How to Become a Healthcare Organization CEO

healthcare organization ceo leading meeting with board members

CEOs of healthcare organizations are experienced professionals who oversee almost every aspect of a medical facility, making sure operations run effectively. They must be adept at streamlining processes to improve efficiencies and allocate resources for effective patient care. A healthcare CEO balances management of operations, staff, and finances to ensure the organization is using its time and resources effectively.

Wondering how to become a healthcare organization CEO? This challenging and rewarding career starts with education. Successful candidates must also have several years of professional healthcare management experience. Healthcare organization CEOs work in private or public healthcare facilities of various sizes, structures, and missions.

What Does a Healthcare Organization CEO Do?

Healthcare organization CEOs directly and indirectly impact every decision within their facilities. Their most important task is patient safety, including staying up-to-date on best practices, implementation, and standards of care in the hospital or healthcare facility. In addition to patient well-being, the CEO is responsible for staff and operations. These duties typically involve balancing budgets, planning expenditures, recruiting employees, monitoring employee and patient satisfaction, acting as a representative of the organization, and creating or revising new procedures to maintain high quality of care.

To effectively accomplish all of those tasks, CEOs of healthcare organizations usually possess the following skills:

Organization:  Organizational skills are vital to the job. With many disparate departments of the facility, healthcare organization CEOs must be up-to-date on all operations and personnel matters. They must delegate when necessary and assemble a highly functioning senior staff to run the facility’s day-to-day functions.

Attention to detail: Healthcare organization CEOs work at the macro level, but also focus on micro details like low standards of care, patient or employee dissatisfaction, broken equipment, unbalanced budgets, etc. Paying attention to smaller details enables healthcare organization CEOs a more holistic view of the organization and how to make meaningful improvements.

Interpersonal skills: An important skill set for a healthcare organization CEO is communication with the many disparate individuals within the facility like patients, employees, families, staff, vendors, and other key stakeholders. CEOs convey messages clearly and confidently. They are the “face” of the entire facility and must use exemplary interpersonal communication skills.

Steps to Become a Healthcare Organization CEO

Becoming a healthcare organization CEO requires several years of education and professional development. Here is an overview of the key accomplishments associated with this career path.


When you think about how to become a healthcare organization CEO, education should be a key consideration. Executive roles in the healthcare sector must have a bachelor’s degree, and competitive candidates for healthcare CEO positions usually have degrees at the master’s level or beyond, typically related to healthcare or business. Some potential areas of study include healthcare administration, nursing, or business administration.

An advanced nursing degree can help professionals develop fundamental skills for high-level management roles, such as interpersonal communication, leadership, strategy, and planning. An online Doctor of Nursing Practice-Nurse Practitioner (DNP-NP) program, for example, provides a path for professionals who already possess Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees to learn more complex theories and structures in the healthcare industry, including clinical practices, large-scale administrative systems, advocacy, and policy. In addition to earning DNP degrees, graduates of DNP-NP programs also qualify to take credentialing examinations to become certified nurse practitioners.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Healthcare CEOs may need to hold industry-related licenses, although specific requirements vary between states according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Aspiring healthcare CEOs may choose optional certifications and distinctions to improve their prospective career progression by gaining additional knowledge and skills. For example, healthcare organization CEOs can become certified in medical office management via the Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management. The American Health Information Management Association offers a health information management certification, and the American College of Healthcare Administrators offers nursing home and assisted living administrator distinctions.

Professional Experience

Healthcare professionals pursuing a CEO career track with at least a master’s degree also need several years of practical experience while staying stay up-to-date with changing policies and best practices. Further experience in different healthcare managerial roles such as a health services manager, at both small and large facilities in either public or private settings are helpful.

Healthcare professionals with a nursing background may be well-equipped to advance to senior management due to their practical skill sets and hands-on experience in clinical environments. Over time, the additional knowledge gained from EOC-level instruction and experience help healthcare organization CEO candidates become well-rounded professionals.

Healthcare Organization CEO Salaries

In 2017, the median annual salary for healthcare and social assistance CEOs was $160,940, according to data from the BLS. However, healthcare organization CEO salaries can fluctuate due to various factors including education, skill set, experience, and certifications.

Employment Outlook for Healthcare Organization CEOs

Chief executive positions are highly coveted and competition for jobs is intense. The BLS expects growth in senior care to drive job creation for healthcare executives in the next several years: employment of medical and health services managers is on pace to increase 20 percent between 2016 and 2026. The rising need for healthcare services and staff translates into increasing demand for healthcare organization CEOs to navigate the industry’s exciting growth and change.

Pursue a Career as a Healthcare Executive

Healthcare organization CEOs put their managerial skills to use by successfully operating and improving the efficiency of healthcare facilities. An online Doctor of Nursing Practice-Nurse Practitioner (DNP-NP) program opens a route for MSN professionals to expand their knowledge and skill set of the intricate theories, practices, and structures in the healthcare system. Learn more about what healthcare organization CEOs do and how you can get started on a path toward a potential management role.



American College of Health Care Administrators, Home

American Health Information Management Association, Home

National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards, State Boards

Professional Association of Health Care Office Management, Home

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Medical or Health Services Manager

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Top Executives: Job Outlook

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Top Executives: Pay