Healthcare Administrator Career: Steps, Salary, Education

Are you interested in pursuing a career as a healthcare administrator? In this article, we'll explore these paths and help you discover which one might be the best fit for you.
Healthcare Administrator Career: Steps, Salary, Education

Hospital administrators oversee the day-to-day operations of the hospital. They are involved in various procedures and processes, from hiring staff to reviewing budgets to maintaining policies and regulations. Hospital administrators are less involved in clinical care and focus more on hospital efficiency and success. If you're interested in becoming a decision-maker or leader in a health care setting, this guide will prepare you for this role's educational and experience requirements. 

What Does a Hospital Administrator Do?

Hospital administrators ensure that the health care facility functions smoothly. As a supervisory, and sometimes executive-level role, they are responsible for staffing retention, finances, hospital outcomes, and resource allocation, among other responsibilities. Let's break down some of the tasks a hospital administrator may handle on a daily basis:

  • Recruit and sometimes train medical staff
  • Oversee and analyze budgets and financial data
  • Ensure the facility meets regulatory standards
  • Assist with developing programs and services
  • Attend meetings with department heads and board members
  • Communicate with vendors and stakeholders
  • Ensure the cost-effective use of staff, equipment, and services
  • Develop and evaluate goals for organizational improvement 

Kapri Ames, Associate Chief Nursing Officer at Indiana University Health West, has been in health care administration for 14 years after six years as a nurse. She has held multiple leadership positions, such as service line director, clinical director, medical unit manager, and post-operation manager.

Ames believes that those best suited to jobs in hospital administration have a passion for the work, strong coping skills, the ability to embrace change, succinct communication skills, and self-awareness. "I'd say 80% or more of what we do is all based on good communication," said Ames.

How Much do Hospital administrators Make? 

The job outlook for hospital administration is strong, with professionals in the medical and health services managers sector projected to grow 28 percent by 2032. As the population ages, more health care workers and facilities will be needed to provide care, equaling more opportunities for hospital administrators.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hospital administrator salary in 2022 was $104,830 annually. Hospital administrator salaries ranged from $93,610 for those working in nursing homes to $125,280 for those who worked in hospital settings.

Where do Hospital Administrators Work?

As the job title implies, hospital administrators work in hospitals. However, this role is also found in government facilities, outpatient centers, and nursing homes. 

Hospital administrators work full-time schedules, though they are never truly off the clock. Since their role is so important and comprehensive, and hospitals are always open, they are on call in case of emergency situations.

What Degree Does a Hospital Administrator Need?‍

There isn't one specific degree required to become a hospital administrator. There are multiple types of health care administration degrees at bachelor's, master's, or doctorate levels that can prepare you for a role in hospital administration. These degrees can focus on areas such as hospital management, business administration, or public health.

However, the most highly recognized degree for this position is a master's degree in health administration. One degree path is a Master of Public Health (MPH), where students can choose programs of study such as community health promotion, epidemiology, and public health administration. Another degree path is a Master of Health Administration (MHA), which specifically prepares students for leadership and management in health care. Both degrees take two years of full-time commitment, though there are accelerated programs available. It is also possible to complete your MPH or MHA degree entirely online.

Before pursuing either degree path, interested candidates must complete an undergraduate degree. Most people interested in hospital administration possess health care-related degrees in nursing or biology, though degrees in accounting, health information technology, or human resources are also beneficial. 

How Many Years of College do You Need to be a Hospital Administrator?

A four-year bachelor's degree may be accepted for some hospital administration positions in smaller hospitals or facilities. Most larger health systems will expect a graduate degree at minimum. An advanced degree is more common for those who would like to further their careers in higher levels of management. At a minimum, a hospital administrator will likely possess six years of college education. 

Ames found that her Master of Nursing Education was valuable because it helped with communication skills. Coupling experience with education is her advice for being a strong leader.

"Graduate school creates a wider depth and breadth of thought process, communication skills, and how to problem solve more systematically. It shapes you in a different way that you don't have with only a bachelor's degree," she said.

How to Begin a Career in Hospital Administration

The following steps outline the basics of beginning your career as a hospital administrator. 

Step 1: Obtain a bachelor's degree

The first step in pursuing a career in hospital administration is obtaining a bachelor's degree. While a degree in health care administration or any health care-related field is advised, any bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for furthering your education.

Step 2: Gain experience

Hospital administration is not an entry-level career. This position requires years of previous experience as you will make decisions that may affect an entire healthcare organization. Previous clinical, health care, or administrative experience in any setting will give you the relevant experience you need. You can look within your current work organization for opportunities to advance into a leadership role.

Ames offers this advice: "Take advantage of any opportunity that's presented to network, learn, and grow, even if you don't know what purpose it might serve." 

She suggests interning or shadowing to acquire additional job-related experience.

 "I took them all, whether it was a one-time subgroup to an ongoing committee or charge nurse certifications," she said. "Not knowing where it might lead but just having an appetite to learn and grow and be involved in my profession (was beneficial)."

Step 3: Consider an advanced  degree 

Many employers will require a minimum of a master's degree for hospital administration roles. By obtaining an MPH, MHA, or even a master's in business administration (MBA), you demonstrate your knowledge of health care policies and business processes.

Step 4: Consider certifications

While certifications aren't required, they can set you apart from other candidates and even increase your earning potential. Consider the following certifications that align with hospital administration:

Step 5: Hone leadership skills

Hospital administrators are involved in all departments of the hospital system, from clinical areas to insurance providers. They possess strong leadership skills vital for conflict resolution, listening, delegation, and innovation.

Ames recognized that through her role, she could help not only the patients indirectly but all members of the medical team. "My ability to influence and impact the teams taking care of the patients was immeasurable," she said. "I realized if I lifted up (my team), inspired them, and held us accountable to best practices and great outcomes, that was rewarding for everyone."


What degree is best for hospital administration?

A bachelor's degree in health care administration or a related field, such as public health, business, or a clinical discipline, is suggested. Coursework that combines clinical objectives with business offers the most preparation for hospital administration.

What skills are needed to be a hospital administrator?

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Integrity
  • Team building
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking

What does an administrator do in a hospital?

Hospital administrators are involved with employee recruitment and training, policy creation, quality assurance, public relations, and developing procedures and treatments.

What are other titles for hospital administrators?

There may be multiple hospital administrators in a facility. The highest-paid hospital administrators may possess titles like chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief nursing officer, or chief medical officer.

More Resources

Become a Health Care Administrator: Steps & Skills
Step into the role of a health care administrator. This guide covers essential education, skills, and career paths to manage health facilities effectively.
Become a Medical Services Manager: Education & Skills Guide
Learn how to become a medical services manager with our comprehensive guide covering education requirements, essential skills, and tips for career advancement in healthcare administration.
Become a Nursing Home Administrator: Education & Career Guide
Discover the path to becoming a Nursing Home Administrator, including education, certification, and skills needed for this rewarding healthcare management role.
Program outcomes may vary depending on each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guranteed.