Healthcare Administration

How to Become a Hospital Administrator


There are nearly 6,100 hospitals and about 900,000 patient beds in the United States, 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.

These facilities admit more than 36 million patients per year. That’s nearly 6,000 patients per hospital, or an average of more than 16 newly-admitted patients each day at every hospital across the country.

Caring for those millions of individuals are 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, Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, saw 241,968 patients in 2019 alone, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, and has more than 835 beds and more than 10,000 employees. Running a hospital of that size — or any size — takes the right education, training, certification, and on-the-job experience.

Students interested in pursuing a career as a hospital administrator should start by completing a relevant hospital administrator degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration Online or an online MHA/MBA Dual Degree from AdventHealth University. Read on to find out how to become a hospital administrator, the outlook for the profession, and how you can pursue a career 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 all serving 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 resources 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.

Hospital Administrator Skill Requirements

Students interested in pursuing a career in hospital administration should work to develop a number of skills.

●      Analytical Skills: Healthcare laws and patient care delivery systems change constantly. Aspiring hospital administrators must not only understand how to operate within current regulations, but also monitor policy changes and adapt operations to stay in compliance.

●      Leadership Skills: Hospital administrators recruit and train staff, communicate with department heads, and develop goals and objectives for various departments. Strong leadership skills help hospital administrators motivate their teams.

●      Interpersonal Skills: Professionals who choose this career path must communicate with a range of disparate audiences, including health insurance representatives, physicians, a hospital’s board of directors, and other patient care stakeholders. Candidates with strong interpersonal skills are better equipped to build positive professional relationships.

●      Technical Skills: Hospital administrators must stay up to date with advancements in healthcare analytics and healthcare technology. Professionals with strong technical skills will understand how to collect and interpret data, and use their findings to make informed decisions.

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 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.

Step #1: Meet Hospital Administrator Degree Requirements

At minimum, aspiring hospital administrators need a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare-related discipline to enter the field. However, those who come to choose hospital administration may have various backgrounds. Whether they entered healthcare as a nurse, a radiologic technologist, or in a different role, they may find their skills are useful in the high-level management of a facility.

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 may prefer candidates with an advanced degree. With its combination of healthcare and business education, a program such as the AdventHealth University Online MHA/MBA Dual Degree could be perfect for healthcare professionals interested in meeting hospital administrator degree requirements.Step #2: Obtain Professional Experience

Students researching how to become a hospital administrator should know that running a hospital, or a single unit, takes a detailed understanding of the way hospitals work. Entry-level positions in hospital administration or management, often obtained after earning a bachelor’s degree, can provide aspiring hospital administrator candidates with a glimpse into the various operations that define a successful hospital. These jobs may include work as a receptionist, a filing assistant, an administrative assistant, a nurse, or an office manager.

Step #3: Build a Professional Network

During undergraduate and early work experiences, it’s crucial for those who want to enter hospital management to establish strong contacts with experienced and influential administrators and healthcare leaders. Those relationships can ultimately lead to job offers and referrals, or simply result in gaining knowledge that can aid in job searches and future employment.

Step #4: Get Certified

Although certifications aren’t listed among the requirements to become a hospital administrator, candidates who have completed a certification program tend to have the best job prospects.
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, plus a master’s degree 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 $104,280 (as of May 2020). However, the median annual salary for medical and health services managers working in hospitals during that same reporting period was slightly higher: $112,870.

Employment Outlook for Hospital Administrators

The BLS reports there were 422,300 medical and health services managers working in the country in 2019. It expects that number to grow to 555,500 by 2029. That’s a growth of 133,200 jobs, or 32%. The BLS further notes that job growth within this profession will be largely driven by the aging baby-boom population and their increased demand for healthcare services.

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. This technology-driven era is already changing the way hospitals and healthcare leaders think about and approach community and public health, and 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. Are you interested in learning more about how to become a hospital administrator? Discover more about AdventHealth University’s online MHA/MBA Dual Degree program and Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration Online program. Structured to prepare you for a meaningful future in hospital administration, these programs focus on the development of leadership skills, financial know-how, and other key competencies, with robust curriculum designed to instill confidence to make decisions at the executive level.

Recommended Readings

Hospital Leadership Tactics During a Crisis

How to Become a Medical Office Manager

Healthcare Management vs. Healthcare Administration


Becker’s Hospital Review, “16 Hospitals With the Most ER Visits in 2019”
Parkland Health and Hospital System
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

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