How to Become a Nurse Administrator in California

Becoming a nurse administrator in California is a great way to make a difference in the nursing field. Nurse administrators play a vital role in managing and directing the activities of nurses and other medical staff. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and schools.

The Job of a Nurse Administrator

The primary task of a nurse administrator is to oversee the day-to-day operations of the nursing staff and ensure that patient care is of the highest quality. Nurse administrators ensure that patients receive the best possible care. They are responsible for making sure all nurses are adequately trained and equipped to handle their duties. In addition, nurse administrators may also be responsible for developing policies, managing budgets and providing direct patient care.

The position of nurse administrator offers the opportunity to use your leadership skills to improve patient care and make a positive impact on the lives of those you serve. Nurse administrators typically work in hospitals, but many also work in other healthcare settings such as clinics, long-term care facilities or home health agencies. They typically report to the head of the nursing staff or the facility’s administrator in which they work.

The Process to Become a Nurse Administrator in California

The first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree, typically a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Some employers may also require that you have a master’s degree or higher. All employers will ask for extensive experience working in a nursing role.

Many schools throughout the state offer programs for your BSN. According to the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN), over 40 colleges and universities offer baccalaureate degree programs in the field of registered nursing (most of which offer associate degree and master’s degree programs as well).

Tuition will vary by school, type of degree, program length and whether the program is conducted online or in-person. Prospective students attending a public college can expect to pay about $30,000 to $40,000 in overall tuition; private schools will cost significantly more, between $56,000 and $190,000.

Highest-Rated University Nursing Programs in California

  1. University of California, Los Angeles

    UCLA’s School of Nursing offers five different nursing degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. With a focus on evidence-based practice, the faculty at UCLA strives to provide students with the latest information and techniques to provide the best possible care for their patients. UCLA also offers a unique RN-to-BSN program for registered nurses who want to earn their bachelor’s degree.

  2. University of California, Irvine

    The Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing is one of the top nursing schools in California. Located in Irvine, the school offers a variety of degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. The faculty are experts in their field, passionate about helping their students succeed and committed to providing high-quality education.

  3. California State University, Fullerton

    Cal State Fullerton’s School of Nursing is one of the most highly respected nursing schools in the country. The school offers an excellent curriculum that prepares students to become registered nurses, including an Accelerated RN Program and an RN-to-BSN Pathway. The faculty is experienced and knowledgeable, and the facilities are state-of-the-art.

  4. California State University, Long Beach

    The nursing program at CSULB has been accredited by the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN CNEA) since 1969. The school offers a variety of degree programs, including a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a master’s degree in nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

  5. San Diego State University

    SDSU’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). All BSN students are required to participate in an international experience that exposes them to cross-cultural issues and health challenges experienced by local populations in a range of global environments.

These are five of the top-rated nursing programs in California, but this list is by no means comprehensive. There are a lot of great nursing schools all over California. Keeping in mind factors like cost, location and future career intentions, you should be able to do a bit of research and find a program that is right for you.

Taking the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses

Next, you will need to obtain a California RN license. The BRN recommends that students apply for their initial RN license six to eight weeks before graduation. To do this, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NCLEX-RN is a standardized exam that all nursing candidates must pass in order to be licensed as an RN.

To register for the exam, you must first submit an application to the nursing regulatory body in the state or jurisdiction in which you wish to be licensed; in California, this is the BSN. Once your application has been approved, you will be granted permission to register for the NCLEX-RN with Pearson VUE, the company that administers the exam.

After You’ve Passed the NCLEX-RN

Now that you have your RN license, you can apply for a nurse administrator position in California. However, the education and experience requirements will likely vary from employer to employer.

You will have gained some experience during your education, but after you have obtained your BSN, you will really need to start working. You will develop the skills and knowledge necessary to be a competent RN and eventually an effective leader during this time.

Note: California RNs must renew their RN license every two years. The requirement includes 30 continuing education credits (the BRN waives this requirement for active-duty military RNs). Also, your first California RN license will be considered valid for two birthdays, not two years. It will expire on the last day of the month following your birthday; from that date on, it will expire every two years.

Continuing Your Nursing Education

Some employers require their nurse administrators to hold a graduate degree. The three master’s degrees most desirable to prospective employers are a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a Master in Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA). There are many colleges and universities in California that offer these programs both online and in person.

If this feels like the right path for you, the first step is to decide which degree you want to pursue. If you know you want to be a nurse administrator, an MSN with a focus on nursing administration is probably the best route. However, if you’re unsure or want to keep your options open, an MBA or MHA might be better. All of these degrees will give you the skills you need to be a successful nurse administrator, so it comes down to what you’re interested in and what you feel would benefit you the most.

Salary and Job Outlook for Nurse Administrators in California

Nurse administrators in California earn a median salary of $103,000 per year (with a range, as of 2022, of roughly $98,000 to $120,000). However, salary can vary widely depending on the city you work in, your level of education, the certifications you hold and your years of experience.

Job growth in this field is expected to be above average in the coming years, with a projected increase of 16 percent between 2019 and 2029. This growth is due largely to the continued increase in the average lifespan of Americans, coupled with the increasing prevalence of chronic health conditions.

Resources for California Nurses Who Want to Become Administrators

If you are a nurse in California looking to become a nurse administrator, you will find that there are many resources available to help you achieve your goal. The California Nurses Association (CNA) offers a variety of programs and resources to its members, including the Nurse Administrator Certificate Program. This program is designed to help nurses develop the skills and knowledge necessary to assume leadership roles in nursing.

The CNA also offers a Nurse Administrator Fellowship Program, which provides nurses with the opportunity to shadow nurse administrators at hospitals and other healthcare organizations. This program is designed to give nurses first-hand experience in the day-to-day operations within a nursing administration.

In addition to the programs offered by the CNA, there are also many resources available online. The American Nurses Association (ANA) offers a Nurse Executive Leadership Program, which is an online program that helps nurses develop the skills and knowledge necessary to become successful nurse administrators.

There are also many books and articles available on the topic of becoming a nurse administrator. A quick search on or Google Scholar should provide you with plenty of resources as well. You’ll get an idea of the daily tasks and issues you may face, and you can even connect with people already working in this role to ask them more about the position and what it entails. With a little bit of research, you should be able to find the program or resource that best suits your needs.