What is an Ed.D. in Nursing Education?
The Ed.D. in Nursing is designed for nurse educators, a special category of educators who specialize in training nurses and keeping them up to speed. Given the shortage of nurses, and the importance of nurse educators to the process of addressing this shortage without sacrificing existing standards, a good argument could be made that nobody saves more lives, over the course of a career, than an exceptional and committed nurse educator.
Types of Ed.D. in Nursing Education Programs
The Ed.D. in Nursing (and the synonymous Ed.D. in Nursing Education) is a fairly straightforward program that serves a fairly straightforward purpose. There aren’t very many of them, and there isn’t much opportunity for specialization. That said, there are two specific types of Ed.D. programs closely related to the Ed.D. in Nursing that are worth watching out for.
Nurse Educator Leadership
The first is the nurse educator leadership program. Examples of this type of program include the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Ed.D. in Leadership in Nursing Education, the nursing education track within Rivier University’s Ed.D. in Leadership and Learning, and the nursing education and healthcare leadership track within the University of Washington’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. As the name suggests, this kind of program effectively merges the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership with the Ed.D. in Nursing, giving greater focus to educational administration and organizational development than you’d theoretically see in a standard Ed.D. curriculum in nursing (though it is relatively common to see those components reflected in the curriculum of a standard Ed.D. in Nursing Education anyway). It’s a great credential to earn if you’re primarily interested in working as a director of nursing or in a similar administrative role that involves, but does not center, directly educating nurses.
Health Professions Education
The second, and less common, is the more general healthcare professions education program. Examples of this type of degree include Allen College’s Ed.D. in Health Professions Education, A.T. Still University’s Ed.D. in Health Professions, and the health professions education track within the University of Louisiana’s online Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. As the name implies, this degree deals more broadly with educating people for healthcare-related professions, and not necessarily specifically as nurses. (Note: If you’re not a registered nurse and don’t intend to become one, this is an especially marketable alternative to the Ed.D. in Nursing.)
Ph.D. vs. Ed.D. in Nursing Education
Nurse educators with doctorates have historically held the Ph.D. in Nursing, and nursing courses are college-level, typically the domain of a Ph.D.-holding instructor. Given those facts it might seem more sensible to earn a Ph.D. in Nursing than an Ed.D. in Nursing Education, but there’s a catch: the curriculum of a Ph.D. in Nursing covers nursing practice, advanced scholarship, and the education of future nurses, where an Ed.D. focuses almost exclusively on the third objective.
If the main reason you want to pursue a doctorate is to become a nurse educator, an Ed.D. is likely to focus more specifically on that goal. But if you’re also interested in advancing your career as a nurse practitioner and/or conducting grant-funded academic research in nursing, a Ph.D. might cover those other two bases a little better.
Earning an Ed.D. in Nursing Education
Nursing Education Prerequisites
You’ll need to hold a relevant master’s degree (or a Doctor of Nursing Practice), and in most cases you will also need to be a registered nurse with significant professional experience. Southern Connecticut State University’s requirement that applicants present a “current RN license” is fairly standard.
Some programs also require a minimum GPA, a GRE exam, and/or an autobiographical admissions essay.
Nursing Education Coursework
The curriculum of an Ed.D. in Nursing Education is very similar structurally to that of the Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction: it focuses on teaching, curriculum strategies, and research methods. The catch is that it covers all of these topics in a narrowly-focused way that is specifically intended for, and relevant to the goals of, nurse educators.
If you look at course requirements for the University of West Georgia’s Ed.D. in Nursing Education, for example, you’ll notice that nearly half the courses deal in a fairly general way with educational theory, curriculum, and leadership. This is not unusual, nor is it indicative of a problem; the purpose of a nurse educator program is to train nurses to be educators, not to train educators to be nurses, so the program’s focus will generally be on education.
Nursing Education Dissertations
Not all Ed.D. programs in nursing require a dissertation, but it is not an unusual requirement. Despite the heavy focus on practice and professional experience, the Ed.D. in Nursing seems to require a dissertation noticeably more often than Ed.D. programs in most other fields. This may reflect the nurse educator field’s longtime reliance on the Ph.D. in Nursing, for which a dissertation is the established standard.
Nursing Education Internships and Field Work
Despite the hands-on nature of nursing itself, the Ed.D. in Nursing seldom requires an internship or field work as part of the coursework requirement. When they are required, they tend to be fairly flexible.
Western Connecticut State University’s low-residency Ed.D. in Nursing Education, for example, requires 8 hours per week of practicum work during the program’s second year, but this work can take almost any form (with faculty approval) as long as it’s relevant to broader program goals, and it’s usually done in or near the student’s city of residence.
Online Ed.D. in Nursing Education Programs
Are Ed.D. in Nursing Education Programs Offered Online?
Yes. Nursing programs at the BSN and MSN level were among the first to be widely adapted into a low-residency or online format, and the Ed.D. in Nursing continues this tradition.
The most prestigious example is Columbia University’s Ed.D. in Nursing Education.
Online Ed.D. in Nursing Education Residency Requirements
Most require at least a small, negotiable amount of residency, but Northcentral University’s Ed.D. in Nursing Education can be completed online with no residency at all.
Southern Connecticut State University’s Ed.D. in Nursing Education requires a fairly typical amount of residency for a low-residency program: a total of nine days spent on campus, divided into three three-day residencies. Most of this time is spent networking and collaborating with the rest of the student’s graduating class, typically called a cohort.
Nurse Educator Careers
Ed.D. in Nursing Education Jobs
There are not very many circumstances under which one would earn an Ed.D. in Nursing unless one intends to work as a nurse educator, i.e. as someone who teaches nurses. Someone with a more general interest in public health education would be better served by an Ed.D. in Health Education. Someone interested in working as a nurse would be better served by a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Ph.D. in Nursing. The Ed.D. in Nursing is a nurse educator’s degree, and does not easily align with any other career track.
Nurse educators are classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as nursing instructors and teachers. While the BLS estimates with some credibility that about 56,000 people worked in this field as of May 2017, it is still a small enough group that the BLS does not produce long-term estimates on its growth. That said, given the much-higher-than-normal 15% expected increase in the number of registered nurses over the 2016-2026 period, it seems safe to assume that nurse educators will also remain in high demand.
Ed.D. in Nursing Education Salary
Indeed.com lists average annual salaries for nursing instructors ($59,428) and clinical nurse educators ($90,172), with the BLS estimate for nursing instructors and teachers ($77,360) resting almost exactly halfway between them. Given the number of six-figure careers in this field, it seems safe to say that nurse educators work in a field with a broad salary range and relatively high earning potential.
Is an Ed.D. in Nursing Education Worth it?
If you’re a registered nurse and want to work as a nurse educator, yes.
If you’re not a registered nurse and still want to work as a nurse educator, maybe, but you’d be better off becoming a registered nurse first (if possible) and then revisiting this career track later. Nurse educators are generally expected to have significant clinical experience as nurses, and earning an Ed.D. in Nursing does not obviate this expectation, though it may help qualify you to teach non-clinical courses and/or continuing education units.
If you want to do anything except become a nurse educator, the Ed.D. in Nursing is probably not the most effective degree for your career track.
Ed.D. in Nursing Education Resources
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN): If you’re about to become a nurse educator, that means you’ll probably be working closely with a nursing school. This organization, which oversees and accredits nursing schools in the United States, might become your new best friend (or at least your new best frenemy).
- Health Care Education Association (HCEA): Nurse educators have a great deal in common with other people who educate healthcare industry workers, and the HCEA provides excellent resources and opportunities for networking and professional development.
- Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing: Nurse educators don’t just train nurses and send them out into the world; they also have to help them keep their licenses current by providing continuing education opportunities. This journal covers the latest developments in that field.
- Professional Nurse Educators Group (PNEG): If you’d like to stay in touch with other nurse educators throughout the country, that’s exactly what PNEG – which has been (along with its precursors) organizing national nurse educator conferences since 1969 – specializes in.