Nurse Manager – Education, Licensure & Salary
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In the fast-paced world of healthcare, the role of a nurse manager stands as a pivotal position that bridges the gap between patient care and administrative duties. A nurse manager, also known as a clinical coordinator or a nurse supervisor, is a licensed nurse who holds an entry-level management position in a healthcare setting. Their role extends beyond the typical nursing duties as they influence daily operations, advocate for improved patient care, and oversee the management and budgetary decisions.
Nurse managers generally split their time between direct patient care and administrative tasks. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), nurse managers often work in an office environment where they manage human and financial resources, ensure patient and staff satisfaction, and maintain safety standards.
Similar to a charge nurse, a role filled by experienced registered nurses (RNs) with an associate of science in nursing (ASN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), nurse managers can be responsible for supervising a nursing unit in a hospital or clinic, overseeing the nursing staff, and ensuring high-quality patient care. Many nurse managers are registered nurses (RNs) with graduate degrees who take on more administrative leadership responsibilities and aspire to become nurse administrators.
The career growth and salary of a nurse manager can be quite compelling. Given their vital role in healthcare settings, there’s a growing demand for competent nurse managers, which presents promising opportunities for career advancement. As for the salary, it can vary widely depending on various factors such as location, experience, and the size of the healthcare facility.
To become a nurse manager, one must meet educational and licensure requirements. It typically involves obtaining a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, gaining clinical experience, and obtaining a registered nurse license. Some positions may also require a master’s degree in nursing or healthcare administration.
Keep reading to understand the journey to becoming a nurse manager, complete with a detailed educational roadmap, potential salary prospects, and career advancement opportunities.
How to Become a Nurse Manager
Step 1: Get a High School Diploma or GED (Four Years)
Obtaining a high school diploma or GED is a necessary step to becoming a registered nurse.
Step 2: Enroll in a BSN Program (One to Four Years)
Obtaining a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree is a requirement for nurses aspiring to step into management roles. This degree program typically ranges from one to four years, depending on the individual’s prior educational background. Numerous accredited institutions offer this degree, providing students with the fundamental expertise required for professional nursing practice. A BSN program also allows students to specialize in specific fields, such as nurse management, or set the stage for higher studies in advanced nursing.
The three prevalent formats in which BSN programs are offered include on-campus, online, and blended formats:
Accelerated BSN Programs: This is an accelerated program that allows individuals to earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree in just one or two years. It’s specifically tailored for those with bachelor’s degrees in non-nursing disciplines.
- Sample program: University of Florida
- Duration: Two years
RN-to-BSN Programs: This is a one or two-year program tailored explicitly for registered nurses who have previously earned their two-year associate’s degrees in nursing (ADN). It provides them with an opportunity to complete their bachelor’s degree.
- Sample program: University of Maryland
- Duration: One to two years
Traditional BSN Programs: These are four-year programs that start right after high school, culminating in a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.
- Sample program: California State University San Marcos
- Duration: Four years
Step 3: Pass the NCLEX Exam (Timeline Varies)
The NCLEX examination is a comprehensive assessment required to become a registered nurse. The NCLEX is required for RN licensure from state boards across the U.S. The exam’s objective is to assess the proficiency and skills of nurses to guarantee their ability to deliver safe care in various healthcare settings.
Step 4: Gain Nursing Experience (One or More Years)
Securing a graduate degree in nursing opens up a more comprehensive range of employment opportunities. However, it’s essential to understand that many advanced degree programs require applicants to have prior work experience before applying. Therefore, amassing one to two years (or more) of practical nursing experience before applying for a graduate program can set an applicant apart and offer a competitive edge during the admissions process.
Step 5: Earn a Graduate Degree or Certificate (Optional, One to Five Years)
An advanced nursing degree or certification may be required to ascend to the nurse manager position. Expanded specialized nursing knowledge can be attained through a graduate degree or a post-master’s certificate. Other advanced education options include master’s and doctoral nursing programs that emphasize the latest evidence-based healthcare practices and provide avenues for developmental and promotional prospects within the nursing field.
Here are some prevalent advanced nursing degree and certificate programs that can be pursued in-person on campus, virtually online, or through a combination of both (hybrid formats):
Post-Master’s Certificate: A one-year certificate program is an option that can be pursued independently after earning a BSN or can be integrated into a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree or specialization. These programs allow nurses to gain additional skills and knowledge in specific areas of nursing, further enhancing their professional competencies and career opportunities.
- Sample program: Western Governors University
- Duration: One year
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): A two-year degree in nurse management is another viable path. MSN programs include coursework that prepares nurses for leadership roles within healthcare settings. The curriculum often covers topics such as healthcare policy, financial management, organizational leadership, and patient safety. With this degree, nurses are well-equipped to take on managerial roles, making key decisions that affect patient care and nursing staff.
- Sample program: George Washington University
- Duration: Two years
Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP): A two- to five-year doctoral program in advanced practical nursing is another option for nurses seeking to further their education and career. These programs typically lead to a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) degree and are designed to prepare nurses for the highest levels of nursing practice.
- Sample program: Baylor University
- Duration: Two years
Step 6: Pursue Nurse Manager Certification (Timeline Varies)
The path to becoming a nurse manager can differ significantly, as many registered and advanced practice registered nurses often pursue professional certification as part of their career development.
There are three standard certifications for nurse managers:
- Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) – American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL)
- Certified Specialist in Nursing Management – American Institute of Health Care Professionals
- Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC) – American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
Please see the certification section below for more information on nurse manager certification.
Step 7: Renew Nurse Manager Certification (Timeline Varies)
Nurse manager certifications must be renewed within a set time frame to maintain validity. As an example, the credentials mentioned above are valid for a period of three to five years. Credential holders need to initiate the renewal process before the expiration date of their current certification to guarantee uninterrupted activity and sustain their certified status.
What Does a Nurse Manager Do?
A nurse manager acts as a bridge between the nursing staff and healthcare facility administration. They supervise nursing staff, manage patient care, and ensure that the highest healthcare standards are maintained. Nurse managers not only have to be skilled clinicians but also influential leaders and administrators, capable of making critical decisions that impact patient care and nursing teams.
Daily responsibilities and tasks of a nurse manager include:
- Overseeing patient care and ensuring it meets the required standards.
- Supervising, hiring, and training nursing staff.
- Managing department budgets and resources.
- Implementing policies and procedures within the department.
- Handling patient complaints and concerns.
- Working with other healthcare professionals to improve patient care.
- Coordinating with the administrative staff for smooth operation.
- Ensuring compliance with healthcare laws and regulations.
- Developing strategies for improving the quality of healthcare delivery.
- Evaluating staff performance and providing feedback.
- Participating in educational opportunities to stay updated with nursing practices.
- Resolving any conflicts that arise within the nursing team.
- Implementing new technologies and methods in nursing care.
How Much Do Nurse Managers Make?
Nurse managers are critical in the healthcare system, and their earnings reflect their importance. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse practitioners have an hourly wage ranging from $41.99 to $79.44, translating to an annual salary between $87,340 and $165,240, depending on education and experience.
- Average annual salary for nurse practitioners: $124,680 (BLS May 2022)
However, nurse managers earn more than registered nurses due to their additional responsibilities and managerial roles. According to the BLS, medical and health services managers, which include nurse managers, have an hourly wage ranging from $30.82 to $100.96, translating to an annual salary between $64,100 and $209,990.
- Average annual salary for medical and health services managers: $127,980 (BLS May 2022)
Career-specific data shows that salary figures from the BLS are similar to what nurse managers earn.
Here are the average annual salaries for nurse managers in the United States in November 2023:
Nurse Manager Certifications
Employment as a nurse manager can only be achieved with particular credentials, yet obtaining certification displays a dedication to professionalism and an understanding of best practices. Certification guarantees that coworkers, employers, patients, and other stakeholders acknowledge the nurse’s commitment to upholding the highest standards in this specialized area.
Below are three organizations that provide certification for nurse managers.
American Institute of Health Care Professionals
The American Institute of Health Care Professionals (AIHCP) offers the prestigious Certified Specialist in Nursing Management, explicitly designed for registered nurses seeking to advance their skills and knowledge in the field of nursing management. This comprehensive program, which spans 270 contact hours of continuing education, aims to equip nurses with extensive education and practical experience. Setting standards for re-certification ensures that nurses continue to enhance their skills and stay current with industry advancements.
To apply, one must be a registered nurse within the United States or hold an equivalent license. The certification, valid for four years, comes with a fee of $200 and requires recertification every four years. The AIHCP provides continuing education courses for re-certification and accepts various other educational programs. Ultimately, the Nursing Management Certification from AIHCP allows nurses to augment their expertise, improve their marketability, and gain recognition as specialists in their practice area.
- Eligibility: RN license; completion of 270 contact hours of continuing education (CE) courses
- Duration: Four years
- Fee: $200
American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers a highly-regarded Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC) credential tailored for nurses with leadership, management, or administrative roles with primary responsibility for daily operations and outcomes of one or more units or departments. This competency-based certification delivers a valid and reliable evaluation of the essential knowledge and skills required for this role. The certification is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC).
Eligibility requirements for application include holding a current, active RN license, a baccalaureate or higher degree in nursing, at least 2,000 hours of experience in a leadership role within the last three years, and completion of 30 hours of continuing education in leadership, management, or administration within the same timeframe. The certification, valid for five years, consists of an examination with 150 questions to be completed within three hours. Study aids and resources are available to help nurses prepare for the exam.
- Eligibility: RN license; BSN degree or higher; 2,000 hours of leadership experience
- Duration: Three years
- Fee: $295 (American Nurses Association members); $395 (non-members)
American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL)
The American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) offers the Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) program. This program is tailored specifically for nurse leaders in managerial roles and seeks to acknowledge them as pivotal figures within the healthcare community. It includes a certification exam that tests candidates in key areas such as financial management, human resource management, performance improvement, strategic management, and technology.
The exam includes 115 questions covering core competencies in financial management, human resources, performance improvement, and strategic management and technology. To sustain the CNML certification, recertification is mandatory every three years, necessitating the demonstration of knowledge and skill retention, reinforcement, and expansion. To aid in preparation for the CNML exam, AONL provides practice exams, resources, and a review course.
- Eligibility: RN license; BSN degree or higher and one year of nurse management experience; or non-nursing bachelor’s degree and three years of leadership experience
- Duration: Five years
- Fee: $300 (AONL members); $425 (non-members)
Rachel Drummond, MEdWriter
At NursingColleges.com, Rachel Drummond has applied her extensive experience in education and mindfulness to elucidate the importance of self-care for nursing students since 2022. Through her writings, she underscores the role of mental and physical well-being in fostering resilient and compassionate healthcare professionals.
Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.