Career Paths for Nurse Administrators

The nursing administrator role is a critical one in an industry facing constant change and expansion. Nurse administrators work in the field of medical and health services in management and leadership capacities. They work side-by-side with registered nurses, doctors, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals to provide quality services to customers and to respond to the ever-evolving needs and demands of the industry. They also help navigate healthcare laws, regulations, technologies, and practices within their facilities and fields of practice.

how to become a nurse administrator

More specifically, nurses who dive into healthcare administrators careers typically: 

  • Conduct research and integrate policies that ensure coherence with ever-evolving healthcare laws in a fast-moving industry
  • Develop best-practices for efficiency and effectiveness
  • Act as supervisors and liaisons in numerous capacities
  • Manage finances, create work schedules, organize records, and communicate with members of the medical staff and heads of departments
  • Act as representatives for departments and/or areas of specialization in broader, facility-wide meetings[i]

Nurse administrators, managers, and leaders conduct their work in a variety of settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of medical and health services managers work in offices in healthcare facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes or in group medical practices. Most work in state, local, and private hospitals, but many others work in ambulatory healthcare services. The minority of medical and health services managers’ work in nursing and residential care facilities or for the government[ii]. Also according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers’ jobs are projected to grow at a rate of 23% between 2012 and 2020[iii].

Education and Certification Requirements for Nurse Administrators

As you likely know, nursing careers typically begin with education and certification. Many nurses earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing and become registered nurses through certification and/or licensure[iv]. To pursue a nursing administration career, however, or to pursue a career as a medical and health services manager, nurses must at least have a bachelor’s degree in nursing[v].

From there, many RNs might choose to enhance their nursing careers by earning a master’s degree in nursing (typically an MSN with a specialization in executive leadership or health administration) or a doctorate degree in nursing (often a Doctor of Nursing Practice). They might also earn additional certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center[vi] or the American Organization of Nurse Executives[vii].[viii] Options for certification through these organizations include Executive-Board Certified (NE-BC), Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML), and Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP), all of which may help prepare nurses for career enhancement.

Nurses who want to pursue additional education to enhance their careers can typically find undergraduate and graduate programs in on-campus, online, and hybrid formats. In addition, some educational institutions offer accelerated nursing programs which might allow nursing professionals to earn their advanced degrees quickly and while working full-time.

While earning a graduate degree and advanced certification might enhance the career prospects of individuals interested in pursuing a nursing administrator role, doing so is not necessarily required. Some nurses with BSNs begin their healthcare administrator careers by gaining administrative and specialized experience on the job. Whether or not you should pursue graduate-level education or advanced certification depends upon your personal goals, where you work, and the needs and requirements of your employer.    

Becoming a Nurse Administrator or Medical and Health Services Manager

There may be multiple ways to enhance your career through education in nursing:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing if you haven’t already done so
  2. Earn certification as a Registered Nurse if you haven’t already done so
  3. Pursue working in the field of nursing and strive to gain a diversity of experience. Tell your employer that you would like to work in an advanced position and ask for his or her guidance in gaining appropriate experience. In addition, determine what education and certification requirements your employer has
  4. If you choose to, or if doing so is required by your employer, earn a graduate degree in nursing with an emphasis in management, administration, or leadership. Consider accelerated nursing programs or other programs that allow you to continue working full-time and gaining valuable on-the-job experience
  5. Consider earning an additional certification that certifies you to pursue a career in nursing management, administration, and leadership[ix]

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Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-2 | [ii]bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-3 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-6 | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-4 | [v] bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-4 | [vi] nursecredentialing.org/FunctionalCategory/AboutANCC | [vii] aone.org/membership/about/welcome.shtml | [viii] bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-2 | [ix] bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-4

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