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Director of Nursing Career Guide

Are you looking for a nurse position that isn't at the bedside? A career as a Director of Nursing might be ideal for you! Nursing directors are important healthcare administrators. They work with other healthcare professionals while managing a nursing department's day-to-day operations. It's a popular job because of the high compensation and numerous prospects for promotion.


A Director of Nursing, often known as a Nurse Director, is a senior nursing position in which you are in charge of a nursing department or an entire healthcare system. Nursing directors often have years of bedside clinical nursing experience, leadership qualities, and a graduate degree (MSN or DNP). You have a number of responsibilities as a Director of Nursing, including supervising the nursing staff and interacting with the nursing and medical teams as well as other healthcare professionals throughout the business.

Tasks and Responsibilities

You'll be responsible for the day-to-day operations of a hospital unit, hospital, department, or other healthcare environment as a Director of Nursing. Your particular tasks will vary depending on where you work, however they may include:

  • All nurse personnel operations are managed and led.

  • Serving as a liaison between the nursing staff and all other health professionals

  • Developing a level of care that adheres to state and national laws and standards of care

  • Accounting, money, and spending tracking

  • Collaborating with all members of the health care team and other agencies to improve the quality of services and resolve any issues

  • Managing the recruiting, firing, and professional growth of nursing personnel

  • Setting short- and long-term objectives for the nursing department

  • Creating new policies and modifying current regulations to improve patient care standards

Directors of Nursing usually collaborate with other healthcare administrators, either at a corporate level or at a site level. Nursing Directors often work the first shift, however depending on the work environment, they may be required to work off shifts such as evenings, nights, and weekends. They may work in a range of environments, such as:

  • Hospitals

  • Long-term care facilities

  • Insurance companies

  • Healthcare Corporations

  • Government agencies

  • Academia

  • Private practices

  • Outpatient care centers


The Nursing Director position involves a lot of duties, but it also comes with a good compensation. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median pay of $100,980 per year or $48.55 per hour in 2019. However, the BLS does not distinguish between different types of healthcare administrators and managers, thus this statistic does not apply to Directors of Nursing. The average yearly pay for a Director of Nursing, according to, is $81,104. According to, the average yearly compensation is $88,174, or $38.10 per hour.

With more years of expertise, directors of nursing might earn a larger yearly pay. According to Payscale, the following are the average rates of Nurse DIrectors according to their experience:

  • $81,815 - 1-4 years of experience

  • $83,296 - 5-9 years of experience

  • $91,995 - 10-19 years of experience

  • $96,303 - 20+ years of experience

Highest Paying States for Directors of Nursing

  • New York, New York - $138,889

  • Los Angeles, California - $125,208

  • Houston, Texas - $120,079

  • Dallas, Texas - $110,007

  • San Antonio, Texas - $96,467

How to Become a Director of Nursing

Step 1: Earn a Nursing Degree

Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN

Step 3: Gain Experience or Continue Your Education

Depending on their circumstances, nurses might choose to get some nursing experience before returning to school or to enroll immediately in an MSN program. ADN-prepared nurses will need to either complete their BSN degree or enroll in an expedited RN to MSN program, which will allow them to acquire their BSN and MSN at the same time.

Step 4: Finish an MSN degree

A Master's degree, generally in healthcare administration or nursing leadership, is normally required to become a Director of Nursing.

Step 5: Acquire Certifications

Directors of Nursing can get a variety of certificates. The Director of Nursing Services - Certification is the most detailed program provided by the American Association of Directors of Nursing Services (DNS-CT). You must have a current RN licensure and the equivalent of two years of full-time long-term or post-acute care experience, as well as one year of DNS or related nursing leadership experience.

Other Certifications for Directors of Nursing are:

Step 6: Earn a Management Role

Aspiring nursing directors would wish to work in management to have the necessary experience. This might be a nurse manager, clinical leader, or department manager, for example.

Step 7: Get into a Doctoral Nursing Program or Get Administrative Experience

A doctoral degree is not necessary, however it is preferable for the Director of Nursing. Working in administrative positions might also help you develop experience.


According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Directors of Nursing are classified as Top Executives Category. There is no current data on the exact career outlook for a Director of Nursing, but there were 2,639,500 top executives in the United States in 2018, and there will be a demand for 2,790,200 by 2028, a 6% rise.

Continuing Education

Nursing directors must meet the same continuing education standards as regular registered nurses. This will differ from state to state. Unless they hold advanced certification, there are no explicit CEU requirements for this nursing title. Despite the fact that Directors of Nursing no longer work at the bedside, they are required to keep their RN qualification for this role. To retain certification, all advanced certificates require a certain amount of CEUs. These must all be tied to administration, leadership, and management in some way. They can also be used to renew RN licenses.

In most cases, an individual must fill out an application, complete a certain amount of CEU hours, and pay a small cost in order to renew their RN license. Each state has its own standards, so verify with your state's nursing board before filing for a license renewal.

Other Resources

Hard effort, devotion, and drive are required to become a Director of Nursing. You must be able to multitask and possess good leadership, clinical, and communication abilities. Years of devotion and several levels of advanced education and certifications are required for this role. It's not a short process, and most people decide early on whether they want to pursue an administration or bedside nursing career, but it's a trip well worth taking!

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