Submitted by Andrew Steger on Wed, 02/16/2022 - 13:31
Nurse manager and other healthcare workers and businessman using laptop while having a meeting in the office

How to Become a Nurse Manager

Nursing is a vast field full of different career paths. Depending on the type of work you’re interested in, you may find yourself searching for employment beyond a traditional nursing role.

One of the most crucial but often unknown positions within the healthcare field is the nurse manager.

Nurse managers work behind the scenes, helping healthcare facilities and nursing units run smoothly. If you’re looking to take on a leadership role with rewarding work and improve the healthcare field as a whole, then read on to learn how to become a nurse manager!



What Does a Nurse Manager Do?

Before you can begin the journey to become a nurse manager, it’s important to understand what this career will entail. Nurse managers play a vital and unique role in the healthcare system, and most facilities rely on nurse managers in order to operate efficiently and provide high quality care for their patients.

Some of the most common responsibilities that nurse managers may face on a daily basis include:

  • Recruiting, interviewing, and hiring new employees

  • Communicating with healthcare administrators

  • Managing budgets

  • Supervising and evaluating nursing staff

  • Handling disciplinary issues

Nurse managers typically work in an office setting and have responsibility with planning, paperwork, and administrative duties. As a nurse manager, you won’t spend much time in clinical units providing direct patient care like a registered nurse or nurse practitioner does.

Nurse managers also contribute to the creation and reformation of system policies, often working on hospital or healthcare committees. If you’re interested in changing the world of health care for the better, then a career in nurse management may be the path for you.

Becoming a Nurse Manager

With a thorough understanding of this position under your belt, you’ll be better prepared and more confident when pursuing a career in nurse management. So, without further ado, let’s discuss the path to earning a nursing management title. We’ll cover education, training, and steps in between.


The first step toward any career in nursing is earning the proper degree for the job. In the case of nursing management, most healthcare facilities require at least a bachelor’s degree, if not a master’s. Let’s take a look at the educational path for prospective nurse managers:

  • Entering the profession of nursing – There are a few different routes you can take when pursuing entry to the profession of nursing:

  • ADN – An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) often requires two years of full-time school to obtain the degree. However, most healthcare facilities will require additional education when hiring for nurse management positions.

  • BSN – A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a popular and versatile option for nursing students. This four year degree fully prepares graduates for every aspect of the nursing profession. When compared to an ADN, the BSN offers policy, population health, leadership and research coursework. Some healthcare facilities may hire nurse managers with only a BSN, but a graduate degree will greatly increase your chances of employment.

  • Accelerated BSN or Direct-Entry Master’s – Sometimes, people change their career path after graduating college. Accelerated BSN (ABSN) programs and direct-entry master’s programs are designed to help non-nursing graduates shift their educational path and earn a nursing degree in a shorter amount of time — one to two years for an ABSN and 15 months for a full-time direct-entry master’s program. These are also viable degree options for students who want to become nurse managers.

Some nurses may be hired for managerial positions with only a bachelor’s degree, but most healthcare facilities prefer candidates who have earned their master’s in Healthcare, Leadership, or Business Administration. Whichever path you choose will lead you to the next step in the process: Licensure and certification.

Licensure and Certification

Licensure and certification are vital steps to any nursing career, including nurse management. Here’s what you need to know about earning the proper credentials for this field:

  • Pass the NCLEX-RN – First and foremost, all nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN. This national exam assesses nurses on their ability to assess patients and provide effective care. The NCLEX-RN also assesses nurses on their overall knowledge of medicine and the human body. Graduates of entry level pre-licensure nursing programs will need to take this test before they can pursue a master’s degree or career in nurse management. The NCLEX-RN uses adaptive computer testing to cover four main topics:

  • Providing a safe and effective care environment

  • Health promotion and maintenance

  • Psychological integrity

  • Physiological integrity

  • Apply for licensure in your state – Passing the NCLEX-RN won’t immediately lead to licensure. Instead, you’ll need to apply to the state first and the state will grant you approval to take the NCLEX-RN. Every state has slightly different requirements for this process, so you will need to research the documents needed for the licensure application. Typically, most states require a form of identification and your nursing school transcripts from an accredited nursing program. Applicants will also have to pay a fee for their license in many places.

  • Graduate – Once you’ve completed your undergraduate degree, you may be eligible for some nurse management positions. Keep in mind that a graduate degree in nursing will vastly expand your job opportunities when it comes to this position. Many prospective nurse managers go on to earn their master’s degree in either Healthcare or Business Administration. These programs typically take two years to complete, and they incorporate classes that specifically address management within the healthcare field.

Once you’ve completed the proper steps for becoming a registered nurse, it’s time to begin the certification process specific to nurse managers. There are two paths you can take regarding these credentials:

  1. CENP – Some nurse managers choose to become Certified in Executive Nurse Practice (CENP). This credential is heavily administrative and typically involves leading a nursing team from the top. In order to obtain this certificate, you’ll need an active RN license and either a master’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing with two to four years of experience in the clinical space. With these qualifications met, you’ll be able to take the 175 question CENP exam and become certified in this specialty.

  2. CNML – The other option available in terms of certification is known as a CNML—or Certified Nurse Manager and Leader. This certification is designed to prepare nurse managers for a hands-on approach to leadership, typically in a more clinical setting among other nurses. To obtain this certification, applicants must have an active RN license, a BSN, and at least two years of in-field management experience. Nurses are required to take and pass a 115 question exam in order to gain this certification.

Once you’ve completed the necessary licensure and certification requirements, you’ll be fully equipped to begin working in the field of nurse administration and management.

Hiring and Training

With most of the hard work out of the way, you may start your job search and kick off this exciting career.

Nurse managers can work in a variety of healthcare settings. This means you may find employment in any of the following places:

  • Hospitals and emergency rooms

  • Outpatient care

  • Military medical facilities

  • Psychiatric and rehabilitation centers

  • Urgent care clinics

  • School health programs

Nurse managers can be found in any facility that has a nursing staff. Training procedures for a nurse manager should cover all the aspects of administration as well as any protocols regarding patient and staff safety.

Good Traits to Have as a Nurse Manager

Depending on your skills, different nursing positions may be a better fit than others. For people employed in nurse management, there are a few key traits that can lead to a more successful and long term career. If you’re planning on pursuing this path, consider whether you possess some of these characteristics:

  • Organization

  • Communication

  • Decision making

  • Problem solving

  • Leadership

  • Fiscally responsible

Nurse management is all about leading a team and upholding workflow. Successful nurse managers are able to think on their feet, keep things organized, and facilitate healthcare protocol accordingly.

How Much Do Nurse Managers Make?

Nurse managers earn an average of $66,000 to $118,000 annually, according to Certain variables will affect this figure, as well. For example, nurse managers who receive a master’s degree may earn slightly more per year than average—between $109,084 - $114,930.

Another factor to consider is the location where a nurse manager works. Some of the highest paying areas for nurse managers in the United States include:

  • Washington D.C. – $142,380 per year.

  • New York – $135,640 per year.

  • Connecticut – $122,800 per year.

  • California – $122,800 per year.

Nurse management is a growing industry, and those in this field can expect significant growth over the next few years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 32% increase in the job outlook for healthcare managers throughout 2029. With such a high demand, it’s likely that salaries will increase for this position in the near future, as well.

Is Being a Nurse Manager Worth It?

Now that you’re familiar with the path to becoming a nurse manager, it’s time to answer one final question: Is it worth it?

The answer: Absolutely! Nurse management is a rich career path that many people are passionate about. Nurse managers help improve patient care, reform policies, and keep healthcare facilities up and running.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to sharpen your leadership skills and improve the nursing field from the ground up, a career in nurse management may be a perfect fit.




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  3. Noodle. What Does a Nurse Manager Do
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