RN Management Careers for Master’s Degree Graduates: Program Administrator

Experienced RNs with a graduate degree in nursing have many career options, especially in the areas of management and administration. For example, a program administrator position is one that provides a lot of room for career growth. Because this career path requires extensive knowledge of healthcare operations, programs and services, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with a specialization in Nursing Administration is a great way to prepare for this role.

What Does a Program Administrator Do?

Program administrators generally oversee a specific program, such as home care or rehabilitation, and manage and coordinate the activities of nursing, clerical and other staff involved in the program. Companies that hire nursing program administrators include hospitals, insurance companies, travel nurse companies, dialysis agencies and nursing homes. In addition to providing leadership and mentoring, program administrators may implement organizational policies and procedures as well as evaluate the quality of nursing care services offered. They may also be required to:

  • Create and implement new healthcare programs
  • Serve as resource for matters pertaining to nursing
  • Develop and update nursing standards and procedures to achieve regulatory compliance and improve patient care
  • Budget and plan for the hiring and retention of nursing staff
  • Evaluate nursing staff performance and make recommendations for improvement
  • Facilitate training and educational programs for staff and patients

Skills, Knowledge and Abilities Needed for This Position

Many program administrators begin their careers as RNs and have previous clinical experience, along with the proven ability to manage others. Individuals in this role need to understand and stay current on healthcare best practices and new medical developments in order to provide better service. Collaboration and interpersonal skills allow program administrators to work with others toward achieving the organization’s objectives. They also need strong planning and organizational abilities. Other qualifications include:

  • Solid written and verbal communication skills
  • Knowledge of state and federal healthcare regulations and standards
  • Financial planning and budgeting capabilities
  • Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Proficiency in training others
  • Ability to multi-task and attention to detail
  • Comfortable working independently with little supervision
  • Talent for task delegation and resource allocation
  • Ability to collaborate with different departments and units
  • Flexibility and adaptability in meeting patient and staff needs

How to Prepare for a Program Administrator Career

RNs with advanced education, training and previous clinical nursing experience are often able to move into administrative and managerial positions, such as a program administrator. Employers usually give preference to RNs who hold or who are pursuing an MSN degree. An MSN in Nursing Administration degree can provide the knowledge and skills needed to prepare for a career as a program administrator.

What Can You Expect to Earn as a Program Administrator?

Program administrator salaries can vary depending on the facility and type of program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for all medical and health services managers was $81,850 as of May 2009. The middle 50% of professionals in this field earned between $63,700 and $105,980. National salary data compiled by indicated that home care program directors earned a median yearly income of $88,799 as of November 2009, with the middle 50% earning between $79,673 and $101,411.

Job Outlook

The BLS reports that the job outlook for all medical and health services managers – including program administrators – is expected to be good. BLS estimates suggest that there will be 16% employment growth in this field, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Individuals who hold an MSN in Nursing Administration will have excellent job opportunities, and are considered ideal candidates for such high-level positions as program administrator.

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