Health Services Careers
Readers interested in health services careers can explore jobs as health administrators, managers, and counselors. Health services professionals often work closely with patients in some capacity.
In this guide, readers can learn about potential careers for a health services major, common education requirements, and helpful resources for students and professionals.
Why Pursue a Career in Health Services?
Careers with a health services degree offer professionals the chance to work in the healthcare industry alongside doctors, nurses, and other specialists. Good candidates for health services careers enjoy working behind a desk and interacting with other people.
Professionals in this field need excellent organization and communication skills. They must also exhibit critical thinking skills and be meticulous.
Aspiring health services professionals need to understand how the healthcare system works. Most health services professionals work in office environments, with long hours spent behind a desk.
Health Services Career Outlook
The career outlook for health services professionals may differ depending on a worker's location, professional experience, and education. No job title can guarantee a certain salary. As such, readers should research potential career prospects before applying for a job.
Aspiring health services professionals can expect ample career growth in this industry. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 32% job growth for medical and health services managers and 8% job growth for medical records and health information technicians between 2019 and 2029.
The following table provides median annual salaries for a few common health services careers.
|Mental Health Counselor||$40,480||$46,260||$50,380||$52,840|
Skills Gained With a Health Services Degree
Health services students improve their ability to communicate clearly, think critically, form interpersonal connections, and use technology. These skills are more critical in some health services careers than others, but all health services students should develop these abilities.
In all health services careers, professionals must communicate with patients, community, and employers. As such, students should develop strong written and verbal communication skills. These skills help professionals improve healthcare outcomes, as patients must know how to manage their conditions and clinical workers must understand policies.
Health services professionals must know how to comprehend and apply complex healthcare laws. Critical thinking skills help them analyze data and come up with creative solutions to problems. For example, health educators need to study the effects of their programs and adapt accordingly.
Patient outcomes rely heavily on how much attention their healthcare teams pay to small details. Healthcare jobs require professionals to give the right medication dosages and notice symptoms in patients. Detail-oriented thinking is particularly important for mental health counselors and home health aides.
Medical professionals must form interpersonal relationships with patients, clinical care team members, and healthcare staff. Health services professionals should possess excellent listening skills, compassion, and a passion for helping others. These skills help professionals understand their patients' and team members' needs.
All medical professionals must remain open to learning about new technologies. The tools professionals use to administer medicine and maintain health records change quickly. Health services managers and administrators also make decisions about what types of healthcare management software to implement.
Health Services Career Paths
Some health services programs offer concentrations in areas like healthcare informatics, administration, policy, and mental health. Concentrations allow learners to gain skills that prepare them for a specific health services career path.
Pursuing a concentration can also help graduates stand out from other candidates on the job market. For example, a behavioral health clinic may prefer to hire a candidate with a concentration in mental health services.
The following list represents a small sample of available concentrations in the health services field. Universities may offer other options or none at all.
Healthcare organizations have more legal liability regarding the safety of customer information than many other organizations. This concentration prepares graduates to help organizations make decisions about data storage and electronic health records. Required courses may cover information systems, legal issues in healthcare informatics, and current data management techniques.
This concentration focuses on management methods within healthcare organizations. Students take courses in financial management, organizational behavior, and human resources. Graduates can work as health services managers and administrators.
Government healthcare policies affect patient outcomes and the operations of medical organizations. Health services policy students learn how to create policies that lead to better outcomes. Graduates work in government organizations, nonprofit advocacy organizations, and healthcare companies.
Behavioral health organizations and their patients have different needs than their physical health counterparts. In this concentration, students take courses in psychology, patient safety, and ethical issues in mental health services. Graduates can manage inpatient facilities, rehabilitation centers, counseling practices, and psychological wards in hospitals.
How to Start Your Career in Health Services
Many careers for a health services major require at least a bachelor's degree, although some assistant positions may only require an associate degree.
Readers interested in pursuing managerial or more advanced positions should consider earning a master's degree. Master's and doctoral programs in health services teach the advanced skills needed for a management or highly technical position.
Readers should always research the education requirements for specific careers. Academic counselors can help students determine a suitable educational path.
Bachelor's Degree in Health Services
Associate programs provide learners with a broad overview of health services organizations, but bachelor's tracks give learners more detailed insight into the profession.
Students learn about healthcare communication, financial management, human resources, facility operations, and marketing. These programs also include basic medical courses, such as introduction to pharmacology, human development, and anatomy. With these skills, graduates can work in entry-level management positions, including as practice managers.
Students who pursue concentrations can begin careers in health informatics and health education. Read on to learn about a few of the positions graduates can fill after earning a bachelor's, along with average salaries.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Health Services?
Typical duties for these office managers vary, but may include training new employees, handling patient complaints, and managing budgets and payroll. They often manage the administrative teams in physicians' offices, walk-in clinics, and outpatient facilities. Bachelor's degrees in health services provide graduates with the business acumen and industry knowledge needed to succeed as practice managers.
Many healthcare organizations keep track of trends in employee performance and patient outcomes. Healthcare analysts take data input by other workers and interpret it for their employers. They also make recommendations based on their findings. Critical thinking skills developed during bachelor's programs help these professionals succeed.
These professionals design and implement programs to educate the public on health issues. They often focus on prevention and behavioral changes. Health educators can work for nonprofits, government organizations, and healthcare companies.
Health services managers lead teams within healthcare organizations. Depending on their departments and the size of their company, these professionals may hire new employees, manage budgets, oversee data security, and implement business strategies.
Learners who enroll in technological and informatics classes during their health sciences programs can work as health informatics specialists. These professionals oversee and implement the software systems that healthcare organizations use. They must ensure the security and accuracy of these systems.
Master's Degree in Health Services
Bachelor's programs lay the foundation for health services practice, but master's programs allow learners to dive deeper into management topics.
Master's degrees qualify graduates for management positions like hospital administrator, practice administrator, and director of operations. Due to the depth of knowledge and specializations offered by master's programs, organizations may also hire these graduates as healthcare consultants.
Master's degrees also allow learners to concentrate in specific areas of healthcare management, such as nursing. These specialized professionals can fill relevant positions, including nurse manager. The following table includes a few of the potential health services careers at this level.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Health Services?
Health services managers who oversee specific departments report to hospital administrators. These professionals help their managers succeed. They may also serve as the public face of the hospital, advocate for advantageous policies, set company-wide goals, and make financial decisions. Administration-focused master's degrees give learners the business skills needed for these positions.
These specialists may take on several healthcare organizations as clients. They analyze current structures within healthcare organizations and make recommendations for improvement. They may work for themselves or consultant groups. Master's programs prepare graduates for these roles by developing analytical, research, and communication skills.
Operations directors work in many industries, including health services. These high-level managers oversee hiring, onboarding, purchasing, research, and development. They mostly work for large healthcare organizations, including hospitals and surgery centers. Because these professionals manage so many important tasks, employers typically require that candidates hold a graduate degree.
These professionals carry out many of the same duties as hospital administrators, but they work in other settings like physician groups and inpatient care facilities. They recruit medical and administrative staff, negotiate contracts, make purchasing decisions, and oversee billing. Master's programs provide learners with the business and management skills needed to practice effectively.
These managers oversee nursing staff units in hospitals or across healthcare organizations. They create schedules, make hiring decisions, and design policies to make their teams more effective. Clinical nurse managers should hold a bachelor's degree in nursing and a master's degree in health services administration.
Doctoral Degree in Health Services
In many settings, professionals with master's degrees and several years of work experience can move into executive management positions as vice presidents, presidents, and CEOs of healthcare organizations. However, doctoral degrees in health services administration can help applicants stand out and land these coveted positions.
Doctoral graduates are experts at the tops of their fields, concentrating in highly specialized areas. As such, they make excellent candidates for certain employers. For example, hospitals with financial problems may hire graduates who have completed a dissertation in healthcare financial management.
Some doctoral degree-holders remain in academia as professors and researchers. They lead classes in colleges and universities, creating curricula, grading assignments, and giving lectures. Healthcare professionals can also educate students in clinical settings, such as hospitals. Many professors and clinical educators also conduct research.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Health Services?
These professionals oversee the business functions that directly impact service quality. They set goals, create work environments that allow medical professionals to thrive, and design initiatives to improve health outcomes. Vice presidents typically report to the board of directors or CEO, and directors often report to vice presidents.
Professors use their extensive knowledge to train future health services professionals. They lead online or in-person classes in the subjects they understand best. Many professors also conduct studies and publish journal articles. Doctoral research courses help graduates prepare for these positions.
Many healthcare programs require students to complete clinical experiences, in which they assist people in their desired professions. Clinical educators serve as the link between those experiences and school curricula.
How to Advance Your Career in Health Services
Professionals can advance their careers after earning a degree in many ways. They can return to school for another degree, earn certification and/or licensure, and pursue continuing education courses. Professionals should also engage in networking and consider joining a professional organization.
Some of these opportunities suit certain professionals better than others. Below, readers can explore different methods of career advancement in more detail.
Readers should always research the requirements for their target jobs to choose the right advancement path. Working professionals can consult with their employers or HR departments to determine the best way forward.
Certifications and/or Licensure
Some health services employers may require licensure and/or strongly recommend certain certifications. Certification typically comes from a professional organization, whereas government agencies usually grant licensure.
Certification and licensure requirements vary by profession. For example, nurses require a state-issued license. The National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards provides a list of state licensure requirements for health services professionals in long-term care. Alternatively, professionals choosing to go into home or community-based healthcare should look into certification from the Community Health Accreditation Partner.
Earning certification or licensure may require taking continuing education courses or passing an exam. Professionals usually need to renew their credentials every few years, and each certification and licensing agency has its own renewal requirements.
Professionals in some roles may need to earn a graduate degree to advance their careers. For example, medical and health services managers looking to advance from running a physician's office to running a hospital department should consider earning a master's degree.
Certificate programs also offer additional training and skills. These programs are less intensive than a full graduate track and typically take a year or less to complete. Health educators can use certificate programs to learn about new technologies and practices in the industry.
Additionally, individual online courses can help professionals learn more about a specific topic and develop new skills. Read on to learn more about free online courses.
Many professionals hone their skills by earning online or in-person continuing education units. These units usually count toward certificate or licensure renewal requirements.
Additionally, workers and students should consider joining a professional organization. Most health services careers feature a corresponding professional organization. For example, medical and health services managers should consider joining the Health Care Administrators Association — an organization that promotes emerging techniques and theories in the field. Administrators can also network with peers at conferences and workshops.
Most professional organizations require membership to access all of their resources. Many groups offer online journals and workshops, as well as job boards and continuing education opportunities. Some professional organizations provide classes or practice tests to prepare workers for certification or licensure exams.
How to Switch Your Career to Health Services
Most people who switch their careers to health services work in other fields within the healthcare industry. These professionals typically do not need to return to college for another degree. However, they may need additional certification or licensure.
Professionals coming from non-healthcare industries usually need a degree or certificate in a healthcare-related field, particularly if they plan to work directly with patients. The health services industry requires specific knowledge and skills. Non-healthcare professionals can gain these skills through a postsecondary education.
Common steps for career changers include earning a new degree or certificate, earning a certification from a professional organization and/or a state-issued license, and learning new skills by completing continuing education courses.
Where Can You Work as a Health Services Professional?
Health services professionals can choose from several options for work locations, including hospitals, outpatient care centers, physicians' offices, and home healthcare agencies. Read on to learn more about a few common work settings for health services professionals.
General medical and surgical hospitals provide care like diagnostic treatment and surgical procedures to patients. Many patients rely on these hospitals for care.
Physicians' offices provide day-to-day and general care to patients of all ages. Patients come to these offices mostly for routine checkups. Physicians can give referrals to specialists for medical needs not covered in general practice.
Outpatient care encompasses medical services that do not require patients to spend the night in the hospital. These facilities can serve patients of any age and offer services such as diagnosis, consultation, treatment, and rehabilitation.
Nursing care facilities typically serve the elderly — particularly elderly with everyday medical needs. Patients live in the facility and receive care 24/7 from nurses and doctors. Most facilities offer day-to-day and intensive care.
Home healthcare services provide medical care for people in their own homes. Nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists visit patients and provide medical care and help with everyday tasks such as bathing or exercise.
Interview With a Professional
Click here to learn about a health services professional who works in informatics.
Resources for Health Services Majors
Below, readers can find links to professional organizations in health services, examples of free open courseware, and major publications in the field.
Department of Health and Human Services: This federal government department sets policies for certain health services organizations, manages federal programs, and funds studies. The department's website offers insights into legal changes, a job board, blogs, research grants, and training opportunities. Professionals can find information about social programs that help patients, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Head Start School Readiness.
American College of Healthcare Executives: This professional organization serves many of the top healthcare leaders in the United States. Members join a network with more than 48,000 colleagues. Membership includes access to continuing education, career resources, and local meetings.
American Association of Healthcare Administration Management: AAHAM offers resources for revenue cycle professionals in the health services industry. The organization's certification options serve compliance technicians, revenue professionals, and executives. Members also enjoy access to local networking groups, a member directory, job search assistance, and online networking opportunities.
Health Care Administrators Association: HCAA holds two conferences each year. Members gain access to the latest industry news, a compliance library, and training resources. The association offers membership levels for individuals and organizations.
HealthcareJobSite: Applicants can use healthcare-specific job pages like HealthcareJobSite to find relevant matches with potential employers. This site features clinical and administrative health services jobs and adds thousands of postings each week.
Practice Link: Practice Link primarily helps doctors find jobs, but the site also posts other positions within healthcare practices. The company hosts career fairs across the country, connecting employers and candidates. Professionals can also subscribe to the Practice Link magazine to learn more about the industry's job market.
American Public Health Association: Learners who want to work in public health or as health educators should visit this organization's site. Members can read the association's three publications to keep up with industry news. They can also connect with colleagues through annual meetings and online forums. APHA maintains the largest job board for public health professionals.
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society: HIMSS is an international society for information technology professionals in healthcare. The organization boasts 70,000 individual members, 450 nonprofit members, and 600 corporate members. Members enjoy a comprehensive resource library, continuing education opportunities, and events.
AI in Healthcare - Stanford University: This fully online course takes about eight months to complete. The class explores how AI revolutionizes different industries, with a focus on how the healthcare industry could use AI to improve lab results and diagnostic procedures. The course requires about two hours of coursework per week.
Introduction to Healthcare - Stanford University: In this class, students learn the basics of the U.S. healthcare system. This fully online course covers major players in the healthcare industry, including doctors' offices, hospitals, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies. This class takes about 12 hours to complete.
Application of Health Equity Research Methods for Practice and Policy - Johns Hopkins University: This 14-hour course teaches students to conduct health equity research. Students learn about behavioral intervention development and creating interventions for at-risk populations.
Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies - Emory University: This eight-hour course explores the planning and implementation methods required to aid displaced populations in developing countries. Students learn about epidemiology and how to manage large programs for high-risk populations.
Health Services Research: This journal publishes six issues a year. The publication explores how healthcare improves the lives of individuals and communities. Content helps readers translate healthcare research into actual policy and practice. Contributors to the journal conduct original research and investigate emerging healthcare topics.
Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation: This journal explores healthcare delivery methods and how to improve them. Published quarterly, it includes articles about healthcare systems, processes, and management. This publication accepts submissions of original research articles and case studies. The journal also publishes original commentaries and critiques of healthcare programs and products.
Health Affairs: This peer-reviewed journal publishes articles that cover topics such as new healthcare policy and law, the cost of healthcare, and the healthcare industry. Readers can find this publication both online and in print.
The Milbank Quarterly: This publication offers peer-reviewed research and analysis from academics, practitioners, and legislators. The journal focuses on empirical research to inspire healthcare legislators to move the industry forward in innovative ways. Articles cover topics such as primary care, aging, and healthcare expenses.
Journal of Healthcare Management: Published six times per year, this journal offers peer-reviewed articles to healthcare leaders, helping them make informed decisions about policy and practice. The publication examines current trends in healthcare and how health services professionals can incorporate new ideas into healthcare management practices. Readers can access the journal online.
Health Services Management Research: This research-based journal explores all aspects of health services management. The peer-reviewed publication focuses on providing articles with actionable research for health services professionals. The journal provides analysis of emerging issues in management for leaders and legislators in the field. Readers can find this journal online.
Frequently Asked Questions
Careers with a health services degree offer professionals the opportunity to work in places like hospitals, physicians' offices, outpatient care facilities, and nursing homes. The BLS projects health educator positions to grow by 11% between 2018 and 2028. Medical health and services manager roles are also projected to increase significantly faster than the average position in the U.S.
A health services degree allows graduates to pursue careers as educators, administrators, and managers. Some health services professionals work directly with patients. Others take on more administrative roles, managing databases or medical facilities.
Medical and health services managers oversee medical facilities. These professionals must supervise staff, make sure their organization runs efficiently, and monitor their facility's budget. Medical and health services managers need excellent communication and organization skills.
Health services salaries depend on a worker's location, education, and experience. However, according to the BLS, medical and health services managers earn a median annual salary of $100,980.