How Much Do Nurse Administrators Make? Salaries, Job Growth & Career Advancement
Nursing administration is a blend of advanced nursing and business leadership skills. As the field of nursing continues to grow and expand, there will be a greater need for nurse leaders at the management and administration levels.
As a nursing administrator, you’ll play a vital role in your healthcare organization and impact the quality of care delivered to your patients. Job responsibilities may include managing staff and schedules, overseeing budgets, ordering supplies, implementing policies and procedures, consulting on complex cases, and serving as a liaison between your staff and other departments in the facility.
In this guide, learn about the type of salary you might expect and discover what your potential career path could look like as a nurse administrator.
Nursing Administration Salaries by Role
While it doesn’t track information for nursing administrators specifically, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median salary for all medical and health services managers to be $98,350 per year.
Over the course of a career in nursing administration, you may encounter several different titles and roles that have their own potential salaries.
A charge nurse is a nursing professional who’s oversees the nursing activity at a hospital, long-term care facility, or other healthcare setting over the course of their shift. Charge nurses often provide direct care to patients, while also supervising the other nurses on duty. According to data submitted by nearly 3,000 users on PayScale, charge nurses make an average annual salary of $68,197.
A nurse manager has similar duties as a charge nurse, though the role usually isn’t structured on a shift basis. Nurse managers often have 24-hour responsibility over their assigned area. The role can also come with more high-level responsibilities such as handling staffing concerns, managing crisis situations, and dealing with patient complaints. User-submitted data from PayScale shows the median annual salary for nurse managers to be $82,983.
Clinical nurse leader
To work as a clinical nurse leader (CNL), you’ll need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and pass the certification exam from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). CNLs work as part of clinical teams to influence patient care by advising and mentoring staff, particularly on complex procedures. PayScale lists the average salary for a CNL as $76,406 per year.
Director of nursing
In a director of nursing (DON) position, you’ll be responsible for leading the nursing services offered by your healthcare facility. Directors of nursing handle staffing issues, create policies and action plans, oversee all care being delivered, and ensure all issues are being handled appropriately. Based on more than 2,000 user-submitted salaries, DONs make an average of $82,649 per year.
Chief nursing officer
A chief nursing officer (CNO) is a high-level executive responsible for operational and business concerns for a healthcare facility. CNOs work with CEOs, boards of directors, and other executive leadership to manage the overall quality and financial strength of a facility. PayScale lists the average salary for a CNO as $125,857.
What Kind of Salary Growth Can I Expect?
As you advance in nursing administration, it’s possible that you’ll see a pay increase. This may depend on what title you hold, but overall, nurse administrators have reported a growth of up to 18% above the average annual salary as they gain years of experience.
Do Nurse Administrators Get Benefits?
Your benefits package will depend on your employer, but most nursing administrators report healthcare benefits that include medical, dental, and vision insurance plans. Other common benefits include:
- Paid time off
- Tuition reimbursement
- 401k and other retirement options
- Flexible spending accounts
- Short-term disability
States with the Best & Worst Salaries
Compensation for nurse administrators can vary depending on where you live. According to BLS data on medical and health services managers, the locations with the highest salaries are:
- Washington, D.C.: $143,710
- New York: $136,770
- Connecticut: $132,600
- Delaware: $129,070
- Massachusetts: $128,730
High-paying nurse administration jobs can also be found in certain metro areas. Cities and their surrounding suburbs with high annual salaries include:
- San Francisco, CA: $159,250
- Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $153,680
- Long Island, NY: $151,660
- Boston, MA: $148,930
- Bridgeport, CT: 146,220
- Athens, GA: $144,280
- Madera, CA: $143,940
- San Jose, CA: $143,440
- Santa Cruz, CA: $138,220
- New York-Newark metro area: $137,980
The states with the lowest annual salaries are:
- Puerto Rico: $75,160
- Arkansas: $83,920
- Iowa: $86,710
- Oklahoma: $88,990
- Idaho: $89,180
How Do Nursing Administrators Salaries Compare to Similar Jobs?
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for all registered nurses is $70,000, and nursing administrators can sometimes to be compensated well above this figure for their skills and leadership. If you’re looking to expand your nursing career, you may be considering other MSN-level options. Some average salaries for comparable fields include:
- Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners: $110,930 per year
- Nursing instructors: $71,260
- Informatics nurse specialists: $88,270
How Competitive Is the Field?
Nursing administration is an increasingly competitive field. In addition to being an RN, most nursing jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree, and many will require an MSN or other postgraduate coursework. Getting a formal degree and an industry certification can help you stand out among other applicants and advance your career.
What Makes Candidates More Desirable?
Nursing administration is a challenging career that requires leadership and business skills, on top of advanced clinical nursing abilities. In order to be the most competitive candidate, you’ll want to have:
- An MSN in nursing administration
- A postgraduate certificate in nursing administration
- A professional certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
- Advanced clinical experience and knowledge of healthcare IT
What Kind of Institutions Hire Nurse Administrators?
Nursing administrators can work at a wide variety of institutions. Common facilities seeking nurse administrators include:
- Long-term care facilities
- Medical offices
- Rehabilitation centers
- Healthcare systems
- Community-based health organizations
- Mental health facilities
- Outpatient clinics
- Government facilities
Job Growth Projections
The BLS projects that job opportunities for all medical and health services managers will grow 20% by the year 2026, compared to a projected 7% for total occupations in the country. This number is consistent with the growth for all jobs within healthcare, which are expected to increase with a growing population of people over the age of 65.
Additionally, there will likely be a greater number of nursing administration jobs outside the hospital setting. With the national focus being on decreasing hospital stays and improving the quality and availability of outpatient settings, more nursing administrators will be needed in those areas.
Career Paths: Advancing Your Nursing Administration Career
As you advance in a nursing administration career, you may find yourself taking on greater responsibilities and working more with top-level executive leadership. You might start your career as a nurse manager, then later move into a role as clinical nurse leader or director of nursing, and possibly even a CNO.
How far you can advance your career will depend on your education and experience. For example, if your end goal is a chief nursing officer role, you’ll need at least an MSN in administration and years of clinical experience. You may also want to consider a dual MSN such as MSN/MHA or MSN/MBA to strengthen your business skills.
No matter how your career progresses, working as a nursing administrator will allow you to make an impact on your healthcare organization and improve the quality of its patient care.
Ready to Get Started?
Nursing administration is an in-demand field with plenty of opportunity for career growth and earning potential.
Pursuing a degree in nursing administration is the first step to joining this rapidly-growing occupation. If you’re ready to get started, our Find Schools button can help you find an educational program that fits your individual needs.