How to Become a Nurse Manager: Job Requirements, Salary, Job Description

Nurse manager, nurse and doctor review filesA nurse manager, sometimes called a head nurse or nursing supervisor, helps patients by managing the nurses who provide care. This lead nurse is mainly responsible for recruiting, overseeing and retaining a nursing staff. A nurse manager may occasionally collaborate with doctors on matters regarding patient care and assists patients and families as needed.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information specific to the field of nurse manager but the website does offer an overview of registered nurses who may work in this capacity.

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Source: BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation. * or ** indicate insignificant or unavailable data.

Level of Education Required Bachelor Degree in Nursing
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Median Salary $96,442
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary information courtesy of


How to become a nurse manager

The education and experience required to become a nurse manager include:

  • Must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • Take additional classes in business or consider a double major or minor in business
  • May pursue additional education to be eligible for voluntary certification

Education requirements

To work as a nurse manager, one must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The nurse must then work as a registered nurse to gain clinical management experience.

The nurse manager may pursue certification that demonstrates advanced knowledge and expertise in the role. The individual must earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Masters in Healthcare or Business Administration (MHA/MBA) to become eligible to take the nurse management certification exam through the American Organization of Nurse Executives. The nurse manager earns the Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) credential after passing this exam.

Wilkes MS Nurse Executive


Job description

A nurse manager is responsible for the personnel, resources and patient care on a single nursing unit or a group of units within a healthcare institution. The nurse manager carries out complex leadership responsibilities that directly affect the quality of care to patients and families. The primary responsibilities of a nurse manager are to facilitate and deliver quality nursing care, and to coordinate and manage the environment in which that care is delivered to the patient.

Personality traits:

  • Responsible
  • Influential
  • Calm under pressure

A nurse manager reports to facility administrators.

Career options

Typical workplaces a nurse manager includes:

  • Hospitals
  • Ambulatory care centers
  • Long-term care centers
  • Home health agencies
  • Community agencies

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of registered nurse jobs to increase by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022. The number of nurse managers must rise at nearly the same rate.

Certification information

The American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) Credentialing Center and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Certification Corporation collaborate to offer the Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) credential. American Organization of Nurse Executives Certification (AONE-CC) administers the CNML program. The CNML certification reflects the individual’s knowledge and expertise in leadership roles.

For certification as a nurse manager, the individual must have a valid and unrestricted license as a registered nurse. The applicant must also have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree or higher plus two years experience as a nurse manager, or a non-nursing bachelor’s plus three years of experience in a nurse manager role or an associate degree plus five years experience as a nurse manager.

Professional organizations

American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE):