplishment for any nurse educator looking to advance their academic career. Offered by the National League of Nurses (NLN), this credential demonstrates proficiency in academic and clinical education for future nurses. 

The payoff of earning a CNEcl can be significant, including increased recognition and job opportunities, enhanced teaching skills, and improved patient outcomes. Nurse educators with this credential can increase their chances of accessing tenure-track positions at nursing colleges. Ultimately, the CNEcl credential sets a high standard for nurse educators, solidifying their expertise in the field and positively impacting healthcare quality.


  • Active and unrestricted RN license
  • Post-master’s certificate, master’s or doctoral degree in nursing education
  • Experience as an RN and/or experience teaching in an academic setting


  • Every five years

Exam Fee: 

  • $330 (NLN members)
  • $440 (non-members)

Academic Novice Educator (CNEn)

Designed for professionals with three years or less of experience in nursing education, the CNEn is an entry-level certification exam that demonstrates a commitment to the highest standards of teaching and learning. 

The Certified Academic Novice Nurse Educator (CNEn) credential, awarded by the  National League for Nursing (NLN), is a prestigious certification that recognizes novice nurse educators who have demonstrated their expertise in the field. The eligibility criteria typically include having an active, unrestricted RN license and a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. Additionally, prospective candidates must have worked in an academic faculty role for less than five years.

Obtaining the CNEn credential signifies a commitment to professional development and a high level of competence in academic nursing education. It enhances credibility within the educational community and contributes to higher standards and practices in the nursing education field.

The CNEn certification assesses a wide range of skills and knowledge, including designing effective curricula, implementing innovative teaching strategies, evaluating student outcomes, and contributing to the nursing profession through scholarship and service. By mastering these competencies, CNEn-certified educators can enhance their teaching practice, improve student outcomes, and advance the nursing profession.


  • Active and unrestricted RN license
  • Post-master’s certificate, master’s or doctoral degree in nursing education
  • Three years or fewer of experience as a nurse educator


  • Three years

Exam Fee: 

  • $150 (NLN members)
  • $175 (non-members)

Nursing Professional Development Certification (NPD-BC)

The Nursing Professional Development Certification (NPD-BC) program, offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), is a prestigious certification program that validates a nurse’s expertise in professional development. It’s designed for registered nurses in roles such as educators, staff development officers, or consultants.

The curriculum for the NPD-BC certification addresses multiple aspects of nursing professional development, including educational theory and application, leadership, program management, and career development. Learning objectives center on enhancing the knowledge and skills necessary to provide practical professional development activities and programs, promote evidence-based practice, and facilitate lifelong learning for nurses.

Upon completing the NPD-BC certification, nurses will have demonstrated competency in educational design, implementation, evaluation, identification of practice gaps, change management, and leadership. They’ll possess the skills and knowledge necessary to foster a professional environment, encouraging continuous improvement and learning. This certification demonstrates a nurse’s commitment to professional growth, enhances credibility, and opens doors to advanced career opportunities. The certification may also increase job satisfaction and improve patient outcomes.

By obtaining the NPD-BC certification, nurses can advance their careers by demonstrating their commitment to professional development and expertise in this area. This can lead to roles in leadership, education, or consultation. Moreover, the skills and knowledge gained through this certification can enable nurses to contribute to enhancing healthcare services, ultimately leading to improved patient care.


  • Active and unrestricted RN license (US applicants) or equivalent (international applicants)
  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing or higher
  • A minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice hours in nursing in the last three years
  • Completion of 30 hours of continuing education in nursing professional development in the last three years


  • Every five years

Exam Fee:

  • $295 (ANCC members)
  • $395 (non-members)

Professional vs. Academic Nurse Educator Certification

Professional certifications and academic certificates for nurse educators seem similar, but they serve different purposes and have distinct implications for one’s career. 

Professional certification is usually conferred by a professional body or organization, like the National League for Nursing (NLN) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). It indicates that an individual has demonstrated a certain level of competency in their profession, often through an examination process. For instance, the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) credential validates that a nurse educator has exhibited expertise in this role. 

On the other hand, an educational institution typically awards an academic certificate after completing a specific course of study. It signifies that the individual has acquired thorough knowledge or skills in a particular area. This might be a post-master’s certificate in nursing education for nurse educators, affirming they have completed specialized academic coursework in this field.

Unlike an academic certificate, usually a one-time achievement, professional certifications often require ongoing professional development and periodic renewal to maintain the credential. 

Professional Nurse Educator Organizations

As described above, the National League for Nursing (NLN) offers three nationally recognized nurse educator certifications, while the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers a credential in nursing professional development. 

No matter the organization, all professional certifications require candidates to:

  • Meet specific criteria to register for the exam
  • Pass an exam
  • Complete continuing education requirements for renewal

Academic Nurse Educator Programs

Colleges and universities offer post-master’s certifications in nursing education, which take about a year to complete after earning an MSN or DNP degree. Some programs require a BSN degree or a current RN license. 

Many of the academic programs prepare graduates for professional certification by organizations such as the National League for Nursing (NLN) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). 

Here are three exemplary programs that offer graduate-level certificate programs in nursing education. 

Arizona State University (Online)

ASU Online offers a nurse education certificate program that provides students with in-depth knowledge, skills, and tools needed to become successful nurse educators. The program’s focus on curriculum creation, course design, and program evaluation prepares graduates to teach nursing to others and to pass the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) exam offered by the NLN. To be considered for admission, applicants must have a master’s degree and a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $807 per credit 

University of Cincinnati (Online)

The University of Cincinnati College of Nursing offers a competitive online nurse educator graduate certificate program for those looking to take their nursing careers to the next level. This program provides advanced knowledge and skills for nurses pursuing teaching, coaching, or mentoring roles. Students can balance their education with their professional and personal obligations with a flexible online format. Graduates from the program are equipped with the knowledge to plan, design, implement, and evaluate nursing education programs in academic or healthcare settings. 

Applicants to this program must have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Credits earned in this program can be applied toward a master’s degree.

  • Location: Cincinnati, OH
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $836 per credit (residents); $851 per credit (non-residents)

Western Governors University (Online)

The Western Governors University post-master’s certificate nursing education program is designed for aspiring nurse educators. This program is aimed towards experienced nurses with a master of science in nursing degree or higher. Applicants must hold a current and active registered nurse (RN) license to be eligible for admission. 

Gaining admission into this program requires a thorough application process, including submitting official transcripts and proof of an RN license. Upon completing the program, graduates will have the skills to teach future nurses effectively. This program provides a platform for individuals who aspire to add academic value to nursing.

  • Location: Multiple campuses in the United States
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $9,990 total
Rachel Drummond, MEd

Rachel Drummond, MEd


At, Rachel Drummond has applied her extensive experience in education and mindfulness to elucidate the importance of self-care for nursing students since 2022. Through her writings, she underscores the role of mental and physical well-being in fostering resilient and compassionate healthcare professionals.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.