What can I do with an MSN in Health Systems Leadership?

nurse leader
nurse leader

Are you ready to advance to a higher-level administrative role in nursing? You can take the first step by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in health care systems leadership. The degree will expand your leadership skills and health care knowledge, positioning you for a fulfilling career in nursing and health care administration.

This blog will help you explore the benefits of earning an MSN in health systems leadership. Continue reading to learn about your program options and job outlook after graduation. Plus, find out how to start your journey in the University of Indianapolis's online MSN in Nursing and Health Systems Leadership program.

Why advance your career in health systems leadership?

Building your career in health care leadership will empower you to contribute to the greater good.

In a landmark 2011 report, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called on the nursing profession to prepare more nurses for health care leadership. The Future of Nursing argued that nurses have distinct perspectives and knowledge fundamental to health care transformation.

As a practicing nurse, you know how effective leadership influences patients’ well-being and nurses’ job satisfaction. Evidence shows that collaborative health care leadership—particularly the development of the nurse’s role—benefits patients and nurses alike. Patients experience better health outcomes and shorter hospital stays, while nurses have improved retention and teamwork.

Earning an MSN in health systems leadership will help you develop the competencies needed to lead and innovate at every level of nursing. You can directly impact health care transformation through advanced practice nursing, evidence-based practice, and organizational leadership and policy.

What to expect from a health systems leadership MSN program

With an MSN in health systems leadership, you’ll be ready to take on the challenges of management positions with the expertise to be a respected, effective leader.

Let’s explore how nursing and health care leadership programs equip candidates and what to expect when it comes to cost, admission requirements, and more.


Effective health care leadership is an art and a science. An MSN in health systems leadership brings both together, preparing candidates with advanced nursing and health care knowledge, business prowess, and organizational leadership.

While the curriculum varies by program, you can expect to gain competence in the following areas:

Communication Health Care Business Organizational Leadership


Conflict resolution


Interprofessional relationships

Relationship management

Clinical practice

Evidence-based decision-making

Patient care delivery models

Outcome measurement and research

Performance improvement

Risk management

Financial management

Human resources management

Strategic management

Information management and technology

Systems thinking

Succession planning

Change management


Professional development


Health care economics, policy, and governance


You can complete an MSN in health systems leadership in approximately two to three years on a full- or part-time basis. Programs range from 30 to 40 credits with at least 200 practicum hours. 


The curriculum is delivered through coursework, practicum experiences, and, usually, a scholarly project. 

In a traditional program, you will attend courses on campus. Choosing an online program will allow you to complete classes online with practicum experiences in your local community. Some online programs also have on-campus residencies where you can connect in person with your peers and professors.


The cost of earning an MSN in health systems leadership varies. Typical programs range from $350 to $750 per credit, and some exceed $1,200 per credit.

As you research your options, consider your budget and the program quality, outcomes, and support services. 

How well does the program prepare graduates to pass their certification exams or secure employment? Does it offer placement assistance for practicum experiences? How much guidance do faculty and staff provide students?

The answers to these questions will help you determine the real value of a program.

Admission Requirements

The admission requirements for MSN health systems leadership programs depend on the college or university.

Almost every program requires candidates to have a BSN and a current, unencumbered nursing license. Some have prerequisite courses, such as research, statistics, or physical assessment.

For the application, you’ll likely need to submit official transcripts, recommendation letters, a goal statement, and a resume. An interview may also be part of the admission process.

what can I do with an MSN in health system leadership

What can I do with an MSN in health systems leadership?

Graduates of health systems leadership programs have diverse employment opportunities. They serve at every level of nursing and health care and in a variety of work settings.

Roles & Responsibilities

With an MSN in health systems leadership, you’ll be prepared for various roles in health care administration. Generally, health care administrators plan, direct, and coordinate nursing and health care services. They can manage a specific team, clinical area, department, or an entire health care facility.

Depending on the role, the duties may include:

  • Developing goals and objectives
  • Recruiting, training, and supervising staff
  • Managing budgets and spending
  • Monitoring resources
  • Developing and implementing practices, procedures, and technology

Many graduates of nursing and health systems leadership programs pursue nurse leader roles. Here are some of the most common:

  • Nurse Manager/Supervisor: Manages a single group of nursing staff, focusing on the day-to-day operations, staffing, and professional development.
  • Director/Assistant Director of Nursing: Manages the entire nursing staff and collaborates with other health care leaders to deliver safe, quality care.
  • Chief Nursing Officer/Vice President of Nursing: Engages in executive nursing practice—through strategy, finance, and resource management—with the ultimate accountability for high-quality and cost-effective patient care.

Work Settings

Health care leaders work in every health care setting—and beyond. Earning an MSN in health systems leadership will prepare you for roles in inpatient and outpatient settings across the private and government sectors.

Here are the largest employers of health care administrators, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • Hospitals: 33%
  • Physician Offices: 12%
  • Nursing and Residential Care Facilities: 10%
  • Government: 9%
  • Outpatient Care Centers: 7%

What certifications are available for nurses in health systems leadership?

Certification is not required for nursing and health care leaders, but it can offer a competitive edge in employment. Many employers prefer hiring candidates with health care leadership certification because it demonstrates dedication and expertise.

Here are just a few certifications you may be prepared to obtain by earning an MSN in health systems leadership:

What is the job outlook in nursing and health systems leadership?

When you graduate with an MSN in health systems leadership, you’ll find that job opportunities are plentiful. As a nurse with a graduate degree, you will have a competitive edge and high earning potential.


The demand is high for nursing and health care leaders. With a growing need for health care services, the U.S. needs managers to organize and direct information and staff.

According to the BLS, that’s why health care administrator is among the top 25 fastest-growing occupations in the country.

The BLS projects that the employment of health care administrators will grow by 32% between 2020 and 2030, a pace four times faster than the average growth rate for all jobs.


Health care administrator salaries can top six figures, depending on the role and job location. Data from the BLS show that half of the health care administrators earn over $104,280.

In a 2019 American Organization for Nursing Leadership survey, the three most common job titles among its respondents were:

  • Director (35%)
  • Manager (21%)
  • Chief Nursing Officer/Chief Nursing Executive (18%)

Overall annual salary ranges within this group further demonstrate that nursing leaders have a high earning potential:

  • 57% earn between $90,0000 and $169,999
  • 33% earn $170,000 or more
  • 10% earn less than $90,000

Prepare to Make a Meaningful Impact in Nursing and Health care

The insight and experience that you possess as a nurse are vital within and outside of health care organizations. Earning an MSN in health care systems leadership will help you leverage your nursing practice to make an impact in our rapidly changing health care system.

You could be prepared to take on health care leadership roles in as little as three years by earning an online MSN in Nursing and Health Systems Leadership from the University of Indianapolis (UIndy).

UIndy students benefit from a top-tier education, a culture of service and inclusion, and comprehensive student support.

As a student in the online MSN in Nursing and Health Systems Leadership program, you will:

  • Complete your graduate nursing education in a nationally ranked program with 100% online coursework, competitively priced tuition, and state and national recognition for quality outcomes.
  • Develop as a competent, caring, and compassionate health care leader through service-oriented experiences woven throughout the inclusive program.
  • Get personal help and guidance from your student success advisor and caring, accessible faculty.


Learn more about the University of Indianapolis’s online MSN in Nursing and Health Systems Leadership program