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How to Become a Hospital Administrator

October 16, 2019  |  Category: Healthcare Administration

Hospital administrators meet with staff and doctors.

There are more than 6,000 hospitals in the United States with just under a million beds in their facilities, according to the American Hospital Association. These are a mix of government-owned hospitals, privately run not-for-profit hospitals, and investor-owned (for-profit) hospitals, as well as psychiatric hospitals. Those hospitals admitted more than 36.5 million patients in 2019. That’s nearly 6,000 patients per facility, or an average of more than 16 new admitted patients each day at every hospital across the country.

Caring for those millions of individuals is a network of doctors, specialists, nurses, technologists, and support staff, who work long, sometimes unorthodox hours to keep their patients healthy. This complex web of healthcare professionals wouldn’t function if not for healthcare administrators and managers, who oversee all operations at their hospitals. The busiest emergency room in the country, Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center in Florida, saw 210,020 patients in 2017 alone, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, and has more than 850 beds and a medical staff of over 550. Running a hospital of that size — or any size — takes the right education, training, certification, and on-the-job experience. Read on to find out how to become a healthcare administrator, the outlook for the career, and how you can pursue a job in this challenging and rewarding field.

What Does a Hospital Administrator Do?

The job duties of hospital administrators vary from facility to facility, and even from day to day. Helping run a hospital, or even one unit of a hospital, involves overseeing many different areas that all serve as key parts of the hospital landscape. Hospital administrators oversee finances and budgeting, admissions, hiring, scheduling, compliance, facility maintenance, and more. In a single day, a hospital administrator may need to hire a new head of the cardiology department, weigh in on a marketing campaign for the hospital’s imaging center, analyze feedback from patients about nurses, meet with the head of human relations to go over changes to the hospital’s ethics guidelines, and end the day by entertaining a potential donor. Hospital administrators must be able to work long hours, multitask, delegate work, and be effective communicators.

Explore the Steps to Become a Hospital Administrator

Becoming a hospital administrator doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years of education and training to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to run even one unit of a hospital. From education to certification — here are some common steps on the road to becoming a hospital administrator.

Get the Right Education

At minimum, aspiring hospital administrators need a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare-related discipline to enter the field. However, those who come to hospital administration may have various backgrounds. Whether they entered healthcare as a nurse, a radiologist, or a different job title, they may find their skills are useful in the high-level management of a facility. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that it’s common for hospital administrators to have a master’s degree and that employers prefer candidates with an advanced degree. With its combination of healthcare and business education, a program like AdventHealth University Online’s MHA/MBA Dual Degree could be perfect for healthcare professionals who want to move up the leadership ladder.

Obtain Professional Experience

Running a hospital, or a single unit in one, takes a detailed understanding of the way hospitals work. Entry-level positions in hospital administration or management, often started after earning a bachelor’s degree, can provide future hospital administrator candidates with a look inside the way hospitals run. These jobs include work as a receptionist, a filing assistant, an administrative assistant, a nurse, and an office manager.

Build a Professional Network

During undergraduate and early work experiences, it’s crucial for people who want to get into hospital management to establish strong contacts with experienced and influential administrators and healthcare leaders. Those relationships can in turn lead to job offers and referrals or simply result in knowledge of how to become a hospital administrator that can aid in job searches and future employment.

Get Certified

The Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) certification is one of several certifications that show potential employees have the understanding and knowledge to work as hospital administrators. Issued by the American College of Healthcare Executives, the FACHE requires five years of executive-level healthcare management experience and a master’s or other postgraduate degree before candidates are able to sit for the certification exam.

Hospital Administrator Salaries

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for medical and health services managers, which includes hospital administrators, was $99,730 in 2018. However, the median annual salary for medical and health services managers working in hospitals was slightly higher: $108,730.

Employment Outlook for Hospital Administrators

The BLS reports that there were 352,200 medical and health services managers working in the country in 2016. It expects that number to grow to 424,300 by 2026. That’s a growth of 72,100 jobs, or 20 percent. The BLS projects that medical and health services manager jobs in hospitals will increase from 115,800 to 121,300 between 2016 and 2026.

Get Involved in the Future of Hospital Management

Hospital administrators and healthcare leaders of the future will have to prepare for new challenges and opportunities in medicine. The era of big data has arrived, and it’s going to change the way hospitals and healthcare leaders think about and approach community and public health, and perhaps the business of healthcare itself. If you’re a healthcare professional who wants to make a bigger impact on patients and staff alike, consider becoming a hospital administrator. Offering many challenges and rewards, this position is vital to the successful delivery of healthcare. Discover how AdventHealth University Online’s MHA/MBA Dual Degree program can prepare you for a meaningful future in hospital administration through the development of leadership skills and financial know-how and a curriculum that will give you confidence to make decisions at the executive level.


American College of Healthcare Executives, FACHE

American College of Healthcare Executives, Top Issues Confronting Hospitals

Amerian Hospital Association, Fast Facts on U.S. Hospitals, 2019

Becker’s Hospital Review, “13 Hospitals with the Most ER Visits, 2018”

GE Healthcare, “A Day in the Life of a Hospital Administrator”

National Association of Healthcare Access Management, CHAM Certification Application and Exam

PayScale, Average Hospital Administrator Salary

SpringerLink, “Big Data Challenges from a Healthcare Administration Perspective”

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