The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the healthcare industry will add over 4 million jobs — more than any other industry — by the year 2022. Part of this is due to the unprecedented growth of the population of older Americans.
The role of hospital administrator is a crucial one in this expanding industry. Those holding this position are charged with ensuring high-quality care aimed to produce positive patient outcomes. Constant changes in the healthcare industry can make this challenging, but it is a rewarding goal.
Because of the position’s high level of authority and responsibility, those considering becoming hospital administrators should know which skills and higher-level education are needed to pursue that career path.
What Does A Hospital Administrator Do?
Hospital administrators are charged with making sure a facility’s day-to-day functions run efficiently. This includes overseeing several departments, some of which — like human resources and finance — correlate to those in the business world.
At the same time, hospital administrators also work closely with physicians, nurses and other staff to ensure each team member is in the best position possible to provide high-quality healthcare for his or her patients.
This job also entails being a liaison between the hospital and third-party entities, such as insurance firms, vendors and suppliers. On occasion, a hospital administrator may be called upon to oversee specialized aspects like a research program or be involved in a fundraising event.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
The first step to become a hospital administrator is to earn a relevant bachelor’s degree. These can include degrees like an online Bachelor’s in Healthcare Practice Management or online Bachelor’s in General Studies with a Concentration in Healthcare. Each of these programs can be the starting point for students looking to pursue a role in hospital administration.
For instance, a bachelor’s degree in nursing can develop strong, healthcare-based competencies that are important in hospital administration. The common curriculum for this degree is a mix of general education and courses related to nursing such as counseling and healthcare leadership. This can also provide students with the adaptability needed to analyze, teach or lead when unexpected situations arise, all while being mindful of patient needs. From an administrative standpoint, the ability to slip into different healthcare roles can be crucial in keeping a hospital’s operations balanced, particularly given that the state of the industry is currently in constant flux.
A bachelor’s in healthcare management helps students understand the business side of healthcare. The curriculum typically consists of courses in healthcare technology, healthcare-related financial management, and population health management. These courses can build fundamental skills that may help them make critical decisions once they enter the hospital administration field.
Students who pursue a bachelor’s in general studies with a healthcare concentration obtain a foundational understanding of healthcare, which may serve as a stepping stone to a successful career in a nonclinical setting. Common courses for this degree allow students to examine essential healthcare topics like ethics and public health, while honing fundamental skills such as communication and critical thinking. In some cases, students can have opportunities to focus on a specialized aspect of healthcare, such as mental health or gerontology.
Step 2: Obtain a Master’s Degree (Optional)
While earning a healthcare-related bachelor’s degree is important, it is just the first educational step toward becoming a hospital administrator. Having an advanced degree, such as an online Master’s in Health Administration (MHA), cultivates a well-rounded background in a host of health-related subjects, including ethics, finance, health policy and human resources.
Many in pursuit of an MHA choose to focus their education on a particular aspect of healthcare. Some of these concentrations may include:
- Data Management: This allows students to use data and data analysis to find ways to improve administrative operations and develop financial strategies.
- Population Management: This enables students to deploy their managerial and leadership skills to coordinate community help and thwart potential epidemics.
- Healthcare Strategies: This allows students to focus on big-picture issues, such as healthcare economics, policy and marketing.
- Senior Services: This enables students to fine-tune skills needed to provide high-quality care for the rapidly increasing older population.
Typically, a master’s degree in Health Administration can be obtained in two to three years. These programs may also include up to one year of supervised administrative experience in either a hospital or consulting environment.
Step 3: Gain On-the-Job Experience
For those pursuing a master’s in health administration, real-world experience can help graduates to pursue higher-level jobs in the health administration profession sooner rather than later. This might be gained in an administrative or clinical role in a healthcare facility setting, for example.
Typically, licensing is not a requirement for health services management positions like a hospital administrator. However, some positions may require a social worker or registered nurse license. Certification is also not usually required, although some administrators nonetheless choose to become certified through organizations such as the American Health Information Management Association.
What Skills Does a Hospital Administrator Need?
Some of the fundamental skills needed are similar those needed for managerial positions in the business world. For instance, a hospital administrator must be detail oriented with strong analytical skills, which are key to not only keeping a facility running smoothly, but also to correctly adapting to new healthcare regulations.
Because hospital administrators are charged with overseeing staff, it’s important that they possess strong leadership skills that motivate staff to efficiently carry out new and existing policies. They must also have solid communication and interpersonal skills to help them effectively interact with their staff and with other outside entities, such as vendors or donors.
Hospital administrators must also have well-developed technical skills. The rapid evolution of healthcare technology and its role in increasing positive patient outcomes demand that hospital administrators stay abreast of the latest advances. This could include learning how to incorporate the tech into the hospital’s healthcare strategy as it becomes available.
Hospital Administrator Salaries and Job Outlook
Becoming a hospital administrator can be a financially rewarding career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2017 median pay for hospital administrators is around $98,000 per year. It is also a job that’s projected to be in high demand. BLS projects 20 percent growth in the industry by 2026, which is a much faster projected rate than that of other industries.
Start Your Journey To Becoming A Hospital Administrator Today
Learning how to become a hospital administrator is one way a person can achieve the goal of being a positive influence in the world of healthcare. Overseeing a facility’s operations in the face of a constantly changing industry is not without its challenges. However, being able to work toward the goal of delivering high-quality healthcare to patients provides rewards that make any obstacles more than worthwhile.
To learn more about how to reap the rewards of this important career, visit Maryville University’s online Master’s in Health Administration program.