How to Become a Certified Nursing Administrator

Oct 20, 2021

Research the requirements to become a certified nursing administrator. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in nursing administration.

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Should I Become a Certified Nursing Administrator?

A certified nursing administrator provides patient care while leading and overseeing assigned staff members. In addition to providing nursing care and administering treatments as needed, a certified nursing administrator schedules staff and ensures that healthcare workers comply with all state regulations and facility policies. Other duties include hiring and evaluating healthcare personnel, training employees, and making sure all charts and documentation is completed. Providing patient care can be physically demanding, with many hours spent standing and sometimes needing to lift or turn patients.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's degree often preferred
Degree Field Nursing
Experience 5 years of previous healthcare management experience most common
Licensure and Certification Current state-issued RN license is required; voluntary certification is available
Key Skills Critical-thinking, speaking, and organizational skills, ability to demonstrate compassion, attention to detail, patience, and emotional stability
Salary $88,165 per year (2020 median salary for all nurse administrators)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Online Job Postings (August 2015), (February 2020)

Certified Nursing Administrator Steps

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

Students aspiring to be certified nursing administrators typically need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which can be obtained in multiple ways. For example, the BSN can be a second degree program for individuals who have a bachelor's degree in a different field. Bridge RN to BSN programs are available for graduates of associate's degree or diploma programs who want to earn a bachelor's degree. BSN programs train students in nursing theory and clinical practice, and common courses include anatomy and physiology, statistics, pharmacology, and microbiology.

Success Tip:

Get certified in CPR or basic life support (BLS). Employers typically require candidates to have current certification in lifesaving procedures. Certifications must be renewed every 1 to 2 years, depending on the organization issuing the certification.

Step 2: Become Licensed

All states, including the District of Columbia, require an RN to be licensed in order to practice. In addition to applying to the state board of nursing and paying an application fee, an RN must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). An RN license must be renewed every few years, as determined by the individual state board of nursing. Renewal requirements vary, but generally include completing a renewal application, paying a fee, disclosing any disciplinary or criminal actions and voluntarily reporting any substance abuse treatment. To be eligible for renewal, the RN must also complete a specified amount of continuing education.

Success Tip:

Plan to arrive about 30 minutes before scheduled time for the NCLEX-RN. Applicants who are late to the test may be forced to forfeit the appointment. Applicants should bring the authorization letter and valid identification.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Experience in the field is a requirement of becoming certified as a nurse administrator, and employers typically require at least five years of experience. Most RNs start out as a staff nurse in a hospital, doctor's office, or a community health organization. As the RN gains experience, they can move into administrative positions like assistant unit manager, head nurse, or assistant director.

Step 4: Get Certified

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers a variety of certification options related to this position, such as the Nurse Executive-Board Certified (NE-BC) credential. To become certified as a nurse executive, applicants must have a current RN license, a minimum of a bachelor's degree in nursing and meet experience requirements. Additionally, applicants must complete 30 hours of continuing education that is specific to nursing administration within the past three years. However, this requirement is waived for applicants with a master's degree in nursing administration.

Success Tip:

Renew the certification at least eight weeks before it expires. Nurse executive certifications expire and must be renewed every five years by completing the renewal application and paying the renewal fee. Renewal applicants must complete a number of continuing education hours, as specified by the ANCC, in addition to working for at least 1,000 hours in nursing administration.

Step 5: Consider a Master's Degree in Nursing Administration

By earning a Master of Science in Nursing Administration, these professionals can learn advanced business management concepts as it relates to healthcare delivery. This can be attained through coursework, such as healthcare quality and safety management, advanced finance and operations management, and disease management and prevention. Additionally, obtaining this degree offers increased opportunity for career advancement, as many employers prefer to hire administrators with a master's degree in nursing.

Becoming a certified nursing administrator requires earning a bachelor's degree in nursing, becoming licensed, gaining experience in the field, and getting certified.

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