Nurse Manager Positions: Baccalaureate Required or Preferred

What educational level does a person need to become a nurse manager? This depends on years of experience, geographic location, and work setting. In some places, it is still possible for an experienced ADN or diploma nurse to work his or her way up to managerial level. In hospitals that have magnet status – and in hospitals that are working on achieving magnet status – a bachelor’s degree is generally required. This isn’t just a matter of the individual institutions placing a high value on education. This is a requirement of the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) – magnet hospitals must have at least 80% of their nurse manager positions staffed by baccalaureate holders.

Nationally advertised positions – regardless of the facility – tend to list the BSN as either required or preferred. Sometimes an ad will note that an applicant must either have a BSN already or be actively pursuing one. Occasionally you’ll see an ad that notes that the candidate needs to either have a BSN or have a history of successful management experience. There’s still career mobility for nurses who have proven themselves as leaders for years and decades. A nurse who is relatively new to the field, though, has little chance of working as a manager without completing a baccalaureate.

This doesn’t mean that an ADN nurse has to sit on the sidelines, though. Some accomplished long term staffers are given reason to believe there will be a managerial level position waiting for them once they have that degree in hand. Another bright spot: Chances are that the money won’t be coming out of their pockets – at least not all of it. Magnet hospitals, and other premier institutions, typically have generous funding to help their staff develop the skills they need to meet increased workplace demands. Fortunately, nursing is one field where there is greater demand for workers with higher levels of education than those with lower ones. Some institutions have partnerships with particular nursing schools; this allows them to offer classes onsite. Many RN to BSN programs are offered online; since there are no new licensing requirements or mandated clinical hours at the BSN level, distance learning has become very much the norm.

Become a Nurse Manager

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Higher Level Management Positions: BSN Required, MSN Often Preferred

A master’s degree is an asset for some managerial positions. Some magnet hospitals prefer BSN candidates for floor positions (at least those that involve critically ill patients). In facilities where the baccalaureate is the norm, the master’s degree often becomes the preferred credential for leadership roles. It’s not a mandate, though; job ads will often include a long list of both required and preferred qualifications. The final decision is made at the discretion of the hiring committee. If there’s a baccalaureate educated employee who’s built a reputation on the ward,he/ she may get the promotion.

There are multiple levels of management, though, ranging from unit manager on up to director. Higher level manager positions may require that graduate degree.

Other Qualifications: Making Oneself Competitive

What else can a nurse do to make himself or herself competitive for nurse manager positions? Some employers ask for national certification as well as a degree. A nurse can’t be certified as a manager by the AONE until he/ she has some management experience. He/She can, however, be certified inhis/ her specialty area. There are specialty certifications available to any experienced nurse; they range from general nursing care to specialized functions like diabetes management, case management, or perinatal care. Each represents a level of expertise beyond that required for initial licensing. Certification is also an indicator of commitment.

Another factor is, of course, interpersonal qualities (like communication savvy and stress tolerance). Fortunately, these can be developed. BSN programs do include courses in leadership and professional communication; these can definitely help make a person leadership ready. Ambitious nurses can further hone their skills through continuing education, committee work, or participation in professional organizations.