Educational Requirements for Baccalaureate Nursing Faculty: How do the States Differ?

Submitted by Kelli Fuller DNP, RN, ANP-BC

Tags: Baccalaureate Nursing Faculty educational requirements nursing faculty nursing shortage requirements RN shortage state by state undergraduate

Educational Requirements for Baccalaureate Nursing Faculty: How do the States Differ?

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Kelli Fuller DNP, RN ANP-BC
Corresponding author
[email protected]
(314) 977-8920

Renée L. Davis DNP, RN, CPNP
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Bobbi Shatto PhD, RN, CNL
[email protected]

Saint Louis University
3525 Caroline Street
St. Louis, MO 63104

The Nursing Shortage

Nursing shortages have plagued the healthcare system across the United States (U.S.) for the last several decades. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in February, 2012 that the total number of job openings for Registered Nurses (RN) will reach 1.2 million by 2020. There are many factors that can be linked to the nursing shortage. The primary contributors are an aging workforce, an aging population and an increased need for healthcare. Compounding this issue, there is also a critical shortage of nursing faculty.

Nursing Faculty Shortage

Acquiring qualified nursing faculty is a challenge many nursing schools face. Nursing programs can only accommodate as many students as they have faculty to teach. Every year potential students are denied admission to nursing programs. In 2011, more than 75,000 qualified applications were not accepted to schools of nursing due to the shortage of faculty (AACN, 2012). The majority of these student applicants (58,000) were seeking admission to baccalaureate nursing programs. In 2007, an American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) survey cited insufficient faculty as a reason for denying admission to otherwise qualified candidates (Fang, Htut, & Bednash, 2008). For the 2012-2013 academic year, the AACN reported a global nursing faculty shortage throughout the United States. The western section of the U.S. had the highest vacancy rate at 12%. The rest of the country was not far behind; the Midwest reported an 11.4% vacancy rate, the north Atlantic a 9.8% rate and the South with the lowest vacancy rate at 9.1% (Fang & Li, 2012).

Factors Influencing the Nursing Faculty Shortage

There are multiple issues that influence the nurse educator shortage, including; an aging workforce, a limited number of nursing faculty with doctoral degrees, low salaries, and higher compensation in practice settings (Berent & Anderko, 2011). A 2007 AACN survey found that the average age of doctoral prepared faculty ranged from 51.7 to 59.1 years. The number of Registered Nurses with a Master’s or Doctoral degree comprises only a small percentage of the nursing workforce. The American Community Survey reported in 2008 that 10.3% of Registered Nurses held a Master’s of Science in Nursing degree (MSN) and 0.4% held a Doctoral degree (Health Resources and Services Administration, 2013). The age of nursing faculty with a Master’s degree ranged from 50.1 to 58.9 years (Fang et al., 2008). Nursing faculty salaries are frequently reported as either a reason for not entering or for leaving academia. In 2012, the United States Department of Labor reported that the average salary for post-secondary nursing instructors and teachers was $68,640 while the average RN salary was $64, 690 and the average nurse practitioner salary was $91,450 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). Since the average nursing faculty salary is approximately three thousand dollars more a year than that of a RN and is significantly less than that of a nurse practitioner, the financial incentive to teach is essentially non-existent. To compound this issue, obtaining an advanced degree is expensive. Sheehy (2102) stated that the average cost of obtaining an MSN degree ranges from $35,000-$60,000.

Faculty Educational Requirements

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) recommends nursing faculty in undergraduate nursing programs (full-time and part-time) should have either a master’s or a doctoral degree in nursing (National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 2008). In light of the faculty shortages, educational requirements across the country have become more flexible. State Boards of Nursing (SBN) across the United States are collaborating with colleges and universities to fill full time nursing faculty vacancies by altering the minimum educational requirements.


In a Midwestern private university, an educational research team compiled SBN rules and regulations of pre-licensure faculty requirements for baccalaureate nursing education programs. The team was comprised of three full-time undergraduate nursing faculty. The majority of rules and regulations were found on the SBN websites (National Council of State Boardss of Nursing, 2013) and in instances where faculty requirements were unavailable on the websites, research team members contacted the State Boards directly via e-mail or telephone to locate the required information. Each member of the team was assigned a set number of states in which to identify the educational requirements for undergraduate nursing faculty. Content analysis was performed by having another member of the team recheck the gathered information. Once data from all fifty states was compiled, a single team member cross checked every entry to ensure that the information was complete and accurate. The categories for analysis included: faculty education, clinical experience, and licensure requirements. This study focused specifically on the educational requirements of baccalaureate nursing faculty.


The authors found that there were vast differences in the educational requirements for baccalaureate nursing faculty across the United States. Fifty percent (25 states) require undergraduate nursing faculty to have a graduate degree. However, the findings discovered that several states accept graduate degrees in fields other than nursing. Forty-four percent (22 states) allow faculty with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to teach as long as these individuals are pursuing a graduate degree. It was noted that one state requires a BSN while another state requires a BSN with experience. In addition, there is one state that recommends a graduate degree for those with a BSN (Figure 1).


Although, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) recommends nursing faculty in RN programs have either a master’s or a doctoral degree in nursing, the findings of this study found that there are many states that allow exceptions to this recommendation. The study findings indicate that not a single state required a doctoral degree to teach in an undergraduate nursing program. The majority of states require a Master’s Degree in Nursing, however, there are several states that allow faculty to teach while working on a graduate degree or who have a graduate degree in a field other than nursing. Filling the nursing faculty vacancies will allow colleges and universities to increase student enrollment. It is imperative that schools of nursing increase student enrollment to assist with improving the nursing shortage. As long as nursing faculty vacancies exist, there will continue to be a shortage of Registered Nurses.

A strategy the federal government implemented to increase the number of nursing faculty was the development of the Nurse Faculty Loan Program (HRSA, 2014). The purpose of this program was to assist graduate nursing students with the cost of pursuing an advanced degree. Upon graduation, students who receive funding through this program are eligible to have up to eighty-five percent of their loans forgiven over a four year period. Each year the individual is employed in a nursing faculty role, a percentage of the loan is forgiven. This program allows students who may not be able to afford a graduate degree the opportunity to do so.

As new healthcare initiatives are instituted, the population ages and nurses retire, the need for Registered Nurses will continue to increase. Without qualified faculty to teach, the nursing shortage will continue. Further study is needed to evaluate if the exceptions to the recommendations of the NCSBN educational requirements affect NCLEX-RN pass rates.