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Medical director salary & career outlook

Medical directors, also called medical and health services managers or health care administrators, supervise medical and health services organizations. The role of a medical director is multifaceted, with responsibilities spanning a variety of functions, including clinical, educational, administrative and political tasks. On the clinical side, medical directors oversee the quality of care given at a facility and develop ways to evaluate and improve patient care. They also monitor the work of other doctors and assist with long-term care plans.

The administrative duties of medical directors often include human resources and staffing issues, such as identifying and providing professional development opportunities for fellow physicians. At nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, medical directors are responsible for the overall quality and safety of the care provided, so they must implement systems to monitor care and manage risk.

In 2014, Forbes ranked health care administration No. 7 on its list of the best occupations in the country. It's easy to see why, as the career field is experiencing significant employment growth opportunities and is one of the top-paying professions in the US. If this career interests you, read on for more information salary potential and the job outlook, or check out health care administration degrees in your area.

How much do medical directors make?

According to salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), health care administrators earned a national median salary of $90,940 in 2013, with the top-paid 10 percent taking home at least $155,000 annually. Because earnings vary by location, experience and certification, overall national salaries ranged from approximately $55,000 to upwards of $155,000 in 2013. Here's how medical director salaries break down, based on percentile:

  • 10th percentile: Up to $55,470
  • 25th percentile: $70,960
  • 50th percentile: $90,940
  • 75th percentile: $117,740
  • 90th percentile: At least $155,140

Within the field at-large, medical directors earned varied salaries, depending on their specific industries of employment. Perhaps surprisingly, BLS data reveals pharmaceutical manufacturing was the best paying industry for medical directors in 2013, paying an average salary of $165,400. However, only 280 medical directors were employed in the industry in 2013, making it one of the less common options for employment.

The five top-paying industries within the health care and social assistance fields include the following:

  1. Specialty hospitals (state government owned): $138,120 average annual salary
  2. Chiropractor offices: $125,030 average annual salary
  3. Specialty hospitals (non-substance abuse or psychiatric): $114,060 average annual salary
  4. Privately owned specialty hospitals: $112,000 average annual salary
  5. Privately owned general medical and surgical hospitals: $109,210 average annual salary

Medical directors may also secure solid mean annual wages in smaller offices, such optometrists ($100,820), outpatient care centers ($97,290), dentists ($96,750), physicians ($99,950) and home health services ($91,190).

Best paying states for medical directors

New York and California were the top two paying locations for annual salaries, with medical directors earning more than $118,000 in average salaries in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, medical directors earned at least $100,000 in annual average salaries in 19 states in 2013, including Massachusetts ($108,830), Oregon ($112,520), Connecticut ($113,530) and Rhode Island ($112,880).

A review of Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that medical directors also earned average annual salaries in the $80,000 to $90,000 average range in 2013. Some of these top-paying states included South Dakota ($91,160), Wyoming ($84,750) and Virginia ($98,250).

Career outlook for medical service directors

The occupation is also expected to see projected employment growth of 23 percent across the United States between 2012 and 2022, which is more than 73,000 total openings during that time. Within health care, some of the top employers included hospitals, ambulatory health care services, physician offices, home health services and more. The 10 largest employers of medical directors in the U.S. in 2013, per the BLS, included the following:

Rank

Industry

2013 Employment Total

1

Hospitals (including private state and local government hospitals)

122,880

2

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals

113,700

3

Hospitals - Privately owned

103,810

4

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - Privately owned

97,070

5

Ambulatory Health Care Services

83,970

6

Nursing and Residential Care Facilities

32,770

7

Offices of Physicians

30,590

8

Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)

19,460

9

Home Health Care Services

18,070

10

Outpatient Care Centers

17,200

At the state-level, eleven states are projected to have employment growth greater than the national average of 23 percent. Below is a list of the ten states expected to have the largest employment gains between 2012 and 2022 for medical directors:

  1. Utah: 35.4%
  2. Kentucky: 30.4%
  3. Texas: 30.3%
  4. Georgia: 29.1%
  5. Arizona: 28.2%
  6. Colorado: 26.5%
  7. North Carolina: 26.4%
  8. Idaho: 24.5%
  9. South Carolina: 24.2%
  10. New Hampshire: 23.6%

Sources:
1. "The Best and Worst Master's Degrees for Jobs in 2014," Kathryn Dill, Forbes, June 12, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/pictures/fjle45gfkg/no-7-best-masters-degree-for-jobs-health-care-administration/
2. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Medical and Health Services Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119111.htm
3. Medical and Health Services Managers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm