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Nursing Administrator Careers and Salary Outlook 2020

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Nursing administrators use their training in advanced practice nursing and business management to ensure that hospitals and other healthcare facilities operate smoothly and efficiently. This guide provides an overview of how to become a nursing administrator, from educational requirements and certifications to nursing administrator salary potential and helpful resources for students.

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What is a Nursing Administrator?

As the demand for nurses continues to grow, healthcare organizations of all kinds require nursing administrators to supervise staff. These professionals play an important role in any medical facility, ensuring that patients receive efficient, high-quality care. Nursing administrators with a master of science degree, a registered nurse (RN) license, and clinical experience possess a competitive edge in the job market. Nursing administrators who earn nurse executive or nurse manager certifications may enjoy even more opportunities for career advancement.

  • What Do Nursing Administrators Do?

    While nursing administrators are usually found in larger facilities, they can also be found in some medium-sized institutions. This job features a moderate stress level and provides opportunities to interact with the public and staff members within the nurse’s assigned healthcare facility.

    A nursing administrator’s specific tasks and duties depend on his or her healthcare facility’s type and size. In general, their responsibilities center on staff and schedule management. They also handle personnel issues, from recruiting, hiring, and training nurses to conducting performance evaluations.

    Nursing administrators set and maintain policies and procedures and diffuse conflicts and grievances. They may also be responsible for budgeting, financial planning, and equipment purchasing. In some work environments, nursing administrators develop their facility or department’s strategic plan and serve as a liaison between nursing staff, physicians, and upper management.

  • Where Do Nursing Administrators Work?

    While nursing administrators usually work in large medical facilities like hospitals and nursing homes, they may also hold managerial positions in smaller settings like medical offices, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, and mental health facilities. Almost any healthcare organization with sufficient staff levels requires an administrator to hire and train nurses, schedule and supervise shifts, and oversee budgets.

    In some work environments, nursing administrators do not directly interact with patients. However, some nurse managers assist with patient care, handle patient complaints, and work in clinical teams to advise staff on complex cases. Nursing administrators typically report to the organization’s CEO or other executive directors.

  • Skills That Could Affect Nursing Administrator Salaries

    Registered nurses who plan to step into administrative leadership roles must acquire several traits beyond basic patient care skills. The American Organization for Nursing Leadership suggests competencies to guide successful nursing management practices. These include a thorough knowledge of the healthcare environment, an understanding of financial and human resource management, and the ability to use knowledge relationship management principles to improve performance and promote professional development among staff members.

    Increasingly, nursing administrators also need technological expertise, building familiarity with medical and business software. They must develop appropriate communication styles with supervisors and subordinates and employ problem-solving and conflict resolution strategies. Because they supervise and work in diverse groups, these professionals must also understand the components of cultural competence as they operate in the healthcare workplace.

How to Become a Nursing Administrator

If you are a licensed RN with clinical experience and an interest in moving into a supervisory role, the nursing administration arena offers opportunities for career advancement. This in-demand field can lead to increased earning potential while preparing leaders committed to quality healthcare practices and policies.

The path to becoming a nursing administrator requires training beyond the educational and state requirements for RN licensure. Most nurses who plan to enter this field complete a master of science in nursing or a related healthcare degree that provides instruction in advanced nursing practice, business and financial management, human resources, and medical instructional technology.


A career in nursing administration typically begins with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), which can take up to four years to complete. BSN graduates must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to practice in their state of residence. Licensed RNs with an associate degree or nursing diploma may enter a bridge RN-BSN program that leads to a degree in approximately two years.

Employers generally expect nursing administrators to have completed at least five years of nursing experience and one year in a supervisory role. Some employers also require candidates to hold a master of nursing (MSN), healthcare administration (MHA), or business administration (MBA), all of which can greatly expand an individual’s career prospects at the top levels of management.

Training and Certification

Nursing administrators often view certifications as the final step toward achieving their professional goals. These credentials demonstrate advanced knowledge in nursing leadership and healthcare practice.

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers the nurse executive-board certified (NE-BC) credential, which assesses proficiency in nursing practice and healthcare unit management. The ANCC also administers the nurse executive advanced-board certified (NEA-BC) credential, which requires a master’s or doctoral degree and two years of nurse executive experience. Candidates for both credentials must pass a 3.5-hour comprehensive exam comprising 175 multiple choice questions.

The American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) administers the certified in executive nursing practice (CENP) credential and the certified nurse manager and leader (CNML) credential. The CENP certification tests competencies in communication and relationship building, knowledge of the healthcare environment, leadership, professionalism and business skills. The CNML certification covers knowledge of financial management, human resource management, performance improvement, and strategic management and technology.

Nursing Administrator Salaries and Job Growth

As the demand for healthcare professionals continues to rise, nurse administrators should enjoy more career options and higher-than-average compensation through the next decade. However, job and salary prospects vary by location, experience, and credentials. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide a specific occupational report for nursing administration, the organization does present data for registered nurses and medical and health services managers. Both categories include nursing managers.

The BLS projects significantly higher employment growth rates and salaries for both occupational fields. Registered nurses who earn an annual mean salary of $71,730 can expect a 12% increase in employment through 2028. During the same period, the BLS projects an 18% growth rate in medical and health services manager jobs. These managers earn an average salary of $111,680 a year, with the top 10% earning over $175,000.

Both RNs and healthcare managers experience the highest employment levels in heavily-populated states, including California, New York, Texas, and Pennsylvania. The metropolitan areas around San Francisco, New York, and Boston tend to offer the highest pay rates.

Related Job Salaries

  • Registered Nurse (RN): $63,263
  • Operations Manager: $64,230
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN): $43,491
  • Registered Nurse (RN), Emergency Room: $66,292
  • Registered Nurse (RN), Critical Care: $72,541
  • Source: PayScale

    Nursing Administrator Resources

    • National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration in Long Term Care: NADONA promotes the interests of current and aspiring long term and post-acute care nurses. The association administers several certification programs, hosts an annual conference, and offers educational resources. Members enjoy scholarship and award opportunities, along with a mentor system that pairs them with seasoned professionals.
    • American Organization for Nursing Leadership: Formerly known as the American Organization for Nurse Executives, AONL serves over 9,800 members in every career stage. The association advances professional development through competency-based examinations leading to nurse leadership and executive certifications. AONL’s online career center assists employers, recruiters, and job seekers.
    • American Hospital Association: Established in 1898, the AHA educates healthcare leaders and engages in legislative and regulatory advocacy on healthcare issues. The association’s membership includes over 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, and networks, along with 43,000 individual healthcare professionals. The AHA offers certification in hospital human resources, healthcare risk management, and healthcare facilities management.
    • Job Search: This national educational and career website provides a variety of resources for nurses seeking employment assistance or professional development. Along with a job bank, the site provides over 750 continuing education courses that fulfill state license renewal requirements. Visitors can also explore links to professional publications, conferences, educational programs, and a nursing school directory.
    • American Nurses Association: This organization works to establish and maintain high nursing practice standards. Working in cooperation with the ANCC Certification Program, ANA sponsors a variety of credentials for nurses and healthcare organizations. ANA members also serve as legislative advocates for healthcare issues affecting their profession and the public.
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