A director of nursing smiles while the nursing staff stands in the background.

Director of Nursing Salary, Career Outlook, and Market

Nursing: Healthcare Systems Leadership

Global health care spending is expected to reach $10 trillion by 2022—up from $7.7 trillion in 2017, according to Deloitte. As the expenditures increase and new technologies transform health care access, more nurse directors are needed to manage and supervise emerging nursing units in various health care settings.

For students who are pursuing a nurse director career path, here’s a guide to the position’s job responsibilities, salary opportunities, hiring outlook, and growth projections. Nursing students and professionals who are looking to learn the skills to succeed in this role and earn a director of nursing salary, should consider furthering their education by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.     

The Duties and Skills of a Nurse Director

Nurse directors may manage the nursing staff of an entire health facility or a specific department. As directors, their duties and interactions with other health care leaders significantly impact a facility’s quality of care and patient outcomes. The nurse director job is a higher-level professional position. Usual duties include the following.

  • Managing, training, and evaluating nursing staff members
  • Creating and optimizing processes for providing the highest quality care
  • Maintaining regulatory and policy compliance
  • Communicating goals and strategies to employees and managers

Nurse directors should possess certain competencies.

  • Strong management skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Verbal and written communication skills
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Organizational abilities to delegate administrative tasks 
  • Interpersonal skills to motivate and inspire employees

Most importantly, nurse directors are leaders. Their units rely on them for guidance, while their managers or executives seek their feedback in making important decisions about staffing, scheduling, and medical resources.

Steps to Become a Nurse Director

A nurse director requires certain educational qualifications and experience to successfully fulfill the role. The following steps to become a nurse director can help individuals pursue a career in the field and earn a director of nursing salary.

Step #1: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nursing directors are categorized as medical and health services managers. Most medical and health services managers have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, health care administration, business administration, public administration, or a related area.

Earning a BSN degree (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) can help students prepare for a career in nursing. Courses in medical terminology, hospital organization, human resources administration, strategic planning, law and ethics, health economics, and health information systems prepare students for various roles in the field. After graduation, nursing students can take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and become licensed as registered nurses (RNs). 

Step #2: Gain Nursing Experience

Employers require that nurse director candidates possess relevant work experience. Individuals who are pursuing this career path can gain this experience by obtaining an administrative role in a health care facility, such as a hospital or nursing home. Prospective nurse directors can also gain experience as registered nurses and work toward becoming nurse educators. With a background in a nursing management position, prospective or current nurse directors are well-positioned for executive roles such as chief nursing officer (CNO).

Step #3: Complete Your Master’s Degree for a Leadership Position  

Those who are interested in leadership roles, such as nurse director, are likely to have an advanced degree. Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) helps future medical professionals build the essential skills to pursue high-level health care careers. Along with core studies in nursing practice, policy, and informatics, the degree program enables students to choose a Healthcare Systems Leadership concentration, which can transition into a nurse director job.

Director of Nursing Salary

A nurse director’s median annual salary is around $88,900 according to the compensation website PayScale. Various factors including years of experience, job location, and certifications can affect a nurse director’s salary.

According to the BLS, 33% of medical and health services managers work in hospitals, 12% work in physicians’ offices, 10% work in residential care facilities, 8% work in government facilities, and 7% work in outpatient care centers. Critical skills in home health care, operations, budgeting, and people management also impact salary negotiations. A director of nursing salary can also be impacted by education level. Those who have earned an advanced degree can potentially earn a higher salary.

Future Growth of the Nurse Director Role

The BLS expects medical and health services manager jobs to grow by 32% from 2019 to 2029—much faster than the 4% national average for all management occupations. This growth will open more than 133,200 jobs in that time period. Aging baby boomers who need more medical care, and new technologies that advance health care services will increase the demand for nurse director jobs.

Pursuing a Career in Nurse Leadership

Since 1819, Norwich University has maintained a leadership position in innovative education. Through its online programs, the university delivers relevant and applicable curricula that enable students to make a positive impact on their workplaces and communities.

The Norwich University online Master of Science in Nursing helps students hone their knowledge and skills to attain positions in nursing informatics, health care systems leadership, or nursing education. Norwich’s online Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Practitioner program offers Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner tracks, giving students the opportunity to focus their education and become experts in a specific area of nursing. Those who want to become nursing directors and earn a director of nursing salary, should consider earning a master’s degree in nursing.

Completing an MSN degree gives students the foundational skills to excel in a nurse director role. Learn more about how the Norwich University MSN degree program can help you pursue a rewarding career in the field.


Recommended Readings

5 Leadership Styles for Clinical Nurse Leaders
How Nurses Can Advance Medical Research
Six Nurse Leadership Opportunities for Master of Science in Nursing Graduates


2019 Global Health Care Outlook, Deloitte
8 Tips to Becoming a Successful Director of Nursing, American Association of Directors of Nursing Services
Medical and Health Services Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Registered Nurses, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average Director, Nursing Salary, PayScale

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