Business Administration

How to Become a Hospital CEO

How to Become a Hospital CEO
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Noodle Staff November 27, 2018

Do you find yourself driven to help people in a healthcare setting but you also love the business aspect of the medical field? If that sounds like you, you may be the perfect candidate for the position of a hospital CEO.

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As a hospital CEO, you will hold the position of being the leader that others turn to for guidance on day to day operations and how to proceed in the best way that follows the mission and vision of the hospital itself.

It’s a demanding job, and if you thrive under pressure and enjoy leadership and making strategic decisions that affect others, you may just have what it takes to be successful in this role.

So what does it take to become a hospital CEO, anyway? Read on to find out.

What do hospital CEOs do?

The hospital CEO is ultimately in charge of how well the hospital functions. The smooth operations of daily hospital life is up to how well you do your job, and you may even have to make critical decisions regarding life and death choices. Because it’s not an easy job, the hard work comes with a hefty salary – you can expect to make a pretty good income in this field.


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The role of a hospital CEO includes such important aspects as:

  • Patient safety: The primary goal in healthcare organizations is patient care, and as the CEO you would work in tandem with others to develop, implement, and evaluate patient safety guidelines.

  • Patient satisfaction: While it’s nearly impossible to please everyone, patient satisfaction has become a performance indicator that CEOs need to focus on. It can even affect your salary.

  • Quality of healthcare: The CEO must be constantly abreast of performance indicators that measure the quality of healthcare and always be working to improve these factors.

  • Developing and revising policies and procedures: As part of a team, the CEO helps to create new policies and procedures as necessary and review and revise existing ones.

  • Assist with financial practices: The overall health of the hospital relies on the financial stability of it, and the CEO must work with the Chief Finance Officer (CFO) to make successful decisions.

  • Strategic planning meetings: The CEO is primarily in charge of planning strategic goals and objectives for the hospital as well as working as part of a team with the other senior executives on staff.

  • Overall compliance: As a CEO, you are responsible for ensuring that the staff and organization itself are in compliance with all laws, policies, procedures, and regulations regarding healthcare.

  • Community relationships: The CEO is considered a leader in the community and must foster and maintain a good relationship with others, including the staff in the hospital, the board of directors, and those in the community.

  • Quality staff recruiting and retention: The CEO is responsible for creating policies that recruit leaders and quality staff to the hospital, and sustaining an environment in which those employees continue to stay in their positions.

If being in charge of these important factors of running a hospital is something you are passionate about, then you should start on the path to becoming a hospital CEO.

Steps to become a hospital CEO

The first step is the one you are taking right now – getting to know exactly what becoming a hospital CEO entails. To do this, you need to evaluate the field of hospital administration and what that encompasses because you will be in charge of all of it.

Step two is to finish your undergraduate degree if you have not done so yet. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in any subject to be able to move forward to get your graduate degree for this position. You don’t need a specific field for this, but a business background and some healthcare knowledge is going to be helpful to you in the long run.

Step three is to enter a graduate program to get your MBA. You can choose from fields such as healthcare administration, business administration, public health, or many other business and healthcare associated programs.

Once you have successfully completed grad school and have your MBA, you can find a job as a hospital administrator. This career is in high demand, so you should have a good chance of finding work in this field.

A hospital CEO generally has at least 15 years of experience in healthcare management before stepping into the CEO role. Successful CEOs recommend that you seek out a mentor from someone in a senior role before you apply.

What training and education do you need to be a hospital CEO?

Hospital CEO educational requirements are rigid while still giving you flexibility. Your bachelor’s can be in any field, but it is highly recommended that you have a background in healthcare and business before entering the MBA graduate program.

However, the only absolute requirement to becoming a hospital administrator – the step before hospital CEO – is that you have an MBA in a program such as Master’s of Healthcare Administration (MHA), Master’s of Business Administration (MBA), or a Master’s of Medical Management (MMM).

You can obtain these degrees through the regular college route or through online programs such as:

These are only a few of the online options for your MBA. There are many more available that may fit your schedule and your budget if these do not.

There’s no set minimum number of years you have to work as a healthcare administrator before becoming a CEO, but most successful CEOs have at least 15 years of experience in the administrator role. It’s also recommended that at least five of those years be in a job as a senior manager.

Average hospital CEO salaries in the U.S.

The average salary of a hospital CEO depends on your experience and your location, among other factors.

A hospital CEO salary is going to more than cover the costs of obtaining your master’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in the healthcare field of administration provides a mean annual salary of $106,070 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but when you have a master’s and enough experience to become a CEO, that salary increases exponentially.

When you ask the question, “How much does a hospital CEO make?” and then break it down by major cities on Payscale/Salary), you see a huge difference:

  • The average hospital CEO salary in New York City is $203,505.

  • In Los Angeles, that average is $181,828.

  • A Miami’s hospital CEO receives an average salary of $151,210.

  • Chicago’s average hospital CEO salary is $192,309.

When you compound the extra $50,000 to $100,000 per year in average pay, factor in pay raises for experience and bonuses received, and then add them together, the difference is in the millions of dollars.

Ready to become a hospital CEO?

It may seem daunting to need years of experience to become a CEO, but there is no better time to start than now. As you work as a hospital administrator, you will learn the ins and outs of what you’ll need to be doing to be a successful CEO, be receiving a pretty nice salary each year, and be paving your way to that hospital CEO position before you even realize the years have flown by!

Works Cited

“Average Chief Executive Officer Salary.” Payscale. (n.d.) Retrieved November 1, 2018 from

“Average Hospital Administrator Salary.” Payscale. (n.d.) Retrieved November 1, 2018 from

“George Washington University: Online Master of Health Administration.” (n.d.) Retrieved November 1, 2018 from

“How Much Does a Health Administrator Make?” Bureau of Labor and Statistics. (n.d.) Retrieved November 1, 2018 from

“Key performance indicators in hospital based on balanced scorecard model.” H. Rahimi et al. (January 2017.) Retrieved October 30, 2018 from

“Mississippi College: Master of Health Services Administration.” (n.d.) Retrieved November 1, 2018 from

“NYU Wagner: Online Master of Health Administration.” (n.d.) Retrieved October 31, 2018 from

“University of North Carolina: Executive Master of Health Administration.” (n.d.) Retrieved November 1, 2018 from

“University of Southern California: Executive Master of Health Administration.” (n.d.) Retrieved October 31, 2018 from

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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Categorized as: Business AdministrationHealthcare AdministrationNursing & Healthcare