Hospital administration is more dynamic than ever, particularly as the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act continues to prompt an unprecedented number of hospital mergers, acquisitions, and alliances. Changing laws, a complex regulatory environment, and a proliferation of Americans receiving healthcare—or better healthcare—means the value of hospital administrators has never been greater.
Healthcare is a business, and it is changing and evolving at a breakneck pace. Hospital administrators serve as a vital component to the efficient operation of a hospital system and the quality of care it provides its patents, even amid major changes.
Hospital Administrator Careers: Job Duties and Responsibilities of Hospital Administrators
Hospital administrators coordinate all departments within a healthcare facility to ensure they function as a whole. Their expertise is required to administer, plan, organize, direct, and monitor the outcomes of medical and health services. Although the role of a hospital administrator varies from one institution to the next, their duties most often include:
- Serving as liaisons among governing boards, medical staff, and department heads
- Recruiting, hiring, and evaluating nurses, doctors, and assistant administrators
- Organizing, directing, controlling, and coordinating services as set forth by the hospital board
- Overseeing the creation and implementation of programs and policies for patient services, quality assurance, public relations outreach, and departmental activities
- Developing and expanding programs and services for scientific research and preventive medicine (research hospitals)
Hospital administrators must stay current on any laws and regulations that impact the healthcare or hospital industry, as well as medical and technological advances. As business leaders, hospital administrators must oversee:
- Long-term planning
- Operating objectives and budgets
- The efficient delivery of medical services
- Financial reports
- Hospital policy changes
Their strong interpersonal skills are required when supervising and mentoring staff, interacting with the community, and collaborating with governing boards.
Hospital Administrator Jobs
In addition to hospitals, which may range from small, community hospitals to massive, multi-hospital systems, these healthcare administrators may also work for:
- Rehabilitation facilities
- Ambulatory care centers
- Group medical practices
- Outpatient care facilities
- Physician offices
- Residential care facilities
- Home healthcare
- Managed care organizations
Hospital administrators at larger facilities may work in specific clinical areas, such as cardiology, surgery, neurology, obstetrics, and nephrology. Hospital administrators at smaller facilities may oversee different departments, such as admissions, finance, education, research, and personnel.
Just a few of the titles hospital administrators may possess include:
- President/Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
- Chief Operating Officer (COO)
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
- Hospital administrator
- Associate executive director
- Director of human resources
- Recruitment specialist
- Vice president of quality
- Hospital operations administrator
- Compliance educator
- Director of nursing
- Director of clinical operations
- Assistant director of finance
- Director, population health
- Director, patient care services
How to Become a Hospital Administrator
Although some entry-level jobs in hospital administration require the completion of a bachelor’s degree, the standard requirement for most jobs in hospital administration is a master’s degree in health administration.
Some of the master’s degree options for individuals interested in becoming hospital administrators include:
- Master of Health Administration (MHA)
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Health Administration
- Master of Science in Health Administration (MSHA)
- Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Administration
These graduate programs prepare students to receive a competency-based education in leadership, management, and negotiation in the healthcare industry. Graduates of master’s degrees in health administration are prepared to integrate marketing, personnel, financial, and operations initiatives in hospital systems and solve real-world challenges by employing modern theories of leadership, management, and negotiation. Graduates of these programs are well poised to create manageable solutions in even the most complex hospital systems.
Master’s degrees in health administration require candidates to possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. While some candidates for these programs possess undergrad degrees in health administration or a similar discipline, many possess undergrad degrees in areas like finance, human resources, business management, and accounting.
Many healthcare professionals also seek master’s degree in health administration to propel their careers into more lucrative administrative positions. Therefore, it is commonplace for students of master’s degree programs in health administration to possess everything from an RN to an MD.
Other admission requirements for master’s degree in health administration include:
- Minimum undergraduate GPA requirements
- Minimum GRE scores
- Admission essay/interview
- Completion of specific undergraduate courses
A master’s degree in health administration arms students with the critical competencies necessary to succeed in leadership positions in hospitals, multi-unit health systems, and other complex healthcare organizations.
The core curriculum of these programs includes study in:
- Quantitative methods for healthcare management
- Management accounting for healthcare organizations
- Managerial epidemiology
- Strategic planning and marketing in healthcare
- Legal aspects of healthcare management
- Healthcare ethics and governance
- Healthcare operations analysis and management
- Health finance
Most of these programs conclude with the completion of a master’s thesis or capstone project, which provide students with an opportunity for an in-depth exploration of an area of interest realated to hospital administration.
Salary Expectations for Hospital Administrators
Hospital administrators tend to earn larger salaries based on the size of the system they are tasked with running. For example, those in multi-hospital systems earn salaries that tend to far exceed their colleagues in independent hospital settings.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), hospital administrators earned an average salary of $118,800 as of May 2020. Early career professionals earned about $78,820 during this time, while senior-level pros with extensive experience earned about $195,630.
Hospital administrators working in general medical and surgical hospitals earned an average salary of $127,330 as of May 2020, while those working in specialty hospitals earned an average salary of $130,640.
In many hospital settings, top-level hospital administrators hold C-suite titles like chief executive officer, chief operating officer, and chief medical officer, all of which come with salaries that place them among the highest paid – even higher than many surgeons and medical specialists.
According to the BLS, chief executives in healthcare and social assistance earned a median salary of $160,950 as of May 2020. It is important to keep in mind that these salary stats account for base salary only and not for the many financial incentives that are part of an executive’s overall compensation package.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for medical and health services managers and top executives in healthcare and social assistance represent national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Salary statistics representing entry-level/early career = 25th percentile; mid-level= 50thpercentile; senior-level/highly experienced = 90th percentile. Data accessed August 2021.
Resources for Hospital Administrators
- American Hospital Association
- Children’s Hospital Association
- Healthcare Administrators Association
- American College of Healthcare Executives
- American College of Healthcare Administrators