MHA Career Path: How to Become a Hospital Administrator

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Healthcare professionals standing in a hospital corridor


Delivering high-quality care to hospital patients is a collaborative team effort. At the center of the facility is the hospital administrator. These leaders organize the staff — nurses, doctors, human resource personnel, administrative staff, and beyond — to perform their duties effectively. Hospital administrators must apply their work and educational experience to adapt to changing demands without compromising the safety of patients. Those interested in how to become a hospital administrator can learn the necessary leadership skills and expand their industry knowledge by adding a master’s of health administration to their resume.

What Does a Hospital Administrator Do?

The ultimate responsibility of hospital administrators is to ensure the effective delivery of health services to patients. Hospital administrators may manage a small medical practice or a large community hospital. They can also specialize as nursing home administrators or clinical managers.

In a smaller facility, the hospital administrator is directly responsible for all the organization’s business activities such as accounting, human resources, and recordkeeping. In large hospitals, they often manage a team of directors who are responsible for business functions such as talent attraction and retention, finance, information technology, and policymaking.

As part of their professional role, hospital administrators often represent their facility at governance meetings. During these meetings, the hospital’s board will ask questions relating to facility spending, patient billing, employee turnover, and the number of inpatients. It’s critical that hospital administrators stay up-to-date on all facility operations.

Part of delivering effective medical services to patients involves creating a cohesive workplace culture. From the hospital’s executives to the ground maintenance staff, hospital administrators must unify employees toward the same goal. To accomplish this, they may incorporate feedback from employees and patients to implement improvements such as adding employee benefits or making technology upgrades. If there are changes to operations, hospital administrators must communicate this with all employees to ensure the change is successful.

Steps to Become a Hospital Administrator

Creating policies, managing employees, and understanding budgets are some of the skills hospital administrators learn through their education and work experience. Professionals who become a hospital administrator typically begin their career by earning a bachelor’s degree in health administration or a related field such as nursing. These programs can lead to a position in a hospital environment that provides valuable exposure to clinical processes and procedures.

Some hospital administrators may have a bachelor’s degree in business administration or finance and support a hospital’s business functions such as recordkeeping or accounting.

Both paths to becoming a hospital administrator provide fundamental skills for the position. However, many hospitals and health care employers are looking for candidates with a graduate-level education in health administration.

The Benefits of a Master’s Degree

A Master of Health Administration (MHA) program emphasizes business practices such as accounting and company strategy for a health care services environment. Following are topics that are usually studied in-depth to help students prepare for making effective decisions that enhance the delivery of health care services:

  • Information systems for health services
  • Leadership of health organizations
  • Health policy
  • Evaluation and quality improvement in health care
  • Health care finance
  • Strategic planning and marketing in health services

An MHA is designed to provide the necessary skills to begin a career as a hospital administrator or advance to a higher level with increased responsibilities and salary.

Salaries of a Hospital Administrator

In May 2018, the median salary was $99,730 for medical and health services managers, including hospital administrators, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). New hospital administrators typically begin their career with an average salary of $77,446 according to the compensation website PayScale, while those with more experience earn an average salary closer to $111,968.

Salaries vary based on the industry — with the BLS reporting medical and health services managers in the government sector earning a median wage of $110,460 — while those in nursing and residential care facilities may earn a median wage of approximately $84,260.

Future Job Growth for Hospital Administrators

Patient demographics are changing. Larger numbers of baby boomers are entering health care facilities and chronic diseases are taking more lives, according to the BLS and the World Health Organization (WHO).

By 2020, the WHO estimates chronic diseases will account for one-third of deaths globally. Patients with chronic diseases such as heart disease or diabetes will look to the health care industry to detect and diagnose these diseases early. For aspiring hospital administrators, recent technological advances represent exciting opportunities to improve patient care while minimizing health system costs, according to an article by PwC.

Changing patient demographics, technology advancements, and other elements are creating higher than average demand for medical and health services managers, according to the BLS, with the number of positions expected to grow by 20% from 2016 to 2026.

Learn More About Becoming a Hospital Administrator

Becoming a hospital administrator involves more than just leading a hospital. Every operational aspect of a medical facility depends on talented people who proactively adapt to market and technological changes. Learn more about the Ohio University online Master of Health Administration program and discover how to launch your career as a hospital administrator today.


Recommended Readings:

Health Administration Careers

The Characteristics That Make a Great Leader in Health Administration

How Health Administrators Are Helping Safeguard Medicine in the Developing World


Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

Career Trend, “Duties & Responsibilities of a Hospital Administrator”

Career Trends, “Prerequisites for a Healthcare Administrator”

Houston Chronicle, “What Kind of Degree Do I Need to Be a Hospital Administrator?”

Payscale, “Average Entry-Level Hospital Administrator Salary”

PayScale, “Average Late-Career Hospital Administrator Salary”

PwC, “Costly chronic care needs are growing and exerting considerable demand on health systems”

US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, “Health care managers’ and administrators’ roles, functions, and responsibilities.”

World Health Organization, Nutrition

Ohio University, Online Master of Health Administration

Ohio University, “The Characteristics The Make a Great Leader in Health Administration”