Earning an education and moving up into a hospital administrator role means you’re going to be spending your days in a position that is highly needed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the overall healthcare industry will be adding more than 4 million jobs as early as 2021. The growth of older Americans as a demographic is part of what is driving the popularity of this professional role.
As a hospital administrator, you’ll be the one who is responsible for maintaining a high quality of healthcare in your facility. While current and upcoming changes make this a challenge to do, you and your hospital facility will be well-rewarded with satisfactory outcomes for most of your patients.
What is a Hospital Administrator?
Hospital administrators are responsible for supervising and managing every area of healthcare delivery in a variety of settings. You may manage an entire hospital or only one department. Regardless, you’ll be responsible for the health information systems facility maintenance, budgeting, and maintenance of the facility’s records.
Steps to Become a Hospital Administrator:
Step 1: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree
Step 2: Consider Earning Your Master’s Degree
Step 3: Find a Position and Gain on-the-Job Experience
Step 4: Earn Licensure or Certification
Step 1: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree
While important, this first step does not mean that you will begin working as a hospital administrator as soon as you earn your bachelor’s degree. You can consider it to be a big step forward toward your goal. Your bachelor’s degree should be one that is relevant to your overall career goal. These include earning a degree in general studies and a concentration in healthcare; or you may decide to earn a bachelor’s in healthcare management.
By beginning with a bachelor’s degree, as all students must who are planning to later earn a master’s degree, you develop a good foundation for your eventual goal. A bachelor’s degree in a related field allows you to learn how to use existing skills you may have, such as leadership, communication, or empathy. It’s an excellent idea to take courses that allow you to learn administrative skills as you keep patient needs in mind. Also, by earning a general studies degree and completing healthcare concentration, you are developing needed healthcare knowledge.
Step 2: Consider Earning Your Master’s Degree
While a graduate degree in health administration isn’t mandatory, it will allow you to develop the knowledge and background you need in a variety of areas of healthcare: human resources, finance, health policy, and ethics.
A Master of Health Administration and one of several concentrations will give your education a sharper focus. You may choose a concentration in senior services, population management, data management, or healthcare strategies, to name just a few options. Once you enroll in a healthcare management master’s degree program, you can expect to be studying and learning for two or three years. One of these years should include a supervised experience in an administrative role; you can choose either a consulting environment or a hospital.
Depending on the graduate program you select, you should try to find one that blends learning experiences from more than one graduate school in your program. A focus on arts and sciences, social service, and business will offer a multifaceted program that makes you even more attractive to future employers.
Step 3: Find a Position and Gain on-the-Job Experience
Once you begin working in your new field, you’ll be able to get on-the-job experience. In fact, gaining your experience this way is preferred—you need to be able to learn while in your new role so you can get comfortable in your position. It may be a good idea to begin working in an administrative role in a smaller healthcare facility—or you can work in a clinical role if you have the education and training for this.
The demand for medical care from treatment facilities, clinics, and hospitals is only going to go up. More people are seeking healthcare, especially the elderly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that, in 2012, a hospital administrator’s median annual salary was $88,580; in 2014, it grew to $92,810. Depending on where you choose to work, your median annual salary may be higher or lower. As you consider where you want to work, take stock of this career field.
Step 4: Earn Licensure or Certification
While a professional certification isn’t mandatory, it will add to your credibility as a hospital administrator. The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) offers certification to healthcare and hospital administrators as long as they have completed an advanced degree (master’s and doctoral).
If you are looking ahead while you’re still a student, you may join as a student affiliate and then gain a regular affiliate status once you graduate. Once you’ve been on the job for five years, working as a healthcare administrator, you may be able to gain fellow status. To achieve this, you’ll need to participate in certain activities and have a certain amount of experience. In addition, you’ll have to network with and develop working relationships with ACHE fellows because you’ll need to obtain several references. To reach this level, you’ll also have to take part in self-study programs and seminars developed for hospital executives—this will take time and may seem overly difficult, but the rewards you gain make it worth your effort.
What Does a Hospital Administrator Do?
An administrator’s responsibilities differ from day to day. One day, they may be calling in to the computer network department to check on a hardware or software issue. They will also check in on and oversee the financial activities of each department of the hospital. If you are working at a large facility, they may manage a department or the entire facility, depending on your education and training.
A large part of these specialists responsibilities may include supervising staff and developing upcoming work schedules for every employee in the hospital. They may supervise staff or handle patient/insurance billing issues. They will also keep practitioner, employee, and patient records maintained and oversee or order hospital maintenance so that everything is working as it should.
They often keep a constant check on how well the hospital is complying with state and federal laws, guidelines, and codes as spelled out from other medical organizations. They ensure that every member of the staff is informed of laws and codes and keeps them trained so that they can remain in compliance. They are responsible for goal setting for the entire facility, looking at challenges such as changes in governmental funding related to healthcare. They may also need to address a shortage of nurses or other staff, which is an issue that affects many hospitals and healthcare facilities.
Hospital Administrator Skills To Acquire
To be successful as a hospital administrator, you need to have certain skills that will support you in your efforts.
- First, you need to be a leader—not just a leader, but one who inspires medical and nursing staff as well as clerical, administrative, and custodial staff. Your professional role is part public health and part hospital administration. Your employees will have personality types that may conflict with another person’s, but you need to help them all to work together to achieve your goals and support positive patient outcomes.
- You and your employees must all operate ethically, using good judgment as you confront various situations that may give you the option to cut corners. You may need to fall back on the side of good ethics and turn down a “good opportunity” to increase your hospital’s profits.
- In everything you do, you need to have top-level organizational skills. Along with looking at the big picture, you need to keep your attention on the smallest of details; a hospital administration program helps you achieve this.
- You also need to possess up-to-date industry knowledge, which can be highly competitive. Your advanced degree will help you to obtain this knowledge, and continued studies help you to learn newer information.
- You need to be able to think critically so that you can develop solutions to issues and data confronting your hospital. When you have a set of predetermined goals in front of you, critical thinking helps you to develop a strategy to get there.
To work in health administration, you must go to college and earn your bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospital administration. Because this is role is so vital in healthcare, an advanced degree in health leadership is mandatory. If you decide that you want to work in healthcare administration, beginning a degree program that allows you to work in healthcare management is the only path to your desired career. You will be involved in public policy, as well as in health emergencies, so working your way up to a hospital administrator’s position from a lower-level position may not work.
However, if you have some type of medical degree, you may have decided that it’s time for you to move over to an administrative role. Having worked with doctors and nurses, you’ll have an inside view and know how each department in a hospital works. You know about issues caused by equipment shortages and what efforts can be made to contain contagious diseases first-hand. Thus, you are able to use those experiences once you move into a hospital administrator’s position.
Hospital Administrator Career & Salary
Where Might You Work?
Even though your role is described as hospital administrator, you may not end up working in a hospital. You may work within a private practice or in a public or private health clinic. You may work in a private practice, running the day-to-day operations. Or you may work in a public health organization that doesn’t see patients first-hand but helps create policy. No matter where you work, your main goal is to operate the health services and ensure that each patient who comes through the door is offered compassionate healthcare.
You shouldn’t expect to necessarily work a 9-to-5 day, or a 5-day workweek either. Because people get sick at night and over the weekend, you may find yourself at the clinic or organization on an odd schedule, ensuring that your staff is attentive to every patient who walks through the doors. If you are working in a hospital, you may change your working hours so that, during the night, you’re walking through a few of the wards, speaking to patients, doctors, and nurses to get a feel for what is happening to your medical staff as they are helping out their patients. You’ll also be gathering material so that you can speak with the board of directors, get ready to present material at a symposium, or learn what needs the hospital has for fundraising purposes.
Hospital administrators, health executives, and medical and health services managers can anticipate a healthy job growth outlook. Between 2019 and 2029, these careers are expected to grow 32%, which is much faster for all other occupations. The growth of the already large baby-boom population as it ages is fueling this employment surge. Also, because people are staying active later in their lives, healthcare services will increase due to the injuries this population suffers.
This increased demand for healthcare services means that healthcare support workers, nurses, and doctors may work longer hours. You, as an administrator, need to ensure that medical and health services are ready and available for patients when they need help.
The offices of healthcare practitioners will also see growth in employment. As they provide medical services, they will be filling an increasing need fueled by people who are growing older and trying to stay active and healthy.
And the job outlook for administrators who hold knowledge specific to IT, health information technology, and informatics systems shows that they will also be staying busy as they oversee the organization and integration of patient records into an electronic format.
Advancing From Here
In order to advance into higher level positions, the most important things you can gain are education and experience. If you’ve only earned a bachelor’s degree, it’s time to spend some time working toward a master’s. Other than that, you can rely on experience and your network helping you really reach for the top. If you’ve made a good impression in the past and gained experience in difficult situations or unique niche areas of healthcare, it will be easier for you to find a higher-level job where the company will be happy to hire you to do the work. The last thing you might consider is credentials or certifications. If you are looking into entering a niche in which you have no experience or you have experience without the extra education to back it up, a certificate could be exactly what you need. Below are a few careers you could move up into if you are already working in healthcare administration.
- Healthcare Consultant:
By rising to this level, you’ll be confronting the difficulties of reimbursements and federal or state regulations regarding healthcare and insurance. You can expect to advise doctors who are setting up their practices, obtaining financing, and putting credentialing and contracts with additional providers.
- Director of Assisted Living:
In this position, you would be running a long-term senior care facility. This means that residents live in the facility, so they need medication management, personal care support, and meals, among many other things.
- Hospital CEO:
In this position, you’ll be busy identifying areas within your hospital or facility that need improvement. You’ll also help to inspire medical staff. You are the person who ensures that your hospital consistently delivers top-quality patient service.
Looking in from the outside at the workday of hospital executives, you may think they live exciting lives. While some days are more exciting than others, hospital administrators are simply ensuring that each department operates efficiently. They must be well-versed in health policy; in fact, though they don’t work directly with patients, they still have a role in saving the lives of the facility’s patients.
Whether they are working in data administration or you oversee the entire hospital, these administrators are a vital part of the healthcare industry. By following federal and state regulations, they ensure that their hospital or facility is taking effective care of its patients while maintaining compliance with all health-focused laws.
- Computer and Information Systems Managers:
These managers must at least earn a bachelor’s degree in IT or computer science. They plan and coordinate computer-related activities and direct their operations. This applies to a hospital administrator’s role if you plan to focus on health informatics or electronic health records (EHR). Your median annual salary may be around $146,000.
- Administrative Services Managers:
This position requires a bachelor’s degree and your median annual salary may average $97,000. In this position, you’ll be involved in planning, directing, and coordinating activities with other employees so the company runs smoothly.
- Human Resources Managers:
This role also requires a bachelor’s degree and you may earn as much as $117,000 annually as you plan and coordinate the human resources functions and focus on the administrative details of your job.
- Financial Managers:
Here, too, a bachelor’s degree is required. Those in this position may earn an annual salary of $130,000. This job will require you to create pertinent financial reports and direct investment activities. You’ll also create plans to address the long-term financial goals of your employer’s company.
- Insurance Underwriters:
This requires a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) with a concentration in insurance or commensurate experience. You view and evaluate all insurance applications, then decide whether your organization will provide what is requested; you’ll also decide upon the terms. The median annual salary in this position may be $70,000.
- Social and Community Service Managers:
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree for this position and your median annual salary may be $67,000. In this position, you will coordinate approved programs and supervise their activities. You will also supervise organizations that help to support the well-being of the public.
- Top Executives:
This role requires a bachelor’s degree, though master’s degrees or MBAs are commonly expected. Those in executive roles can expect their median annual salary to be around $107,000. You’ll work on planning policies and strategies that help your organization to meet its established goals.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a hospital administrator?
Typically, a bachelor's degree is required for a hospital administrator. A master's degree and additional certificates will help you advance your degree and earn a higher salary.
How much do hospital administrators make?
According to Payscale, hospital administrators make around $87,000 annually.
What qualities should a hospital administrator have?
Hospital administrators should be good at making decisions, great at communication, and very organized. They need to have strong leadership abilities, strong ethics, and be proactive risk takers.
What is the job outlook like for a hospital administrator?
Hospital administrator careers are expected to grow 32% between 2019 and 2029.
What kind of work environment do hospital administrators have?
Hospital administrators generally work in an office setting. They typically work around 40 hours a week but it depends on they specific place they work. They do not typically work nights and weekends but may depending on where they work.
Healthcare Career Paths