Are you currently in school with the goal of earning a PhD or DNP degree? If the answer is yes, there’s a good chance you see yourself headed for a faculty position as a nurse educator in academia.

Until the very recent past, PhDs filled the majority of faculty positions. However, DNPs are now frequently entering academics to fill faculty positions, and the crossover of expectations and tasks are creating increasingly blurry lines between the roles of PhDs and DNPs. After all, in both roles, there are usually teaching, scholarship, and service expectations. With only a superficial view, it’s almost impossible to detect what the differences might be.

Because specific faculty roles are often determined by institutional leadership and policies, and are not consistent across the United States, you should consider yourself an investigative reporter and ask the right questions wherever your job search takes you. Knowing the right questions to ask before accepting a job offer is essential in order to avoid unpleasant surprises after being hired!

The following questions will help you get a better understanding of the faculty role you may be applying for.

1. What type of appointment will I be eligible for?

A tenure track appointment vs. a clinical track appointment has important implications for your workload and how you will be expected to structure your time. Tenure-track appointments usually have research expectations built into them (along with teaching), and are generally reserved for research-focused PhD faculty. However, these appointments are now available at some institutions for clinically-focused DNP faculty.

Clinical appointments usually carry a primary teaching responsibility, and are generally reserved for clinically-focused DNPs. But, frequently, PhD faculty may also find themselves in clinical track positions.

As if that is not confusing enough, an academic appointment may be either 9 months or 12 months, which has critical implications for ongoing finances and health insurance coverage. With a nine-month appointment, you may not be guaranteed a full workload (or full paycheck!) each summer. Definitely a critical point to know ahead of time.

2. Where do new faculty learn the educator role?

New faculty need guidance from more experienced faculty colleagues, and you should not be expected to go it alone. Without a background in teaching strategies, evaluation of learning outcomes, or the general culture of academia, the first year of teaching is full of unknowns and not easily tackled without an experienced guide. Being part of a teaching team that includes more experienced colleagues is ideal. Additionally, you should also have access to professional development opportunities as an educator through institutional resources and educator conferences.

3. When do faculty in my position assume active roles on committees at the department and university level?

While committees are an integral part of faculty life, too many committees can easily distract from other commitments. Setting up new courses, developing a scholarly trajectory, and adjusting to academia in general is time and energy intensive. Being pulled into intense service commitments can easily distract from those, and if possible, administrators may shield new faculty while they are adapting to their new role.

4. How will I be evaluated on the expectations related to teaching, scholarship, and service?

Since this may determine eligibility for merit increases or promotions, you’ll definitely want to ask this!

By clarifying the type of appointment you are eligible for, resources available to you, and the institution-specific expectations for evaluating your performance, you’ll be better prepared to face the exciting challenges and opportunities that await you in your new position.

Acknowledgement: Faculty colleagues Ms. Mercedes Martinez, Dr. Kathleen Cox, and Dr. Karim Singh.

Diane Monsivais, PhD, RN, CNE

Diane Monsivais, PhD, RN, CNE

Diane B. Monsivais, PhD, RN, CNE, is an associate professor and advisor, MSN in nursing education, at the University of Texas at El Paso School of Nursing. She is an advisory board member for DailyNurse and the editor of Research and Theory for Nursing Practice: An International Journal.
Diane Monsivais, PhD, RN, CNE

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