How Can I Become a Nursing Administrator?

Research what it takes to become a nursing administrator. Learn about degree recommendations, key job duties and salary potential to find out whether this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Nursing Administrator?

A nursing administrator is also known as a nurse executive, a director of nurses or vice president of nursing. They develop and manage budgets and must ensure they schedule sufficient staff for multiple nursing units in a hospital or other type of healthcare facility. They also work to ensure that quality healthcare is provided to patients while operating within applicable medical regulations. In short, they balance healthcare objectives with administrative responsibilities.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree required; Master's degree recommended
Training Required Registered Nurse training and certification
Licensure/Certification Certifications related to administration are available but not required
Key Responsibilities Diagnose and treat patients; coordinate nursing schedules; oversee staff development; manage budgets; assess quality of patient care; provide training
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 17% (for all medical and health services managers)
Median Salary (2015)* $94,500 (for all medical and health services managers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would My Role Be as a Nursing Administrator?

Nursing administrators take on a variety of management roles in nursing. These can include head nurse, nursing shift manager or assistant unit manager. You could advance to a higher-level career as a nursing director, vice president or even chief of nursing. Most nursing administrators work in hospitals, but such leadership positions are also available in long-term care units and other facilities.

Although you need to be capable of treating and diagnosing patients, your job as a nurse administrator is likely to involve more supervisory functions than immediate patient care. It's up to you to ensure that patients get quality care while managing a team of nurses and making sure the workplace runs smoothly. You may be responsible for just a small team of nurses, or you might oversee an entire unit or department. You could also be responsible for scheduling nursing staff, maintaining a budget for your unit, analyzing nursing treatment and promoting the development of the nurses on your team.

What Type of Degree Do I Need?

Many nursing administrators are registered nurses (RNs) who have been promoted to management positions based on good performance and experience. To become a RN, you must complete an approved training program, pass a national licensing exam called the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and meet any other requirements specified by your state. Approved RN training programs include diploma and associate degree programs in nursing, but you're likely to have the best chances of advancing to an administrator position if you earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Employers often require nursing administrators, especially those in senior-level management positions, to have an advanced degree. A general Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) may meet requirements, but more specialized master's degree programs are available in health services administration or nursing administration. Many MSN programs also offer tracks in nursing administration. If you've already earned a general MSN, you could pursue a graduate certificate program in nursing administration, which could qualify you for some positions. You can find online and weekend programs that allow you to continue working while you pursue an advanced degree.

What Can I Study?

Nursing administration courses typically cover heath care policy, clinical reasoning and human resources. You can also study strategic leadership, organization and management as they apply to a health care setting, as well as the legal and ethical aspects of health care delivery. Additionally, you can learn about the economics and finance of health care, including payroll accounting. You might also study marketing, nursing theory, research methods, decision-making and health informatics.

Do I Need Certification?

Certification isn't necessarily required for this field, but it may improve your employment options. Several organizations offer credentials for nursing administrators. For example, you can earn a Nurse Executive-Board Certified (NE-BC) or Nurse Executive, Advanced-Board Certified (NEA-BC) credential from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Both of these certifications were formerly titled 'nursing administration' rather than 'nurse executive.' Additionally, the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) offers Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP) and Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) credentials. All of these credentials require you to pass an exam, but education and experience requirements vary by certification.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Administrative services managers perform some of the same duties as nursing administrators, though they often work for a government or social service agency or find jobs in the field of education. These professionals oversee staff, create budgets, order supplies, schedule repairs to facilities and ensure that all workplace safety regulations are being followed. A bachelor's degree is usually the entry-level education required to be an administrative services manager.

Individuals who are interested in administrative duties but would like to still be directly involved in patient care might consider careers as nurse practitioners. These professionals provide an advanced level of care based on their specialty area, whether it be in such areas as women's health, adult or mental health nursing. They might also be responsible for overseeing other healthcare staff. A master's degree is generally required for licensure in this role.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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