Intensive Care Unit Administrator: Job Duties & Career Requirements

Mar 21, 2019

Read on to learn more about what intensive care unit administrators do. Find out what kind of education and training are required for employment. See what the career outlook is to decide if this job is right for you.

Career Definition for an Intensive Care Unit Administrator

Intensive care unit (ICU) administrators typically work their way up from nursing positions in ICU or other parts of a hospital. They are in charge of ICU staff and procedures, including compliance with health care laws and regulations. Other duties of intensive care unit administrators include managing patient flow, administering the departmental budget, and collaborating with doctors to ensure complete care for patients. ICU administrators may be required to work weekends, nights, and holidays.

Education Associate or bachelor's degree in nursing required
License and Certification National Council Licensure Examination needed for nursing credentials, other requirements vary by state
Job Skills Patient concern, medical expertise, leadership, good listening and observation
Median Salary (2019)* $139,192 for heads of intensive care units
Job Growth (2016-2026)** 20% for medical and health services managers

Sources: *, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

A career as an intensive care unit administrator requires at least an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing. These programs can last from two to five years. Some intensive care unit administrators may also have master's degrees. Courses that intensive care unit administrators may take include anatomy, nutrition, and psychology.

Licensing and Certification Information

After completing an approved education program in nursing, graduates need to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, to earn the registered nurse credential. State licensing requirements apply in all states but these regulations vary by state. Certain hospitals may require ICU administrators to hold various certifications, such as trauma, neonatal resuscitation, or basic life support.

Required Skills

ICU administrators must have a variety of skills to cope with the rapidly changing nature of the ICU. They need customer service skills to respond to patient concerns, medical expertise to oversee patient care, and leadership skills to keep their departments running smoothly. Intensive care unit administrators also need good listening, observation, and critical-thinking skills.

Economic Outlook

As the U.S. health care field expands due to an aging population, the economic outlook for ICU administrators, along with other medical and health services managers, will be good, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, A growth of 20% is predicted for these positions from 2016-2026. Competition for administrative positions in ICU can be fierce, but such jobs typically have high turnover. Also, newer administrators tend to come in with more advanced education. Pay for intensive care unit administrators varies by market and geographical location, but the median salary was $139,192 as of March 2019, according to

Alternate Career Options

Consider these other career paths in healthcare:

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse (APN) who has completed additional education and training beyond what's required to become a registered nurse. Nurse practitioners have a graduate degree, either a master's degree, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Ph.D., and have earned professional certification; additional licensing requirements may also apply. The duties of a nurse practitioner can vary by state. They typically provide primary medical care to patients, either independently or in cooperation with a physician. Nurse practitioners can examine patients, diagnose illnesses, and prescribe medicines, medical tests or treatments; they also refer patients to medical specialists as needed. Nurse practitioners commonly specialize in patient care to a specific population, such as children or the elderly.

The BLS expects nurse practitioners to experience strong job growth, with an expected increase of 36% in employment from 2016-2026. The BLS reports that nurse practitioners earned median pay of $103,880 in 2017 and nearly half worked in doctors' offices.

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants also provide medical care to patients; they work under the supervision of a physician and can specialize according to the area of medicine in which their employing doctor practices, such as surgery, pediatrics or psychiatry. Physician assistants, or PAs, can diagnose illnesses or injuries, call for medical testing and evaluate the results, and give treatments. PAs earn a master's degree in physician assisting; they must also pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). State licensing requirements also apply. The BLS projects that employment of PAs will increase 37% from 2016-2026; in 2017, nearly 61,830 of these professionals worked in physicians' offices. The BLS also reports that PAs earned median pay of $104,860 in 2017.

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