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Healthcare Careers Nurse Manager Guide

Nurse manager career.

Nurse managers are extremely vital members of a health team focused on making a safe and healthy environment for nurses and patients. They work to increase collaboration and foster a culture where everyone works towards the goal of improved patient outcomes and experiences. Nurse managers are crucial for motivated and effective nursing staffs and can impact decisions, patient outcomes, and overall hospital or clinic performance. 


White Woman Nurse Scanning a Bottle of Pills

Nurse manager job description.

Nurse managers have an important job in their hospital or clinical organization. They take a supervisory and management job role over other registered nurses to help make sure everything runs smoothly. Some of the top job duties of an RN manager include:

  • Overseeing patient care
  • Making management decisions
  • Making budgetary decisions
  • Setting schedules for nurses
  • Coordinating meetings for nurses and other medical professionals, business leaders, etc.
  • Making decisions about nursing personnel
  • Coordinating discharges
  • Managing electronic health records and other data
  • Developing nursing education plans
  • Planning treatment for patients
A nurse manager speaks with a nurse in a hallway.

How much do nurse managers make?

According to Payscale, nurse managers make an average salary of $86,000 per year, with the bottom 10% earning a salary of around $65,000 per year and the top 10% earning an average salary of more than $118,000. Registered nurses earn an average of $73,000 per year, so becoming a nurse manager can be a great way to increase your salary. Nurse manager salaries will vary based on the employer, the location where a nurse works, their years of experience as an RN, and their education. 

A happy young nurse walks down a hallway.

How to become a nurse manager?

If you want to become a nurse leader, there are important steps you need to take to be prepared for that career path. The steps to becoming a nurse leader are:

  • Become a registered nurse. This is a vital first step because you'll need to be a nurse and have experience before you can move up to a management position. You can become a registered nurse by earning a diploma, ADN, or BSN degree and then passing the NCLEX-RN exam. 
  • Gain experience. You'll need clinical and bedside experience as a registered nurse before you can become a nurse manager. The skills you will learn in clinical jobs are key to helping you be a good leader. Generally you'll need at least a year, if not more, working in a job as a nurse to be qualified to become a nurse manager.
  • Further your education. If you don't have a BSN, you'll need to earn that degree before becoming a nurse manager. You'll additionally need an MSN degree to be qualified to become a nurse manager. An MSN degree will give you specific skills and insight into the business element of nursing, preparing you for communication, strategic planning, and more. 

Earn your BSN and MSN in one bridge program.

If you're currently a registered nurse but don't have a bachelor's degree, there are program offerings that will help you be prepared to earn both your BSN and MSN at the same time. WGU's RN to MSN bridge program allows you to do your BSN and MSN coursework and move through the programs at a similar time—graduating with both a BSN and MSN. This degree allows you to gain the higher education you need to become a nurse manager, even if you don't already have a bachelor's degree. If you're a current RN ready to become a nurse manager, this bridge program could help you earn two degrees and move into an exciting new career.

Nurse showing paperwork to patient

Where do nurse managers work?

Nurse managers work in many healthcare facilities to help run nursing departments. Some of the places where nurse managers work include:

  • Urgent care facilities
  • Medical hospitals
  • Surgical centers
  • VA hospitals
  • Private practices
  • Home healthcare facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Outpatient treatment centers
A nurse helps an elderly woman stand from a chair.

Nurse manager career outlook.

Nurse manager positions are expected to grow 19% by 2022. This is much faster than the national average for career growth. The fast growth of nurse management careers is directly tied to an increasing need for healthcare professionals. Currently the United States is facing a nursing shortage, elderly populations are living longer, and new technology is changing the way healthcare works. All of these factors come together to make the need for nursing managers even more crucial. 

Other career paths with an MSN in nurse management.

After earning an MSN in Leadership and Management, there are many directions where your career can take you. Learn about some other job titles that nurses can pursue after becoming a nurse manager.

1. Nursing director.

Larger healthcare facilities may have directors of nursing (DONs) who are responsible for larger-scale management of nursing staff and patients. Nursing directors are charged with overseeing all the different departments and specialties of nurses, ensuring policies are followed, working on budgets and staffing, and overall helping improve patient care. Nursing directors, like nursing managers, need to have a master's degree in nursing in order to qualify. They also often are nurse managers for several years before moving into a nursing director role—giving them vital experience in the field. Directors of nursing earn an average annual salary of $99,000 per year, with the top 10% earning more than $130,000 per year.

2. Chief nursing officer.

A chief nursing officer is an executive-level nursing professional who is tasked with representing the interests of nurses and their patients in the organization. They will work directly with physicians and hospital leadership to create an environment that fosters collaboration and communication. They develop strategic plans for the nursing staff and work with other nursing managers to ensure they understand the needs of their departments. Chief nursing officers need a minimum of an MSN degree in order to be qualified for this role, and in some larger organizations may need a doctorate degree in order to be qualified. The average annual salary for chief nursing officers is $104,000 per year, with the top 10% earning more than $189,000 per year. 

3. Nurse case manager.

Nurse case managers are charged with working with individual patients to help them on their healthcare journey. They act as a patient advocate—helping their patients and their families understand their health status and treatment options. They focus on coordinating with departments and providers to get patients the care they need. An MSN degree is typically preferred for this career, as it gives nurses a deeper understanding in communication, strategy, and leadership skills. Nurse case managers earn an average annual salary of $77,000 per year.

Get your MSN today.

Get started on the path to becoming a nurse manager by earning your MSN.

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