Hi, and welcome to this exciting article on how to become a Director of Nursing.

Our article will outline a Nursing Director’s educational and certification requirements plus the step-by-step process of becoming a Nursing Director.

After reading this article, you will be clear on the process of becoming a Nursing Director.

We will cover the following main areas:

  • Educational requirements
  • Certification requirements
  • Step by step process of becoming a Nursing Director

Let’s dive right in.


Introduction to Director of Nursing

Do you have excellent leadership skills and a passion for Nursing Administration?

If you do, then consider becoming a Director of Nursing (DON).

This healthcare administrative position allows you to positively impact Nursing policies, ensure patients receive high-quality Nursing Care, and help healthcare systems run smoothly.

As a Director of Nursing services, you will be responsible for managing the Nursing staff and directing the day-to-day Nursing operations within a healthcare setting.

Here is a typical Director of Nursing job description:

  • Preparing and maintaining the Nursing departments budgets
  • Maintaining high standards of care
  • Training and inducting new Nursing staff
  • Managing Nursing inventories
  • Resolving personnel issues
  • Meeting the short and long-term goals of healthcare facilities

Now that you understand the duties and responsibilities of the Nursing Health Service Manager, the next critical question is how to become one.

Keep reading to understand how to become a Director of Nursing.

How to Become a Director of Nursing

how to become the director of nursing

Before bagging a Director of Nursing job, there are some minimum Director of Nursing requirements that you must satisfy.

This section will analyze what you need to fulfill before becoming a Nursing Director.

Education Requirements

The Director of Nursing position is a Nursing leadership role that requires you to possess vital Nursing training.

As a Nursing Director, you will often be required to offer technical advice and strong leadership in times of health crisis, thus requiring a strong Nursing background.

Introduction to Director of Nursing

These are the educational requirements for Directors of Nursing.

Undergraduate Nursing Degree

The minimum educational requirement to become a Nursing Director is to earn a Nursing degree.

The three main Bachelor’s degrees available for you include;

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

The BSN is a four-year Nursing Program that introduces you to the fundamentals of Nursing and allows you to offer high-quality Patient Care.

The BSN Nursing degree will cover a range of topics, including;

  • Patient care technology
  • Health promotion
  • Safety and quality
  • Nursing research

Completing the BSN Program accords you the opportunity to sit the NCLEX RN licensure and become a Registered Nurse(RN).

Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

Though not as popular as the BSN, the ADN is a viable undergraduate Nursing degree option for achieving the RN Designation.

The two-year ADN Program will introduce you to the core Nursing principle and will cover the following areas;

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Foundations of Nursing
  • Chemistry
  • Behavioral Health

Please note that you can opt for either the BSN or ADN as they both present the opportunity to sit for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam and earn the RN Designation.

Masters Degree

Earning a Masters or any other post-graduate degree is optional but is highly recommended.

With a Master’s degree, you will be more valuable in the market compared to a DON with only a Bachelor’s degree.

There are several Master’s Degree Programs that you can undertake to grow your professional DON portfolio.

Consider enrolling in any of these Master’s Degree Programs:

  • Master in Business Administration (MBA)
  • Masters of Health Administration (MHA)
  • Masters of Science in Nursing in Nursing Leadership and Administration

The scope and depth of the Master’s Program impart you with specialized training and skills that make you a better Nursing Director in general.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Enrolling in a Doctoral Program is optional but highly recommended.

Considering that the competition in the Nursing Administration field is stiff, earning this Advanced Nursing Program will enable you to compete in the job market favorably.

Additionally, the DNP will designate you as a highly trained Healthcare Professional capable of effectively managing a Nursing unit.

Consider enrolling for a DNP in Nursing Management or Healthcare Administration.

Certification Requirements

As a Nurse Executive, you’ll need to satisfy several certification requirements.

The most basic certification for a Director of Nursing is the RN Certification.

You can successfully earn the RN Certification by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) from the National Council of States Board of Nursing (NCSBN).

How to become a Director of Nursing.

Other Director of Nursing Certifications include;

  • Nurse Executive Certification

The Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC) is a competency-based certification from the American National Certification Commission (ANCC).

After meeting the eligibility requirements for the NE-BC Certification, you will take a competency-based exam that validates your skills and training.

The five-year NE-BC Certification demonstrates your expertise and proves your technical understanding of Nursing Administration.

  • Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) Certification

The CNML Certification from the American Organization for Nurse Leadership (AONL) is a Nursing Manager Certification that validates your DON skills and training.

To earn the CNML Certification, you will be required to sit a 115-question exam to test your understanding of the following core topics.

  • Financial Management
  • Human Resource Management
  • Performance Improvement
  • Strategic Management and Technology

Earning the CNML Certification improves your service delivery and bargaining power when interviewing for Nursing Director jobs.

  • Director of Nursing Services Certification

The Director of Nursing Services Certification (DNS-CT) is DON Certification from the American Association of Post Acute-Care Nursing (AAPCN).

The minimum DNS-CT Certification requirements include two years of Nursing experience and a valid RN license.

You will also need to pass a DNS-CT Certification exam with an 80% or higher passing score.

The DNS-CT coursework will cover the following areas:

  • Leadership & Management for Nurse Leaders
  • Risk Management for Nurse Leaders
  • Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement
  • Human Resource Management for Nurse Leaders
  • Care Management and Surveillance System

Step by Step Process of Becoming a Director of Nursing

how to become the director of nursing

Becoming a Nursing Director is a journey that has several stages.

Here is a comprehensive blow-by-blow process of becoming a Nursing Director.

1. Enroll in a Nursing Program

The first step toward being a Director of Nursing is to enroll in a Nursing program.

You can either join a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or an Associate Degree in Nursing.

Enrolling in Nursing school allows you to grow your Technical Nursing Education and lays a strong foundation for life as a DON.

2. Earn the RN Designation

The second critical step in your DON Career is to earn the Registered Nurse Designation.

Earning the RN Designation is a critical Director of Nursing qualification that all aspiring DONs must satisfy.

To earn the RN Designation, you need to sit and pass the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.

The NCLEX-RN licensure exam validates and confirms your Nursing skills and training.

3. Gain Nursing Experience

Experience is a critical component of any Nursing Career.

Nursing experience is especially vital for ADN students whose training isn’t as comprehensive as BSN candidates.

Gaining first-hand Nursing experience will help you avoid common Nursing mistakes and allow you to dispense high-quality Patient Care.

Obtaining sufficient Nursing experience will make you a better Director of Nursing in the long run.

4. Enroll in a Master’s Program

Earning a Master’s degree is a smart Director of Nursing Career move.

Earning a Master’s degree exposes you to more specialized Nursing training, which goes a long way in making you a better Director of Nursing.

Consider enrolling in a Master’s Program in Nursing Administration, Business Administration, or Leadership.

5. Earn a Director of Nursing Certification

Consider enrolling in the numerous Director of Nursing Certifications Programs available for you.

Earning DON Certification is crucial in validating and confirming your Nursing skills and training.

The DON credentials from certification bodies grow your professional portfolio, which improves your bargaining power when searching for a DON job.

Step by step process of becoming a Director of Nursing.

You can earn different DON Certifications, including the Nurse Executive Certification, Director of Nursing Services Certification, and Certified Nurse Manager and Leader Certification.

Consider only credentialing from respectable certification authorities like the AONL, AAPCN, and ANCC.

6. Earn a Postgraduate Degree

Enrolling in a Postgraduate Degree Program in Nursing Management or Administration is advisable if you plan on earning a high Director of Nursing Salary.

The specialized nature of the Doctor of Nursing Program (DNP) or a Ph.D. Program offers you greater bargaining power compared to other degrees.

Additionally, with a DNP or Ph.D., you’ll be able to perform better as a Nursing Director.

After meeting these DON requirements, you can now offer your services to different healthcare organizations.

Maintaining DON Licensure

Licensure and Certification

The Director of Nursing licenses usually has different license maintenance requirements.

Let’s review how to maintain your Director of Nursing Certification.

1. RN License Renewal

The basic license that all Nursing Directors require is an RN license issued by the NCSBN after a candidate sits the NCLEX RN certification exam.

The RN license is valid for a different number of years, usually two, depending on your State’s Board of Nursing requirements.

These are the general requirements for renewing your RN license:

  • Meet the required contact hours for continuing education courses
  • Satisfy the required number of active practice hours
  • Complete a board-approved refresher course

Check with your state Board of Nursing to confirm the specific requirements for your RN license recertification.

2. DNS-CT Renewal

The Director of Nursing Services Certification is valid for two years.

To recertify the DNS-CT, you’ll need to satisfy the following requirements:

  • Hold a valid RN license
  • Hold a valid DNS-CT certification
  • Pay the renewal application fee and attach the renewal application
  • Undertake at least 50 hours of continuing education or undertake an approved professional activity
  • 25 hours must cover DNS-CT domains
  • 25 hours must cover any approved healthcare-related continuing education course

3. Nurse Executive Certification Renewal

The Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC) is valid for five years.

These are the NE-BC renewal requirements:

  • Hold a current and valid RN license
  • Hold a current board certificate from ANCC
  • Complete 75 contact hours of continuing education course with 25 hours in Pharmacology
  • Pay renewal fees
  • Complete at least one of the eight renewal certification categories

4. Certified Nurse Manager and Leader Certification (CNML) Renewal

The CNML Certificate is valid for three years.

There are two main methods of recertification, which include;

  • Undertaking 45 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities three years before the certificate expiry
  • Successfully sit for the CNML examination within one year before the certificate expiry

How To Be an Effective Director of Nursing

The skills and qualities of an effective Director of Nursing

Apart from possessing the requisite educational and certification requirements, here are a few tips for the Director of Nursing.

Study in an Accredited Training Institution

As part of your journey to becoming a Director of Nursing, you’ll be required to acquire the relevant Nursing Education.

To improve your effectiveness and boost your chances of securing an excellent DON job, consider enrolling in an accredited Director of Nursing course.

Studying in an accredited institution guarantees that you’ll receive professional training and cover the requisite coursework.

Grow Your Skillset

As a Director of Nursing, you should possess excellent organizational, interpersonal, problem-solving, and communication skills.

How to be an effective Director of Nursing

To become more effective, consider growing both your hard and soft skills.

Consider enrolling in Communication, Leadership, Nursing Technology, and Human Psychology courses.

Growing your skillset will ultimately make you a more effective Director of Nursing.

Grow Your Education

The world of healthcare is rapidly changing, and with it, healthcare professionals.

To be more professional, consider improving your Nursing and Administration Education.

If you have a BSN degree, consider upgrading to a Master’s degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

Advanced education will make you more effective and improve your competitiveness and bargaining power in the job market.

Gain Nursing Experience in a Busy Healthcare Organization

Experience is a vital factor for every successful Nursing Director.

Consider working in a dynamic and professional healthcare organization to grow your Nursing experience.

Working in a busy Nursing environment will help grow your knowledge base and make you more confident in your skills and abilities.

Additionally, a busy healthcare setting will allow you to network and grow your professional network.

Earn Professional Certifications

Professional certifications validate and confirm your DON skills and training.

Consider earning different Director of Nursing Certifications to demonstrate your proficiency in the DON field.

Opt for International Nursing Director Certifications as they carry more weight.

Satisfy Recertification Requirements

To maintain the validity of your DON license, ensure that you regularly and promptly satisfy licensure recertification requirements.

Standard licensure recertification requirements include;

  • Meeting requisite continuing education contact hours
  • Participating in accredited professional activities
  • Sitting for a recertification examination
  • Participating in regulatory courses

Get a Mentor

Attaching yourself to a more experienced and successful Director of Nursing is an excellent way of learning the ropes.

Attaching yourself to a more experienced and successful Director of Nursing is an excellent way of learning the ropes.

A mentor will help you;

  • Avoid common DON mistakes
  • Grow your professional network
  • Navigate through workplace politics
  • Learn essential DON skills such as leadership and communication
  • Be more effective
  • Grow your professional career


conclusion on how to become a director of nursing

If you’re considering becoming a Director of Nursing, this is the right time as the Director of Nursing job outlook is favorable.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for Healthcare Administrators will grow by 32% between 2020 and 2030.

The increased demand for Nursing Directors is due to more stringent public health policies, the increasing demand for Nursing services, and an aging DON population.

The best part about the Director of Nursing Career path is that it accommodates a diverse range of Nursing professionals.

So whether you’re a Nurse Practitioner, Registered Nurse, or Licensed Practical Nurse with a desire for leadership, the DON profession is perfect for you.

We hope that this comprehensive guide has answered all your questions about becoming a Director of Nursing.

Please continue reading for in-depth answers to our readers frequently asked questions.


FAQS on director of nursing salary

How long does it take to be a Director of Nursing?

It may take you between 18 to 23 years from preschool to become a fully certified Director of Nursing. The period of study may increase /decrease depending on the number of degrees you get, your study mode (part-time or full-time), and the type of degree programs (in person or online).

Can an LPN be a Director of Nursing?

LPNs often assume the Director of Nursing role in long-term care health facilities and Nursing homes. LPNs in these facilities don’t require the high education and experience levels needed for a hospital DON. So long as the LPN boasts sufficient Nursing experience and minimum education requirements, they’re good to go.

How to become a Certified Director of Nursing

– Enroll for a Nursing degree (BSN or ADN)
– Sit for the NCLEX RN and earn the RN Designation
– Gain Nursing experience
– Enroll for a Master’s degree
– Earn Director of Nursing Certification
– Enroll in a DNP or Ph.D. program (optional)

Is it hard to be a Director of Nursing?

Becoming a Director of Nursing is an often long and challenging journey that requires sacrifice, commitment, and dedication. Additionally, the Director of Nursing training programs requires undivided attention and focus on completing the program. Although the journey towards being a DON is challenging, the rewards outweigh the sacrifices you make.

What’s an Assistant Director of Nursing Salary?

These are the average salary for an Assistant Director of Nursing.
– Ziprecruiter  – $70435 p.a
– Salary.com  – $150933 p.a
– Glassdoor.com – $80511 p.a
– Payscale.com – $74042 p.a
– Zippia.com  – $83599 p.a
– Comparably.com – $74415 p.a

What is DON in Nursing?

The Director of Nursing (DON) is a highly qualified Healthcare Professional in charge of a Nursing department. Here is a typical DON job description;
– Maintaining high-quality care for patients
– Maintaining Nursing department budgets
– Formulating Nursing policies
– Training and inducting new Nursing staff
– Develop and track Nursing department goals

What are the qualifications of a Director of Nursing?

Director of Nursing education qualifications:
– Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree
– Postgraduate degree (MSN, MHA, MBA)
Director of Nursing Certification qualifications:
– Certification in Nurse Management and Leadership (CNML)
– Director of Nursing Services Certification (DNS-CT)
– Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC)

What is the Nursing Director’s salary?

Check out the average salary for a Director of Nursing according to different salary sources.
– Salary.com – $156569 p.a
– Indeed.com – $102537 p.a
– Glassdoor – $91412 p.a
– Payscale.com – $93620 p.a
– Salaryexplorer.com – $86400 p.a
– Ziprecruiter – $88078 p.a
– Comparably.com – $93642 p.a

What affects the Director of Nursing’s salary?

Here are the main factors that affect a Director of Nursing’s salary.
– Years of experience
– Level of education
– Skill level
– Location
– Type of healthcare facility
– State and federal labor regulations
– Cost of living
– Employment type (full-time or part-time)








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