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What’s the payoff? Survey offers insight into nurse executives’ salaries, job satisfaction


The average nurse leader has six years of nursing leadership experience, works full-time in an acute-care facility, holds a master’s degree and executive or management title, and earns between $100,000 and $130,000 annually, according to survey findings released in September by the American Organization of Nurse Executives, a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association.

Other findings of the survey:
About two-thirds of respondents work for acute-care hospitals, 13% for an academic institution and 7% in the corporate office of a healthcare system.
Three-fourths of respondents hold a title of director (32%), manager (26%) or chief nursing officer/chief nursing executive (17%). Senior-level positions are more likely to include respondents who have been in nursing leadership for more than 10 years.

The majority of survey respondents earn between $80,000 and $160,000 per year, while 14% earn less and 18% earn more; 9% earn more than $200,000. System CNOs earn more on average than non-system CNOs. “The 10-year mark appears to be the tipping point in terms of higher salaries for nurse leaders,” according to the report, with only 27% of those with six to 10 years of leadership reporting a salary of $120,000 a year or higher. Meanwhile, 52% of those with 11 to 20 years and 64% of those with more than 20 years reported making $120,000 or more a year.

Job satisfaction was high among respondents, with 62% saying they are very satisfied and another 29% saying they are somewhat satisfied. Regarding why nurse executives choose to stay in their position, the top response (44%) was finding joy or meaning in their work.

Respondents were less likely to express high satisfaction regarding compensation (34%) and benefits (48%) than with their job overall.

The online survey was sent to the email accounts of 22,440 nurse executives, with 4,638 (21%) sending in a complete or partial set of responses. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2013, reporting data from 2012.

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