June 19, 2015

Nurse Administrator Salary and Career Opportunities

Nurse Administrator Salary and Career Opportunities

Salary Overview

Nurse administrators are individuals who enjoy the challenges of leadership and the elevated compensation that accompanies them. GraduateNursingEDU says that these nurses work in a number of healthcare settings to design, manage, and then facilitate the delivery of patient care.  In some situations, they’re responsible for negotiating contracts and managing interdisciplinary support services.  They're experienced registered nurses (RNs) working at a managerial level.

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These professionals might also establish a budget and maintain its compliance.  They often recommend policy and necessary structural changes and oversee that they occur.  In short, they’re nursing leaders.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) , the 2012 median yearly pay of medical and health service managers such as nurse administrators was $88,580. This contrasts with $65,470 for RNs in general

The BLS job outlook for RNs includes a projected 2012-2022 growth rate of 19 percent.  As nursing jobs increase due to the overall graying of the U.S. population, the need for nurse administrators will also grow.

Paths to Increase Nurse Administrator Salary

In order to become a nurse administrator, a candidate must be an RN with several years’ experience.  Obtaining the RN credential requires completing a two-year associate program in nursing, a four-year bachelor’s degree in that field, or a three-year hospital nursing program.  Candidates must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, or NCLEX-RN.

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A supervisory RN with administrative abilities can advance to nurse administrator with at least a bachelor’s degree.  Most earn a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing or health services administration, according to Jacksonville University .

Some nurses opt to increase their compensation by completing certification programs.  Two examples of designations are Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP) and Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML), the American Organization of Nurse Executives reports.  Others take advantage of per diem or travel nursing jobs, which often include financial assistance for relocation and housing.

Nurse administrators can advance their careers and their salaries by moving into one of two important roles:  vice president of nursing or chief nursing officer (CNO).  In lieu of a master’s degree, some candidates complete bridge offerings like blended MSN-MBA programs, GraduateNursingEDU indicates.  They then complete an additional degree such as a Doctor of Nursing-Executive Leadership.  Graduate study involves adding research, general business, finance, and leadership skills to clinical knowledge.

Related Specialties

The skill sets of nurse administrators might make these related specialties of interest:

  • Nurse recruiters are responsible for bringing the right nurses to their organizations.  They typically work in settings such as hospitals and large nursing home organizations.  Facilities operated by the federal government and individual states also need their services.
  • Nurse managers are responsible for at least one hospital nursing unit or a similar unit in another healthcare organization.  While their title is sometimes used interchangeably with “nurse administrator,” these are really two distinct occupations and roles, according to the Houston Chronicle .
  • Nursing educators teach in a college or hospital nursing programs.  They also serve as instructors in continuing education programs.  Some teach in physical classrooms, while others offer online instruction.  Typical subject areas include administrative aspects of health care and ethics.


Further Your Career

The employment picture is a positive one for nurse administrators.  This career is particularly attractive to baby boomers who have backgrounds in human resources, enjoy assuming authority, and want to contribute to patients’ well-being.  It requires the ability to develop and express a vision for the nursing practice in an organization, willingness to take risks, and creativity in helping healthcare teams work together.  Job boards and networking opportunities are plentiful, making this a very attractive career option.


Vonda J. Sines is a freelance writer based in the Washington, DC area. She specializes in health/medical, career, and pet topics and writes extensively about Crohn's disease. Her work has been published at EverydayHealth, Lifescript,, Yahoo! Health, Catholic Digest, Angie's List Health, and on many more sites.

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