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Clinical Director Career

How to Become a Clinical Director

Every organization needs someone to manage and oversee the day-to-day operations. In a healthcare setting, this job falls to a clinical director.   
Although the clinical director doesn’t typically interact with patients, they have the important job of overseeing the quality and safety of patient care. 

If you thrive in a healthcare setting and are passionate about organizational management, patient care, and meeting challenges, you might want to consider pursuing the clinical director career path. Here’s what you need to know about what a clinical director does, their salary, and how you can become one.

clinical director talking to a medical doctor

What Is a Clinical Director?

Clinical directors have their hands in nearly every aspect of hospital or clinic operations—from supervising the staff, to managing budgets, to ensuring that a clinic follows all state and federal regulations. In many cases, they have experience working with patients themselves and understand what it takes to provide exceptional care. 
Clinical directors can work in hospitals, doctors' offices, mental health facilities, and other organizations—but their number one priority is to make sure that patients have effective and well-organized treatment and recovery plans.

What Does a Clinical Director Do?

Clinical directors are responsible for all the outcomes of care and critical recovery of patients in their healthcare facilities. They must have excellent attention to detail and be able to give evidence-based direction. 

A typical day might include:

  • Formulating and introducing strategies that improve the clinic's performance and meet clinical and business goals. 
  • Ensuring facility compliance with legal policies, state guidelines, and federal regulations. 
  • Hiring staff to meet needs as necessary. 
  • Organizing patient care. 
  • Paying careful attention to medical records and documentation and making sure these are maintained according to state and federal requirements. 
  • Actively reviewing employee performance on a quarterly or annual basis to motivate staff, keep them engaged, and ensure high-quality operations. 
  • Planning, managing, and budgeting for the clinic's operations, including payroll and programs. 
  • Using excellent communication and leadership skills to connect patients and families with care staff, nurses, doctors, and administrators. 

How Do I Become a Clinical Director?

To become a clinical director, you'll need a bachelor's degree in a healthcare-related field, such as health services coordination or healthcare management. A health services coordination degree teaches graduates to navigate changes in technology, insurance, and medicine within the field of health services management. Graduates coordinate with healthcare providers, patients, caregivers, and medical services to improve the effectiveness, safety, and efficiency of an increasingly complex healthcare system.

A healthcare management degree offers graduates the knowledge, skills, and confidence to play a key leadership role in a wide range of environments, such as doctors' offices, hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and government offices that serve the healthcare industry. 

After earning your degree, you'll begin your career in another healthcare role, such as a healthcare administrator—where you'll learn key practices and the standards expected in high-functioning healthcare clinics.

The next step is to earn a master's degree in health leadership or an MBA in healthcare management

As you seek a clinical director position, you must meet all state and federal standards for licensure, as well as pass any necessary exams.

Best Degrees for a Clinical Director

Health Services Coordination – B.S.

An online health degree program for students passionate about...

An online health degree program for students...

An online health degree program for students passionate about value-based care and dedicated to helping others.

  • Time: 60% of graduates of similar programs finish within 3 years.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,795 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Sample careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Care coordinator
  • Patient advocate
  • Health services coordinator
  • Patient educator
  • Community health educator

This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also directly working with patients who need help.

Healthcare Management – B.S. Business Administration

You can become a healthcare industry leader:...

You can become a healthcare industry leader:...

You can become a healthcare industry leader:

Compare with B.S. Health Information Management

  • Time: 70% of graduates finish within 35 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,720 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Health information manager
  • Community service manager
  • Clinical manager
  • Medical records manager
  • Social service manager

The online courses in this career-focused business degree program will prepare you with management-level skills and an up-to-date understanding of our healthcare delivery system.

Master of Health Leadership

A master's focused on managing comprehensive, value-based care,...

A master's focused on managing comprehensive,...

A master's focused on managing comprehensive, value-based care, directly in line with innovations in health and healthcare.

  • Time: 78% of grads finish within 24 months. 
  • Tuition and fees: $4,385 per 6-month term.

Examples of careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Managed care executive
  • Director of integrated care management
  • Health center manager/clinic manager
  • Director of integrated facilities

Your rich experience in a health-related field can mean more when you bring a master's level of understanding to the problems that organizations need to solve.

Compare degrees
This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

MBA Healthcare Management

Prepare for a career leading private or public healthcare...

Prepare for a career leading private or public...

Prepare for a career leading private or public healthcare organizations.

  • Time: Graduates can finish within 12 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,675 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • President and CEO
  • Vice president
  • Administrative director
  • Chief financial officer
  • Other executive-level roles

Healthcare is big business in today's complex economy.  Steer your career with this specialty MBA.

Compare online business degrees

This program is not the only online business degree WGU offers that is designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

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male clinical director talking to a female doctor

What Skills Does a Clinical Director Need?

To be successful, a clinical director needs a special combination of hard and soft skills. These include:

  • Leadership and communication skills. Clinical directors must be adept at building relationships, creating and maintaining a positive work environment, and leading a variety of employees and team members—including doctors, nurses, healthcare administrators, and support staff. 
  • Planning and organizational skills. Clinical directors are tasked with planning, budgeting, managing, and evaluating clinical operations. They need strong project management skills and the ability to see both the big-picture vision as well as the small details. 
  • Strong clinical knowledge. Clinical directors are accountable for the delivery of treatment services to clients. They either develop or oversee the development of treatment plans for individual patients. They must have a thorough understanding of policies and procedures for clinical environments.

How Much Does a Clinical Director Make?


A clinical director's salary will vary depending on employer, location, experience, and qualifications, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the median annual salary was $104,280 in 2020.

The low end of a clinical director's salary is just under $60,000 per year, and the highest salaries can exceed $195,000, according to BLS. 

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


The job outlook for clinical directors is strong from 2020 to 2030, with a projected growth of 32%. This is much higher than the national average of 8% during this period.

Where Does a Clinical Director Work?


Clinical directors work with large and small providers of medical procedures and treatments of all kinds. This includes mental health facilities, hospitals, doctors' offices, surgery centers, and outpatient clinics.

FAQs about Clinical Directors

You need at least a bachelor's degree. A master’s degree is highly recommended, either an M.S. Health Leadership or an MBA in Healthcare Management, and is often preferred by employers.

Certifications aren’t mandatory, and they vary by employer. You'll need to meet specialized state and federal standards and exams in some cases.

Many employers prefer their clinical and medical directors to have at least 10 years of practical experience before filling this sought-after administrator role. Others will require less. The specific requirements depend on the employer, state, and other factors.

Interested in Becoming a Clinical Director?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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