Becoming a Nurse Administrator in Montana

Nurse Administrators hold one of the most important roles in healthcare. They oversee the daily management of hospitals, long-term care facilities, or other healthcare institutions and ensure that patients receive the highest standards of care while managing administrative and operational duties.

Becoming a nurse administrator requires both dedication and quite a bit of education. Most nurse administrators have experience working in the healthcare system as RNs or LVN/LPNs and have also pursued a graduate degree in nurse administration. Licensure for nurse administrators is a long and tedious process that requires proof of education, experience, moral character and exams.

Career Outlook for Nurse Administrators

Just like other healthcare roles, nurse administrator roles are in high demand across the United States and Montana. According to a survey published by Montana Nurses Association, 18% of nurses are leaving the field in the next five years. This means that fewer nurses will be pursuing an advanced degree in nurse administration, and there will be even more nurse administrator roles opening in the state.

This trend is also happening nationwide. As the need for healthcare workers grows, more jobs are opening in the field and leaving positions available for current registered nurses to take the next step in their career by moving into a managerial positions.

Due to the high levels of education and the need for management and leadership experience, nurse administration is a lucrative career prospect. The median salary for a Montana-based nurse administrator was $90,370 in 2020. There is a critical need for leadership in healthcare settings. This is one reason why nurse administrators are so desirable. Taking charge, anticipating needs and communicating across departments are essential for a successful nurse administrator.

However, nurse administration does require a higher education degree. Though the career path can be started as an RN, LPN, or even with just an Associate’s degree, almost all nurse administrator jobs will require a master’s degree in nursing with a preference for administration-specific programs.

Certification and Licensing Requirements for Nurse Administrators in Montana

In Montana, you must be certified by the Board of Nursing to become a board-certified nurse administrator. At a minimum, board-certified nurse administrators must have an active registered nurse (RN) license, a master’s degree in nursing, and clinical experience on the nurse executive level as a nursing home administrator or a healthcare administrator. After obtaining these elements, you can apply to the board to be certified as a nurse administrator. However, you first must get experience at the executive nursing level, which requires a nursing home administrator license or a position as a healthcare administrator.

To obtain licensure as a nursing home administrator, you must already have a variety of experience and education. Nursing home administrator applicants must pass two exams, show good moral standing and prove a combination of clinical experience and education by receiving at least 1,200 points on a tiered application. Documentation is required to confirm the legitimacy of the 1,200 points.

The first of the two required exams are conducted by the National Association of Boards of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators (NAB), and the second is the Montana Jurisprudence Examination. Applicants must pass both exams to be eligible for a Nursing Home Administrator license.

The tiered application considers a candidate’s experience, education level, the focus of educational theses or projects and professional training. Each of these elements is given different point values. Applicants must prove they have at least 1,200 points to obtain their license.

Healthcare administrators do not require a license in Montana. However, these positions do require a graduate degree, some clinical experience and a passion for working in healthcare administration. Though some healthcare administrators can pass into a position with a master’s degree in business (MBA) rather than nursing, an MBA will not help anyone interested in nursing administration in Montana. Working as a healthcare administrator requires the same education level as a nurse administrator but has a different focus.

Board certification is the only path to becoming a licensed nurse administrator in Montana and requires all applicants to have a higher education degree in nursing.

Nurse Administration Programs in Montana

None of the graduate schools in Montana offer a specific path to nursing administration. Only one university in the state offers a graduate nursing program though others offer a bachelor’s of nursing degree and other paths to becoming a registered nurse (RN).

Montana State University has the most awarded nursing program in the state. Located in Bozeman, Montana State University’s slogan is “Mountains and Minds,” and they embrace this holistic approach to education in all of their university programs, with many students spending their free time in the mountains.

The Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing focuses on creating leaders in Montana’s healthcare industry. This allows nurses to receive a higher education and an edge when applying to roles. Though this may limit applicants’ abilities to get board-certified, they could take on roles in general healthcare administration or nursing home administration. All graduates are qualified to take the Certified Nurse Leader exam and obtain their CNL license upon completion of the program.

Applicants to Montana State University’s MSN program are required to have the following:

  • An undergraduate GPA minimum of 3.00
  • A BSN degree from an accredited nursing program and required clinical study hours and supervised experience
  • Completion of required undergraduate health courses
  • Current licensure as a registered nurse. Montana licensure is required if the applicant received their undergraduate education and experience in Montana
  • Recommendation by Montana State University’s College of Nursing admissions committee
  • One year of clinical experience

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, and this program combines in-person clinical experience and remote lecture options.

Each graduate student will also complete a professional project that combines research and practice to relevant issues facing the healthcare system or patient care. Past examples include projects focused on patient-nurse interactions and medical error assessment protocols.

Tuition for out-of-state students at Montana State comes to about $39,988 per year. For Montana residents, tuition is $27,128 per year. These costs include approximations for textbooks and housing expenses.