What it Takes to Become a Nurse Manager

how to become nurse manager

You went into nursing because you believe in working toward a higher purpose. So much of your job satisfaction comes from little moments that mean everything—a grateful mother passing a look to thank you for calming her child with a sticker; or a worried husband holding his wife’s hand a little tighter after hearing good news. 

How do you make the decision to give up those moments for a leadership position? When will you know if you can be successful or if it’s right for you? 

Those are worthwhile questions to start asking yourself as you move on in your nursing career. You will need to start taking steps to prepare yourself if you are interested in a leadership role. 

We used real-time market intelligence from the past 12 months to find out exactly how to become a nurse manager. We also spoke to industry experts to help you decide if it’s the right career path for you.

Qualities of a nurse leader

The skills that make you a great nurse will only get you half way to a management role. Just because you have an impeccable bedside manner does not mean that you will be able to lead others to do the same. 

Managers have to be able to lead, inspire and motivate others to give the best care possible. This translates into the following skills according to employers: 


While clinical experience and acute care still make the list of top 10 skills, hiring managers are more concerned with overall case management skills. Expertise in skills like finance and informatics will help you to see the overall strategic situation and make the best decision for everyone involved, says Karlene Kerfoot, vice president of nursing at API Healthcare

But perhaps the most important skill of a nurse leader is the intangible ability to inspire. You have to be able to “help others find their strengths and capitalize on them,” says Adrienne Schultz, director of care management at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. To demonstrate her management skills, Schultz sought out a Lean Six Sigma Greenbelt certification, which helps holders identify, analyze and solve problems with processes and quality.

Nurse manager job description & outlook

Nurse managers are responsible for supervising a nursing unit in a hospital or clinic. That includes direction of nursing staff, oversight of patient care and some management or budget decisions. In other words, instead of spending their day screening patients and checking vitals they are establishing work schedules, coordinating meetings and making personnel decisions. 

They typically have several years of clinical experience above and beyond the educational requirements. This helps them to be successful in their work, according to Kerfoot. However, nurse managers stop direct care themselves once they take the leadership role. As a nurse, this is likely a major point of contention that you will have to face when considering this career. 

Healthcare leadership positions, including nurse managers, are expected to grow by 23 percent through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is part of a widespread growth in the healthcare industry resulting from growing patient demand and aging baby boomers. 

The added responsibility of nurse managers typically comes with an increase in pay. The average salary for healthcare managers is $88,850 per year*, well over the $65,470 median pay for registered nurses.

Nurse manager education requirements

It may surprise you to know that the majority of nurse managers do not require a master’s degree (MSN). What they do need is a registered nursing license, and in most cases, a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN). 

How to Become a Nurse Manager

For a nurse that does not have an MSN, many employers will look for them to have some management coursework beyond their undergraduate degree. In that case, nurses look to certifications or trainings to demonstrate their leadership ability, Schultz says.

Is nurse management right for you?

If you’ve chosen the path to become a nurse you are already well-versed in helping people. The choice to pursue a management position just broadens the scope a little of who you are helping. Instead of focusing on direct patient care, you need to be able to motivate and inspire others to do great work.

The qualities of a remarkable nurse leader can be developed but they are not in everyone. Kerfoot lists some questions to ask yourself if you’re looking to move into management: 

  • Do you already have others seeking out your opinion and guidance?
  • Are you comfortable with allowing the overall team to take credit for the accomplishments?
  • Do you strive for excellence in yourself and others?

You are now armed with the knowledge of how to become a nurse manager. But the decision is ultimately up to you whether you are interested in more administrative work or if you gravitate towards direct-patient care. 

If you think becoming a nurse manager is right up your alley, learn more about the advantages to earning your BSN in this article: Is RN to BSN Worth it? 9 Reasons to Level Up.

*Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.

External links provided on Rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Katy is a Content Marketing Specialist at Collegis Education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She enjoys creating engaging content to help former, current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.

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