Submitted by Andrew Steger on Wed, 02/16/2022 - 12:06
Nurse looking at the Medical Bill Codes And Spreadsheet Data

The Difference Between Nurse Managers and Charge Nurses

Serving in nurse management is a rewarding career for those with natural leadership skills and a desire to train and support the next generation of nurses. Charge nurses and nurse managers typically have at least a bachelor’s degree and sometimes graduate level education.

These nurse positions hold similar responsibilities such as managing, offering performance feedback, and helping shape policies within a nursing unit. However, there are also many differences between the roles, and understanding each position’s responsibilities, potential earnings, and job prospects can help you chart a better path to the future. So what is the difference between a nurse manager versus a charge nurse? Read this guide to find out now.



What is a nurse manager?

Nurse managers typically serve in an administrative capacity. They act as a much-needed bridge between nurses and upper management. They may coordinate the activities of nurses working within their unit and also work collaboratively with others in the area, such as physicians, pharmacists, therapists, and other healthcare staff. This type of nurse administrator must have leadership skills and be able to strongly communicate between team members. The nurse manager is also often responsible for hiring, performance evaluations, scheduling, quality improvement, managing budgets, and much more.

The nurse manager is the voice of the nurses working within the unit. If there are challenges and nurses need support, the manager communicates these challenges to upper management and works toward a resolution. Unlike a registered nurse (RN) or a charge nurse, the nurse manager handles more administrative work rather than working hands-on with patients.

How much do nurse managers earn?

Nurse managers fall under the category of “medical and health services managers.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals earn a median pay of $104,280 annually, or about $50.13 per hour. The job outlook for nurse managers is expected to grow much faster than average, with a 32% increase predicted between 2019 and 2029. This adds up to around 133,200 new jobs expected within the 10-year growth period.

What is a charge nurse?

A professional in a charge nurse role oversees daily operations of nursing staff, similar to the nurse manager. However, these nurses are only responsible for the nurses on their specific shift. The charge nurse may give informal feedback to nurses.

Like the nurse manager, charge nurses do some administrative work, such as making patient assignments for the day and ensuring nurses are receiving the support they need in any given shift. However, the charge nurse is more hands-on with daily operations, handling much of the same work as an RN including the administration of medications and oversight of the admission and discharge of patients. Someone working in a charge nurse position must also showcase leadership skills in order to manage the workflow of the day.

How much do charge nurses earn?

A charge nurse earns an average hourly pay of $33.73 with an annual salary range of $55,000 to $95,000. Job growth for charge nurses isn’t readily available. However, overall growth in the area of nursing is increasing faster than average (7%), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A large aging population requiring additional healthcare along with many existing nurses reaching retirement age, is driving additional opportunities.

Charge nurse vs. nurse manager: What’s the difference?

The charge nurse and nurse manager positions are similar in that they’re both leadership positions, but there are some substantial differences, including:

  • Different levels of education required. The charge nurse typically holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing and has several years of clinical experience working with patients. The nurse manager is more likely to have a master’s degree in nursing or higher and many years of clinical experience.

  • Areas of leadership are different. A charge nurse has different responsibilities from those of a nurse manager. They are only responsible for the nurses on their specific shift. A nurse manager, however, may be responsible for the entire unit and overall performance and quality of care.

  • Clinical nursing practice. Charge nurses are heavily involved in patient care. They hold many of the same responsibilities that RNs have on a daily basis. The nurse manager’s responsibilities are more focused on administrative work, and contact with patients is limited.

Charge nurse or nurse manager: Which is best for your career path?

Those interested in expanding their leadership abilities and working in supervisory roles are often satisfied in the position of charge nurse or nurse manager. If you enjoy working with patients and don’t want to dive too deeply into the administrative side of things, a charge nurse position is often a good choice.

If you like the administrative side of the nursing practice and enjoy being involved in operations, a nurse manager role can be an excellent direction. Regardless of your path, getting hands-on clinical experience, earning at least a bachelor’s degree, and actively improving your management skills will help open up doors to potential opportunities.




  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical and Health Services Managers (visited August 4, 2021).
  2. PayScale. Average Charge Nurse (RN) Hourly Pay (visited August 4, 2021).
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses (visited August 4, 2021).