nurse and patient

6 Common Nurse Leadership Jobs for Master of Science in Nursing Graduates

Nursing: Leadership, Education & Informatics

While there are several different types of nursing degrees available, successful completion of a Master of Science in Nursing program can better equip registered nurses to take on advanced leadership roles in hospitals, on college campuses and within other medical facilities. The different types of nursing jobs that are available to graduates with a Master of Science in Nursing are diverse, as this degree opens the door to advanced positions that grant qualified individuals the opportunity to manage teams of interdisciplinary nurses, or lead clinical research efforts in the nursing fields of their choosing. By independently learning more about leadership opportunities for educated nurses, practicing nurses can build a realistic perspective of how postsecondary education can help them advance in their careers.

Clinical Research Specialist

Clinical research is the process of developing new evidence-based health care interventions by carefully administering and evaluating new treatments that are performed on volunteer patients. Clinical research nurses are responsible for providing high-quality care to the patients in these research programs, which involves safely coordinating clinical procedures, recording data regarding the treatment process, reviewing that data for consistency and accuracy, and providing follow-up support to patients as necessary.

Generally, these specialists lead clinical nurse researchers working within dedicated facilities, such as the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, or within the research departments of university-funded medical centers. Nurses in this role collect valuable medical data during clinical studies, ranging from basic clinical assessments to collaboration with a large team of medical professionals to characterize the etiology of an unknown disease. Regardless of their employers’ specific objectives and their individual roles within teams, practicing clinical research specialists must encourage their subordinate nurses to adhere to specific research guidelines while promoting positive health outcomes for their patients.

To balance the demands of this career role, clinical research specialists must have an in-depth understanding of nursing care and research processes, as well as possess the management, organizational and leadership skills that are fundamental to supporting an interdisciplinary team of medical researchers. If a registered nurse has a basic understanding of these skills, earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing may qualify the individual for a clinical research position. Nevertheless, senior roles, such as that of the clinical nurse specialist, are reserved for nurses with a Master of Science in Nursing and at least five years of experience in clinical research.

Chief Nurse Executive

Health care institutions, like any other large professional organization, require the executive leadership of highly experienced professionals to optimize productivity. In this sense, chief nurse executives are responsible for maximizing the efficiency of a medical facility’s nursing staff. Success in this role demands balancing the needs of patients and employees in order to effectively manage population health. Educated nurse executives can also leverage modern advancements in big data processing technology in order to expediently collect and process unprecedented volumes of clinical data. This data, once properly analyzed by a chief nurse executive, can be used to determine the effectiveness of individual treatments, as well as to strategize how changes can be made to health care processes to achieve greater health outcomes.

Chief nurse executives must also be role models who provide advice and mentorship to future nurse leaders. Facilitating this process is the development of an organization-wide culture of collaborative innovation, which promotes new, more creative care strategies. By acting as an example for the nurses in their departments, chief nurse executives can ensure that future generations carry forward an ideal set of patient-centered clinical standards and practices. In doing so, they improve the quality of care offered by the nurses they manage, stimulating growth within their respective health care institutions. Nurses with three to five years of experience in nurse management positions and a master’s level nursing education may be qualified for the position of chief nurse executive.

Nursing Supervisor

The nursing supervisor observes and instructs the nursing staff, providing formal guidance focused on improving the quality of care that the staff can provide. Primarily, the supervisor is responsible for directly supporting team members via constructive feedback, facilitation of educational opportunities and discussions of workplace performance. Developing practical communication skills—such as cohesive writing, speech and presentation skills—is central to success in this role, as the nursing supervisor will frequently interact with patients and their families, the administrative staff of the hospital, teams of nurses, and doctors. Furthermore, through observation of their teams, supervisors can use their knowledge of each employee’s individual capabilities to coordinate clinical operations and optimize workforce distribution.

Due to the importance of their work, hospitals require nurse supervisors to have a graduate-level degree in nursing or hospital administration, and employers will expect candidates to have received advanced nursing certifications as well. As they continue to grow their skill sets, nursing supervisors will become more adept at establishing positive workplace environments, improving the flow of hospital operations, and advocating for the proper distribution of employees and resources to produce better health outcomes.

Surgical Nurse Manager

The surgical nurse manager is responsible for providing administrative oversight to surgical units within their respective facilities. This necessitates that the surgical nurse managers use their precise organizational skills to direct daily workflows. It also requires them to leverage their clinical expertise and leadership skills to train employees when needed. Additionally, they must engage their competency for advanced nursing practice, by organizing care services and interpreting/enforcing hospital policies.

Those interested in this career choice should note that surgical nurse managers are often positioned in challenging health care environments, like intensive care units. Therefore, they should be confident in their ability to monitor patient volumes and regularly evaluate staff performance to develop insights that can be used to facilitate positive change in the surgical environment without sacrificing patient safety. The surgical nurse manager also advises in the financial and legal aspects of surgical procedures, through duties such as developing/administering cost-effective budgets for surgical departments and using conflict resolution skills to investigate and resolve any complaints or concerns voiced by patients or staff members.

To prove that they can handle the demanding nature of this role, surgical nurse managers must have at least two years of management or supervisory experience. Advanced certifications, such as an advanced cardiac life support certification, may also help candidates stand out in the hiring process. Traditionally, the education requirement is only a bachelor’s degree in nursing. But earning a Master of Science in Nursing will place individuals into the top tier of candidates for surgical nurse manager positions within the most distinguished health care facilities—allowing them to earn far better benefits, salaries, and career advancement opportunities.

Government Chief Nursing Officer

Governments need to create policies that accurately represent the reality of the current health care environment. In the process of developing these policies, the role of the chief nursing officer (CNO) is that of a civil servant—one who brings nursing expertise and public administration skills to the table. An effective CNO provides their government with a variety of services that can be used to inform health care policies. These services include policy analysis, translation of clinical research, management of nursing projects, and leadership throughout the nursing community. Arguably the greatest value CNOs provide is their ability to incorporate the diverse perspectives of the nursing community into the development of health care reforms within large-scale medical systems. As such, the expert advice offered by CNOs often influences the decisions of health care executives who may not have extensive clinical experience.

To be considered for the position of chief nursing officer, registered nurses should have sufficient formal education following the completion of a Master of Science in Nursing. Due to the wide range of responsibilities attributed to this position their experience in nursing must be extensive as well, with a minimum expectation of at least 10 years in the field. While accumulating this experience, nurses should consider earning advanced nursing certifications and completing administrative training whenever possible. By doing so, they gain complementary knowledge that bolsters their ability to improve nursing practice and health systems on a local, national and even global scale.

Director of Student Health Services

Providing comprehensive primary care on university campuses grants reliable care to students who otherwise may not have it. The director of student health services is responsible for leading his or her department by using his or her proficiency in health care administration to manage health care providers and direct the patient care process. This involves organizing campus health care initiatives, promoting wellness in the student community and advocating for the improvement of care being provided on campus. To qualify for this position, a minimum of five years of clinical experience and three years of administrative experience is recommended. While a Master of Science in Nursing degree may open the door to this position, a doctorate greatly enhances a candidate’s chances of being selected.

Overall, successful leadership in nursing requires the ability to work autonomously within facilities to keep nursing protocol effective and up to date; this can entail leading an interdisciplinary team of nursing professionals to develop their individual professional capabilities. A Master of Science in Nursing program is designed to help experienced nursing professionals develop executive leadership skills to complement their practical skills, thereby increasing their value to potential employers.

Learn More

Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program helps students hone their knowledge and skills to assume leadership positions in healthcare systems, nursing informatics or nursing education. The program aims to develop students who could take a role in shaping health policy, in educating other nurses and health care professionals, and in providing advanced care to their patients. Norwich’s online nursing program coursework has been developed based on guidelines by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Recommended Readings
How Nurse Leaders Combat Burnout
Six Nurse Leadership Opportunities for Master of Science in Nursing Graduates
Leadership & Hierarchy in Hospitals


Roles and Responsibilities of Government Chief Nursing And Midwifery Officers: A Capacity-Building Manual, World Health Organization
Focus on the C-Suite: Frontliner-in-chief, Hospitals & Health Networks
Clinical Research Jobs, ICON
Clinical Research Nursing, NIH Clinical Center
Clinical Research Specialist, Glassdoor
Chief Nurse Executive, PayScale
Is Becoming a Chief Nursing Officer Right for You?, MidlevelU
Chief Nursing Officers – who are they and what do they do?, Wiley Online Library
Surgery Nurse Manager, PayScale
How much do University Health doctors make?, MD Salaries