How to Become a Nurse Administrator in Illinois

Nurse administrators are experienced nurses who complete additional training to enter leadership roles in healthcare systems. Most are registered nurses (RN) who have been working in nursing for at least a few years. To become a nurse administrator in Illinois, you must complete an advanced degree program in a related field, typically a master’s degree.

What is the Role of a Nurse Administrator?

A nurse administrator is a leader. They lead single or multiple teams of nurses and other staff members, such as nursing assistants. Duties vary depending on the position and employer, but in general, nurse administrators:

  • Recruit and hire nursing and support staff
  • Train and mentor staff under their supervision
  • Create schedules
  • Make sure their department and team comply with healthcare laws, regulations, and ethical standards
  • Create and adhere to budgets
  • Develop and implement new policies
  • Improve patient care
  • Organize and protect patient records
  • Communicate with other executives and managers in other departments

What is Required to Be a Nurse Administrator in Illinois?

There is no specific license or state law regarding nurse administrators, but employers generally look for nursing experience and relevant advanced degrees. To become a nurse administrator in Illinois, you first need to be a nurse.

This means finishing high school, enrolling in and completing a nursing program, and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). You can then get licensed through the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Once you have become a registered nurse, you should gain practical work experience. Most employers and many nurse leadership degree programs require that you have at least one year of working as a nurse under your belt. It’s important to know what it’s like to work in the field before you can successfully lead others.

While working, or during a break from nursing, work on a relevant master’s degree to prepare you for nurse administrator positions.

Illinois Nurse Administrator Programs

Several colleges in Illinois include graduate degree programs for nurses interested in leadership roles. Many schools offer online programs, giving working students more flexibility to earn their degrees, while some offer a hybrid of class types.

1. Bradley University, Peoria

Bradley University offers a Master of Science in Nursing degree in Nursing Administration that is conducted entirely online. The school offers two pathways to earning this degree:

  • BSN to MSN. If you have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, this program includes 30 or 31 credit hours of courses and 300 clinical hours. It takes about 1.7 years to complete.
  • RN to MSN. If you are a registered nurse but have an associate degree or diploma, this pathway includes bridge courses to get you caught up. The program includes 39 to 40 credit hours and 350 clinical hours and takes 2.3 years to finish.

The bridge courses in the RN to MSN program include research in nursing, professional nursing practice concepts, and community health nursing theory and practicum. Examples of program courses for each pathway include statistical procedures, nursing administration theory and practicum, health informatics, healthcare policy, and a capstone project.

Both pathways are designed to prepare graduates to navigate the complicated modern healthcare system, develop a better understanding of patient-centered care, understand health policy, and use evidence-based practices. Graduates also gain a better understanding of business topics, like finance, human resources and information technology in healthcare.

2. Lewis University, Romeoville

Lewis University offers future nurse leaders a unique degree option. Here, you can earn both a Master of Science in Nursing degree and a Master of Business Administration Degree. With this program, students learn advanced nursing practices and develop business and leadership skills.

This is an accelerated program that is designed specifically for working adults with busy schedules. The program is flexible and fast-paced. It includes 63 credit hours in total for both degrees. Some of the courses are applied biostatistics for advanced nursing practice, healthcare organizations systems and policy, healthcare informatics, healthcare finance and economics and financial management for nurse leaders.

Lewis also offers students several financial aid options to provide wider opportunities for all nurses. These include employer tuition assistance for nurses who work for partner healthcare organizations. You can also get a tuition discount through the Illinois Organization of Nurse Leadership and the school’s Frequent Flyer scholarship program.

3. Loyola University, Chicago

Loyola’s Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing offers a good degree option for nurses interested in leadership. The MSN program in Nursing and Healthcare Administration prepares nurses to lead in both clinical and administrative settings and to improve patient care delivery.

Instructors in the program are experienced nurse leaders and administrators with a wealth of knowledge to pass on. The program includes internship opportunities with the School of Nursing’s healthcare partners. The expected outcomes for graduates are:

  • To be able to lead health care teams effectively
  • To make important changes in healthcare systems
  • To think critically about nursing practice and organization
  • To develop and implement new care delivery models
  • To create a culture of justice, equity and care

Loyola’s MSN program includes 39 credit hours of courses, including six credit hours per semester of nursing and healthcare administration practicum. Each practicum credit hour is equivalent to 56 actual hours. Students take online classes and participate in immersion sessions on campus throughout the program. Financial aid is available for tuition assistance.

4. Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

SIUE includes several nursing degree programs. One of these is the Master of Science in Nursing Healthcare and Nursing Administration/Healthcare Informatics. This is a dual major program that prepares graduates to begin working in healthcare management. It is also appropriate for nurse managers looking to advance their careers into further executive positions.

The coursework for the program is entirely online, but students must complete clinical assignments. Out-of-state prospective students must find out if SIUE staff can place them in their location before applying to the program.

The 57 credit hours in the program include biostatistics and epidemiology, leadership and health policy, evaluating evidence for improving practice and healthcare outcomes, human resources in healthcare, database management systems, nurse executive leadership and more. The program takes three years plus one semester to complete.

5. St. John’s College of Nursing, Springfield

St. John’s MSN program in Nursing Administration and Leadership is an online degree. Students can choose to complete the program in two years on a full-time basis or in three years on a part-time schedule.

The coursework includes five core classes adding up to five credits. Following the successful completion of these, students can continue on to the specialized administration and leadership classes. If you are a member of the Illinois Organization of Nurse Leadership, you can qualify to get a 10% tuition discount at St. John’s.

Professional Certifications

For most employers, a graduate degree in nursing with an emphasis on leadership or business is enough to qualify you for a job as a nurse administrator. However, you might want to set yourself apart from other candidates and communicate your skill level by earning professional credentials.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center‘s Nurse Executive Certification is a good place to start. It is designed to certify the leadership skills of nurses managing just one group of employees. The organization also offers the Nurse Executive Advanced Certification, which is for administrators with more responsibilities, including multiple staff groups, policy development and budgeting and other high-level decisions.

The American Organization for Nursing Leadership is another recognized professional organization for nurse administrators. It offers a Certified in Executive Nursing Practice credential.

Salary Expectations and Job Outlook for Nurse Administrators

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts impressive job growth for medical and health services managers. The number of jobs is expected to grow 32% between 2020 and 2030, much faster than average job growth. Growth in Illinois is significantly slower but still positive at 6% between 2018 and 2028. This represents 1,310 new positions per year.

The BLS reports a median salary of $101,340 per year and $48.72 per hour for nurse and healthcare managers for the entire US. In Illinois, salaries are very similar. The median pay rates are $102,420 per year and $49.24 per hour. The top 10% of workers in these roles in Illinois make more than $200,000 annually.

Working as a Nurse Administrator in Illinois

With strong growth throughout the healthcare industry, finding work in Illinois should not be difficult. If you have the education, work experience, and advanced degree to prepare you, there are plenty of opportunities throughout the state. You’ll find the most jobs in and around larger cities, like Chicago, Aurora, Rockford, Joliet, Naperville, Springfield, Peoria and Elgin.

Look for positions wherever there are healthcare systems. Hospitals are the primary employers of nurse administrators. You can also find jobs in physician offices, nursing homes and other residential care facilities and outpatient care centers. Government hospitals, research facilities and universities also hire nurse administrators.

Working in this industry can be a rewarding way to become a leader in healthcare. Nurse administrators have a unique opportunity to improve patient care through direct leadership and decision-making.