How Much Does a Nurse Executive Make?

How Much Does a Nurse Executive Make?

Nurse executives oversee daily operations in a variety of healthcare settings. This career requires strong leadership and communication skills, along with a desire to improve patient care. Nurse executives are responsible for workplace success and the quality of patient treatment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median annual salary exceeding $104,000 for medical and health services managers. The BLS also projects a 32% job growth for these professionals between 2020 and 2030. Most nurse executives hold a master’s degree and specialized certifications. Nurse executives find jobs in healthcare organizations like hospitals, outpatient care, and clinics.

This page explores salary expectations, nurse executive job outlooks, and educational requirements for nurse executives.

Read the Specifics:
Salary by Experience | Salary by Education | Salary by Location | Career Prospects | FAQs

What Does a Nurse Executive Do?

Nurse executives help shape their healthcare organizations. Among the most senior nursing members in a healthcare organization, nurse executives are responsible for maintaining workplace efficiency and ensuring all employees meet daily job goals.

A nurse executive’s regular tasks may include managing an organization’s finances and developing operational policies. Nurses in this role need strong communication skills. They regularly collaborate with nurses and other members of their organization’s leadership. Nurse executives also advocate for their employees.

Among the most senior nursing members in a healthcare organization, nurse executives are responsible for maintaining workplace efficiency and ensuring all employees meet daily job goals.

Responsibilities for nurse executives vary depending on the size and location of their workplace. Some nurse executives hold specialized certifications that deepen their knowledge of topics like nursing education and developing patient care plans.

Read More About Nurse Executives What Does a Typical Day for a Nurse Executive Look Like?

How Much Can You Earn as a Nurse Executive?

According to PayScale, nurse executives earned an average salary of $134,000 per year as of September 2021. Education level, nursing board certification, and professional experience all contribute to nurse executives’ earning potential.

Location can also impact salary, as nurse executives practicing in metropolitan areas often earn higher wages than those in rural areas. A healthcare organization’s size and patient demand usually help determine nurse executives’ income as well.

Once they earn the necessary credentials, nurse executives can choose from several career paths, including hospital work and consulting.

Nurse Executives, 2020


Average Annual Salary: $134,000 | Source: PayScale


Median Wage: $117,670 | Source: BLS

Nurse Executive Salary by Experience

One critical factor determining nurse executives’ income is their years of experience working in healthcare. A nurse executive with several years of quality work experience is more likely to earn a higher salary. However, even early-career nurse executives can earn a high annual income.

The chart below documents how nurse executives’ average salaries increase as they accrue job experience.

Annual Salaries by Experience for Chief Nursing Officer, 2021

Years of Experience Average Annual Salary
Entry Level (<1 year) $116,000
Early Career (1-4 years) $119,000
Midcareer (5-9 years) $123,000
Late Career (10-19 years) $136,000
Experienced (20+ years) $149,000
Source: PayScale, September 2021

Nurse Executive Salary by Education

The first step to becoming a nurse executive is pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). After acquiring a BSN, most prospective nurse executives complete a master of science in nursing (MSN). Several common nurse executive licenses and certifications — which can lead to more lucrative job opportunities — require an MSN.

After completing an MSN, nurse executives can also pursue a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). DNPs can qualify nurse executives for more specialized work, often with even higher salaries than MSN-holders.

The table below shows the correlation between education level and salary in the nursing field.

Average Salaries by Education, 2021

Education Level Average Hourly Wage Average Annual Wage
Associate degree $30.03 $72,000
Bachelor’s degree $33.21 $88,000
Master’s degree $40.12 $98,000
Nursing certificate $17.97 $54,000
Source: PayScale, September 2021

Nurse Executive Salary by Location

Location concerns like cost of living, population density, and patient demand can impact nurse executive wages. The tables below, which show areas with the highest average nurse executive salaries, reveal how densely populated metropolitan areas often pay nurse executives more than the national average. For example, PayScale reports that the average salary for chief nursing officers was $134,600 as of September 2021.

Top-Paying Cities for Nurse Executives, 2021

City Average Annual Wage Percent Above the National Average
Chicago, Illinois $196,260 45.8%
Los Angeles, California $180,000 33.7%
Miami, Florida $152,580 13.4%
Source: PayScale, September 2021

States with some of the country’s largest cities offer the highest average salaries for nurse executives. In Chicago and Los Angeles, for example, nurse executives earn at least 30% more than the national average.

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Medical and Health Services Managers, 2020

Metropolitan Area Number of Medical and Health Services Managers Employed Average Annual Wage
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA 580 $174,010
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA 320 $171,430
Madera, CA 130 $168,090
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 1,210 $156,160
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 6,650 $156,050
Source: BLS

Top-Paying States for Medical and Health Services Managers, 2020

Top-Paying States Employment Average Annual Wage
District of Columbia 1,590 $157,590
New York 24,360 $156,140
Hawaii 1,650 $139,650
California 42,200 $138,030
Massachusetts 16,310 $136,930
Source: BLS

Washington, D.C.; New York; and Hawaii are home to massive metropolitan areas with large populations of people who need medical care. Cities like Vallejo and Santa Cruz pay nurse executives higher average salaries because the demand for nursing professionals is higher in those areas.

Explore All States

Nurse Executives’ Job Outlook and Career Prospects

The BLS projects a 32% job growth from 2020-2030 for medical and health service managers, amounting to 139,600 added positions. The BLS also notes that nurse executives who have master’s degrees in health administration and knowledge of healthcare IT systems enjoy some of the strongest job prospects.

Organizations like the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Organization for Nursing Leadership offer certifications specifically for nurse executives. Some employers may require their nurse executives to hold one or more of these certifications. These credentials can also make a prospective nurse executive more competitive and lead to a higher earning potential.

The BLS projects a 32% job growth from 2020-2030 for medical and health service managers, amounting to 139,600 added positions.

Due to high demand, nurse executives have plentiful career growth opportunities. These administrative professionals generally earn higher salaries than other healthcare roles. Prospective nurse executives should keep in mind that alongside these higher salaries can come long hours, conflict mediation responsibilities, and infrequent patient contact.

Medical and Health Services Managers

Change in Projected Employment


+32% from 2020-30


Source: BLS

Best Locations for Nurse Executives

Hospitals, clinics, residential care facilities, and outpatient care centers all need nurse executives. Because of higher population density, metropolitan areas employ more nurses than rural areas. However, nurses in rural areas can command high salaries in places with hospital staff shortages, which create high demand.

As the table below demonstrates, California, Texas, and New York employ the most nurse executives. The BLS reports that each of these states employs 20,000-40,000 medical and health services managers, including nurse executives.

Top States for Nurse Executives

States like California and New York offer high salaries for nurse executives as well. Prospective applicants should note these higher incomes usually correlate with the higher cost of living in big cities or populous states. Thus, though these states’ average salaries look higher, they may be equal to rural area income in terms of buying power.

Top-Employing States for Medical and Health Services Managers, 2020
Top-Employing States Number of Nurse Practitioners Employed Average Annual Wage
California 42,200 $138,030
Texas 34,380 $110,870
New York 24,360 $156,140
Massachusetts 16,310 $136,930
Pennsylvania 16,260 $107,710
Source: BLS
States With the Greatest Projected Increase in Employment for Medical and Health Services Managers, 2018-28
State Percent Projected Change, 2018-28 Average Annual Openings
Greatest Projected Percentage Increase
Arizona +39% 450
Colorado +32.8% 730
Utah +29.8% 520
Nevada +29.6% 310
Georgia +26.7% 1,070
Most Projected Average Annual Openings
California +23.5% 4,580
Texas +21.9% 3,550
New York +25.6% 3,400
Maryland +19.6% 1,750
Massachusetts +9.5% 1,690
Source: Projections Central

Medical and Health Services Managers Average Annual Wage and Employment by State, 2020

State
FL TX NM AZ AK CA NV UT CO OR WA ID HI OK MT WY ND SD NE KS MN IA MO AR LA MS AL GA SC IL WI MI IN OH TN KY NC WV VA PA NY ME VT NH RI CT NJ DE MA MD DC

Source: BLS

Learn More About Nurse Practitioner Programs by State

Top Cities for Nurse Executives

Nurse executives seeking opportunities for career advancement, specialty practice, and lucrative jobs are often drawn to large cities. Densely populated cities have higher demands for healthcare workers, which increases the need for nurse executives.

The New York-Newark-Jersey City area boasts the highest number of medical and health services managers at 27,400. Other places, including the Los Angeles and Boston metropolitan areas, also employ more than 13,000 nurse executives. The chart below examines these employment numbers and corresponding average annual wages.

Top-Employing Metropolitan Areas for Medical and Health Services Managers, 2020
Metropolitan Area Number of Nurse Practitioners Employed Average Annual Wage
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 27,400 $153,590
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 13,900 $132,950
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH 13,010 $143,020
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 10,510 $128,980
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 10,010 $113,770
Source: BLS

Best Industries for Nurse Executives

Most prospective nurse executives expect to find work in healthcare organizations. While most nurse executives do take jobs in such settings, industries outside these spaces can also offer lucrative career opportunities.

The two highest-paying industries for medical and health services managers, including nurse executives, are government organizations and state, local, and private hospitals. These professionals may manage entire facilities, specific clinical departments, or medical practices.

The table below references the top-paying and top-employing industries for nurse executives.

Top-Paying Industries for Medical and Health Services Managers, 2020

Top-Paying Industries Employment Average Annual Wage
Government 37,200 $116,380
Hospitals; state, local, and private 140,600 $112,870
Outpatient care centers 29,900 $100,690
Offices of physicians 50,000 $94,240
Nursing and residential care facilities 42,500 $89,880
Source: BLS

Employment by Industry for Nurse Practitioners, 2020

Industries with Highest Employment Employment Average Annual Wage
Hospitals; state, local, and private 140,600 $112,870
Offices of physicians 50,000 $94,240
Nursing and residential care facilities 42,500 $89,880
Government 37,200 $116,380
Outpatient care centers 29,900 $100,690
Source: BLS

Upward Mobility for Nurse Executives

Nurse executives have many opportunities for career advancement. Clinical nurse management and patient care supervision are popular starting positions for nurse executives. To secure more advanced positions, nurse executives sometimes pursue certifications or additional degrees, including MBAs and DNPs.

With this further education and years of experience, nurse executives can qualify for more business-oriented jobs, including C-suite roles like chief executive officer, chief operating officer, or hospital vice president.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a nurse executive?

    A nurse executive oversees the daily operations of a healthcare organization. The role requires leadership skills, knowledge of industry best practices, and an understanding of an organization’s goals and visions.

  • What is the salary for a nurse executive with an MSN?

    According to PayScale, a nurse executive’s average salary was $134,000 per year as of September 2021. This figure varies based on the location, experience, and education. Large metropolitan areas typically pay higher salaries than smaller cities or rural areas.

  • What is the salary for a nurse executive with a DNP?

    DNP-holders earned an average annual salary of $105,000 as of September 2021, according to PayScale. The degree prepares nurse executives for a higher level of responsibility in clinical and non-clinical settings. The salaries associated with the roles reflect these increased responsibilities.

  • How does a nurse become a hospital executive?

    Prospective nurse executives must earn at least a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Certification and specialization help nurse executives qualify for higher-paying roles. After several years of leadership experience, nurse executives can move into hospital-wide executive positions.


Featured Image: Chris Ryan / OJO Images / Getty Images

Recommended Reading

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

September 7, 2021   |   NursePractitionerSchools.com Staff

Interested in a nurse practitioner career? Explore this guide to discover the steps to become an NP, including required education and credentials.

Best Online RN-to-MSN Programs 2021

Best Online RN-to-MSN Programs 2021

August 5, 2021   |   NursePractitionerSchools.com Staff

Check out this guide to find the best online RN-to-MSN programs, including tips on applying to these programs.

Take care of your future.

Find the right program for you and advance your education with an online degree.