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If you aspire to attain a high-level position in the nursing industry, it may be to your interest and benefit to become certified as a nurse executive.  This special designation is valuable for those who wish to hold certain leadership positions in various healthcare facilities, such as nurse practitioners or nurse managers.

Earning a nurse executive certification is ideal for graduated nursing students who’ve gained some on-the-job experience and want to continue serving patients while also taking on leadership roles with additional responsibilities. 

However, many practicing or studying nurses find themselves wondering about the differences between two types of certification: NEA-BC and NE-BC. 

In this article, we’ll break down the differences, eligibility requirements, and benefits of each type of certification so that you can choose the best match for you. 

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Nurse Executive Certifications 101

The position of nurse executive is an esteemed senior role within healthcare staff hierarchies and levels of nursing. These professionals use their comprehensive knowledge of patient care and administrative policies to help operations run smoothly and ensure optimal outcomes. 

To become a nurse executive and gain the qualifications necessary to oversee the operations of healthcare organizations on a micro or macro level, you must first pass a certification exam. However, it’s smart to keep nursing certifications in the back of your mind no matter your experience level, because: 

  1. If you’re early in your journey, you can start intentionally aligning your continuing education courses and experience to meet examination criteria. 
  2. For experienced nurses, advanced certification can be a wonderful way to reach the next level of your career and start taking on bigger leadership roles. 

Now that you understand what a nurse executive certification is, let’s dive deeper into what separates the NEA-BC and the NE-BC examinations. 

NEA-BC vs. NE-BC: What's the Difference?

The primary distinction between these two common types of nurse executive certification can be identified simply by understanding what their full titles are:

  • NE-BC = Nurse Executive Board Certified
  • NEA-BC = Nurse Executive Advanced Board Certified

Put simply, the NEA-BC is a higher standard of nurse certification. 

As such, the two certifications have different eligibility requirements. Those who hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing can apply for NE-BC certification, but those who wish to pursue NEA-BC certification need to hold a master’s degree or higher.

As a result, the NEA-BC is indicative of a professional who has a very high level of nursing education and experience. 

Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between these two types of certification. 

NEA-BC (Nurse Executive Advanced) Certification

This assessment tests the knowledge and skills of nurses who already hold overarching positions of power within a healthcare organization. To be eligible for this nurse executive exam, one must obtain a master’s degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in another field of study.

For instance, some nursing program students choose to earn their master’s degree in business with a focus on healthcare so that they can better prepare themselves to take on the administrative duties of an executive.1

Receiving an NEA-BC is an incredible distinction that shows others (including employers) that you’ve strived to continually advance your knowledge in your field and specialty.2

NE-BC (Nurse Executive) Certification

Although lower in level compared to the NEA-BC, this certification is still quite an honor for professionals in the nursing practice.

To earn this certification, an applicant must prove their competency during an official examination. The exam is designed to assess the knowledge and nursing skills of people who generally have influence over one unit of staff operations.

To be eligible to take this certification exam, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN).

Earning an NE-BC indicates that you’re a competent nurse who’s experienced with managing and delegating tasks to others. Securing this certification can make both employers and patients feel confident in your practical and administrative skills, as well as proficiency in teamwork in nursing

Benefits of Nurse Executive Certification

Individuals who hold any level of nurse executive certification are generally thought of as experts among other types of nurses. This is because certifications represent a high level of competency. By working toward and obtaining a certification, you may be able to:

  • Stimulate career growth
  • Access new opportunities
  • Enhance leadership skills crucial for nurse executives
  • Ensure streamlined operations at your facility 
  • Increase your overall job satisfaction

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Eligibility Criteria for NEA-BC and NE-BC

Both the NEA-BC and NE-BC are offered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. So, before seeking out any certification, you must obtain an active RN license, which involves passing a separate examination.

Additionally, within the previous 3 years before applying for a nurse executive certification, you must have accumulated:

  • 2000+ hours of experience working in a nursing leadership role that fulfills a certain scope of responsibilities (unit or system-wide)
  • 30+ hours of continuing nursing administration education

It’s also important to note that both the NE-BC and NEA-BC must be renewed every 5 years in order to be valid. 

Prepare for Your Nursing Career at Alliant International University

For those who’ve earned a nursing degree, taking steps to secure either of these esteemed certifications can be a fulfilling and worthwhile way to enhance professional development. 

If high-level executive positions are the type of nursing role you’re aspiring toward, it’s wise to invest in a comprehensive, quality education. After all, becoming a registered nurse and earning certifications starts in the classroom. 

To that end, consider earning your master’s of science in nursing, nurse executive degree at Alliant International University. To learn more about our rigorous curriculum, respected faculty, and state-of-the-art facilities, reach out today. 


  1. “Certified Nurse Executive (NE) Career Guide.” June 2021.…. Accessed September 18, 2023. 
  2. Mensik, Jennifer, PhD, RN, FAAN. “What’s the Right Way To List Your Nursing Credentials?” April 21, 2023.…. Accessed September 18, 2023. 

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