What Is a Clinical Director?

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Clinical directors pose alongside with nurse practitioners.

Clinical directors are detail-oriented professionals responsible for dealing with each aspect of clinical operations pertaining to the treatment of a client. To become a clinical director, a graduate often begins in another health care role, such as health care administrator. The role varies depending on the company, but it often includes creating and managing schedules based on organizational needs, as well as providing supervision for clinical supervisors.

What a clinical director is responsible for is a question that’s on the minds of many students considering a clinical director 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. Smaller facilities usually demand more of their clinical directors, and it’s not uncommon for them to be in charge of multiple aspects of running the organization, including financial ones, 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.

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

Students pursuing the clinical director career path will need to have a combination of skills and qualifications that an organization deems necessary for a senior position. The Houston Chronicle notes that a candidate applying for the clinical director position needs to be able to demonstrate the ability to do the following:

  • 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 good clinical performance and dealing with poor performance
  • Communicate effectively

In addition to this skill set, the ideal candidate needs to demonstrate an ability to lead a team of health professionals while ensuring ABA practices are implemented under their supervision.

Regis College’s online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis offers students a competitive edge when beginning 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.

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. A vital aspect of what a clinical director is consists of the ability to take on many leadership responsibilities within a medical facility.

Clinical directors not only ensure quality patient care but also oversee the administrative and legal aspects of their clinics. 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 May 2020 data from PayScale, the median annual salary for clinical directors is around $76,000, with top clinical directors earning as much as $122,000. Salaries vary by the professional’s years of experience, education, and licensing. Additionally, candidates who demonstrate strong leadership capabilities and who 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 who work in private health facilities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

What Is a Clinical Director’s Job Outlook?

The BLS expects steady growth for medical and health services managers, which includes clinical directors, between 2018 and 2028. The job category’s projected 18% 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 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 a perfect place to start for those considering what a clinical director is and how to become one. Courses covering behavioral analysis and ethical practice help students develop the practical skills that can improve their chances of success in this role.

Recommended Readings

A Rewarding Career: Opportunities for the Behavioral Therapist

What Is Behavior Therapy, and Why Is It Important?

5 Popular Applied Behavior Analysis Careers


Chegg Careermatch, “Clinical Director Salary and Career Advice”

Houston Chronicle, “Clinical Director’s Job Description & Skills List”

PayScale, Average Clinical Director Salary

Regis College, Online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis Curriculum

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