Nurse Administration Programs
By: Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, Clinical Informatics Nurse
BestNursingDegree.com wants to help you find the right nurse administration program for you. On this page you’ll learn about what nurse administrators do and how to become one. Request information from multiple schools to make sure you find the right fit and increase your chances of being accepted. Also, consider online programs as they provide a similar learning experience with added flexibility.
If you’re not sure about what specialty is right for you, take our Nursing Specialties Quiz to see what nursing career is best for your personality!
To request information, click on any of the schools in the featured school box below, or use the “Schools Near You” quick search to find additional programs that might interest you.
About Nurse Administration
The Nursing Administration specialty is most often selected by nurses who wish to work in leadership roles. Masters-level Nursing Administration degrees can help prepare experienced nurses to manage healthcare organizations. These nurses have the skills required to lead healthcare organizations to success in challenging social, economic, and political times. This specialty requires strong leadership skills, a passion for excellence in patient care and the ability to drive cost-effective and competitive success.
Success in Nurse Administration requires the ability to problem solve and focus attention on a variety of issues that arise in a healthcare setting. These leaders need a strong team of managers and staff so they can delegate responsibilities and tasks. Nursing administrators must be assertive, tactful and respectful. They should have a high-level understanding of every area of the organization they serve and still maintain their approachability to any member of the organization.
A strong desire to drive success in healthcare organizations is one of the key requirements for any nurse pursuing this specialty. Nursing administrators make tough decisions and are the creators and enforcers of healthcare policy. They are heavily involved with ensuring that hospitals maintain their credentials and high standards.
Nurses who want to have an impact on patient care at a grander scale are well suited to this role. Many nurses with nursing administrative backgrounds find themselves at the top of the food chain and call the shots in many important and highly respected healthcare organizations.
Salary expectations will vary, but according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the median salary for nurse administrators in 2016 was $96,540 per year. The projected rate of growth is 22%, which is considered faster than the average growth for American industries.
Areas of Expertise for Nursing Administration
Nurse administrators are experts in operating successful healthcare organizations. The combination of hands-on nursing experience and specialized administrative and leadership skills makes nurse administrators uniquely suited to handle operations of successful healthcare organizations. Nursing administrators are involved in the day-to-day management of hospitals and are key players when it comes to creating and maintaining budgets. They know the business and clinical side of healthcare and provide valuable insight into both areas.
These nurses know what it takes to run a nursing floor and the good ones aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty when the time calls for it. Some of the best nursing administrators are those who organize and plan for the unexpected and ensure that they never forget what it was like to work on the floor. With proper planning and a well-organized and managed team they don’t often work hands on with patients, however, they aren’t afraid to be on the front lines of nursing and roll up their sleeves when duty calls.
These nurses have to advocate for large populations of nurses and other clinical staff in an organization while keeping the patient’s best interest in the forefront. They are masters at making tough decisions and juggling staffing and budgeting requirements.
Customer service is a pillar of excellence that is an absolute requirement of nursing administration. These nurses face difficult situations, angry patients, disgruntled employees, and demanding auditors. A good nurse administrator provides service with a smile and does his/her very best to resolve situations in the best manner possible.
Nursing administrators are also excellent at communication and conflict resolution. A talented individual with an administration background can solve any issue given to them while staying calm, cool and collected. While many work best under pressure, most nurse executives incorporate large amounts of planning and preparation into their daily workflow. This requires excellent time management and prioritization skills.
Administrative nurses have the knowledge and background required to ensure that organizations maintain compliance standards and regulatory requirements. Nurses in this role have the ability to create organizational cultures that are professional, compassionate, personal, and community-oriented. Education in nursing theory and management gives nurse managers a strong advantage in promoting ethical and legal health care for the communities they serve.
Career Options for Nursing Administration
Nurses who specialize in Nursing Administration have a variety of career paths available. These range from hospital department managers and administrators to medical equipment and software executives. Many with nursing administration education go on to become hospital CEOs or high-paid and powerful consultants.
An MSN prepared nursing administrator is an advanced practice nurse prepared for a variety of careers including, but not limited to, the following:
- Nurse Executive
- Nurse Manager
- Quality Improvement Manager
- Ambulatory Care Manager
- Hospital CEO
- Nurse Educator
- Director of Nursing
- Chief Nursing Officer
- Department Director
These nurses can work in at private healthcare facilities or in public health. Any area of nursing that requires a leader can benefit from a nurse with an administration background. This includes hospitals, acute care facilities, home healthcare agencies, durable medical equipment companies, pharmaceutical companies, ambulatory clinics, and electronic medical records vendors.
Although nurses with nursing administration are prepared to work in leadership and executive roles their career options are nearly limitless. Any specialty in nursing can benefit from a nurse with this educational background and these leadership qualities.
Nursing Administration Education Expectations
Although the curriculum for a Master’s in Nursing Administration will vary from university to university, you will likely find that the overall content of the courses is similar. Some courses that you might be expected to take include the following:
- Theoretical Basis for Nursing Practice
- Health Policy and Planning in the US
- Health Disparities and Nursing
- Research in Nursing and Health Professions
- Program Improvement and Evaluation
- Theory and Application of Organizational Behavior to Nursing Systems
- Advanced Practicum in Nursing Administration and Leadership
- Nursing and Health Informatics
- Healthcare Organization and Nursing Leadership
- Strategic Planning and Decision Making in Nursing
- Budgeting for Health Professionals
- Synthesis in Advanced Nursing Practice
- Instructional Technology in Nursing Education
- Trends and Issues in Nursing Education
Studying for an MSN in Nursing Administration can fit into even a busy nurse’s schedule, when you can take your classes online. Many schools offer course attendance options that are completely online with no set check-in or lecture times. Although many do require some sort of practicum prior to gradation, this can usually be arranged with a local facility or you can sometimes utilize your time spent at work as practicum hours.
Deciding between taking online classes and a campus class program may be a difficult choice. However, there are benefits to both settings. Classroom offers the ability to network with your classmates face-to-face and get dedicated time with your professor. Online learner offers you the ability to work on your time, but still get the benefit of completing your classes with a group.
About the Author
Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, also known as The Nerdy Nurse, is a Clinical Informatics Nurse practicing in Georgia. She can best be described as a patient nurse and technology advocate, who is passionate for using technology to innovate, improve and simplify lives, especially in healthcare. Brittney blogs about nursing issues, technology, healthcare, parenting and various lifestyle topics at TheNerdyNurse.com.
How to Become a Nurse Administrator
Earn your Bachelor’s
Nobody becomes a nurse administrator overnight. It all begins with earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing. While earning that degree is vital, there are still some licensure steps to take before a hospital or other organization signs you on as a nurse.
To become or remain licensed, you must:
- Apply to your state’s board of nursing and pay an application fee
- Take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)
- Renew your RN license every few years, depending on what your state requires
Once employed as a registered nurse, with an eye on becoming an administrator, start building your resume. Yes, most future employers will favor applicants with an advanced degree in nursing administration, but they will also be looking for someone with a solid and varied clinical background.
Some employers require at least five years of nursing experience before they’ll consider someone for a nursing administrator position.
- Take a staff nurse position at a hospital, physician’s office, a community health organization, mental health clinic or any healthcare setting that appeals to you
- After gaining initial experience and additional confidence, seek opportunities to move into administrative work or assume administrative responsibilities such as assistant unit manager, head nurse or assistant manager
Earn a Master of Science Degree in Nursing
While it’s not universally necessary to hold a Master of Nursing Science Degree (MSN) to become a nurse administrator, many health care institutions may only consider nurses with an MSN degree for administrator positions. This is true whether the position is in clinical leadership or management/administration.
From previous sections of this page, you know that minimum degree requirements may require courses in administration and management, strategic planning, communications, current nursing practices and leadership development.
Most programs, on campus or online, take about two years to complete. Two tracks are often offered: Master of Health Care Administration or Master of Science in Nursing Leadership. There are schools that offer an online dual MSN/MBA program.
Make sure you select a school listed in the Accredited Institutions of Postsecondary Education.
The Final Step: Credentialing
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers a variety of administrator certification options, such as the Nurse Executive-Board Certified (NE-BC) credential. Winning the credential means you’ve fulfilled all eligibility requirements and passed a computerized 3.5-hour competency-based exam.
While MSNs are helpful for career advancement, they are not the only route to a nurse administrator credential. You can achieve the same goal through experience and continuing education courses.
To apply for executive certification, current RNs must:
- Hold a BS in nursing
- Meet experience requirements, including having held:
- A mid-level administrative or higher position
- Or a graduate faculty position teaching nursing administration
- Or a nursing management or executive consultation position full-time for at least 24 months
- Have completed 30 hours of continuing education specific to nursing administration within the past three years (waived if applicant holds an MSN)
Resources for Nurse Administrators:
- American Organization of Nurse Executives
- Nursing leadership resources published via the American Nurses Association
- Health Leaders Media
Nurse Administrators, By the Numbers
Salary and Job Growth Information for Nurse Administrators
Your pay will vary depending on your job title and years of experience. As of May 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for nurse administrators are as follows:
- Administrators in hospitals (local, state, or private) earn an average of $107,230
- Nurse administrators who work for the government earn an average of $106,230
- If you want to work in an outpatient care center as a nurse administrator, your average salary could be around $89,910
- Nurse administrators employed in doctor’s offices earn an average of $89,760
- You might earn an average salary of $82,950 if you decide to work in a residential care facility as an administrator
In addition to high salaries, nurse administrators can expect to see a 20% increase in job growth between the years of 2016 and 2026.
The top most common job titles for nurse administrators are:
- Director of Nursing
- Medical Director
- Nursing Director
- Assistant Director of Nursing
- Public Health Officer
Work Environment for Nurse Administrators
These nurses can work in at private healthcare facilities or in public health. According to the BLS, the top work environments for nurse administrators are:
- Hospitals (including state, local, and private hospitals)
- Physician’s offices
- Nursing and residential care facilities
- For the government
- At outpatient care centers