Nursing vs. Healthcare Management

Updated November 10, 2022 · 5 Min Read

Trying to decide between furthering your career in nursing or healthcare management? Check out details on both to help you decide which might be right for you.

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Nursing vs. Healthcare Management
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Are you considering advancing your nursing career? Nursing and healthcare management are two rewarding options. Both offer a high salary, a job outlook that surpasses other management occupations, and an opportunity to make a difference.

When choosing between nursing vs. healthcare administration, consider the educational approach for each field. You can further your schooling by earning a master of business administration (MBA) that places an emphasis on business and administration or a master of science in nursing (MSN) that concentrates on advanced clinical nursing skills.

Keep reading for more information on the differences between nursing vs. healthcare administration, including salary potential, education requirements, and roles and responsibilities.

In Brief: Nursing vs. Healthcare Management

Health Administration vs. Nursing
Nursing Career Path (MSN) Healthcare Management (MBA)
Standard Years to Earn Degree Two years in a full-time program Two years in a full-time program
Salary Potential (range) $111,130-$183,580 $89,880-$116,380
Job Outlook from 2020- 2030 45% increase in jobs 32% increase in jobs
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Path: Healthcare Management

Healthcare executives are also referred to as medical and health managers. These professionals focus on the leadership, business, and administrative aspects of the facility.

Steps to become a healthcare administrator with a graduate degree include:

  1. Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution
  2. Active registered nurse (RN) licensure
  3. Two to three years of experience in an RN career role
  4. MBA degree

Earning a Degree in Healthcare Management

Earning an MBA helps you get the knowledge and skills necessary to manage a healthcare facility.

Admission requirements:

  • Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution
  • Two or more years of work experience in clinical or administrative nursing
  • College essay
  • Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) score over 600
  • Recommendation letters
  • Resume
  • Official transcripts with a minimum GPA (usually 3.5 or higher)

Length of schooling:

Standard MBA programs last two years for full-time students. However, you can earn an MBA in as little as one year through accelerated programs. Part-time coursework can increase time frames.

Program curriculum:

MBA programs require anywhere from 30-60 credit hours, with an average of 36. For example, the Wharton MBA curriculum distributes its 19 credits across three tracks.

Skills gained:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Analytical
  • Detail oriented
  • Interpersonal
  • Technical

Working in Healthcare Management

Healthcare managers collaborate with physicians and other healthcare members. In this role, you plan, direct, and coordinate the health services and business activities of the operation.

Work settings:

Healthcare administrators work in hospitals, nursing homes, and medical practices. You manage all aspects of the facility, department, or group of physicians.

Degree requirements:

  • Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution is required.
  • Master's in business administration is preferred by most employers.
  • Depending on the state and role, specific certifications or a specialty license may be required.

Roles and responsibilities:

There are many roles for nurses with their MBA. Duties may vary according to the specialty you choose.

Positions include:

  • Chief nursing officer
  • Nurse administrator
  • Director of nursing
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Human resources manager
  • Hospital finance officer

Responsibilities include:

  • Improve processes and patient care
  • Prepare and analyze budgets
  • Establish and manage objectives and policies
  • Ensure the facility functions to industry standards
  • Schedule, hire, recruit, train, and supervise professionals
  • Manage billing and financial aspects


According to the BLS, the median annual wage for medical and health services managers was $104,280 in May 2020, with a range of $89,880-116,380.

Current demand:

Between the aging baby boomer generation and expansion of medicine and technology, the demand for healthcare professionals continues to grow. This also triggers an increased demand for administrators to organize and manage facilities.

Job outlook:

The BLS projects employment of healthcare managers to grow 32% from 2020 to 2030. This profession is expanding more rapidly than the average for all occupations and is projected to increase 23% faster than other management occupations.

Career Path: Nursing

Advanced clinical nurses are highly specialized and dedicated to a specific patient population. These advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) work in various healthcare environments, including hospitals, clinics, physicians' offices, and outpatient facilities.

Steps to become an APRN with a graduate degree include:

  1. Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution
  2. One year experience in a nursing role
  3. MSN
  4. APRN certification

Earning a Master's Degree in Nursing

Admission requirements:

  • Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) from an accredited institution (accelerated RN-to-MSN programs accept students with an associate or a bachelor's degree in another field)
  • Active RN license
  • Official transcripts with a minimum GPA (many require a 3.5 GPA or higher)
  • Recommendation letters
  • Academic essay
  • Some require one year of clinical experience
  • Some require Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test scores

Length of schooling/program:

An MSN degree typically takes two years to achieve for a full-time student. An accelerated nursing program lets you earn your nursing master's in a year. Part-time learners can take longer than two years to complete degree requirements.

MSN program curriculum:

MSN program curriculum varies by institution and concentration and can range from 36-60 credits. Accredited schools follow the American Association of Colleges of Nursing structure in the Essentials of Master's Education in Nursing.

Focus areas include:

  • Education and advanced-level nursing education
  • Knowledge of nursing practice
  • Person-centered care
  • Population health
  • Scholarship for the nursing discipline
  • Quality and safety
  • Interprofessional partnerships
  • Systems-based practice
  • Nursing informatics and healthcare technologies
  • Professionalism
  • Personal, professional, and leadership development

Skills gained:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Compassion
  • Detail oriented
  • Interpersonal
  • Resourcefulness

Working in Nursing

As an APRN, you manage patient care directly and work independently or under the direction of a physician. As a nurse practitioner, you can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medications in some states.

Work settings:

APRNs function in a wide range of healthcare environments. Areas may include hospitals, clinics, physicians' offices, and outpatient facilities.

Roles and responsibilities include:

  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist: CRNAs are the highest-paid APRNs. They administer anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery or other procedures.
  • Nurse practitioner: NPs diagnose conditions and prescribe medications within their scope of practice.
  • Clinical nurse specialist: A CNS possesses expertise in assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients.
  • Certified nurse midwife: A CNM provides healthcare and counseling to women throughout their lives, including prevention and treatment of disease, family planning, prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care.


The BLS states that the salary range for nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives in 2020 was $111,130-$183,580. The median salary was $117,670 per year.

Current demand:

Advanced practice nursing is a rewarding profession in high demand. The U.S. lacks an adequate number of physicians to meet patient needs, and APRNs perform much of the same care. A shift to preventive care and an increasingly aging population are also factors.

Job outlook:

According to the BLS, the overall employment of nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives could increase by 45% from 2020 to 2030. This profession is growing faster than the average for all occupations and is projected to have 33% more available jobs than other healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners.

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Nursing vs. Healthcare Management FAQ

Can a nurse become a healthcare administrator?

A nurse with a BSN can work as a healthcare administrator. Advanced education in business or administration, essential credentialing, and specialized clinical experience puts you at a greater advantage for employment. An MBA or master of health administration is highly desirable for this position.

What is the difference between healthcare administration and nursing?

Comparing health administration vs. nursing, healthcare administration concentrates more on the business and management aspects. You may collaborate with the healthcare team and physicians while focusing on the operations, standards, and budget of a facility. An APRN manages and cares for patients directly.

Is healthcare administration a good career choice?

This path offers an income stream with a high demand for healthcare administration. Healthcare administration is also growing more rapidly than all other management occupations.

How useful is a healthcare administration degree?

Having an advanced degree as a healthcare administrator presents you with an industry-leading salary and a variety of job prospects in different settings.

Can't Decide? Consider Earning a Dual Degree

By earning a dual MSN/MBA degree, you develop a knowledge of clinical leadership and business management. With this combined degree, you open the doors to opportunities with the highest positions nursing offers.

Admission requirements:

While prerequisites vary by institution, a BSN from an accredited school is required to enter an MSN/MBA program. Holding an active RN licensure is also mandatory. Additionally, schools may require GRE/GMAT test scores and a minimum GPA.

Time to complete:

Typically, a full-time student can graduate in three years. Some schools also offer accelerated options. Part-time enrollment may result in a longer time commitment.

Credits required:



MSN/MBA programs have different tracks that include core courses on:

  • Leadership in healthcare
  • Nursing administration
  • Accounting for management control
  • Legal, regulatory, and economic management

Job opportunities:

A dual MSN/MBA offers the opportunity to work in high-profile roles, such as chief nurse executive, chief nursing office, nurse administrator, director of nursing, director of compliance, or director of care management.

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