Have you ever wondered if you should get a Master of Science in Nursing Administration? To answer that, let’s explore what a nursing administrator does and why you might want to pursue a master’s degree in order to land a position.
A nursing administrator is in an executive position. A nurse manager, by contrast, is like a team leader for nurses. But a nursing administrator strategizes how to make the whole department run better, decides on new equipment to get, works with the budget, hires new personnel, decides what teams people will work best on . . . basically, this role works on the business itself, rather than directly working with the care of patients. He or she might even handle the whole hospital or network of hospitals!
The prospects for this job are excellent. As the Baby Boomer generation gets older, more and more healthcare in general is needed, including long-term and nursing care for the elderly. Healthcare professionals in general are in growing demand, including nurses, and there will be a greater and greater need for administrators to make high-level strategic decisions that determine how they work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that the category of healthcare administrators is going to grow by about 20% during the time period of 2016 to 2026.
Is a Bachelor’s Degree Enough?
It’s possible to get a job in nursing administration if you have a bachelor’s in healthcare administration. But this will become increasingly difficult as more people enter the field, increasing competition. It’s true that some facilities only require a bachelor’s, but many more require a master’s—and more will follow. So, while there is a possibility of getting lucky and finding a job that only requires a bachelor’s, your job prospects can only grow by earning a master’s, which will set you apart from your competition.
Plus, some nurse administrator roles are more complicated than others. Possibly, a simple one that oversees a small department will only require the knowledge that comes from a bachelor’s degree. But employers offering more complex roles will be more interested in hiring you with the master’s, because it proves you’ve been trained to understand healthcare as a business.
First, Become a Registered Nurse
How do you earn a Master of Science in Nursing Administration? First, many degree programs require you to be a registered nurse. Keep in mind, also, that once you receive your master’s and start prospecting for a job, you’ll find that most employers also require you to be a registered nurse. So, you need to be licensed. (And, really, would you want to be an administrator over other nurses without being registered yourself?)
This opens several paths to get your master’s. You can take the exams to become a registered nurse when you earn any one of these: a nursing diploma, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree. These usually take one, two, or four years to earn, respectively. Once you’re licensed, you can apply to master’s programs—even if you only took one year to get a nursing diploma!
Work to be Promoted
The other really interesting choice of paths here is to start working as a registered nurse first while getting your master’s.
If you start your career as a registered nurse right away, you can still work toward getting promoted to an administrative role. Work every day to distinguish yourself. Some employers want to promote from within in order to hold on to good people who have proven their talent and loyalty. They also want to attract new employees who might have heard that this firm tends to promote from within.
However, even in that situation, you’re more likely to get promoted if you take continuing education classes to learn about current advances in healthcare technologies, budgeting, information management, and so on. If you can prove that you would be capable of the job after taking several classes, you might be promoted.
Two Paths to a Master’s
Or you can get into a full program to earn your Masters of Science in Nursing Administration and work on it at your own pace while still working as a registered nurse. That will often give you the best chance of advancement, even if you finish your master’s degree and find that you need to apply to a different organization that is ready to hire someone with a master’s right away. Sometimes, your employer just doesn’t have the position open at the time that you want it.
The other track is to go straight from your bachelor’s program into a master’s program without working in between. This can work if you have the money or the loans and the time for it. However, If you have a financial need, such as raising a family, it can be fine to start working as a registered nurse and take master’s classes on the side.
In some ways, it can be to your advantage to start working as soon as possible. First, you’ll be sure that you want to work in this field. Many people leave college before they realize that they don’t actually like the work they studied for. Second, you’ll start earning money that will help to pay for further classes and start paying off any education debts. Third, you’ll see how things are run in a hospital and start getting ideas of how they could be better. Then, you can go into your master’s classes looking for very specific answers to the problems you’ve seen from working, rather than going into them with only abstract ideas about the job—or, worse, what you’ve seen on TV.
That’s not to say there’s something wrong with going straight from a bachelor’s program to a master’s program. Many people have done that and started great careers. These are just interesting options to consider. And your life situation may push you toward one or the other. If you’re already working right now, for example, getting a master’s on the side can give you the advantage of taking your career experience into your classes. And it’ll show your employer or potential employers that you’re serious about an executive role.
Don’t wait to start pursuing a Master’s in Healthcare Administration.