How to Become a Nursing Director: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


A nursing director is in charge of managing nursing staff inside hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and other healthcare facilities. They hire nurses and aides, oversee their work, and decide the policies and procedures for their facilities. They also manage nursing budgets. They have to be experts in management, able to run a department, and also experts in the work of the nurses they supervise. Unsurprisingly, nursing directors tend to be experienced professionals with advanced degrees.


Annual salaries for nursing directors will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. Statistics relating to nursing director salaries are difficult to come by. But in 2013, the average annual salary for registered nurses working in the U.S. was $68,910 per year, so nursing directors would be expected to make substantially more.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for nursing directors, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work as a Nursing Director

Most statistics don’t separate out nursing directors as a profession. However, California is number one in employment for registered nurses in general, with 250,230 currently working statewide, and earning an annual average salary of $90,860. Texas is second in the United States for employment of registered and nursing directors, where 184,890 earn an average salary of $67,580.

Employment and Salary Information for Nursing Directors

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as a nursing director. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Why Become A Nursing Director?

Nursing directors play a vital role in ensuring healthcare runs smoothly—a motivated and organized nursing staff is the backbone of good health care. Here are some other reasons to consider working toward being a nursing director:

  • Healthcare is growing. The number of registered nurse positions generally is expected to increase by 19% between 2012 and 2022—much more than the usual job. Someone’s going to have to supervise all those new nurses.
  • Train and mentor nurses. A good nursing director makes all the nurses under his or her supervision more effective. Once you reach this level, you’ll have a lot of experience to share.
  • Help a lot of people. You make a difference in the lives of many more people than you treat directly. You also help the patients treated by the nurses you train and mentor, plus the patients who benefit from more efficient treatment and care.

Nursing Director: What You Need To Know

Nursing directors are both nurses and leaders, and they need to have a strong knowledge of both skill sets, plus an advanced degree in most cases. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Knowledge of Nursing Practice
  • HR Skills
  • Management
  • Administrative Skills
  • Communication

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about nursing director careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Nursing Director Careers

Registered Nursing degree

Directors of nursing almost always begin their careers as registered nurses. That means obtaining a registered nursing degree from a college or university. The coursework covers topics such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology, chemistry, nutrition, and social and behavioral sciences.

Nursing administration degree

Many people who go on to become nursing directors have at least some education in nursing leadership and administration. Courses often have a practical or internship component allowing students to develop their skills.

Some universities offer degrees in nursing administration, which can be a great option for those seeking nursing management and director level positions. Many people who serve as nursing directors have degrees in nursing or nursing administration at the master’s level.

As nurses themselves, nursing directors need to be certified by their state in the same way as all other registered nurses.