Do I Need a Master’s Degree to Become a Hospital CEO?

An image of a hospital CEO for our FAQ on Do I Need a Master's Degree to Become a Hospital CEO?
Do I Need a Master’s Degree to Become a Hospital CEO?

If you want to work in the health sector and you want to be a leader, set your goals high and strive to become a hospital CEO. While you know that climbing up the ladder is a must, you may be wondering what formal training is required to take on such an important position. Read on and find out if a Master’s degree is necessary, or if other degrees are acceptable.

What is a Hospital CEO?

Knowing how to become a hospital CEO starts with knowing exactly what this job entails. Generally, the job of the hospital CEO, or chief executive officer, is about top-down management of the entire hospital facility. From employees to operations, physical facility matters, and all other matters there, the buck stops with the CEO.

Hospital CEOs are also commonly referred to as the hospital’s “top healthcare administrator.” The CEO’s duties include:

  • regular meetings with other top administrators in the hospital
  • regular tours of the building’s facilities
  • keeping track of data such as budget and operational statistics
  • making sure all equipment is up-to-date and as cutting-edge as is possible.

While there are typically no single bosses that these executive workers must answer to, hospital CEOs are held to a high standard of accountability. This responsibility is usually monitored by a board of directors, trustees, or shareholders. A considerable network of legal requirements also oversees performance here. A poorly-performing CEO and/or hospital might then see a change in this position brought on by one of these overseeing entities. Such turnover is quite rare, however, as most hospital CEOs are successful in their respective positions.

Candidates Must Attain an Advanced Degree to Be Considered for Openings

Do I Need a Master’s Degree to Become a Hospital CEO?

The Chief Executive Officer is the highest-ranking position and executive in a hospital facility. To hold the highest-ranking position in any organization you must have an advanced degree. If you already have an undergraduate degree, you will need to set aside time to advance your formal training as you gain experience in Hospital Management and Administration.

Training requirements vary in different facilities and organizations. You will need a Master’s in a relevant field to even have the opportunity to interview for a CEO position. There are plenty of different relevant fields of study that you can choose that will help you deal with managing a hospital. Some of the routes that you can take to compete with other graduate degree holders include:

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Healthcare Administration
  • Master of Health Management
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • Master of Arts in Medical Management
  • Master of Business Administration

The Master of Business Administration is highly regarded as a sort of pinnacle degree for those seeking to run any business or government agency. If you earn this degree you will have proven a high acumen in all business management matters from math and communications to business strategy and wider operations in a nationwide system. While this degree is not specifically built around healthcare or hospital management, it enables you to be highly capable in these areas of management today.

While on the road to completing this valuable degree, you can expect a solid range of mathematics courses. These include basics such as algebra, then more complex subjects like business calculus and business statistics. In communications, you can expect courses such as Corporate Communications Management, Public Relations Communications, and many others. This degree will also include some high-value courses in:

  • business finance
  • organizational leadership
  • strategic planning methods
  • resource management, and more

Together, these courses ensure a very well-versed graduate who is ready to handle all of the complexities of day-to-day organizational management.

Master of Healthcare Administration

Much like the above-mentioned Master of Business Administration, today’s Master of Healthcare Administration also prepares you for a high-responsibility role in managing the largest of organizations. The difference, though, is that the Master of Healthcare Administration takes this generalized business management education to the more specific realm of managing an entire healthcare administration operation. Healthcare administration is the management of all administrative processes that keep a healthcare operation running smoothly.

To successfully complete this degree path, you must satisfy a rigorous learning path that includes many steps in:

  • math
  • administrative strategy
  • communications
  • other healthcare-related concerns

Specific courses here include:

  • Economics of Healthcare
  • Information Management Systems in Healthcare
  • Managerial Epidemiology
  • Patient Safety and Quality Management
  • Role Fidelity and the Exercise of Power

Numerous general education mathematics courses are required along with several business math upper-level courses.

Master of Health Management

The Master of Health Management also provides a high-value curriculum to prepare you to manage  just about any kind of health-related system or business. This degree strays slightly from the strict administration focus. However, it still encompasses a thorough dose of management know-how in health-related operations. In summary, the graduate will be prepared to:

  • plan and direct healthcare services
  • analyze and manage leadership roles in healthcare
  • work with all kinds of healthcare technology
  • manage the greater strategic concerns of the healthcare operation

Required courses include:

  • Policy and Ethics in Healthcare
  • Healthcare Marketing and Consumer Engagement
  • Human Resources in Healthcare
  • Population Health Management and Global Health, and many others.

Master of Science in Nursing

The Master of Science in Nursing is another excellent degree option that works well if you’re seeking to gain access to a Hospital CEO career. In this degree program, you will become a master of the nursing world and its management. This also opens potential doors in:

  • clinical nursing leadership
  • health policy expert roles
  • effective administration and management

To complete this intensive degree, you will need to satisfactorily complete a line of courses that includes:

  • Population Health and Epidemiology in Nursing Practice
  • Communication and Collaboration for Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Leading and Managing Evidence-Based Change in Nursing, and other similar courses

This degree path also offers a generous range of specialty paths you can follow. These specialty tracks include:

  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Healthcare Policy
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Executive
  • Population Health, and several others.

Master of Arts in Medical Management

The Master of Arts in Medical Management provides yet one more, sure-footed way into the world of hospital CEO careers today. This is because graduates  will have learned at the master’s level, all about medical management. Graduates are typically very well-suited to manage:

  • medical practices
  • hospitals
  • healthcare-related non-profit organizations, and more.

This particular degree was designed for physicians who are seeking continued education and an upper-level role in medical management. Some of the coursework in this degree program covers subjects like:

  • hospital administration
  • healthcare ethics
  • operations management
  • insurance administration
  • physician group administration, and other related subjects

The MMM degree is a less common avenue to get into hospital CEO work but just as effective as other routes covered here.

What Are Some of the Routes Professionals Have to Take to Become a CEO?

Do I Need a Master’s Degree to Become a Hospital CEO?

Your graduate degree will help you secure positions that you will need to gain experience and work your way up to CEO. Prominent CEOs in the healthcare sector have held a variety of  positions in management to fulfill the experience requirements. Some of the routes that CEOs in the field have taken include:

  • Holding a position in nurse management
  • Performing as a COO in a hospital
  • Performing as a CFO in a hospital
  • Previous experience in strategic management or executive positions outside of the sector with 3 years of health-related experience.
  • 10 to 15 years of experience in Healthcare Administration

Will a Master’s Degree Pay Off?

A majority of CEOs will have more than 10 years of experience in a hospital or medical facility and 3 to 5 years experience as a manager. If you are wondering whether or not to accumulate tuition and student loan expenses, you should take a minute to review salary ranges of hospital CEOs. CEOs, while they have very stressful jobs, are compensated extraordinarily well. The lower 10 percent earn an average of $118,000 per year, and the upper 10 percent earn upwards of $590,000.

Related Careers

Those who work in the capacity of a hospital CEO today certainly don’t do the job alone. There are numerous, similar professionals who work closely with this executive and in somewhat similar roles. Here are a few of those closely-related positions.

Hospital Chief Finance Officer

Hospital CFOs act as the heads of hospital money matters. These important executive officers track all money flow into and out of the hospital as well as formulate financial strategy and planning for the organization’s future. Virtually all CFOs, in hospitals and elsewhere, hold a Master of Business Administration or a master degree in some area of accountancy.

Hospital Chief Medical Officer

CMOs focus specifically on the medical operations in a hospital as opposed to costs or general management. This focus area includes quality of medical care, methods of medical care, and all other points of actual medical practice. These executives work closely with hospital CEOs and typically must possess an upper-level degree in medicine.

Hospital Chief Nursing Officer

A hospital’s CNO, or chief nursing officer, acts as the head leader of all nursing operations on site. This includes the oversight of:

  • quality of care
  • nursing methods
  • nursing personnel matters

To become one of these important figures who works closely with the hospital CEO, one must have typically graduated nursing school as well as hold a Master of Science in Nursing.

Relevant Professional Organizations

Do I Need a Master’s Degree to Become a Hospital CEO?

Understanding the role and its many, important business affiliations is much easier if you do some research into the various professional organizations surrounding the role. The following are some of those top, related organizations and are highly recommended for additional research.

American College of Healthcare Executives

The American College of Healthcare Executives is an esteemed professional organization focused on the world of healthcare executive work. Also known as ACHE throughout the industry, this important group has represented the field for more than 85 years and has more than 48,000 active members who are healthcare executives themselves. Healthcare management advocacy, excellence, and education are among the group’s top goals. Anyone can visit the ACHE website and seek further information via its various points of contact.

American Hospital Association

AHA, the American Hospital Association is another authoritative force in the hospital healthcare industry. With an upfront mission statement of “Advancing Health in America”, this group is a headliner in advocacy, career resources, statistics, and more throughout the healthcare and hospital worlds. Members and non-members alike are welcome to its vast array of resources.

National Association of Chief Executive Officers

Another significant figure in the realm of professional associations related to CEO management work is the National Association of Chief Executive Officers. This organization does not focus on any one type of CEO. It acts as a unifying and very authoritative force among all chief executive officers across the US. You can learn a great deal about general CEO work here as well as gain access to a vast network of CEOs and those in-the-know in this line of work. Membership is reserved for those already in CEO roles, but those seeking that ultimate goal are welcome to seek out the organization to learn a great deal about this line of work.

As the highest-ranking official of the hospital, you must have plenty of experience and the minimum of a Master’s degree. Virtually every single prominent hospital CEO has some experience in other lower-level positions. All CEOs have reported that they have worked alongside executive management teams before applying for an open CEO position. Choose a reputable degree program that has prepared today’s most respected CEOs, and get ready to climb.

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Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris