How to Become a Hospital Administrator

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Doctors in a meeting holding an ipad

Hospital administrators play a critical role in helping their organizations provide high-quality patient care. These professionals provide leadership and guidance in a time of changing regulations, technologies, and staffing needs. As demand for health care leaders continues to rise, a growing number of people are investigating how to become a hospital administrator.

While there are overlaps in responsibilities and tasks, health administration and health management are distinct fields. The Houston Chronicle’s Harlow Keith explains that health care management encompasses the business operations of an entire organization. This includes high-level involvement in human resources, finances, and facilities management. Health care administration, on the other hand, is more tightly focused on specific health care areas, such as budgeting or staffing of clinical departments within a facility.

Hospital administration careers draw from both of these disciplines. Earning a master’s in health care administration (MHA) can help students enhance their understanding of the industry and prepare to pursue careers in a field with high growth potential.

Steps to Become a Hospital Administrator

A bachelor’s degree in health administration or a related field such as nursing or business administration is required to apply for most hospital administrator positions. Health care professionals who want to become hospital administrators may further benefit from obtaining a master’s degree.

MHA programs emphasize general business practices such as accounting, finance, economics, strategy, management, marketing, technology, and information systems. Alongside developing a strong business acumen, primary coursework is focused in the following areas:

  • Medical informatics and decision management
  • Health care financial management
  • Community and public health
  • Health economics and quantitative methods
  • Quality and performance improvement
  • Health care law and policy

Hospital administrators often have previous experience working with patients. For example, many of them have worked as clinical technicians, certified nursing assistants, or phlebotomists. Professionals with experience in other business settings may also develop the fundamental skills to become a hospital administrator.

Hospital Administrator Career Basics

There are an increasing range of health care opportunities available to hospital administrators. Hospital administrators are responsible for organizing the key facets that define effective health services delivery. Duties include diverse activities such as organizing staff, managing budgets, and patient care. Administrators may manage a single medical practice, a specific clinical department, or an entire medical facility. The Association of University Programs in Health Administration defines four employment sectors that are particularly active in hiring MHA graduates:

  1. Health care providers are the most common, led by hospitals and group physician practices, clinics, and nursing homes.
  2. Health care suppliers offer staffing, operations, finance, technology, training, and other support services.
  3. Insurance companies and health maintenance organizations have a great need for research analysts, quality improvement, and strategic planning experts.
  4. Health care policy organizations, like public health agencies and health-oriented nonprofits, both need administrators who understand how to navigate the intricate network of policies that govern most healthcare services companies.

Hospital administrators work closely with physicians, registered nurses, medical technicians, and other health care staff. Their primary responsibility is ensuring the timely delivery of quality health care services in the most efficient manner possible.

Health services are increasingly being delivered in outside hospitals in medical offices, long-term care facilities, clinics, and other settings, which in turn is creating more opportunities for health care administrators.

The skills needed to become a hospital administrator can be developed through degree programs and on-the-job experience. Topping the list of necessary skills is the ability to adapt. Adjusting to the health care industry’s rapid pace of change is a full-time job by itself. As a result, hospital administrators must have an in-depth knowledge of compliance and regulatory issues, particularly relating to keeping and protecting medical records. Other key responsibilities involve controlling budgeting and financial matters, including overseeing staff hiring, training, and supervision.

Hospital administrators may be required to earn additional certifications to work in certain areas, such as nursing homes or clinics.

Career Growth for Hospital Administrators

There is incredible career potential for professionals interested in learning how to become a hospital administrator.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a 20 percent growth in the number of jobs for medical and health service managers between 2016 and 2026. The agency expects other management occupations to grow at a rate of 8 percent, while growth in all national occupations is projected at 7 percent in the same time period.

Hospital administrators who have MHAs may also have higher earning potential. According to the BLS, the median salary of a health care professional holding a master’s in health care administration is $98,350. However, according to a 2017 CNN Money survey, hospital administrators earn a median salary of $120,000, with the potential to earn up to $241,000.

The Growing Importance of Talented Hospital Administrator

Hospital administrators play a crucial role in ensuring the success of health organizations. Every aspect of the operation of a medical facility depends on talented executives who are able to proactively adapt as market and technological changes occur at an unprecedented pace. The health care field will continue to grow and become more complex. The aging U.S. population, for example, is driving higher demand for health care services and health professionals of all types. As the sector evolves, the responsibility of keeping providers functioning as a single unit becomes more important and more valuable.

Learn More

The online Master of Health Administration program at Regis College prepares graduates for success in the growing job market for hospital administrators. If you are interested in becoming an effective, well-educated leader of a health care institution, Regis encourages you to learn more about the MHA degree program today.


Recommended Readings:

How Hospital Administrators Empower their Organizations

Online Master of Health Administration Curriculum

Leadership Strategies for Health Administrators



American College of Healthcare Executives, Career Resources

American College of Health Care Administrators, Certifications

Association of University Programs in Health Administration

CNN Money, “2017 Best Jobs in America”

Houston Chronicle, “Comparison of Health Care Management Vs. Health Care Administration”

PayScale, “Hospital Administrator”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Medical and Health Services Managers”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Physicians and Surgeons”