What Is a Clinical Director?

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A group of smiling clinical directors and medical professionals.

Clinical directors are detail-oriented health professionals. They are responsible for dealing with each aspect of clinical operations pertaining to the treatment of a patient. The role varies depending on the work setting, but it often includes creating and managing schedules based on organizational needs, as well as overseeing clinical supervisors.

What a clinical director is responsible for is a question that’s on the minds of many students who are considering the career path. At its core, the clinical director job is a combination of human resources and administrative management. The clinical director usually forms part of a management team and is skilled at developing systems of care for the institution to which they belong. The clinical director job also varies by facility size.

Students and professionals who are passionate about applied behavior analysis (ABA) and are wondering what a clinical director is, should consider earning a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis.

Becoming a Clinical Director

The process of becoming a clinical director begins by earning a bachelor’s degree in health administration, medical science, life science, or a related area. The next step is to earn a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis, public health administration, or a related discipline.

Clinical directors often begin their careers in another health care role, such as health care administrator. The ideal candidate needs to demonstrate an ability to lead a team of health professionals while ensuring ABA practices are implemented under their supervision. An masters in Applied Behavior Analysis online can competitively position students to begin this career path.

Graduates should be aware of certificate and licensure requirements, which may vary by state. An individual who wants to fully embody what a clinical director is should understand the importance of developing the competencies that will help them pass the examinations.

Clinical Director Skills

Students who are pursuing the clinical director role will need to have a combination of skills and qualifications that an organization deems necessary for a senior position. A candidate needs to be able to demonstrate a variety of key abilities.

  • Follow clinical policies and procedures
  • Establish and maintain a positive work environment
  • Take responsibility for all mental health staff members who work under them
  • Develop treatment systems that focus on individual patients
  • Be accountable for the effective delivery of behavior analytic services to clients
  • Facilitate methods for promoting excellent clinical performance and dealing with poor performance
  • Communicate effectively

What Are a Clinical Director’s Career Options?

Clinical directors work in a variety of locations, such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, behavioral health care facilities, and research centers. Smaller facilities usually demand more from their clinical directors. It’s not uncommon for them to be in charge of multiple aspects of running the organization, including financial duties such as developing a budget, financial reporting, or supervising billing and collection functions. In larger facilities, clinical directors are likely to be in charge of running smaller teams, planning staff schedules and rotations, attending regional meetings on behalf of their facilities, and training new personnel.

A vital aspect of what a clinical director is consists of the ability to take on many leadership responsibilities. Clinical directors not only ensure quality patient care, but also oversee the administrative and legal aspects of their facilities. They monitor patients’ progress while also overseeing and managing nurses and other staff members. Keeping up with regulatory compliance within their organizations is another vital aspect of the job, as clinical directors must navigate legal issues and new policies.

What Is a Clinical Director’s Salary?

According to data from the compensation website PayScale, the median annual salary for clinical directors is around $77,400, with top clinical directors earning as much as $123,000. Salaries vary by years of experience, education, and licensing. Additionally, candidates who demonstrate strong leadership capabilities and can manage large-scale operations are highly desirable for these positions.

Medical and health services managers, including clinical directors, who work in government facilities tend to earn more than those in private health facilities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The annual median salary for medical and health services managers is $100,980, according to the BLS.

What Is a Clinical Director’s Job Outlook?

The BLS expects steady job growth between 2019 and 2029 for medical and health services managers, which includes clinical directors. The job category’s projected 32% growth — far higher than the national average — is likely due to an aging population that will increase the demand for medical services. Private health facilities that expand their services will also need management personnel in several roles, adding to the positive outlook for clinical directors.

A significant aspect of what a clinical director is and accomplishes on a daily basis consists of improving the efficiency and quality of care in a medical facility. As more medical facilities use informatics, clinical directors who can successfully integrate digital systems with paper-based systems will be in high demand.

Pursue an Advanced Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis

Having a bachelor’s degree is no longer enough to assume a clinical director position. Regis College’s online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis is an excellent place to start for those who are exploring what a clinical director is and how to become one. Courses such as those in behavioral analysis and ethical practice help students develop the practical skills that can lead to professional success.

Recommended Readings

5 Popular Applied Behavior Analysis Careers

A Rewarding Career: Opportunities for the Behavioral Therapist

What Is Behavior Therapy, and Why Is It Important?


Balance Careers, “Healthcare and Medical Job Titles and Descriptions”

Chegg Careermatch, “Clinical Director Salary and Career Advice”

Houston Chronicle, “Clinical Director’s Job Description and Skill Set”

PayScale, “Average Clinical Director Salary”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers