Healthcare Administration Nursing

Director of Nursing Salary and Job Description


Nurses who love their jobs and are ready to take the next step are likely interested in advanced roles, such as nursing director. Professionals who choose this career path enjoy more autonomy, as well as supervise nursing staff, communicate and coordinate with senior staff including department and hospital administrators, and ensure patients are receiving high-quality care.

Aspiring nursing directors must begin by developing the knowledge and skills they’ll need to succeed. The right education, such as a Graduate Certificate in Nursing Administration and Leadership, can prepare nurses with the management expertise they’ll need to pursue jobs at the highest levels.

What Does a Director of Nursing Do?

A director of nursing’s job description can vary based on the size and type of the organization, but some responsibilities and duties remain consistent. For example, all nursing directors oversee budgets and supervise nursing staff. Other day-to-day job duties may include the following:

  • Serving as a liaison between nursing staff, doctors, and healthcare administrators
  • Creating standard-of-care guidelines
  • Overseeing and implementing changes to nursing best practices, such as shift changes and infection prevention procedures
  • Recruiting, onboarding, and training new nursing staff
  • Developing short- and long-terms goals for the department, such as staffing goals, procedural goals, and standard-of-care goals
  • Monitoring and recording expenses
  • Setting nursing staff schedules
  • Evaluating nurse performance
  • Ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal policies and regulations
  • Communicating with patients’ families, physicians, and medical residents

Possible Work Environments for Nurse Directors

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies nursing directors as medical and health services managers. According to the BLS, in 2020, the largest employers of medical and health services managers were state, local, and private hospitals, physicians’ offices, nursing and residential care facilities, governmental institutions, and outpatient care centers.

Most professionals in the field work full time, but some nursing directors work more than 40 hours per week. Additionally, night, weekend, and holiday shifts may be required for individuals working in 24-hour facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and residential care facilities, and some nursing directors may need to be on call in case of emergencies.

Qualifications to Become a Director of Nursing

To become a director of nursing, individuals must gain experience working as a licensed registered nurse (RN) and develop certain leadership skills. To become an RN, nurses must complete a nursing program at the diploma, associate, or bachelor’s degree level from an approved college or university. Graduates must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), which tests candidates on their knowledge and critical-thinking skills, enabling them to become a registered nurse. While a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is not required to become an RN, many employers prefer to hire candidates with a BSN, especially for leadership positions. For existing RNs with an associate degree, an RN to BSN program can boost their qualifications for advanced roles.

After passing the NCLEX-RN and receiving licensure, RNs should gain several years of clinical experience. Nurses may also need to participate in continuing education (CE) coursework as a prerequisite for license renewal. Continuing education hour requirements vary by state. For example, while California and Georgia require RNs to complete 30 hours of coursework every two years, Colorado and Indiana have no such requirement.

After meeting undergraduate education, licensing, and experience requirements, aspiring nursing directors may choose to complete advanced education, such as an online Graduate Certificate in Nursing Administration and Leadership, to help increase their job prospects. AdventHealth University’s 100% online graduate certificate program, for example, allows students to pursue their education from anywhere on their own schedule. It offers graduates extensive knowledge and insights about topics such as current and future healthcare practices and solutions, quality-of-care management, patient safety, and strategic leadership in nursing.

RNs can also pursue job-specific certifications, such as Director of Nursing Services-Certified (DNS-CT). To pursue this certification, candidates must have a current nursing license, the equivalent of 24 months of full-time post-acute care experience, and at least 12 months of experience in a nursing leadership or director of nursing services role. Although not required, certification demonstrates candidates have advanced knowledge and abilities within the nursing field.

Director of Nursing Salary and Job Outlook

The BLS projects the employment of medical and health services managers to grow by 32% between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the projected growth for the labor market as a whole, with about 51,800 openings available each year. A large driver of the demand for these professionals will be the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations, retire, or exit the workforce for other reasons.

PayScale reports that as of September 2021, the median annual salary for directors of nursing was approximately $93,000, with earners in the top 10th percentile reporting annual earnings of more than $136,000. Salary ranges vary based on a variety of factors, such as geographical region, institution size, and experience level.

Become a Director of Nursing

Nurses interested in gaining greater autonomy and working in leadership positions may find that becoming a director of nursing is a good fit for their goals. Completing an advanced education, such as an online graduate certificate in nursing administration and leadership from AdventHealth University, can prepare them to pursue advanced roles in their field.

AdventHealth University Online has designed its Graduate Certificate in Nursing Administration and Leadership program to provide students with the in-demand skills they’ll need to succeed as a nursing director. Upon completion of the program, many graduates decide to pursue further degrees, such as a Master of Science in Nursing or a Master of Healthcare Administration in Strategy and Innovation.

Are you ready to take the first step toward a career as a director of nursing? Discover how AdventHealth University Online can prepare you for the job you want.

Recommended Readings

RN vs. BSN: Understanding the Difference
How Can Healthcare Data Analytics Improve Patient Outcomes?
How to Become a Hospital Department Manager


AAACEUS, Nursing Continuing Education Requirements by State
American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing, Director of Nursing Services-Certified
BetterTeam, Director of Nursing Job Description
Indeed, “Director of Nursing Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications”
Indeed, “Learn About Being a Director of Nursing”
National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration Long Term Care, Certified Director of Nursing Exam
PayScale, Average Director, Nursing Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

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