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Hospital CEO Career Guide

How to Become a Hospital CEO

At their core, hospitals exist to satisfy patient needs and help individuals of all ages receive the care they deserve. More than healthcare managers and directors, hospital CEOs are ultimately responsible for a hospital’s operations, as they make decisions that drive their facilities toward sustained success.

Hospital CEOs regularly tackle high-level challenges while delegating certain daily concerns to director-level healthcare administrators. As a hospital CEO, you’ll work to promote quality healthcare services at your entire facility. You will audit department performance to ensure that finances are in order, operations are smooth and consistent, and staff members are equipped with all the tools necessary for success and full patient care.

If you’re someone who thrives in peak leadership roles and is capable of delegating responsibilities and leading teams of medical professionals as healthcare evolves, the role of a hospital CEO can serve as a fulfilling career option.


A man in a suit talks to a group of doctors.

What Is a Hospital CEO?

Hospital CEOs maintain quality, consistent hospital operations, implementing operational strategies that comply with current policies and promote long-term success. In meeting with other hospital executives, you will also ensure that individual departments are fully optimized to satisfy any hospital needs.

The role of a hospital CEO is a highly specialized career option. In addition to a master’s degree, you will need extensive experience in the healthcare industry. Many hospital CEOs also maintain several active certifications to keep their skill sets fresh and relevant as the industry changes.

What Does a CEO of a Hospital Do?

Hospital CEOs fulfill a variety of executive tasks. You might meet with hospital stakeholders, communicate with healthcare administrators, visit one or more hospital department floors, or revise hospital operational procedures to better accommodate current healthcare trends.

  • Implementing hospital protocols that promote hospital-wide safety and accommodate any state or federally mandated healthcare standards.
  • Staffing departments with executives who understand their roles and leverage past healthcare experiences for the benefit of their current hospital.
  • Tailoring financial plans to ensure continually appropriate spending habits across the hospital’s departments.
  • Reviewing hospital procedures and operational standards across individual departments to identify opportunities for more efficient processes.
  • Ensuring patient satisfaction by reviewing performance indicators submitted by past and current patients.
  • Protecting patient safety and dignity through safe healthcare organizational standards that create a nonjudgmental environment for all hospital clients.
  • Planning for the hospital’s current and future success by developing operations that are tailored to specific strengths and weaknesses of your facility.

These and other essential healthcare tasks keep a hospital CEO busy exercising the principles of leadership to better fulfill a patient-first mission.

What Education Does a Hospital CEO Need?

Before you can assume a healthcare leadership role as a hospital CEO, you will need to complete a variety of educational requirements. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management or a similar field, you’ll need to continue your education with an applicable master’s degree.

A Master of Health Leadership or MBA healthcare management program can put you on the right path toward success, teaching you indispensable risk management, healthcare analysis, and healthcare systems skills that are immediately applicable once your hospital CEO career begins. 

When determining the right healthcare leadership degree for you, consider your preferred position. If you’re looking to become a hospital CEO or fulfill a similar healthcare leadership position, you’ll want to prioritize degree paths with management-heavy curriculums. This type of curriculum will be crucial in understanding specific intersections of business and healthcare and give you the key leadership and strategy skills you will need to succeed.

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 18-24 months. 
  • Tuition and fees: $4,240 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.

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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: $4,530 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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What Skills Does a Hospital CEO Need?

No matter their leadership style, each hospital CEO puts a diversified skill set to use. These individual skills help them guide medical facilities toward continually improved results, while staying true to a mission of patient-first care.

  • Executive management: The ability to operate with a leadership attitude while implementing hospital business strategies, to connect patients with high-level care, and to ensure that hospital operations contribute to future success.
  • Risk management: The ability to protect a hospital’s core assets while avoiding risks that could compromise progress or corporate outlook.
  • Financial management: The ability to appropriately manage a hospital’s finances, allocating budget spend across departments in a way that fosters significant financial returns.
  • Interpersonal communication: The ability to correspond with fellow hospital executives, as well as all healthcare staff members, patients, and members of the media.
  • Delegation: The ability to correctly distribute tasks to healthcare department administrators and coordinators.
  • Organization: The ability to prioritize high-level tasks in order of importance, while delegating less important tasks to appropriate department administrators.
  • Public speaking: The ability to confidently address a group of healthcare employees and relay messages and updates.
  • Teamwork: The ability to work well alongside other hospital employees, complete projects, and inform future hospital operations.
  • Technological proficiency: The ability to fully use all necessary technology, including any computers, tablets, phones, electronic health records (EHRs), internet resources, and online communication tools.
  • Problem-solving: The ability to identify and creatively solve issues that are facing a hospital, its employees, or its patients.

These and other skills inform a hospital CEO’s daily leadership responsibilities and help to create a healthcare environment where patients meet favorable outcomes and healthcare professionals are sufficiently motivated.

How Much Does a Hospital CEO Make?


The exact income of a hospital CEO can vary based on a number of factors, including their employer, employer’s location, public or private funding, bonuses and profit-sharing structures, years of experience, education, and active certifications.

On average, the salary of a hospital CEO is $153,770, with a range of roughly $73,000 to $307,000 earned each year.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


As one of several in-demand healthcare leadership positions, hospital CEOs are expected to experience a favorable job outlook in future years. The employment of medical and health services managers is expected to grow 32% from 2019 to 2029, a growth rate well above average across all occupations.

Hospitals fulfill a critical societal need, housing patients who require more immediate medical attention. Despite the fact that many hospital services are now offered by outpatient clinics, hospitals remain a pillar of modern healthcare in their ability to provide full-service urgent care.

Can Doctors or Nurses Become a Hospital CEO?


In some circumstances, healthcare professionals can become hospital CEOs. Given that healthcare experience is one requirement for health leadership roles, some doctors and nurses have accelerated paths to hospital CEO roles.

Though it is becoming more common for healthcare practitioners to assume hospital leadership roles, doctors and nurses will need to satisfy additional educational requirements. You can take additional steps toward a hospital CEO position with a BSN-to-MSN program if you already have a qualifying undergraduate degree.

Registered nurses looking to eventually become hospital CEOs should first pursue nurse-specific leadership roles. When becoming a nurse leader, you’ll gain valuable healthcare leadership experience that can eventually benefit your hospital CEO role.

Hospital CEO Career FAQ's

Becoming the CEO of a hospital will require dedication and time. For most CEO’s the process involves gaining a minimum of a master’s degree in addition to 8-10 years of experience in hospital management.

Becoming a hospital CEO will require years of work and dedication. For most people this includes earning a master’s degree and a decade of experience in administrative, business management, and health care fields.

The salary of a hospital CEO ranges from about $73,000 - $307,000 with an average salary of $153,000. 

Hospital CEO’s frequently work long, challenging schedules. It’s not uncommon for hospital CEO's to work 60 hours a week or more. 

Interested in Becoming a Hospital CEO?

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