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How to become a Nurse Administrator

3 min readApril, 28 2023

Many people start a career in nursing because they enjoy working with patients. Others follow a different nursing career path, focusing on managerial and leadership functions within a hospital, physician's office, or health care setting. Nursing administration falls into this second category.

Nurse administrators are trained registered nurses (RNs) who take on collaborative, managerial, and leadership roles. They work with hospital administrators, including the facility's CEO, to make decisions affecting staffing, scheduling, and other organizational aspects of nursing.

What Does a Nurse Administrator Do?

Professionals in nursing administration often don't have much direct interaction with patients. Instead, they focus on the business side of health care and nursing. Nurse administrators are responsible for hiring, budgeting, and scheduling nurses in a health care facility. They also facilitate communication with physicians and high-ranking executives to ensure the nurses' voices are heard.

Nurse Administrator Degree and Experience Requirements

Successful nurse administrators have a solid background of clinical experience and a well-developed business sense that helps them see the bottom line, enforce policies, and represent nursing staff effectively to the rest of the organization. Because the position involves managerial responsibility, nursing administration degree requirements and training are considerable, so be prepared to spend extra time and expense on this career path.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Administrator?

If you're interested in becoming a nurse administrator, expect to spend at least six years on your professional development. The first step is becoming an RN, preferably with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. The BSN requires at least four years of college, but you'll also need to plan time to prepare for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Obtaining an advanced degree such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) makes you a stronger candidate for a leadership position such as a nurse administrator. But keep in mind that the journey will take longer.

You'll also need to spend several years of on-the-job training as an RN to develop a comprehensive understanding of the role before advancing to a management position. Depending on your qualifications, you'll typically spend two to five years as an RN before moving into the nursing administration profession.

It's important to understand that your education doesn't end once you've secured a position as a nurse administrator. Each state has specific continuing education requirements for nurses — including those in nursing administration — so you'll need to take additional courses to maintain your licensure periodically. You may be able to satisfy your continuing education requirements with certifications specific to managerial and leadership roles, such as the Nurse Executive board certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).  

Nurse Administrator Salary and Career Prospects

Two nurses in scrubs, one male and one female, are smiling and welcoming a man in a gray suit with a handshake. In the background, another healthcare professional is visible. The interaction occurs in a bright, clinical setting, suggesting a positive professional encounter.

Fortunately, the time and effort put into securing a position in nursing administration are well worth it, professionally and financially. You can expect to earn a considerably higher salary than you would as an entry-level RN. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health service managers, including nurse administrators, make, on average, around $100,000 per year. Depending on the environment, you could earn more. For instance, a nurse administrator at a hospital typically makes more than someone in the same role earns at a residential care facility.

Career advancement and job security are other benefits of working as a nurse administrator. As the baby boomer population ages, the demand for nurses, in general, has increased, including the need for nurse administrators. Those in administrative leadership roles can also expect higher-than-average job prospects. Nurse administrators who perform their job well can advance further into a position as a director of nursing or another high-level executive role.

Be sure to check out available books on nursing administration available for purchase through ANA.


Images sourced from Getty Images

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