Nurses sometimes begin their nursing administration careers by earning a master’s degree in nursing with a specialization or focus in management, leadership, or administration. Once in the field, nurse administrators typically work closely with registered nurses, doctors, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals to provide services to customers. Behind the scenes, they generally plan, direct, and coordinate health services in a variety of healthcare and medical areas. In addition, they may help navigate healthcare laws, regulations, technologies, and practices within their facilities and fields of practice.[i]
What Do Nurse Administrators Do?
Typically, nurse administrators work in the field of medical and health services in the following management and leadership capacities:
Conducting research and integrating new policies that ensure coherence with ever-evolving healthcare laws in a fast-moving industry
Developing best-practices for efficiency and effectiveness
Acting as supervisors and liaisons in numerous capacities
Managing finances, creating work schedules, organizing records, and communicating with members of the medical staff and heads of departments
Acting as representatives for departments and/or areas of specialization in broader, facility-wide meetings[i]
Where Do Nurse Administrators Work?
Nurse administrators commonly manage and provide leadership within entire medical facilities, smaller offices or practices, or particular departments devoted to areas of specialization. They do so for public or private entities and in a variety of settings such as doctor’s offices, hospitals, or clinics. They may work in fast- or slow-paced environments depending on where they live and in what capacity they work and serve.[ii]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2012 census, the majority of medical and health services managers, which includes nurse administrators, worked in offices in healthcare facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes or in group medical practices. According to the same census:
39% of employees in the industry worked in state, local, and private hospitals
26% worked in ambulatory healthcare services
11% worked in nursing and residential care facilities, and
8% worked for the government[ii]
The majority of medical and health services managers work full-time, with schedules ranging throughout a 24-hour period. Many nurses in management, administrative, or leadership roles work during evenings, weekends, or overnight.[ii]
The nurse administrator salary often depends on where and in what capacity nurse administrators work.
Nursing Administration Career Options
Nurse administrators most commonly enjoy careers as managers, administrators, or leaders in the medical and health services industry. To do so, they often earn a master’s degree in nursing and then become certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center[iii] or the American Organization of Nurse Executives[iv].[v] Through one of these organizations, nurses commonly become Executive-Board Certified (NE-BC), a Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML), or Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP).
Nurse Administrator Salary and Job Outlook
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers earned a median annual salary of $88,580 as of the 2012 census. The BLS predicts that the medical and health services management industry will grow by 23% between 2012 and 2022, which is “much faster” than average for all industries.[vi]
Medical and health services managers earned $23,110 more annually than registered nurses (RNs) who earned a median annual salary of $65,470 according to the BLS 2012 census[vii]. However, medical and health services managers earned $7,880 less than advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who earned a median annual salary of $96,460 according to the same census[viii]. APRNs, much like medical and health services managers, enjoyed much faster than average growth in the industry with a growth rate of 31% between 2012 and 2022. The BLS predicts that registered nurses will see a 19% growth rate in their industry which is faster than average (but not much faster)[viii].
Medical and Health Services Manager Salary in Selected States
The medical and health services managers (which includes nurse administrators) salary varies by state. The following chart, with data pulled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, outlines the number of people employed in the industry, the salaries of the lowest earners, and the mean annual wage of professionals working as medical and health services managers in various states:
2012 Nurse Administrator Salaries in Selected States[ix]