How to make over $200k a year as a chief nursing officer

According to, chief nursing officers in Georgia make roughly $242,490 a year in 2023. That is 322% more than the median registered nurse salary within the state. It’s a high paying profession in an industry that needs more officers.

“There is always a need for nurse leaders in executive practice — whether in community-based organizations, home care or hospice organizations, hospitals or health systems, long-term care or skilled nursing facilities, ambulatory and outpatient settings, primary care practices or boardrooms,” Beth Brooks, a clinical adviser to Vivian Health, told Scrubs Magazine.

Step one to becoming a chief nursing officer is education. A bachelor of science degree and a passing grade on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) will earn you a registered nurse license. Next, you will need a master’s degree in nursing. For a high-paying chief nursing officer position, a Ph.D is best.

“Due to the complexity of today’s healthcare systems and the broad span of control, many CNOs also complete a terminal degree such as the science-based Ph.D. or clinically-based doctor of nursing practice in executive leadership,” Brooks said.

While completing your education is key, aspiring chief nursing officers also require years of experience as a staff nurse.

“Generally speaking, a nurse who aspires to a leadership role will complete one-to-three years as a staff nurse leading a team to provide bedside nursing care, followed by experience as a charge nurse or assistant manager,” Brooks explained. “Typically, these are the entry-level management positions. After three-to-five years of management experience, many nurse leaders return to graduate school.”

To make the most of your years of nursing in preparation for a chief nursing officer position, take any project lead opportunities available on the job.

“The best way to prepare for a career in nursing executive practice is to volunteer to lead project teams at the unit or department level such as quality improvement, patient safety, value-chain analysis and the like,” she said.