Nurse Administrator Career Overview
| Maura Deering
Nurses interested in healthcare management should consider a career as a nurse administrator. These highly trained and well-paid professionals oversee nursing staff in healthcare facilities and physician group practices. In larger hospitals, they may manage a department or clinical specialty.
What Does a Nurse Administrator Do?
Nurse administrators bring the experience, knowledge, and skills gleaned in prior clinical practice to provide operational management and strategic leadership to nursing staff in healthcare organizations. Specific roles and responsibilities may include:
- Collaborating with boards and committees to set performance goals
- Conducting performance reviews
- Coordinating with medical staff
- Developing policies and procedures
- Facilitating professional development activities
- Formulating and managing budgets
- Monitoring compliance with laws and regulations
- Recruiting and hiring nurses
- Representing nursing staff in meetings
- Scheduling nursing shifts
Key Skills and Traits
- Attention to detail
- Technical skills
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Where do Nurse Administrators Work?
Thirty-three percent of nurse administrators work in hospitals, 12% in physicians' offices, and 10% in residential care facilities. Common duties in each of these workplaces include:
Develop and implement departmental procedures, policies, and goals; direct and evaluate nursing staff; prepare reports and budgets.
Collaborate with medical and administrative staff; hire and train nurses; manage patient billing and recordkeeping.
Residential Care Facilities
Supervise nursing staff; oversee finances and facility maintenance; manage residents' care.
Why Become a Nurse Administrator?
The advantages of becoming a nurse administrator include greater opportunities and larger paychecks, but nurses who entered the field to treat patients directly may find themselves too far removed from patient care. RNs can become licensed in two years, but a nursing administrator may need to devote an additional 2-3 years to earning a master's degree.
Advantages to Becoming a Nurse Administrator
Disadvantages to Becoming a Nurse Administrator
How to Become a Nurse Administrator
The path to become a nurse administrator will vary depending on leadership experience. To minimum qualifications include an RN license and BSN but many employers may prefer a graduate degree.
Earn a BSN.
Pass the NCLEX-RN to Receive RN Licensure.
Gain Required Nursing Experience.
Consider Applying for Certification.
Types of Nurse Administrator Roles
Chief Nursing Officer
How Much Do Nurse Administrators Make?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists nurse administrator salary data under medical and health services managers. According to the BLS, these nurse leaders earn a median annual salary of $104,280 or an average annual salary of $118,800. Government nurse administrators can expect to earn a median wage of $112,000, followed by hospital nurse leaders at $110,000. Nurse administrators make a median salary of $95,000 at outpatient care centers, $92,000 in physicians' offices, and $87,000 at nursing and residential care facilities.
The tables below outline the top-paying states, metropolitan areas, and industries for nurse administrators.
|Top Paying States||Average Salary||Total Number of Medical and Health Services Managers|
|District of Columbia||$150,040||1,600|
|Top Paying Metropolitan Areas||Average Salary||Total Number of Medical and Health Services Managers|
|Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA||$163,280||420|
|Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing||$204,300|
|Scientific Research and Development Services||$169,240|
|Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers||$162,880|
|Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing||$159,910|
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a nurse administrator?
Nurse administrators must hold at least a bachelor's degree. Most BSN programs take four years to complete; however, accelerated or bridge programs admit licensed RNs. An MSN may be required by some employers, which adds 2-3 more years to the educational timeline. Nurse administrators should also log a year or two of clinical work as an RN.
How do I get a job in healthcare administration with no experience?
Students can pursue a master of healthcare administration (MHA), which does not require a healthcare management background for admission. An MHA focuses on the business of healthcare and educates graduates on government regulations, healthcare ethics, health informatics, and insurance reimbursement systems, along with leadership and strategic planning.
How can I make a career change to nursing administration?
RNs can streamline their path to a nursing administration career through RN-to-MSN bridge programs. Students can graduate in 2-3 years rather than spending four years earning a BSN and another 2-3 pursuing an MSN. Many programs offer nursing administration concentrations, often called nurse executive or leadership tracks.
What can you do with an MSN/MBA?
A dual MSN/MBA degree provides another pathway into nursing administration and leadership. The three-year curriculum typically includes coursework in accounting, financial management, and healthcare informatics. Graduates obtain nursing administration jobs as nurse managers, chief nursing officers, departmental directors, and directors of compliance. These positions generally command high salaries.
Resources for Nurse Administrators
American Organization for Nursing LeadershipAONL boasts a community of 10,000 nurse leaders and provides links to crisis and coronavirus resources, hosts programs and events, and credentials nurse leaders. Membership is not required to access the job listings, podcasts, and some of the other resources, but it is required to read articles in the bi-monthly magazine and attend free webinars.
AONL Career CenterThe career center lists job postings for positions in nurse leadership, including administrative nurse manager, chief nursing officer, and clinical director. Job seekers can browse employment opportunities as guests, but those who set up an account can post their resumes, apply for jobs through the site, and sign up for job alerts.
American College of Healthcare ExecutivesACHE welcomes MHA students, seasoned professionals, and healthcare leaders transitioning from military service. ACHE features communities, forums, and networks, including Asian Healthcare Leaders, healthcare consultants, and early careerists, and offers scholarships and educational resources for students. Students pay less than half the dues of regular membership.
Organization of Nurse LeadersNew England-based ONL seeks to advance a culture of health and serves its members with educational and networking events, committee opportunities, recognition awards, and knowledge resources, such as position statements, job postings, and links to information relevant to nurse leaders. The ONL Foundation invests in leaders who aim to transform nursing care.
Anna-Lise Krippaehne is a board-certified family nurse practitioner at Oregon Health & Science University's Family Practice Department in Portland, where she practices with a distinct interest in preventative care and health promotion. She earned her BSN and DNP from the University of Portland.
Krippaehne is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.
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