Managing a skilled nursing staff is essential for healthcare organizations to effectively deliver high-quality patient care. That’s precisely where the nursing administrator comes in. Sometimes called nursing directors or clinical nurse leaders, nursing administrators are experienced, licensed RNs who assume managerial responsibility for supervising the nursing workforce. Unlike nurse managers who focus on one unit, nursing administrators can oversee entire departments or hospitals. They often report directly to the organization’s Vice President or Chief Executive Officer (CEO). It’s the nursing administrator’s duty to ensure the proper treatment of all patients by hiring, training, and evaluating their nurses. Nursing administrators climb the upper echelons of the healthcare industry to enforce standards of clinical excellence.


According to survey statistics on, the median annual salary for nursing administrators in the United States is $133,720. This is equivalent to a median hourly wage of $64 and $2,572 per week. With benefits like social security, disability, retirement, and insurance included, nursing administrators bring home a total average compensation of $185,854 yearly.

Beginning Salary

Newly hired nursing administrators typically land in the bottom 10th percentile of earnings with an annual income around $101,748. Nursing administrators with more experience and leadership responsibility can eventually earn upwards of $172,641. Those who advance to the coveted title of Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) can make over $193,233 each year.

Key Responsibilities

Nursing administrators are given the hefty task of making certain their healthcare facility’s nurses are performing competent care to protect patients’ well-being. Administrators will handle many HR responsibilities, including recruiting, hiring new RNs, training nursing personnel, overseeing employee benefits, and making firing decisions. Nursing administrators must conduct evaluations to ensure nurses are performing according to legal and ethical standards. Other daily duties will be scheduling work shifts, creating departmental budgets, maintaining proper medical supplies, reviewing patient records, and establishing new protocols. Nursing administrators will attend broad meetings with other executives and act as the facility’s expert on nursing matters for senior management.

Necessary Skills

Having extensive clinical knowledge is important, but nursing administrators must possess skills for leadership beyond the bedside. Nursing administrators must have the managerial ability to lead, inspire, motivate, and discipline staff. Interpersonal skills are essential for communicating with nurses, nurse managers, and senior executives. When problems occur, nursing administrators need critical thinking and decision-making skills for choosing the right solution. Analytical skills will help administrators monitor regulation changes and properly allocate resources in tight budgets. Nursing administrators should have the flexibility to adjust staffing and patient care decisions as priorities shift. It’s also critical for nursing administrators to be creative, congenial, self-driven, and good multi-taskers.

Degree and Education Requirements

Nursing administrators must hold at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Aspiring leaders should attend a four-year college accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or an equivalent. Since healthcare is growing more complex, employers give preference to nursing administrators with a master’s degree. Earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Master of Health Administration (MHA), or joint degree makes the most sense. Specializing your degree in nursing administration with courses like health policy, financial management, organizational leadership, health informatics, and quality management is advised. Those advancing into CNO or CEO positions benefit from a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Pros and Cons of the Position

Moving into nursing administration will provide a plethora of advantages and drawbacks. On the plus side, nursing administrators are paid handsomely for their leadership with six-figure salaries that rival APRN roles like nurse practitioner and midwife. Administrators in high demand in healthcare, so job opportunities are available in various settings. Nursing administrators work in a comfortable office setting with less risk of exposure to diseases and illnesses. They’ll also able to reap the satisfaction of touching thousands of patients at once rather than a few. However, the promotion to nursing administrator comes with stressful, demanding duties. Administrators must promptly address urgent problems that could be matters of life and death. Nursing directors miss out on direct interaction with patients and families. Nursing administrators usually need an advanced degree and certification. It’s also common for administrators to work beyond the 40-hour week, especially in hospitals.

Getting Started

After earning your BSN, you’ll be qualified to sit for the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) with your state’s board of nursing. Passing this multiple-choice test will license you for practicing in entry-level nursing positions. Future nursing administrators typically need at least six to eight years of experience before promotion. Working in your chosen RN specialty while pursuing your graduate degree either part-time or online is suggested. Master’s programs usually build your resume with an administrative residency or internship. It’s likely you’ll advance into nurse manager and supervisor roles before becoming an administrator. Pursuing certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) can aid in your advancement. For the Nurse Executive (NE-BC) credential, you must pass a 175-question exam within 3.5 hours. There’s also the option to become a Certified Nurse Leader (CNL) through the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE).

Future Outlook

Nursing administrators have a promising job outlook for the foreseeable future thanks to fast growth in the $3 trillion U.S. healthcare market. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has expanded the number of insured patients visiting medical delivery systems for treatment. Patients from the aging baby boomer population are also drawing demand for nurses to manage their acute or chronic conditions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of nursing administrators will jump by 17 percent from 2014 to 2024. That could result in another 56,300 administrative jobs in healthcare. The best prospects are likely outside of traditional state and private hospitals. Nursing administrators can work in medical group practices, ambulatory care facilities, surgical centers, nursing homes, physician offices, and more.

Overall, nursing administrators direct the collaboration of a highly trained nursing workforce to ensure safe patient care across healthcare departments. These innovative leaders play a pivotal role in supervising nurses and checking that bedside performance meets quality assurance standards. RNs with innate managerial capacity can develop a lucrative, rewarding career keeping fast-paced nursing departments running smoothly. Along with becoming a nursing administrator, you could also consider jobs like healthcare manager, hospital administrator, nursing home director, and patient services manager.