Nursing leadership and administration – programs and careers


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HomeNursing leadership and administration

What is nursing education and administration?

Nurse administrators are responsible for overseeing the nursing staff at a healthcare facility. They have advanced degrees, are licensed, and come with experience in their field. Any successful healthcare system requires caring and considerate nurse administrators.

Whereas nurse practitioners are responsible for patients’ primary healthcare, administrators are required to supervise other nurses. The main component of the job is to manage the staff and facility operations.

If you’re a nurse with a flair for leadership and strong communication, then this might be the next step in your career. Transitioning into an administrator role can offer huge opportunities.

You’ll work with personnel, patient care, and strategic resource management. You’ll also be in charge of promoting and supporting regulatory policies

Requirements to become a nursing administrator

To further your nursing career, you must consider the type of education you need based on the role you want to have. If you’re going to work toward a nursing administration position, you need to aim for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

You might be lucky and find a job before you qualify. However, most employers are looking for nurses with an MSN. Some employers also want to see candidates with postgraduate experience in nursing administration. Here are a couple of ways that you can fast track your career.

From RN to MSN

You can move from an advanced degree in nursing to a master’s in 2-3 years. If you’re already working as a registered nurse, then this could be a great way to advance your career. Many RN-to-MSN courses are designed with working nurses in mind.

You can find programs both online and on campus. You can study part time, but full-time options are also available. Depending on the university you may be able to sign up for a hybrid course, which means that most of your study will happen online but you will need to be on campus occasionally for certain activities.

Admission requirements

Admission requirements may vary between educational institutions. You can use the list below as a starting guideline.

  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • English language test scores of at least: TOEFL – 70, IELTS – 6.5
  • Official proof that you’re a registered nurse (if applicable)
  • Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN) degree or a degree in another related field
  • One or more letters of recommendation Personal statement or essay
  • Proof of work experience as an RN
  • Curriculum vitae

Cost of an MSN

The average cost of an MSN varies between states and institutions. On average, a master’s degree at a public college or university starts from around $30,000 in a public institution and $40,000 at private colleges.

The cost of credits, as well as the required number for completion, differs between universities. Students may have to complete anywhere from 30-60 credits depending on the specialization.

At some private schools, one credit can cost around $2,000. In comparison, modules may be cheaper at state colleges with some as low as $670 per credit hour.

Some organizations offer students financial aid, and individual colleges also have direct access to loan facilities that you can use to help fund your studies. Various funding types are available, such as scholarships, grants, loans, or work study, a federal student-aid system designed to help students earn money for school.

Speak to your current employer about furthering your studies. Some organizations have plans in place that refund the cost of further studies.


The MSN nurse administration coursework focuses on business and advanced healthcare. You need to dedicate 1-3 years to complete the MSN. Most programs include clinical hours, which you’ll accomplish in a healthcare setting.
Some standard modules include:

  • Healthcare economics
  • Business management
  • Nursing leadership
  • Public health
  • Healthcare budgeting
  • Nursing administration theory
  • Healthcare law
  • Organizational behavior
  • Quality control
  • Data analysis


Before you apply for a nursing administration position, you should consider getting certified. A certificate demonstrates your education and experience and helps you stand out from the crowd. It shows prospective employers that you’re dedicated to your career. You’ll need to pass an exam and meet specific criteria to earn these.

Certifications for nurse administrators include:

Nurse Executive Board Certification (NE-BC)

Issued by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). To qualify, you need a valid RN license, at least a BSN, and a minimum of 2,000 hours of nursing leadership experience.

Nurse Executive Advanced Certification (NEA-BC)

It’s a certification from ANCC for nurse administrators with an advanced education. They make senior-level decisions about strategy, finance, and other operational matters. To qualify, you’ll need a master’s degree.

Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) Certification

It’s issued by the American Organization for Nurse Leadership (AONL). This is open to nurses who have an ADN and at least 5,200 hours of nurse management experience. You can also get the certification at MSN and BSN levels.

Certified Executive Nursing Practice (CENP)

For this certification from AONL, You need to have experience as an executive nurse leader and at least a BSN to qualify.

Career options

The healthcare sector is always in need of experienced medical personnel. Nurses with MSNs have many career paths available to them. They have the option for clinical and non-clinical care. If you decide to pursue the non-clinical route, you can move into a more admin-driven position.

You will do research, data analysis, executive management, teaching, government, or public policy. We can’t cover all the career opportunities, but we’ve listed several possibilities below

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs)

APRNs include nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse-midwives. They are often primary care providers at the forefront of medical care for patients. In some remote and rural areas, doctors aren’t always available. The only medical personnel on site may be a nurse.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), certified practitioners with MSNs can work independently of a doctor in several states. Their duties include:

  • Evaluating and diagnosing patients
  • Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Initiating and managing treatments
  • Prescribing medications which include controlled substances

In some states, APRNs can work under the state board of nurses without a doctor’s supervision. In others, they can only perform similar duties while under the eye of a nurse practitioner.

ARPN specializations include:

Nurse practitioners (NPs)

They focus on primary, acute, and specialty healthcare. There is an emphasis on disease prevention and health management. Often the nurse will be certified in areas such as pediatrics, adult care, and family practice. Associated certification: Family Nurse Practitioner.

Certified nurse-midwives (CNMs)

These nurses specialize in primary, gynecological, and reproductive healthcare for women. They also facilitate birth procedures. Associated certification: Certified Nurse-Midwife.

Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs)

In this role, nurses choose a specialty such as gerontology, oncology, or pediatrics. Direct patient care is their focus for about 20% of the time. The rest is spent educating staff and other nurses, consulting, and conducting research.

These nurses identify gaps or issues in healthcare delivery procedures. They then help drive practice and process changes within an organization. Associated certification: Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs)

Provide anesthesia and pain-management services. They cover therapeutic, diagnostic, obstetrical, and surgical procedures in routine and emergency procedures. Associated certification: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.

MSN generalists

Anyone holding an MSN degree can also pursue a generalist path. This opens the way for several other nursing roles.

Are responsible for care coordination and transitions. Their duties include management of outcomes, risk assessment, and implementing best practices. They strive to improve the quality of services within a healthcare facility.

Strong skills in project management and communication are essential in this position. Potential employers include large health systems and hospitals. Associated certification: Clinical Nurse Leader.

These professionals oversee, organize, and assist in clinical trials that might include new medications or treatment methods. They can perform treatment procedures and administer trial medications. During the tests, they need to track and document each patient’s progress, results, and side effects.

This role requires careful attention to detail and an interest in analytics. Potential employers include teaching hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies. Associated certification: Certified Clinical Research Professional.

Primarily focus on promoting and protecting the community’s health. Their duties include education, counseling for immunizations, and building healthy habits. They can also be responsible for tracking disease outbreaks and responding to community health emergencies.

Potential employers include city and county health agencies, community based clinics, and government organizations. Associated certification: Certified in Public Health.

Non-clinical MSN career options

Not all MSN degree holders work in clinical roles that deal directly with patients. A master’s degree offers other careers within leadership and teaching.

Have the opportunity to teach nursing students in various settings. These include hospitals, technical schools, community colleges, and universities. Excellent presentation and communication skills are critical factors in this role. Associated certification: Certified Nurse Educator.

Are business executives. They’re stationed in nursing organizations, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Their primary responsibilities include day-to-day operations and staffing. Some necessary traits are organization and people skills, critical thinking, and decisiveness. Associated certification: Nurse Executive Certification.

Specialize in taking care of patients with a high risk of coming down with a genetic condition or disease. These nurses are usually found at research organizations and medical centers. Their duties include analyzing genetic risks and educating patients and their families.

They also provide counseling on the effects of the disease. A healthy level of empathy is critical for this role. Associated certification: Advanced Clinical Genomics Nurse.

Are in management roles as nursing supervisors or department heads. They’re in charge of the administrative tasks in large clinics, hospitals, and other health systems. Their primary focus is on budgeting, hiring employees, and creating staff schedules. Responsibilities include meeting performance goals and implementing new processes and programs. Associated credential: Nurse Executive Certification.

Are IT specialists in healthcare technology. They bring medical knowledge to the IT world. They primarily assist in the development and operations of healthcare IT systems. Places of work include health organizations, large medical centers, and insurance companies.

This position requires understanding workflows, a solid knowledge of nursing, and a love of technology. Associated certification: Certified Informatics Nurse.

Potential salary

The pay scale for nursing administration positions varies. It depends on the type of role you hold and the sector you work in.

According to the latest statistics available, nurse practitioners, midwives, or anesthetists can earn in the region of $115,800 per year. The rates can differ depending on the specialization.

  • Nurse anesthetists – $181,040
  • Nurse midwives – $106,910
  • Nurse practitioners – $111,840
  • Nurse instructors – $83,160

The best salary levels are for positions within large hospitals, as shown in the table below.

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities)$97,300.00
Other ambulatory healthcare services$97,490.00
Home healthcare services$97,560.00
Physicians’ offices$108,750.00
Outpatient centers$110,530.00
Medical and diagnostic laboratories$122,300.00
General surgical and medical hospitals$124,180.00
Specialized hospitals (except psychiatry and substance abuse facilities)$127,990.00