Nurse Administrator: Job Description, Salary, and How to Become One

Nursing administration offers numerous advantages for aspiring healthcare professionals seeking a rewarding career beyond traditional nursing roles. Careers

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From higher salary potential and diverse job opportunities to flexible schedules and reduced physical demands, a nursing administration career allows nurses to expand their impact and contribute to delivering exceptional patient care.

Nurse Administrator Job Description

Nurse administrators, sometimes called nurse managers or directors, are RNs who have transitioned into a healthcare executive role. They supervise the processes and personnel of nursing departments or entire healthcare facilities.

They rarely provide direct patient care, rather they ensure that the nurses they manage provide quality care while following standards and regulations, manage day-to-day operations in healthcare facilities, and contribute to long-term improvement by continually revising systems and procedures.

Nurse administrators also represent nursing staff to internal and external stakeholders, liaise with healthcare staff, and work with executive teams to set performance goals and strategic plans.


Related: 10 Best Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs in 2023


Nurse administrators' areas of work include: 

  • Hospitals 
  • Physicians' offices 
  • Nursing homes
  • Public health 
  • Insurance providers 
  • Medical research 
  • Travel nursing agencies
  • Hospital management companies

Nurse Administrator Responsibilities

The nurse administrator's responsibilities fall into two broad categories: personnel management and department administration. As experienced nurses, they're qualified to educate nursing staff and conduct evaluations of individual nurses' performance. They also might fulfill human resources functions, such as listening to employee feedback and resolving workplace conflicts.

Their key responsibilities include:

  • Managing and leading nursing staff
  • Managing budgets and fiscal performance
  • Analyzing nursing performance and conducting performance reviews
  • Identifying opportunities for innovation and improvement
  • Representing the nursing function in organization-wide decision-making

Nurse Administrator Salary

According to Payscale, the average salary for nurse administrators in the United States is $90,577 annually. However, compensation in this role may vary depending on geographic location, education, and professional experience.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports job outlook data for nurse administrators under the medical and health services managers professional category. It predicts employment in the field to grow by 32% between 2019 and 2029. The BLS attributes this growth to the aging general population requiring more healthcare services.

How to Become a Nurse Administrator

To become a nurse administrator, you must first fulfill the education requirements for earning an RN license. This begins with completion and graduation from a Bachelor's degree program (BSN) or Associate's degree (ADN). You must then take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and meet any requirements specific to your state, such as completing a background check or providing academic references to obtain your RN license.

After several years of work experience as an RN, most nurse administrators pursue an advanced degree, such as a Master's degree (MSN) in Nursing or Health Administration, or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Schools often structure these programs to accommodate working nurses and offer online curricula or accelerated degree timelines. Those who are ADN-prepared nurses may require completing an RN to BSN program before pursuing further education.


Related: 10 Best RN to BSN Programs in 2023


Nurse administrators must fully understand the workflows and responsibilities of the nursing profession to manage entire departments. Employers typically only consider candidates for nurse administrator positions who have at least five years' experience working in an RN capacity and demonstrate leadership skills. Preferably, candidates also have experience fulfilling job duties related to nurse leader roles, such as management and administration. To gain this experience, a nurse might seek a job with managerial responsibilities, such as a charge nurse or shift supervisor. They can also take part in nursing associations or contribute to work committees.

Certifications

Certification is not a requirement for nurse administrators, but it gives employers greater confidence in a candidate's abilities and expertise. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) grant the certifications candidates typically pursue. They offer the following credentials to eligible nurses who pass a certification exam:

  • Nurse Executive Certification: The ANCC offers this certification to nurses with a bachelor's degree who complete 2,000 hours of work and 30 hours of continuing education in leadership, management, or administration. An applicant's professional experience must relate to the operations and outcomes of at least one nursing unit or department.
  • Nurse Executive Advanced Certification: The ANCC offers this certification to nurses with a graduate degree who fulfill the above work and continuing education requirements. However, applicants must show their work related to the outcomes and operations of an entire organization or healthcare system.
  • Certified Nurse Manager and Leader Certification: The AONL offers this certification to nurses with a BSN who have worked in managerial or leadership positions for one year and nurses with a non-nursing Bachelor's who have worked in a leadership support role for three years.
  • Certified in Executive Nursing Practice: The AONL offers this certification to nurses who have a Master's degree and two years of experience in an executive nursing role as well as nurses who have a BSN and four years of experience in an executive nursing role.

Whether just graduating from a BSN program or ready for a career change, choosing a healthcare administration career puts you on a rewarding and in-demand career path.

Editorial Team / Admin

Carly Elliott has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Hospice Palliative Care and Home Health.

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