Question: What Is the difference between Nurse Executive-Board Certification (NE-BC) and Nurse Executive Advanced-Board Certification (NEA-BC)?

Answer: Nurse Executive-Board Certified (NE-BC) and Nurse Executive Advanced-Board Certified (NEA-BC) are professional certifications offered and administered by the American Nurses Association’s American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The NE-BC and NEA-BC credentials are available to nurse executives and administrators who meet certain educational and professional criteria and achieve a passing score on a test given by the ANCC. The difference between these certifications is that the NEA-BC requires a higher level of educational attainment and more professional experience in nursing administration than the NE-BC.

What Is a Nurse Executive?

Nurse executives are licensed Registered Nurses (RNs) who have administrative and managerial positions at clinical care facilities. They oversee day-to-day and long-term operations, which may include managing budgets, coordinating the deployment of material assets and human resources, and providing leadership at hospitals, medical centers, nursing homes, community clinics, and other healthcare organizations. There are nurse executives who supervise individual units within a medical facility, such as pediatrics, and higher-level nurse executives, who oversee nursing operations for an entire hospital or healthcare group.

Nurse executives typically hold at least a bachelor’s degree in addition to an RN license, although graduate training in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program and/or programs in business and healthcare administration may be necessary for career advancement in the field. In addition, there are several professional credentials available to nurse executives, including Nurse Executive-Board Certified (NE-BC) and Nurse Executive Advanced-Board Certified (NEA-BC), both of which are offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANA). These certifications are not required for those who work as nurse managers and administrators, but they demonstrate a level of knowledge and proficiency in the field of nurse executive leadership that may be advantageous for career advancement.

NE-BC Certification

NE-BC certification is available to licensed RNs who have completed a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program and who have worked for a minimum of 24 months as a nurse manager, supervisor, director, or administrator in the past five years. RNs who have not completed an MSN program are eligible to apply for NE-BC certification, provided they hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have completed 30 hours of continuing education in nursing administration. These standards are maintained by the ANCC, which extends eligibility for the NE-BC credential to RNs who teach nursing administration and who work as nurse administrator consultants.

To attain NE-BC certification, applicants must pass an exam administered by the ANCC, which tests knowledge and skills in areas related to nursing practice and management. The three-and-half hour NE-BC exam consists of 175 multiple-choice questions and must be taken at a certified testing facility after registering online through the ANCC. Initial certification costs $270 for members of the ANA, and $395 for non-members. NE-BC certification must be renewed every five years.

NE-BC Eligibility Checklist

  • Hold a current, active RN license in a state or territory of the United States, or hold the legally recognized equivalent in another country.
  • Hold a bachelor’s or higher degree in nursing.
  • Have held a mid-level administrative or higher position (e.g., nurse manager, supervisor, director, assistant director), a faculty position teaching nursing administration to graduate students, or a nursing management or executive consultation position full-time for at least 24 months (or the equivalent) in the last 5 years.
  • Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in nursing administration within the last 3 years. This requirement is waived for those who have a master’s degree in nursing administration.

NEA-BC Certification

The primary difference between NE-BC and NEA-BC certification pertains to eligibility requirements. In order to apply for the NEA-BC credential, RNs must hold a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing, or a BSN plus a master’s or doctoral degree in a field related to nursing. Candidates for certification must also have at least 24 months of experience working as a nurse executive, or the equivalent amount of time teaching nursing administration at the graduate level. In addition, the ANCC requires applicants to have completed an MSN in nursing administration or nurse executive leadership program, or 30 hours of continuing education in nursing administration within three years of registering to take the NEA-BC exam.

The NEA-BC exam is designed to test for advanced knowledge and skills in the practice of nursing and in nursing administration. Like the NE-BC exam, it takes three-and-a-half-hours and consists of 175 multiple-choice questions. Initial certification costs $395, or $270 for ANA members. NEA-BC certification must be renewed every five years.

NEA-BC Eligibility Checklist

  • Hold a current, active RN license in a state or territory of the United States, or hold the legally recognized equivalent in another country.
  • Hold a master’s or higher degree in nursing, or hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s in another field.
  • Have held an administrative position at the nurse executive level, or a faculty position teaching graduate students executive-level nursing administration full-time for at least 24 months (or the equivalent) in the last 5 years.
  • Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in nursing administration within the last 3 years. This requirement is waived for those who hold a master’s degree in nursing administration.

NE-BC vs. NEA-BC Certification

In addition to the eligibility requirements, which represent the main area of differentiation between the NE-BC credential and the NEA-BC credential, there are several other distinctions between the two. NEA-BC certification indicates that the holder has more experience in the field of nursing administration and in most cases a higher level of educational attainment than a person who is NE-BC certified. While there is some overlap in the subject areas tested for on the NE-BC and NEA-BC exams, the NEA-BC exam requires more advanced knowledge in nursing practice and administration. This is reflected in subtle differences in the areas of knowledge addressed by the exam. For example, the NE-BC has a subsection for “Financial Management,” whereas the equivalent NEA-BC subsection focuses more granularly on “Fiscal Planning, Execution, and Accountability.”

Like other types of ANCC credentials, the NE-BC and NEA-BC carry with them the seal of approval of the ANA, the largest professional organization that represents RNs. However, there are two other specialized credentials available to nurse executives through the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE), an organization that represents nurse leaders and executives and that is affiliated with the American Hospital Association. The two nurse executive certification programs administered by AONE are: Certified Executive Nursing Practice (CENP) and Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML).

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