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Nurse Administrator Careers

Nurse administrators typically work in a supervisory position managing other nurses and healthcare professionals in their unit or department. They can serve in a variety of roles, with job duties ranging from the coordination of patient treatment and care to budgeting and financial decision-making. Nurse administrators work in a wide range of healthcare settings, including hospitals and long-term care facilities. While some nurse administrators serve in high-level managerial roles, many work as part of a healthcare team while taking a leadership role in the daily activities of their unit or department.

Since the majority of nurse administrators begin their career as a registered nurse, they often serve as an expert and resource to nurses they supervise. Specific job duties may vary, but some nurse administrators may participate in general patient care in addition to creating policies and protocols that ensure a high standard of healthcare delivery. Regardless of their specific job duties, nurse administrators need to have strong supervisory and communication skills, an acute attention to detail, and proven planning and record-keeping practices.

How to Become a Nurse Administrator

Individuals interested in nurse administrator careers need to meet certain education and training requirements in order to gain entry into the profession. The following steps describe one possible career path:

  1. Earn a high school diploma or equivalent while focusing on science-related courses such as anatomy, physiology and biology.
  2. Complete a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited institution.
  3. Complete the NCLEX-RN exam with a passing score and complete other state requirements in order to become licensed as a registered nurse.
  4. Gain practical work experience as an RN, preferably with some administrative duties.
  5. Earn a Master of Science in nursing (MSN), Master of Health Administration (MHA), or Master of Business Administration (MBA) from an accredited institution.
  6. Research and gain, if necessary, any additional state licensure for desired nursing administrative positions.
  7. Apply for nurse administrator jobs, and land a position within current organization or elsewhere.
  8. Pursue optional certifications in nurse administration.
  9. Fulfill any nurse administrator training or education necessary to keep licensing and certification credentials current.

It's important to note that these steps serve as general guidelines and in no way guarantee employment.

Post-Education Requirements: Certification and/or State Licensing

With enough experience, graduates of nurse administrator training can pursue professional certification from a number of professional organizations, including:

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC): The ANCC offers two certifications for professional nurse administrators, the Nurse Executive (NE-BC) and Nurse Executive, Advanced (NEA-BC).
  • American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE): The AONE gives experienced nurse administrators the chance to become Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP) or a Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML).

Professionals working as nurse administrators should prepare to take continuing education courses in order to satisfy certification requirements and stay up-to-date on any changes within the industry.

Nurse Administrator Job Growth and Average Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for highly trained healthcare professionals is expected to rise due to an influx of baby boomers, advances in medical technology and an increased focus on preventative care (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

While the BLS does not produce data specifically on nurse administrator careers, the agency expects employment for registered nurses to increase 26 percent nationally from 2010 to 2020. Medical and health services managers should also experience a significant uptick in employment opportunities, with job growth anticipated at 22 percent nationally from 2010 to 2020 (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

The BLS notes that the median annual wage for registered nurses was $65,470 nationally in May 2012 with the top 10 percent of earners making more than $94,270 and the bottom 10 percent earning less than $45,040. The median annual wage for medical and health services managers was $88,580 nationally in May 2012, with the top 10 percent of earners making over $150,560 and the bottom 10 percent earning under $53,940 (bls.gov/oes, 2013). Salaries and job prospects can vary due to factors such as education, location and experience.

List of Related Careers

Those interested in becoming nursing administrators may also want to consider pursuing the following professions:

  • Physician Assistants: Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine under the supervision of doctors and surgeons. They may examine patients and provide treatment for injuries or illness. Requires a master's degree and state licensure.
  • Registered Nurses: Registered nurses (RNs) provide patients with hands-on care and administer medicines and treatments under the supervision of a doctor or nurse administrator. Requires a nursing diploma or degree, as well as state licensure.
  • Occupational Therapists: Occupational therapists help improve the lives of patients who have trouble performing day-to-day tasks. Require a master's degree and state licensure.

Links to Sources and Associations

The following websites offer more information about nurse administrators:

American Organization of Nurse Executives

American Nurses Credentialing Center

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Registered Nurses, 2013

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Medical and Health Services Managers, 2013

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses, 2012

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical and Health Services Managers, 2012

DiscoverNursing.com, Nurse Managers

National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration in Long-Term Care