The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects above-average growth for several health services careers, including health services managers, human services assistants, and health educators. Many people in these positions make more than professionals with similar education levels and enjoy the satisfaction of helping people in need. These factors draw students into health services programs.
As learners approach graduation, they may wonder what to expect in their careers. The best way for health services students to find career opportunities is by starting their job searches early. First, they should learn which job opportunities their degrees can create. They may also consider advancing their education. For example, someone with a bachelor's degree in health services may earn a master's in social work to qualify for licensure. Students choose among many health services career options, from bedside care to public health and administration.
Skills Gained in a Health Services Program
Health services students gain an array of skills in their programs, including skills in communications, critical thinking, attention to detail, interpersonal connections, and adapting to new technology. Some of these skills prove more critical to some health services careers than others, but health services students should aim to cultivate all these abilities. For example, health services managers must be particularly adept to learning about new technologies, but people in all healthcare jobs may have to work with new machinery throughout their careers.
- Communication Skills
In all health services careers, professionals must communicate with patients, their community, or employers about essential topics. As such, students should develop strong written and verbal communication skills. This communication creates a foundation for healthcare outcome improvement, as patients must know how to manage their conditions and clinical workers need to understand the policies.
- Critical Thinking
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.
- Detail Oriented
Patient outcomes rely heavily on how much attention their healthcare teams pay to the small stuff. Healthcare jobs require professionals to give the right medication dosages and notice symptoms in patients. Detail-oriented thinking is particularly important to health services careers, such as mental health counselors and home health aides.
- Interpersonal Skills
Medical professions revolve around interpersonal relationships among patients, clinical care teams, and healthcare staff. Health services professionals should possess excellent listening skills, compassion for people who differ from themselves, and passion for helping others. These skills help professionals understand their patients' and team members' needs.
- Technological Savvy
People in all medical field careers 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 healthcare management software to implement.
Why Pursue a Career in Health Services?
Health services careers give professionals personal fulfillment, professional growth, and broad options. People across the field spend their days helping others heal. Whether they work directly with patients, educate communities, or manage teams of healthcare workers, health services professionals make differences every day.
These professionals also experience fulfillment, along with opportunities to grow in a quickly expanding industry and pursue continuing education opportunities. The BLS projects health services positions to grow at twice the national average rate, giving professionals job security. Many positions require professionals to meet continuing education requirements to maintain licensure, so workers remain life-long learners. Workers can also earn additional certifications, verifying them as experts in specific areas of health services.
Professionals help people in many different ways, including clinical care, administrative positions, and human services jobs. They also find positions in settings such as hospitals, inpatient facilities, outpatient centers, patient homes, and physicians' offices.
How Much Do Health Services Majors Make?
Salary potentials for health services careers is as broad as the job opportunities. Candidates can expect different salaries depending on their levels of education, work experience, management duties, and chosen professions. For example, experienced health services managers make $24,000 more per year than entry-level mental health counselors. Industry and job location affect salary potential, as well.
Employers in states with higher costs of living may pay more than their lower-cost neighbors. See below just a few of the possible health services careers and their average salaries by experience.
|Job Title||Entry-Level Employees
|Early Career Employees
|Medical and Health Services Manager||$61,000||$60,000||$64,000||$72,000|
|Mental Health Counselor||$41,000||$44,000||$49,000||$52,000|
How to Succeed in Health Services
Because the field includes so many unique professions, graduates can find health services careers with bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Undergraduate degrees allow graduates to work as health educators, health services managers, and human services assistants. Candidates with master's degrees specialize in certain areas, including healthcare economics, regulatory compliance, and health organization leadership.
These professionals can work in high-level management positions as health services managers in large organizations. They may also specialize in caring for specific types of patients, which helps them stand out to employers with those patients. Candidates who want to teach college-level health services courses or conduct research should earn doctoral degrees.
Many schools require health services students to complete hands-on learning requirements, such as practicums and internships. Online students often earn these credits in their own communities. Degree candidates in these programs shadow health services professionals and carry out some administrative duties. Some programs require on-campus residencies or intensives. Learners attend eight-hour, on-campus workshops daily for up to a week.
Residencies give degree candidates time to network with their peers and professors. These options allow students to gain hands-on experience to prepare for their new jobs.
Licensure and Certification
The certifications and licenses candidates need depend on which area of health services they want to enter. Professionals who give clinical care to patients, such as nurses, doctors, and counselors, must earn licensure through their state agencies. Candidates do not need licenses for administrative positions, but certifications can help distinguish them in competitive applicant pools.
Nonprofit organizations provide health services certifications, which tend to apply to specific careers. For example, the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management offers the certified medical manager exam and certification for medical office managers. Large organizations like the American Hospital Association offer certifications to several types of professionals.
Concentrations Available to Health Services Majors
Some schools offer concentrations for their health services students in areas such as healthcare informatics, administration, policy, and mental health. Concentrations allow learners to gain skills in a particular sector of this broad industry. This distinction helps them stand out against other job candidates, particularly for jobs relating to their concentration. For example, a behavioral health clinic may prefer a candidate with a focus in mental health services over one without any concentration.
Universities may offer other specialization options, as well, or none at all. The following list represents a small portion of available specialties.
- Healthcare Informatics: Healthcare organizations have more legal liability regarding the safety of customer information than other organizations. Professionals with this concentration help organizations make decisions about data storage and electronic health records. The specialization may include courses on information systems, legal issues in healthcare informatics, and current data management techniques.
- Health Services Administration: 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 throughout several departments in medical organizations. Some schools offer bachelor's degrees in health services administration with additional concentrations.
- Health Services Policy: Government healthcare policies affect patient outcomes and the operations of medical organizations. Health services policy students learn about this effect and how to create policies that lead to better outcomes. Graduates work in government organizations, nonprofit advocacy organizations, or healthcare companies. They may create policies or interpret standing law to ensure compliance.
- Mental Health Services: Behavioral health organizations and their patients have different needs than their physical health counterparts. Students in these concentrations 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.
What Can You Do with a Health Services Degree?
The health services industry experiences rapid growth, changing regulations, and emerging technologies. As such, healthcare companies value college degrees highly when considering candidates. Applicants are limited to the health services careers that match their educational background, with few exceptions. Furthermore, any job in which professionals deliver medical care to patients requires appropriate licensing. States and national boards decide how much education candidates need to earn these licenses.
Graduates with associate degrees can work as medical billers, coders, or assistants as long as they receive the required training. However, applicants need bachelor's degrees to fill higher positions, such as health informatics specialist or health services manager. Job prospects for candidates with master's and doctoral degrees overlap to an extent. Applicants with graduate degrees can fill top-level management positions in healthcare organizations, including administrator and vice president.
Candidates who want to teach in clinics or universities typically need doctoral degrees.
Bachelor's Degree in Health Services
Associate programs give learners broad overviews of health services organizations, but bachelor's degrees give learners more 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 find work in health informatics and health education in addition to health services. Read on to learn about a few of the positions graduates can fill, plus their national average salaries.
- Practice Manager
The duties for these office managers vary among employers, but they can include on-boarding new employees, handling patient complaints, overseeing schedules, managing budgets, and handling payroll. They often manage the administrative teams in physicians' offices, walk-in clinics, and outpatient facilities. Bachelor's degrees in health services give graduates the business acumen and industry knowledge they need.
- Healthcare Analyst
Many healthcare organizations keep track of trends in employee performance and patient outcomes. Healthcare analysts take data that other workers input and interpret it for their employers. They also make recommendations based on their findings. Critical-thinking skills from bachelor's programs help these professionals succeed.
- Health Educator
These professionals design and implement programs to educate the public on health issues. They often focus on prevention and behavioral change. Health educators can work for nonprofits, government organizations, or healthcare companies. The communication and health classes in bachelor's programs give these graduates the skills they require.
- Health Services Manager
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, or implement business strategies. Bachelor's degree candidates hone the communication and business skills that these roles require.
- Health Informatics Specialist
Students who include technological and informatics classes in their studies can work as health informatics specialists. These professionals oversee and implement the software systems that healthcare organizations use. They must ensure security and accuracy within these systems. Health informatics specialists may also provide technical assistance to others in their company.
Master's Degree in Health Services
Bachelor's degrees lay the foundation for health services practices, but graduate programs allow learners to dive deeper into management topics. Master's degrees qualify candidates to fill top-level management positions, such as hospital administrator, practice administrator, or director of operations. Due to the depth of knowledge and specializations offered by master's degrees, organizations may hire these graduates as contracted 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, such as nurse manager. The following list includes just some of the potential health services careers at this level.
- Hospital Administrator
Health services managers who oversee specific departments report to hospital administrators. These professionals ensure their managers succeed. They may also serve as the public face of the hospital, advocate for advantageous policies, set company-wide goals, and make some financial decisions. Administration-focused master's degrees give learners the macro-level business insight they need.
- Healthcare Consultant
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 with analytical, research, and communication skills. Furthermore, higher education makes clients feel confident in their recommendations.
- Director of Operations
Operations directors work in many industries, including health services. These high-level managers oversee functions such as hiring, onboarding, purchasing, productivity, research, and development. They mostly work for large healthcare organizations, including hospitals and surgery centers. Because these professionals manage so many important tasks, employers require candidates to hold graduate degrees.
- Practice Administrator
These professionals carry out many of the same duties as hospital administrators, but practice administrators work in non-hospital settings such as physician groups and inpatient care facilities. They recruit medical and administrative staff, negotiate contracts, make purchasing decisions, and oversee billing. Master's programs give learners the business and management skills to practice effectively.
- Clinical Nurse Manager
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 bachelor's degrees in nursing and master's degrees in health services administration or similar programs.
Doctoral Degree in Health Services
In many settings, candidates with master's degrees and several years of work experience can move into executive management positions as vice presidents, presidents, or 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 field, concentrating in highly specialized areas. As such, they make excellent candidates for certain employers. For example, hospitals with financial problems may hire Ph.D. graduates who completed dissertations in healthcare financial management.
Some Ph.D. graduates 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. Any of these academics may conduct research, as well, which allows them to lead in innovation.
- Vice President of Quality
These professionals oversee the business functions that directly impact service quality. They set goals for healthcare outcomes, create work environments that allow medical professionals to thrive, and design initiatives to improve health outcomes. Vice presidents either report to the board of directors or to CEOs, and directors often report to vice presidents.
Postsecondary teachers use their extensive knowledge to train future health service professionals. They lead online or in-person classes in the subjects they understand best. Many professors also conduct studies and publish journal articles. The research classes required by doctoral programs help candidates prepare for these positions.
- Clinical Educator
Many healthcare programs require students to complete clinical hours in which they assist people in their desired professions. Clinical educators serve as the link between those experiences and school curricula. Employers prefer for these candidates to have experience in the positions for which they coordinate clinicals.
What Industries Can You Work in With a Health Services Degree?
Health services graduates enjoy a vast array of career options and opportunities to work in a variety of organizations. They can work in any organization that provides medical care, writes healthcare policy, or offers social services. Settings may include hospitals, nursing care organizations, residential treatment facilities, government agencies, and family service providers. Professionals may work in several of these settings throughout their careers. See below some descriptions of organizations in which health services professionals may work.
- Individual and Family Services
These organizations provide social services to communities, including foster care, crisis intervention, domestic abuse shelters, and mental health hotlines. These employers do not directly engage in healthcare, but health services graduates possess the skills necessary to succeed in such settings.
- Local, State, and Federal Government
Government organizations create healthcare policy, offer social services, and maintain some medical clinics. Health services graduates find positions in these agencies managing government-run clinics and analyzing proposed policies.
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
Hospitals provide emergency, surgical, and ongoing care for people with serious illnesses. As large facilities, hospitals often require several health services managers and administrators to keep things running smoothly.
- Nursing Care Facilities
Professionals in these organizations care for elderly people who cannot live independently. As the baby boomer generation ages, the need for nursing care facilities and well-trained health services professionals grows.
- Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities
These inpatient facilities care for patients with mental, behavioral, or developmental disorders. They can serve as extensions of hospitals or as stand-alone companies. Candidates in these organizations must demonstrate extraordinary empathy and compassion.
How Do You Find a Job as a Health Services Graduate?
The BLS projects that many health services careers will experience above-average growth from 2016 through 2026. As such, candidates can expect to find plenty of job prospects. However, health services jobs remain competitive, so applicants should work to stand out by building their resumes and networks as early as possible.
Certifications from professional organizations boost resumes, but candidates often cannot obtain these credentials until after graduation. Students can also gain impressive experience through internships.
Strengthening professional connections can also help graduates find jobs. Websites such as Health Careers post jobs for professionals across the medical field. New graduates can also use government job websites if they want to work in public service. Professional organizations such as the Health Care Administrators Association and the American Hospital Association provide additional networking opportunities. Learners and graduates attend local meetings, use the job boards, and earn certifications.
Professional Resources for Health Services Majors
This federal government department sets policies for some health services organizations, manages federal programs, and funds studies. The website offers insights into legal changes, a job board, blogs, research grants, and training opportunities. Candidates can find information on social programs that can help patients, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Head Start School Readiness.
This professional society serves the top healthcare leaders in the United States. Members join a prestigious network with more than 48,000 colleagues. Membership includes access to continuing education, career resources, and local meetings. Candidates take the exam to become fellows in the ACHE, which improves their resumes.
The 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, online networking opportunities, and an exclusive list serve.
The HCAA holds two conferences each year at which attendees learn from one another and build their professional networks. Members gain access to the latest industry news tailored to their interests, plus a compliance library and training resources. The association offers membership levels for individuals and organizations.
While large job sites can help, candidates struggle to sort through jobs in every industry. Instead, applicants can use healthcare-specific pages like Healthcare JobSite to match with potential employers. The site includes clinical and administrative health services jobs, and it adds tens of thousands of postings each week.
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, as well, connecting employers and candidates face to face. Applicants also subscribe to the Practice Link magazine to learn more about the industry's job market.
Learners who want to work in public health or as health educators may visit this organization's site. Members read the association's three publications to keep up with industry news. They also connect with colleagues through annual meetings and online forums. The APHA offers the largest job board for public health professionals.
HIMSS is an international society for information technology professionals in healthcare. The organization boasts 70,000 members, 450 nonprofits, and 600 companies. Members enjoy a comprehensive resource library, continuing education opportunities, and events around the world. The organization offers several membership levels, including online-only and a choice for corporations.
This industry news site includes articles on healthcare policies, breaking research, and important data. Readers can access some content for free or subscribe to receive print copies and unlimited digital reading. Subscribers also get unlimited access to the magazine's extensive data. The company also host networking events for health services leaders.
Graduates who want to work at the intersection of healthcare and technology subscribe to this magazine. The writers offer insights into specialties like biotech, insurance, pharmaceuticals, and academic research. Readers learn about the latest health technology, read interviews with industry leaders, and discover state-specific news.