How to Become a Nurse Administrator

6 Min Read Published September 27, 2023
How to Become a Nurse Administrator

What is a Nurse Administrator?

Taking the lessons and experience gleaned from years of clinical practice and combining them with management and operational skills: That’s a nurse administrator in a nutshell.

Nurse administrators are high-level executives in nursing leadership roles who work in hospitals and healthcare systems. They supervise and oversee nursing staff and create and administer clinical programs for the entire organization. Though they sometimes report to their facility’s CEO, nurse administrators can also act as the top executive. 

Becoming a Nurse Administrator is both professionally and financially rewarding. Those who work in hospitals generally earn high average salaries and have the opportunity to take on director-level positions and higher. They trade hands-on care for paperwork and meetings and, in doing so, are able to have an effect on both patients and medical staff. 

Pursuing this advanced position represents a big commitment, and you’ll need plenty of information before moving forward.  

What Do Nurse Administrators Do?

A Nurse Administrator’s job responsibilities vary depending upon the size and organizational structure of the facility for which they work, but generally include:

  1. Managing day-to-day operations for all nursing staff
  2. Budgeting and financial planning
  3. Creating operational strategies based on both their clinical knowledge and experience and their managerial expertise

Though they no longer provide hands-on care, they rely on their experience in patient care to guide them in their decision-making about everything from staffing and institutional care protocols to policy and performance goals.  

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Where Do Nurse Administrators Work?

Nurse Administrators are most often employed by hospitals and healthcare systems but can also be found in nursing homes, clinics, and even in private practices. 

Additionally, the size of the organization often drives the scope of their role. While some may directly supervise nurses and nurse managers, others are part of their facility’s executive staff, driving decisions and policies that affect the entire facility’s performance and success. 

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Nurse Administrator Salary

According to the BLS, Nurse Administrators fall into the category of Medical and Health Services Managers  and they earn an average annual salary of $104,830 per year

>> Related: Director of Nursing Salary

Nurse Administrator Salary Factors

For healthcare administrators, how much they make varies based on the industries or type of facility in which they work. 

Higher salaries are paid by government institutions and hospitals, followed by outpatient care centers, and nursing homes, whereas residential care facilities tend to pay lower wages. 

Highest Paying States for Nurse Administrators

An individual nurse administrator’s education and experience will play a critical role in their compensation, and so too will the part of the country in which they work. The five top-paying states for Nurse Administrators are: 

  1. New York - $155,430
  2. District of Columbia - $151,370
  3. Massachusetts - $140,270
  4. Washington - $138,580
  5. New Jersey - $136,580

Nurse Administrator Benefits

In addition to their salaries, Nurse Administrator compensation generally includes generous executive benefits packages that include medical, dental, and vision insurance coverage, paid time off and sick leave, and tuition reimbursement. 

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How to Become a Nurse Administrator

All Nurse Administrators begin their careers as Registered Nurses, building on that foundation of hands-on patient care. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to become a Nurse Administrator. 

Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse (RN)

This requires a nursing license, preferably earned by graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree

Step 2: Gain Experience

Following this accomplishment, you will need to put in many hours of clinical work to meet the minimum amount required for admission to the graduate nursing program degree you choose. 

Step 3: Earn an Advanced Degree

Many Nurse Administrators pursue master’s degrees in nursing or in health administration, while others opt for a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. These programs take two to three years. 

Step 4: Get Certified

Following graduation from an accredited program, there are several different certifications available to validate the education and expertise you’ve gained and to add to your professional value. These include: 


Career Outlook for Nurse Administrators

There are a number of different factors that are combining to create a robust career outlook for nurse administrators. As the population continues to age there will be a much greater need for healthcare services, and this will require additional staff. 

Professionals with the unique managerial skills and clinical knowledge that Nurse Administrators possess will be extremely valuable as facilities hire personnel and implement policies and protocols to accommodate the increased activity. 

This comes at the same time that many existing staff approach retirement age and the overall nursing shortage has reached crisis levels. These factors have all contributed to the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a 28 percent increase in employment of medical and health services managers between 2021 and 2031.  

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What Are the Continuing Education Requirements for Nurse Administrators?

Every state has its own requirements for nursing professionals to retain their licensure, and most of these include continuing education credits. These can be earned by attending classes or conferences, by reading specific texts and participating in activities that have been accredited by nursing organizations. All of these are designed to keep nurses current on developments within nursing in general as well as in their area of expertise. 

Each state’s continuing education requirements can be found here. Nurse Administrators will benefit most from classes and webinars that focus on the responsibilities unique to their role. These may include: 

  1. Understanding Hiring Criteria for New Nurse Graduates
  2. Maintaining Program Integrity During a Pandemic: Balancing Rigor with Compassion
  3. Enhancing Mentoring Relationships to Accelerate Professional Growth
  4. Resiliency and Self-Care
  5. Improving Nurse Preparedness
  6. Innovations in Personal Protective Equipment
  7. Strategic Diversity Leadership & Culturally Relevant Decision-Making

In addition to the continuing education requirements for maintaining certification as a Registered Nurse or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Nurse Administrators who have earned a certification like one of those referenced above may also face requirements or that specific credential.

Where Can I Learn More About Becoming a Nurse Administrator?

Nurse Administrators are dedicated to organizational success achieved through high-quality nursing, and they use their skills, expertise, and experience in clinical care to improve policy, procedures, training and job performance. In doing their job they rely on resources and support from numerous organizations that may also provide you with more in-depth information about becoming a nurse administrator yourself. Some of these include: 

  1. The American College of Healthcare Executives
  2. The Organization of Nurse Leaders
  3. The American Organization for Nursing Leadership

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FAQs About Nurse Administrators

  • How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Administrator?

    • Becoming a Nurse Administrator generally takes a minimum of six years, with four years dedicated to becoming a registered nurse with a BSN, followed by gaining clinical nursing experience and pursuing a graduate-level degree such as an MSN or a DNP.
  • How Much Does a Nurse Administrator Make Per Hour?

    • Nurse Administrators earn an average median salary of $101,340 per year, which translates into $48.72 per hour.
  • What is the Major of Nursing Administration?

    • Nurse Administrators can select from many different areas of study. Some of the most popular include Nursing Leadership and Administration and Healthcare Management
  •  Is a Nurse Administrator a Nurse Manager?

    • Though both nurse administrators and nurse managers are positions of leadership, nurse managers generally supervise a single department or floor of a facility and report to a nurse administrator, while nurse administrators oversee entire facilities and have nurse managers reporting to them.
  • Are Nurse Administrators in Demand?

    • The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting an enormous demand for health services managers over the next several years, and has indicated that there will be a 28% growth in the number of available positions between 2022 and 2032.
  • What is the Role of a Nurse Administrator?

    • Nurse administrator roles vary by facility but generally include management of all nurses and support services, strategic planning, and financial and budgeting responsibilities.
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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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