Director of Nursing Salary Guide

9 Min Read Published January 19, 2024
Director of Nursing Salary Guide

director of nursing is an advanced nursing role where you’re responsible for leading a nursing department or an entire healthcare system. These roles often earn high salaries; read on to learn how much you could make as a director of nursing. 

What is the Average Director of Nursing Salary?

In 2023, reported that the average nursing director salary in the United States is $164,146. Both and reported lower figures, with Payscale reporting an average base salary of $97,398 and Indeed reporting an average base salary of $97,398 and additional overtime pay averaging $10,750 per year. 

Director of Nursing Salary Ranges 

The range in salaries for director of nursing positions in the United States is extremely broad. According to, the highest paid 10% earn $212,000 annually, and the lowest paid 10% earn $124,912. reports the range in director of nursing base salaries as a low of $72,000 and a high of $141,000. 

Director of Nursing Salary by State


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Director of Nursing Salary by Years of Experience

The director of nursing position focuses more on administrative than clinical work, so nurses don’t necessarily need years of clinical experience to qualify. Still, the amount of time you’ve spent on the job will significantly impact the salary for which you are eligible. 

According to, director of nursing candidates with ten or more years of experience are paid an annual base salary of $112,020, well above their reported national average salary of $101,474. reports that entry-level Directors of Nursing with less than a year of experience can expect to earn an average of $86,000, almost 12% below the national average compensation. 

Candidates with one to four years of experience will see their salary jump to an average of $91,000, while those with 20 years of experience will earn the highest salaries, averaging $104,000. 

Director of Nursing Salary by Work Setting

A director of nursing is responsible for the performance of a single nursing unit within healthcare facilities of all types, from acute care hospitals to clinics to nursing homes. The position takes on largely non-clinical responsibilities relating to topics such as:

  • Scheduling
  • Inventory
  • Employee development and discipline
  • Clinical policies
  • Budgeting
  • Compliance

Salary differentials for different work settings are more likely to reflect the number of nurses within the unit or department than the actual services provided. 

How to Increase Your Salary as a Director of Nursing

A director of nursing position generally earns significantly higher compensation than the average salary earned by a registered nurse. Still, those interested in earning even more can take several steps to increase their value to their employer. 

Pursue Further Education reports that the majority of directors of nursing are registered nurses who have earned an associate or bachelor’s degree, with less than 20% of nursing directors earning advanced degrees. 

The wage gap between different levels of education is significant, with those who have earned a Master of Science in Nursing earning more than $10,000 more per year than those with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. 

Doctoral-degreed nurses earn an average of $114,614 per year, far above the $86,893 that the report cites for BSN-degreed nurses.  

Earn Additional Certifications 

The director of nursing position involves management, budgeting, and administration. Among the best ways to demonstrate that you have these skills is to earn a DNS-CT, Director of Nursing Services certification offered through the American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing

Requirements for this credential include holding a current RN license and having the equivalent of two years of full-time, post-acute care experience with a minimum of one year of experience either as a director of nursing services or relevant leadership experience. Candidates also need to take the appropriate courses with exams and pass with a score of 80% or better.  

Negotiate Your Salary  

Though many people find the idea of negotiating salary uncomfortable, doing so is both effective and proof that you are well qualified for the position of director of nursing. 

Negotiating is a skill that shows that you are willing and able to have difficult conversations, that you’ve done your homework regarding your own value, and that you have the confidence needed to take on a leadership role. 

Become a Travel Nurse

It’s well known that travel nurses earn significantly higher hourly rates than nurses in permanent positions, but few realize how this translates to nurse leader positions. 

The more skills required for a position, the more the hospital is willing to pay. So, experienced directors of nursing who are willing to travel can leverage their knowledge and skills into extremely generous compensation along with the opportunity to expand their networks and visit new and exciting locations. 

Look For Additional Compensation 

Beyond adding to your credentials and qualifications, you may also be able to boost your earnings by signing on for higher-paying shifts. Though this may not be as available to you as a salaried member of management, it is important to be aware of the potential. Here are some examples:

  • Overtime – Directors of nursing are generally expected to work 40-hour shifts, but some facilities will pay overtime to those who stay on to cover additional hours. Overtime rates are generally paid at a rate of 1.5 times the employee’s hourly rate, but some employers pay as much as three times the hourly rate. 

  • Shift differential – Though directors of nursing generally work Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm, those facilities that need the position staffed around the clock may offer higher compensation for those who agree to work less desirable hours, like nights or weekends. 

  • Hazard Pay – Not all shifts or circumstances are equal, and nurses who agree to take the responsibility of working in extreme or dangerous conditions are often eligible for what is known as hazard pay. This additional compensation recognizes the risk and sacrifice that the employee is taking on by agreeing to work under dangerous or stressful circumstances. Think COVID unit at the height of the pandemic.

  • Per Diem – Per diem positions offer the opportunity to work on flexible schedules and are perfect for qualified directors of nursing who want to earn extra money in addition to their current position. Per diem positions are generally paid higher hourly rates than full-time positions for fewer hours. 

  • Contract –  Contract positions allow qualified individuals to agree to work for a specified period of time at a rate that is usually higher than what is offered to full-time employees. These interim positions are frequently available at facilities that are recruiting for open, permanent positions. They can be as short as four weeks and as long as six months.  

Salary vs Education Costs - Is It Worth It? 

Nursing education is expensive, but it can also make a significant difference in the salary a director of nursing commands. 

Though roughly half of those positions are currently held by individuals with no more than an Associate Degree in Nursing, many of them are expected to retire in the next few years. 

It is likely that facilities will be looking for nurses who have earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing, or even a Doctor of Nursing degree. The further you go with your education, the higher your salary is likely to be.  

The salary for a director of nursing is significantly higher than that available to registered nurses, while the position itself allows nurses to move beyond the clinical into a role that drives efficiency and supports quality care. 

With a salary that averages over $90,000 per year and the opportunity to advance your education while working — and perhaps even having tuition reimbursed — many Directors of Nursing have found the investment to be worthwhile. 

Charge Nurse 

According to, the average salary for a charge nurse is $96,914, with a range of between $90,012 and $107,746. 

Clinical Nurse Leader 

Clinical nurse leaders are paid an average base salary of $84,631, according to The majority of these professionals earn between $68,000 (25th percentile) to $99,500 (75th percentile). 

Patient Care Director 

According to, patient care directors are paid an average salary of $131,962, with a range of between $121,081 and $143,469.  


  • Is It Worth It to Become a Director of Nursing?   

    • The director of nursing position is a management position that offers both challenges and rewards. They are well paid, in high demand, and able to work in a wide range of settings with a significant degree of autonomy. Most directors of nursing express high levels of job satisfaction. 
  • How Long Does It Take to Become a Director of Nursing?  

    • A candidate for a director of nursing position must be licensed as a registered nurse and will likely need a minimum of a BSN degree, and preferably an MSN degree. Additionally, they should have a minimum of two years of administrative experience. 
  • What Is the Highest-Paid Nursing Position?  

    • The highest-paid nursing position is the certified registered nurse anesthetist. This is an APRN position that requires several years of schooling. 
  • Is Being a Director of Nursing a Stressful Job?  

    • The stress you will feel as a director of nursing depends upon your personality and the circumstances and environment in which you work. The job entails a lot of paperwork and may involve long hours. People who are good at multitasking, who enjoy mentoring, and who welcome the responsibility of supporting their employer’s policies and procedures will be the least stressed and feel the greatest level of reward in this position. 
  • Who is Above the Director of Nursing? 

    • Every facility has its own management structure. However, in most cases the director of nursing reports directly to the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO). 
    Terri Heimann Oppenheimer
    Terri Heimann Oppenheimer Contributor

    Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is a freelance writer and editor who is driven by details. She loves to dive into research, ensuring that the information she provides educates, engages and illuminates. Before starting her own business she spent years working in advertising and raising three kids. Today she lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where her she and her husband enjoy travel, the Jersey Shore, and spoiling their grandchildren.

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