Online Nursing Administration Programs: RN-to-MSN, MSN Nurse Executive

Online Nursing Administration Programs: RN-to-MSN, MSN Nurse Executive

Nursing administration programs prepare nurses to take on nurse leadership roles, such as chief nursing officer, nurse administrator, nursing department director, and other administrative roles. In 2019, the average salary for a healthcare administrator was $115,160, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Typical job responsibilities for nursing administration program graduates include staff management and leadership, reviewing or drafting budgets and financial statements, quality and performance oversight, and communication and collaboration with other departments.

Nurse executives often hold a master of science in nursing (MSN) with a speciality in administration. Depending on their background, they can follow different paths to this degree, including a standard path from a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, a dual degree program, such as a combined MSN/MBA, or a bridge RN-to-MSN program.

Students typically finish a master of nursing administration in two years. The curriculum covers legal, financial, and ethical aspects of healthcare delivery as they apply to nursing strategy and management. General management topics include leadership, budgeting, informatics, and data analytics.

Online nursing administration programs offer geographic and scheduling flexibility for nurses who wish to work while studying. Check out the list below for more information about online programs in nursing administration.

Top Online Programs

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  • Duke University

    Durham, NC

    Duke University of Durham, NC offers an online MSN in nursing and healthcare leadership program; it’s considered one of the America’s finest. In fact, the U.S. News & World Report named named it one of the top 10 nursing administration schools in the country in 2017. According to the University’s official program page, the nursing and health care leadership major provides a solid foundation in leadership, financial management, organizational theory knowledge applicable to several nursing leadership roles. Students can attend this part-time, 36-unit program 100 percent online, which means they can learn from Duke’s nationally recognized nursing leaders while still enjoying the flexibility of online learning.

  • Bradley University

    Peoria, IL

    Bradley University is a private, Peoria, IL-based college with many online nursing options. Its online RN-to-MSN in nursing administration degree cultivates nursing and business skills that prepare students for nursing administration positions and professional certification—including both the Certified Nurse Executive (NE) and Certified Nurse Leader (CNL) designations. Coursework covers such topics as healthcare policy, nursing administration theory, legal and ethical health issues in health care, and evidence-based practice. Graduates have gone on to work in hospitals, community health agencies, acute care settings, private medical practices, and more. According to BU, its online MSN program offers an innovative, highly immersive, and collaborative learning environment.

  • University of South Alabama

    Mobile, AL

    The University of South Alabama’s based in Mobile designed its online MSN in executive nurse administration for future nursing administrators, nurse managers, directors of nursing, chief nurse executives, and other advanced nurse leaders. Coursework explores advanced nursing and business topics, and USA reports its program graduates have the administrative, communication, management, leadership, and technology skills required by the Council on Graduate Education for Administration in Nursing. The curriculum also aligns with American Nurses Association Nursing Administration Scope and Standards of Practice and the American Organization of Nurse Executive competencies—both of which are available online. Note that USA also offers an accelerated MSN and RN-to-MSN programs for registered nurses with BSNs, associate degrees, or diplomas.

  • California University of Pennsylvania

    California, PA

    California University of Pennsylvania or Cal U—appropriately based in California, PA—reports that its online MBA in nursing administration and leadership is designed to complement MSN program students or graduates seeking mid- to high-level administrative careers in nursing. These include nurse executives, chief nurse officers, and more. Students gain a broad understanding of business issues that arise in medical settings. While the program requires that students from other schools complete their MSN degrees before applying, Cal U students can attend concurrently. In either case, the MBA in nursing administration is a fully-online program without campus residency requirements, though students still receive a suite of support through the school’s Global Online onboarding program.

  • University of Texas at Tyler

    Tyler, TX

    The University of Texas at Tyler describes its online MSN-MBA degree as a rigorous and career-focused program that shapes future nurse administrators while establishing a solid foundation for doctoral studies. Coursework includes MSN- and MBA-related courses with additional training in the delivery of care, as well as financial, regulatory, and legal management. Students enrolled in UTT’s online MSN-MBA program can complete their degree fully online under the direction of experienced faculty, mentors, and consultants. Note that UTT also offers an online MSN in nursing administration.

  • Benedictine University

    Lisle, IL

    Students of Benedictine University’s online MSN/MBA program pursue two separate degrees concurrently and in less time than it would take to earn an MSN and MBA individually. According to BU, a school based in Lisle, IL, this program is ideal for nurses who want an advanced understanding of nursing practice, but also wish to cultivate the critical thinking, decision-making, financial, and leadership skills required of nurse administrators and leaders. The dual online MSN/MBA is a fully-online, 23-course program that requires about three years of study. Benedictine University notes its program fulfills academic requirements one needs to take the Nurse Executive (NE-BC) or Nurse Executive – Advanced (NEA-BC) certification exams Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP) or Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) examination offered by the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE).

  • Old Dominion University

    Norfolk, VA

    Like many other business and nursing programs, DNP programs in nursing administration are well suited to online study, though tend to be more specialized than master’s programs. Old Dominion University’s online DNP for nurse executives—a career closely aligned with nursing administration—focuses not only on executive leadership, financial, and human resource management skills, but also how to work with vulnerable populations and conduct clinical organizational research. According to ODU, a school based in Norfolk, VA, graduates should possess the skills necessary to lead and develop interdisciplinary teams, conduct evidence-based research, address national policy issues, and improve patient health outcomes. They are also trained to be advocates of change in healthcare and healthcare technology. Please note that this program is not available to Washington residents.

  • Rush University

    Chicago, IL

    Rush University is a somewhat small Chicago-based university with a big reputation: U.S. News & World Report (2017) ranked it among the nation’s 10 best nursing schools for DNP and nursing administration programs, and among the the top 20 for MSN programs. Rush offers online nursing administration DNPs in two specializations: systems leadership and enhancing population health outcomes. Students enrolled in the systems leadership program learn how to effect health policy, develop new patient care models, and inspire and sustain organizational change, while students pursuing the online DNP for enhancing patient health outcomes study how to improve care among vulnerable populations, promote community health, and manage and evaluate strategic programs. Both online DNPs are fully-online, part-time programs requiring two-to-three years of study.

  • The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

    Charlotte, NC

    The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s online graduate certificate in nursing administration is a four-course, 12-credit program ideal for BSN-holders who want to improve their advancement potential without investing in a lengthier MSN or MBA program. According to UNC Charlotte, students develop the administrative and leadership skills they need to climb the ranks and improve their pay grades. This is a fully online, part-time program requiring no campus visits. Students typically complete their certificates within one year.

  • East Tennessee State University

    Johnson City, TN

    Unlike UNC Charlotte’s graduate certificate in nursing administration, which requires only a bachelor’s degree, East Tennessee State University’s online nursing administration certificate is designed specifically for MSN-holders. According to ETSU, a school based in Johnson City, students benefit from an individualized learning experience that reinforces strong leadership, financial management, complex systems, and organizational skills. Coursework includes a mix of synchronous and asynchronous classes.

Applying to an Online Nursing Administration Program

Applicants to online nursing administration schools typically need a bachelor’s in nursing with at least a 3.0 GPA, a current valid and unencumbered nursing license, work experience as a registered nurse (RN), transcripts, at least two recommendations, and an application that includes an essay or personal statement explaining why the student wants to become a nursing administrator.

Dual MSN/MBA programs may require standardized test scores, though they sometimes waive this requirement for students with a high GPA. Schools also look for evidence of leadership aptitude and high ethical standards in the application.

Some online nursing administration programs have a “bridge” component for students with an RN and work experience as a nurse, but without a BSN degree. This bridge program includes the content typically included in a BSN program.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the top paying states for medical and health services managers?

    In 2019, the states with the highest compensation for medical and health services managers were the District of Columbia, New York, Hawaii, California, and Massachusetts. In the District of Columbia, the average annual salary was $150,040, followed by New York at $147,000, Hawaii at $133,320, California at $133,040, and Massachusetts at $132,960, according to the BLS.

  • What is the difference between nursing management and administration of nursing?

    Nursing management responsibilities typically include oversight of a team of nurses and responsibility for that team’s performance. Nursing administration responsibilities include higher level decision making and broader responsibility for team or department planning, budgets, and collaboration with other hospital programs or services. Different credentialing organizations provide nursing administration and nursing management certification.

  • What are the qualities of a good nurse manager?

    A good nurse manager has absolute ethical integrity and prioritizes patient health and safety. They combine their knowledge of clinical care and issues with an understanding of business practices and administration to make the right decisions for patients, staff, and the organization. They cope well with pressure and rapidly changing situations. Effective nurse managers communicate effectively with staff at all levels of the organization.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Accreditation ensures that a program meets certain educational quality standards based on the knowledge and skills that graduates must possess to succeed in their profession. For nursing administration graduate school programs, the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is the primary accrediting body. CAHME accreditation applies to both on-campus and online nursing administration programs.

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