Health Administration » ​Hospital Administrator Qualifications, How to Become a Hospital Administrator

Hospital Administrator Qualifications: How to Become a Hospital Administrator

Hospital administrators are in many ways similar to leaders of other businesses. However, because the hospital administrator also serves the needs of patients in the healthcare system, the hospital administrator career path can be quite different from that of other industries or fields.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospital administrators will be in high demand over the next decade, with a projected 20 percent growth rate through 2026.

For those seeking to become a hospital administrator, the initial questions are which degree program to pursue and how to develop a career path that can ultimately lead to the top of the organizational hierarchy chart.


What is a Hospital Administrator?

  • Hospital administrator qualifications are unique because the job necessitates a balance between business needs and patient care. Every administrator must weigh the needs of complying with healthcare regulations, tight budgets, strict legal guidelines and insurance issues against patience care, confidentiality, staff concerns and compassion.A hospital administrator must also be able to control costs. To understand the balance between quality healthcare and cost containment requires someone with an understanding of hospital policies and expenses along with patient needs. The hospital administrator is often the one person who bridges the link between the business side of a hospital and the patients.Hospital administrators understand the inner workings of a hospital and are ultimately responsible for ensuring the hospital provides quality care. This requires that qualifications be specific to both the business and patient side of health care delivery. As a result, hospital administrators must have a strong skill set in:
    • Managing personnel
    • Problem solving
    • Understanding legal documents in the medical field
    • Organizing work
    • Organizing teams
    • Handling multiple projects

    Depending on the size of the hospital, there can be an enormous number of departments and many different administrators. Administrators are involved at the department level, clinical level or oversee an entire hospital. Top-level administrators are usually referred to as hospital CEOs.

Education Requirements for a Hospital Administrator

Although the entry-level requirement for medical and health services management positions is typically a bachelor’s degree, the BLS notes that master’s degrees are common in the field and sometimes preferred by employers. The BLS also notes that prospective medical and health services managers typically have a degree in one of the following fields:

  • Health administration
  • Health management
  • Nursing
  • Public health administration
  • Business administration

A master’s degree can help you in your climb to the top, and it may even help you earn more once you become a senior-level administrator. According to the 2017 Salary Survey by 2017 Salary Survey by Health Facilities Management, a publication of the American Hospital Association (AHA), education is critical not only to career advancement but also to better salaries:

Facilities Management/Operations/Engineering
Level of Education Average Salary
High school diploma $76,056
Associate degree $89,343
Some college $92,310
Vocational or trade degree $94,404
Bachelor’s degree $108,996
Master’s degree/MBA $133,747

Hospital Administrator Skills and Competencies

Whether you’re exploring bachelors programs or thinking about going back to school for a graduate degree, look for programs that will help you develop the skills and competencies necessary to succeed as a hospital administrator.

The Healthcare Leadership Alliance (HLA) developed a competency model to better define the requirements of healthcare managers. These competencies can also help aspiring hospital administrators identify areas of importance to focus on in their own personal development.

Competency Definition Strengths
Communication and Relationship Management The ability to communicate clearly and concisely with internal and external customers, establish and maintain relationships and facilitate constructive interactions with individuals and groups.
  • Communication skills
  • Facilitation and negotiation
  • Relationship management
Leadership The ability to inspire individual and organizational excellence, create a shared vision and successfully manage change to attain the organization’s strategic ends and successful performance.
  • Leadership skills and behavior
  • Organizational climate and culture
  • Communicating vision
  • Managing change
Professionalism The ability to align personal and organizational conduct with ethical and professional standards that include a responsibility to the patient and community, a service orientation and a commitment to lifelong learning and improvement.
  • Personal and professional accountability
  • Professional development and lifelong learning
  • Contributions to the community and profession
Business Skills and Knowledge The ability to apply business principles, including systems thinking, to the healthcare environment.
  • General management
  • Financial management
  • Human resource management
  • Organizational dynamics and governance
  • Strategic planning and marketing
  • Information management
  • Risk management
  • Quality improvement
Knowledge of the Healthcare Environment The understanding of the healthcare system and the environment in which healthcare managers and providers function.
  • Healthcare systems and organizations
  • Healthcare personnel
  • The patient’s perspective
  • The community and the environment

Source: ACHE Healthcare Executive 2017 Competencies Assessment Tool

The Hospital Administrator Career Path

Unless you already work in healthcare and are thinking about pursing a master’s degree to obtain a senior-level administrative position, your first job in healthcare management might be an entry- or mid-level position in a specialized area. Hospital administrators usually begin working in supportive roles and gradually rise through the ranks to the top.

The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) lists some of the common areas future administrators typically start out in:

  • Finance
  • Government relations
  • Human resources
  • Information systems
  • Marketing and public relations
  • Medical staff relations
  • Material management
  • Patient care services
  • Planning and development

Certification and Continuing Education

According to the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM), earning certification can help aspiring hospital administrators by providing a competitive advantage with current and prospective employers and access to lucrative positions and promotions.

While being a hospital administrator does not require specific certification, those interested in becoming a hospital executive may want to join the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), which can help advance your hospital administrator career path through networking, continued education, and public policy programs.

Continuing education is vital to the hospital administrator career path. Because of the high degree of technology involved in today’s hospitals, the hospital administrator must constantly update those skills.

From data analysis and technical equipment to ever-changing insurance requirements, the hospital administrator’s job changes daily. Fortunately, you can acquire the skills and knowledge you need without putting your life on hold thanks to online graduate-level health administration degree programs.

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