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How to Become a Hospital Department Manager

July 23, 2021  |  Category: Healthcare Administration

Hospitals are large and complex institutions with different departments that, although sometimes function separately, all work toward the same goal: to provide optimal service and care for their patients and staff. From the surgical unit to the emergency room and neonatal intensive care unit, these entities contain many departments that require outstanding leadership and management. Hospital department managers are responsible for staffing, overseeing operations, setting priorities, and managing budgets — among many other tasks — to ensure the hospital can run efficiently. How do you become a hospital department manager, and what does this role look like?

The Hospital Department Manager Role

The main responsibilities of a hospital department manager are to direct, supervise, and coordinate the health services within their department. For example, the individual overseeing the surgical department confirms each surgery has the necessary team of doctors and nurses scheduled.

Hospital department managers also oversee the surgical budget, determining what new equipment can be purchased or what pro bono surgeries can be performed, for example.

Conducting Operational Work

As the hospital department manager effectively runs their respective department, they oversee all operational and office work. This includes:

  • Determining budgets
  • Ordering supplies
  • Administering payroll
  • Serving as a liaison between other departments or boards
  • Ensuring laws and regulations are being met

All these tasks are required for the department to remain operational. For example, the occupational therapy department manager oversees patient scheduling. Additionally, they work with the medical records department to compile patient records. These duties may change slightly for the nursing department manager, however. Instead of patient scheduling, they oversee the nurses’ schedules and ensure they are staffed appropriately.

Staffing, Training, and Supervising

In addition to department operations, a hospital department manager oversees staffing, training, and supervising employees. This includes setting the team’s direction and goals, as well as providing guidance as a leader.

They are responsible for the recruitment, screening, and hiring of new employees and they confirm the department is sufficiently staffed with administrative employees who play a crucial operational role — answering calls and scheduling patients.

Overall, the hospital department manager guides their team and helps them succeed — whether they’re assessing performance or helping an employee set goals for advancement.

Defining and Achieving Goals

Most importantly, the person in this role sets department goals and creates a plan to achieve them. To define these goals, the manager works with employees in their respective department, as well as collaborating with the chief administrator.

One of these goals, for example, could be decreasing patient wait times in the ER. After defining a specific goal, the hospital department manager will create an action plan and strategy, such as increasing the number of staff members on duty during certain high-traffic hours or days. Their leadership creates a unit that provides the best quality health care, while also maximizing profit and efficiency.

Requirements to Enter This Career Path

Given the responsibility of the role, candidates must meet specific, often exacting requirements.

Education and Training

Hospital department managers must at least hold a bachelor’s degree in health administration, healthcare management, nursing, or other relevant field. This provides the necessary management skills, as well as ethical, analytical, and business knowledge.

A degree that focuses not only on healthcare but also business administration addresses both sides of hospital management — making healthcare administration an ideal undergraduate degree to prepare you for the hospital department manager role, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

While an undergraduate degree may serve to open doors to entry-level positions, those working toward becoming a hospital department manager will likely need the training provided by a graduate program. Programs offering master’s degrees, such as a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), typically include a period of supervised administrative training in a hospital or other healthcare setting.


Experience is also needed to advance into hospital department management. Beginning in a clerical or administrative role is an initial step. Other jobs for gaining experience prior to taking on a management position such as hospital department manager include medical records technician, administrative assistant, and financial clerk within a specific hospital department.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual wage for hospital department managers was $112,870 in 2020, according to the BLS. Additionally, the BLS projects employment in the field to grow by 32% between 2019 and 2029. This growth is much faster than average (4%) — an effect of aging baby boomers needing medical services.

Start Your Journey at AdventHealth University

The first step in this career is earning a bachelor’s degree. AdventHealth University Online’s Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration provides students with both business and healthcare knowledge through courses on health information systems, accounting, human resources, finance, and more. Expand your education at AdventHealth University to make an impact and drive positive change in the healthcare industry.

Recommended Readings
Healthcare Management vs. Healthcare Administration
Hospital Leadership Tactics During a Crisis
How to Become a Medical Office Manager

The Balance Careers, “What Does a Health Services Manager Do?”
Better Team, “Hospital Administrator Job Description”
Houston Chronicle, “Health Care Administration Responsibilities”
Houston Chronicle, “The Steps to Take in Order to Become a Hospital Manager”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers