How To Become a Nurse Administrator in Washington State

By Noah Miller

Many nurses who are registered to work in Washington decide to become nurse administrators to advance their careers. Unlike registered nurses (RN) who directly provide care to patients, nurse administrators manage and oversee teams of RNs. Nurse administrators are points of contact for internal hospital stakeholders, such as hospital board members, providers and policymakers, whereas RNs mostly consult only with patients.

Responsibilities of a Nurse Administrator

A nurse administrator’s responsibilities depend on the location at which they work and their healthcare facility’s needs. Generally, nurse administrators always function as points of contact for RNs, hospital administrators and patients. Nurse administrators are responsible for creating policies to which RNs must adhere and establishing goals for their department and strategies to meet those goals.

Nurse administrators also manage budgets, reports and schedules for their facility and implement staff-related and interdepartmental decisions. Nurse administrators must use leadership skills to balance the needs of internal stakeholders, doctors, RNs, and patients.

Steps To Take to Become a Nurse Administrator in Washington

To become a nurse administrator in Washington, you must finish a nursing degree program and obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. A BSN makes you eligible for most nursing jobs and is preferable to an associate degree if you want more job opportunities. Some nursing programs offer accelerated degree programs and allow you to turn an associate degree in nursing into a BSN.

After receiving a BSN, you need a license before you can begin working as a nurse in Washington. Nurses in Washington and the rest of the country must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). You may consider taking NCLEX-RN training programs or practice tests to increase your chances of passing the NCLEX-RN and becoming an RN.

Once you become an RN, you can apply for jobs to gain on-the-job training as a nurse. Most RNs who want to become nurse administrators gain experience working in doctor’s offices, hospitals and other medical facilities. On-the-job training as a nurse allows you to learn about the needs of other nurses, doctors, patients, and hospital administrators.

You may consider obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree after getting on-the-job training as a nurse. Many healthcare facilities expect nurse administrators to possess an MSN; you can enroll in online and in-person MSN programs to become eligible to work as a nurse administrator at healthcare facilities that expect you to have a graduate degree. You will become more desirable for nurse administrator positions in Washington if you receive an MSN.

Nurse administrators should possess management and leadership skills and be organized and meticulous. A combination of soft and hard skills and the proper training and degrees can make you more desirable as a nurse administrator candidate.

Nurse administrator job listings in Washington sometimes refer to nurse administrators as nurse managers or directors. You should feel free to apply to these job listings if you have prior experience as a nurse administrator.

Should You Go to Graduate School to Become a Nurse Administrator?

It is common for nurse administrators in Washington to hold an MSN or graduate-level degree. Although some nurse administrator positions in Washington only require that candidates have a BSN and complete the steps necessary to become an RN, many more require that candidates hold a graduate-level degree.

Most nurse administrator positions in Washington also require that candidates possess a minimum of two years of experience working as an RN. Many aspiring nurse administrators, therefore, must obtain an MSN or other graduate-level degree and accrue on-the-job training as a nurse before applying for nurse administrator positions. You may also consider pursuing a doctorate-level degree after obtaining an MSN to increase your desirability.

Washington Schools With Nursing Programs for Aspiring Nurse Administrators

The list below will introduce you to accredited schools in Washington that let you earn BSN and MSN degrees. Washington is home to some of the highest-paying nursing jobs in the country per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and more than 59,000 RNs operate in Washington as of 2022.

1. University of Washington

The University of Washington’s (UW) nursing program allows students to earn BSNs and MSNs as well as Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) degrees and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees. In addition to its graduate programs for aspiring nurses, UW is also known for its research offerings. Its in-state tuition of $26,595 is cheap compared to tuition costs of other accredited nursing schools in Washington. Out-of-state students pay $31,000 annually to attend the School of Nursing at the University of Washington.

Students who attend the School of Nursing at the University of Washington can enjoy financial support via scholarships and may obtain research grants for graduate-level projects. The school’s admission rate is 45%, its NCLEX-RN pass rate is over 94%, and it currently enrolls more than 46,000 students.

2. Gonzaga University

Gonzaga University offers programs to earn BSN, MSN, post-baccalaureate, and post-master DNP degrees. The university also offers an online RN to MSN program for RNs who want a baccalaureate degree. Students who attend Gonzaga University to pursue continued education in nursing pay a tuition of $57,350 annually and may practice nursing on-site regardless of their nursing program.

Gonzaga University uses a Jesuit approach across its BSN, MSN and DNP programs. The university describes this approach as “humanistic” to establish a sense of community among students and faculty. The current school admission rate is 67%.

3. Pacific Lutheran University

Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) is an ideal choice for students that want a traditional four-year continued education experience. PLU offers BSN, MSN and DNP programs; students can earn a BSN through a four-year format or LPN to BSN format and can earn MSN and DNP degrees through non-specialized programs. PLU is a desirable choice for nurses who will not gain a specialization or want a nursing certificate. The school’s current admission rate is 77%.

4. Washington State University

Washington State University (WSU), although based in Pullman, WA, does not offer nursing programs in the city. WSU instead allows nurses to study at satellite locations across Washington. Students can study at WSU College of Nursing locations to earn BSN degrees, MSN degrees in Population Health and DNP degrees. The WSU College of Nursing also offers three programs for graduate certificates in leadership, education and public health.

Students who attend the WSU College of Nursing pay in-state tuition of $25,936 annually and may choose from five locations across the state of Washington. The school’s current admission rate is 73%.

Reasons To Pursue a Master’s Degree in Nursing and Become a Nurse Administrator

Nurses who want to advance their careers and work toward a managerial role should consider becoming nurse administrators. Nurse administrators in Washington earn more money than RNs and enjoy more responsibilities, and their job is not as physically demanding as an RN. And while an RN may be satisfied with their role’s salary and responsibilities, they can still enjoy additional benefits that come with earning a BSN and MSN degree and becoming a nurse administrator.

On average, RNs with a BSN degree can earn as much as $30,000 more annually than RNs who only have two-year associate degrees. Nurses who obtain an MSN or graduate-level degree after earning a BSN can earn as much as $50,000 more annually than RNs who have BSN degrees. An MSN or graduate-level degree in nursing also makes you eligible to take jobs with more managerial responsibilities.

RNs who earn an MSN or graduate-level degree may apply for nurse administrator roles. Their graduate programs provide the skills necessary to assume leadership roles in a healthcare facility. These graduate programs teach RNs to abide by a healthcare facility’s policies, train fresh staff members, manage budgets and reports, and establish departmental and interdepartmental decisions.

What the Job Outlook Is Like for Nurse Administrators in Washington

Careers in the healthcare field, while arduous, are also rewarding. Nurse administrators with years of continued education and on-the-job training can enjoy work in an office setting that is less physically strenuous than the work RNs perform.

Once you obtain a BSN, MSN, or DNP, you can look forward to earning an average salary of $101,340 annually as a nurse administrator. Additionally, salaries for nurse administrators in Washington are among the highest in the country; most open positions for nurse administrator roles in Washington offer average salaries of around $106,067. Many healthcare facilities have a high demand for healthcare professionals in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Candidates qualified to work as nurse administrators have job options that pay well and offer attractive employee benefits.

Nurse administrators are respected in their field not just because of their extensive education and training but also their ability to impact healthcare systems and the communities in which they work. If becoming a nurse administrator sounds appealing to you, now is an ideal time to advance your career. You can look forward to earning a lucrative salary and making a fulfilling impact on the lives of patients, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.