How to Become a Hospital CEO

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hospital ceo

Chief executive officers (CEOs) hold a highly influential and distinguished position in their organizations — they plan they plan companies’ trajectories; help individual departments meet their objectives and comply with rules and regulations, and secure the organization’s’ short- and long-term financial strength and stability. Hospital CEOs have those administrative, financial, and compliance tasks, but they’re also responsible for patient care, safety, and education. In addition, hospital CEOs often participate in philanthropic, social, or fundraising activities related to their careers.

A health care organization’s success depends upon its CEO’s ability to reach goals, meet budgets, and ensure that their institution is equipped with the resources needed to provide safe and effective care to members of the community. A successful CEO should be able to objectively diagnose the company’s issues and understand how to remedy them, as well as lead a culture of accountability and set clear employee expectations. CEOs who can complete these objectives while upholding their obligations to patients make hospitals and health care systems safer, financially stronger, and better able to respond to the industry’s changing needs.

Becoming a hospital CEO is a large but attainable goal, requiring the right combination of education, training, and hands-on experience. Continue reading to learn how to become a hospital CEO.

How to Become a Hospital CEO or Administrator

Hospital CEOs often earn their undergraduate degrees in either business or finance, though those are not the only options. After earning a bachelor’s degree, some future administrators choose to gain on-the-job experience, while others immediately begin pursuing a graduate degree.

While it’s common for professionals who aspire to fill C-level positions to earn a master’s in business or finance, aspiring hospital CEOs should consider pursuing a Master of Health Administration (MHA). The MHA graduate track helps students develop a deep understanding of critical health care industry issues, such as the ever-increasing demand for high-quality, affordable care.

For students without experience in the health care industry but who are interested in pursuing a career in hospital administration, Regis College offers a program that can help them gain up to 100 hours of hands-on field experience working with local health care institutions. This is a remarkable opportunity for some, but it is important to note that this portion of the MHA program is not always mandatory and can be waived for student professionals who have already gained 2 years of related work experience, with at least one of those years being in a managerial position.

Ambitious individuals who are action-oriented, make critical decisions, enjoy being in charge, and can take responsibility for outcomes are good candidates for CEO positions. Hospital CEOs, in particular, should also understand the clinical and operational aspects of the health care industry and be committed to upholding its stringent ethical standards and practices.

A strong performance in human resources, excellent business acumen, and a proven record of financial success are also indicators a person would be a good CEO candidate. Additionally, CEOs and other leaders must be able to forge and maintain relationships within the community as well as understand and comply with all local, state, and federal regulations.

Essential Skills and Responsibilities

Hospital CEOs ultimately oversee health care organizations departments and employees, and are responsible for the following high-level functions:

  • Working with a board of directors to institute strategic plans for the hospital while also managing day-to-day operations and handling development initiatives for long-term success
  • Ensuring structures and systems are in place to effectively manage the organization and its resources
  • Developing and implementing new programs and objectives
  • Defining and fostering the company philosophy and code of ethics
  • Representing the organization before the community, government, media, etc.

As a hospital representative, the CEO will spend a significant amount of time dealing with administrative tasks and attending meetings with community leaders, hospital staff, or the board of directors. Additionally, CEOs can expect at least some travel, often as a representative at fundraisers, legislative meetings, or similar events.

Many of the skills extraordinary CEOs possess can be developed through an MHA program, which explores critical health care issues and the strategies needed to overcome them. MHA graduates typically have effective executive leadership and management skills, understand the importance of mentorship, can communicate clearly, and can apply different problem-solving and innovation strategies.

Regis College’s MHA program features coursework designed specifically to foster an interdisciplinary leadership skill set that will position graduates to qualify for executive roles in the future. A few of the core courses include Financial Analysis in Health Administration, Health Ethics and Law, and Strategic Management of Health Care Organizations.

Statistics on Career Growth and Salaries

Because hospital CEOs carry a great deal of responsibility and perform critical work, they can command a lucrative salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for health care executives and administrators in 2017 was $98,350.

The demand for hospital CEOs is growing fast, according to the BLS, with the industry expected to add 72,100 new positions between 2016 and 2026.

A hospital’s CEO is its backbone, public face, and driving force. By receiving a quality education and earning an MHA, students who wish to become hospital CEOs should be equipped with the tools they need to succeed in the competitive job market.

Learn More:

The online Master of Health Administration program at Regis College strives to help students from all backgrounds thrive in health care leadership. Learn more about Regis College’s online Master of Health Administration.

Recommended Reading:

Leadership Strategies for Health Administrators

Making Predictive Analytics a Routine Part of Patient Care in Hospitals

5 Skills Every Health Care Leader Needs



U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Regis College

American College of Healthcare Executives

Oyster Healthcare

Becker’s Hospital Review