How to Become a Nurse Administrator

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As the U.S. health care industry changes, with more and more aging patients requiring specialized care or treatment for chronic illnesses, the demand for nurses continues to expand. The upshot of this is increased job opportunities for those in the nursing profession, including for positions in nurse leadership and administration. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a job growth rate of 32% for nurse leaders between 2020 and 2030.

Individuals interested in how to become a nurse administrator should know that eligibility for the role requires developing the right skills and knowledge. Pursuing an advanced education, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, can be an essential step in becoming a nurse leader.

What Is a Nurse Administrator?

A nurse administrator is an executive leader within the health care field. Though they may sometimes provide direct care to patients, nurse administrators are ultimately responsible for overseeing one or more groups of nurses or nurse managers, conducting performance assessments, developing training procedures, and fulfilling other managerial responsibilities.

Most nurse administrators work either in hospitals or long-term care facilities. Within a hospital, there may be a nurse administrator for each department or wing. Nurse administrators usually have their own office space where they can carry out their back-end functions, but they also spend time supervising the nurses who work under them and also checking in with patients when able.

Nurse Administrator Job Description

While the nurse administrator job description can vary from one position to the next, some of the most common duties of nurse administrators are:

  • Seeking ways to improve health care efficiencies
  • Developing and achieving departmental goals and objectives
  • Recruiting, hiring, training, and managing nurses
  • Creating work and shift schedules
  • Providing professional development and training opportunities for nurses
  • Creating, managing, and implementing department budgets
  • Assessing and revising policies when needed

Steps to Become a Nurse Administrator

There are some basic steps to take to become a nurse administrator. These include gaining an adequate education, licensure, work experiences, and, in some cases, certification.

Education and Licensure

Nurse administrators are required to have a certain level of education as well as a nursing license. This means first earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an associate degree in nursing. After completing their undergraduate degrees, nurses must take the NCLEX exam to gain a registered nurse (RN) license. After obtaining licensure and gaining nursing experience, aspiring nurse leaders often go on to pursue an advanced degree, such as an MSN or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), for greater specialization. Note that nursing licensure requirements can vary from one state to the next, and students should research the guidelines in their own states before applying.


Nurse administrators may also wish to pursue specialized credentials, validating their expertise in specific subsets of health care. Many resources are available for acquiring these credentials, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center. One credential worth noting is the NE-BC distinction for nurse executives.

Nurse administrator working in an office at a desk with a computer.

Advantages of Being a Nurse Administrator

Some nurses may prefer to spend their days providing direct care to patients, which is an essential part of the nursing profession. However, for nurses who aspire to more advanced leadership or responsibility, career paths in nurse administration can be highly rewarding.

Making a Difference

Roles in nurse leadership allow more opportunities to shape nursing care delivery in an organization. Nurse administration can be a great fit for those who enjoy improving health care efficiency or optimizing processes and policies.

Empowering Nurses

Nurse administrators have many opportunities to mentor, train, and counsel younger nurses. This can make the role a satisfying one for those who are passionate about passing along their knowledge, or about providing professional development opportunities.

Earning a Higher Salary

Nurse administrators can earn competitive salaries, and generally earn more money than RNs. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for medical and health services managers, including nurse administrators, is $104,280, according to 2020 data. RNs, on the other hand, have a median annual salary of $75,330. Salaries vary based on years of experience, location, size of the medical facility, and other factors.

Embrace a Transformative Nursing Education

For those who wish to make a real impact on nursing teams, policies, and practice, a nurse administrator role can be highly rewarding. Seeking a robust education is paramount to becoming a nurse administrator. Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program provides comprehensive coursework, helping aspiring nurse administrators develop the skills needed to lead. These courses include Advanced Physical Assessment and Advanced Pharmacology. Discover more and start shaping health care as a nurse leader.

Recommended Reading:

The Importance of a Nurse’s Role in Patient Safety

What Is the Expected MSN Salary Range?

Careers in Advanced Nursing: What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner?


American Nurses Credentialing Center, Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC)

American Nurses Credentialing Center, Our Certifications

American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Promoting Health for Older Adults

FreshRN, “How to Become a Nurse Administrator”

Houston Chronicle, “Nurse Administrator Duties”

Travel Nursing, “Nurse Administrators: The Skills You Need to Advance Your Career”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses