Healthcare administration careers integrate business, medicine, and health policy knowledge. With a degree in healthcare management, graduates can work as hospital administrators, nursing home directors, and medical practice managers. They can also pursue opportunities within the insurance industry, public health organizations, and social and community services.
Pursuing an undergraduate degree in healthcare administration opens up entry-level positions, while an advanced degree can lead to career advancement into managerial and executive roles.
Why Pursue a Career in Healthcare Administration?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 18% job growth for medical and health services managers between 2018 and 2028. A degree in healthcare administration provides the essential knowledge and fundamental skills needed to make the most of this rapidly growing field.
Healthcare administration professionals manage medical facilities and personnel, improving overall efficiency. Successful healthcare administrators demonstrate strong communication and critical thinking skills, as well as expertise related to medical and business practices.
Healthcare Administration Career Outlook
According to the BLS, medical and health services managers earn an average annual salary of more than $115,000. The most lucrative sector for these professionals — pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing — pays an average annual salary of over $204,000.
Industries with the highest employment levels for medical and health services managers include medical and surgical hospitals, physician offices, and outpatient care facilities. The states with the most workers in these positions are California, Texas, and New York.
The demand for medical and health service managers remains high; the BLS projects that 71,600 new positions will be created between 2018 and 2028. The table below offers details about salaries for healthcare administrators and similar workers at different stages of their careers.
|Job Title||Entry-Level (0-12 months)||Early Career (1-4 Years)||Midcareer (5-9 Years)||Experienced (10-19 Years)|
|Nursing Home Administrator||$73,030||$84,090||$97,380||$100,300|
Skills Gained With a Healthcare Administration Degree
Healthcare administration degrees hone the communication, organization, and interpersonal skills required to work within the healthcare industry. Students also develop the analytical and technical skills necessary to excel in the field.
Healthcare administrators deal with policy-making and healthcare procedures on a daily basis, and they must stay current on healthcare laws and regulations. They must also be able to clearly communicate these policies, laws, and procedures to their staff, which may include people without healthcare expertise.
Healthcare administrators must be detail oriented with strong organizational skills. They must manage scheduling and billing for hospitals and doctors and organize buying new equipment. Whether they focus on finance, management, or communication, healthcare administrators must stay organized and keep track of important details.
- Interpersonal Skills
Many healthcare administrators handle staffing decisions and human resources management. Administrators must resolve conflicts, discuss staffing problems, and deal with sensitive patient information in a professional manner. Being able to manage personnel and resolve conflict peacefully are key for healthcare professionals.
Healthcare administrators must understand and implement new laws, regulations, and policies. They must also evaluate facility procedures to improve efficiency. Analytical skills allow administrators to determine the most effective way to implement new policies and keep things running smoothly.
- Technical Skills
Healthcare administrators often need coding, software classification, and data analysis skills. Administrators who understand the digital systems in their facilities can help their staff use that technology more effectively.
Healthcare Administration Career Paths
Healthcare administration graduates can pursue many different career paths. For example, some students choose to work directly with people, while others prefer focusing on numbers and data. Selecting a concentration prepares students for specialized careers and provides additional qualifications.
While concentrations differ at each college or university, typical healthcare administration specializations include education, informatics, operations, and health policy. Each concentration can give students a leg up when preparing for their chosen career path.
A concentration in education prepares students for life in academia, but it can also come in handy when helping patients understand healthcare information or when teaching healthcare professionals new skills and policies. In this concentration, students learn how to disseminate information to experts and nonexperts alike.
Most healthcare administrators deal with patient information in some capacity. A concentration in informatics teaches best practices for recording, storing, maintaining, and using patient records efficiently while adhering to privacy laws and policies.
Healthcare administrators manage day-to-day operations in medical facilities. A concentration in operations teaches students to run the many moving parts of a medical facility. Coursework covers record-keeping, human resources, and financial management.
- Health Policy
Health policy is a constantly evolving field, and healthcare administrators must understand these changes to help their facilities maintain compliance. A concentration in health policy teaches students to understand the shifting landscape of health policy and follow new laws.
How to Start Your Career in Healthcare Administration
While healthcare administration is a vast field, career availability depends a lot on your level of education. Students with associate or bachelor's degrees can find entry-level positions in healthcare administration but may have trouble moving into upper-level management.
The most lucrative careers in healthcare administration, like CEOs, require a master's degree or even a doctorate.
Aspiring healthcare administrators should assess their career goals and decide which educational path is best for them.
Associate Degree in Healthcare Administration
An associate in healthcare administration prepares graduates for some entry-level positions in the field. Students learn to organize records, manage operations, and work closely with patients and healthcare professionals.
Most graduates with an associate degree in healthcare administration find jobs in hospitals and doctors' offices, as well as other healthcare-related industries like insurance. They manage day-to-day operations and perform administrative tasks.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Finance?
- Medical Office Manager
Medical office managers handle administrative duties for hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices. They oversee day-to-day operations, including scheduling, organizing paperwork and patient files, and reviewing expenses and accounts. Medical office managers must understand physician guidelines and relevant healthcare policies.
- Medical Billing Manager
Medical billing departments manage patient paperwork, insurance, and eligibility. Medical bill managers often handle all the paperwork for small clinics or oversee employees in a larger facility. Some employers may require a bachelor's degree for this position.
- Medical Records and Health Information Technician
Medical records and health information technicians oversee office records and IT duties, maintaining patient files and creating organizational structures for efficient record keeping. These professionals may also keep hospital or clinic computer systems up to date.
Sources: BLS and PayScale
Bachelor's Degree in Healthcare Administration
Earning a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration is often the first step on a managerial career track. Graduates can assume administrative or management roles in medical settings like hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices. They may also find work as consultants.
Bachelor's graduates typically take on more duties and earn higher salaries than associate degree-holders. Additionally, bachelor's students develop stronger organizational and interpersonal skills, which can help them succeed professionally.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Healthcare Administration?
- Human Resources Manager
HR managers act as intermediaries between an organization and its employees. They oversee policies and procedures for personnel, which requires strong interpersonal skills and the ability to manage complaints in a professional and timely manner.
- Healthcare Consultant
Healthcare consultants work with healthcare organizations to conduct research, identify systemic or procedural problems, and find or create solutions. Some professionals in this field hold contract jobs, while others work full time for large organizations. Consultants must be detail oriented and have keen observation and interpersonal skills.
- Medical Reimbursement Specialist
Medical billing specialists work with healthcare providers to help customers schedule and process insurance claims and payments. Hospitals, doctors' offices, clinics, and emergency centers all employ billing specialists. Professionals in this field need strong communication skills and the ability to parse complex insurance policies.
- Medical Health and Services Manager
Medical and health services managers oversee healthcare facilities like hospitals and clinics. Their duties include accounting and budgeting, human resources management, and the development of new health programs. Professionals in this field need organizational and research skills to keep their facilities running efficiently.
- Clinical Supervisor
Clinical supervisors manage the day-to-day operations of medical clinics. These supervisors maintain scheduling for clinic employees, delegate tasks, enforce healthcare quality standards, and manage inventory. Clinical supervisors may also take charge of clinical records and patient reports.
Master's Degree in Healthcare Administration
Many upper-level careers in healthcare management require a bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience, but a master's degree in healthcare administration can help graduates enter this upper tier without spending as much time working their way through the ranks. This degree also builds the skills necessary to succeed in challenging management positions.
Master's degree-holders learn to manage large operations and oversee multiple departments at once. They must be comfortable working in many fields, including finance and budgeting, contract negotiation, conflict resolution, data collection, and legal compliance.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Healthcare Administration?
- Director of Managed Care
A director of managed care is a liaison between managed care staff and healthcare administration in rehab centers, nursing homes, senior living centers, and hospitals. Directors of managed care coordinate between departments, keep contracts updated, and act as go-betweens for medical facilities and various governmental agencies.
- Clinical Manager
A clinical manager works in a medical office that provides ongoing care to patients. In small medical facilities, clinical managers oversee scheduling for day-to-day treatment strategies. In larger operations, these specialized managers may run a particular department and oversee nonphysician staff. These professionals also maintain and order equipment for their department.
- Nursing Home Administrator
Nursing home administrators oversee residents and staff in a nursing home. They create and implement management systems; supervise all departments; and provide oversight in regards to local, federal, and state regulations. These administrators also perform financial and administerial duties, including budgeting and contract negotiations.
- Health Information Manager
Health information managers maintain digital databases for medical facilities that contain vital patient information and treatment data. Their main responsibility is staying in compliance with privacy laws and ethical standards, which tend to evolve quickly. Health information managers may also lead a team of technicians who implement data collection strategies.
- Practice Administrator
Practice administrators oversee staffing at medical facilities, including clinics and hospitals. They are in charge of recruitment, contract negotiation, and budgeting for hiring and training. In some cases, practice managers also keep track of the advertising budget. Professionals in this field need strong communication skills and must work well under pressure.
Doctoral Degree in Healthcare Administration
Of all the different healthcare administration programs, doctoral tracks require the most time. To earn a doctorate, students must undertake a research project, write and defend a dissertation, and complete regular coursework. However, once completed, a doctoral degree opens doors to the highest levels of management and academia.
Graduates with doctoral degrees are experts with extensive theoretical and practical knowledge that applies directly to their work. Doctoral degree-holders can also become professors at accredited colleges and universities.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration?
- Hospital CEO
Hospital chief executive officers are in charge of an entire hospital. They oversee all departments, manage staffing and budgeting, and work with donors to keep the hospital funded. CEOs must make tough decisions quickly and professionally, which requires strong interpersonal skills.
- Postsecondary Professor
While professors are known for giving lectures, they may also conduct their own research, oversee student research, act as advisors, and publish academic papers. Professors rely on strong research, data collection, analysis, and communication skills.
- Director of Operations
Directors of operations are primarily in charge of managing employees. These directors may also oversee research and development departments or manage inventory and ordering.
Sources: BLS and PayScale
How to Advance Your Career in Healthcare Administration
Healthcare administration professionals can advance their careers through training programs, continuing education classes, and professional development. Professional healthcare administration organizations offer certifications in subfields like healthcare technology and risk management.
Many healthcare administration professionals also benefit from pursuing a graduate degree in healthcare management or a master of business administration with an emphasis in healthcare. Additional educational opportunities include academic certificates, online training programs, and experiential learning.
Healthcare administrators benefit from earning professional certifications from organizations like the Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals (AHCAP) and the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM).
ACHAP provides a certified healthcare administration professional certification that demonstrates excellence in healthcare administrative knowledge and experience, while PAHCOMprovides certifications in medical management and health information technology.
The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) also offers five professional certifications.
Alongside professional certifications, continuing education provides healthcare administrators with access to the latest information in the field. Colleges and universities, public agencies, and professional organizations offer webinars, graduate certificates, and online courses.
Coursera, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health provide free materials and educational programs to healthcare administration professionals. Additionally, the American College of Healthcare Executives provides a fellowship program to foster leadership within healthcare administration.
Many professionals with a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration also opt to return to school and earn a master's degree in business or continue on to graduate programs in healthcare information management, public health, or epidemiology.
Membership in professional organizations like AHCAP, PAHCOM, and AAHAM give healthcare administrators access to resources and updates in the field. Joining one of these groups also allows individuals to connect with colleagues, collaborate on research projects, and stay abreast of trends and issues in healthcare and healthcare administration.
Alongside online networking opportunities, many organizations hold conferences and events that bring together healthcare administration professionals.
Continuing education opportunities keep communication, analytical, and critical thinking skills sharp. Information from the World Health Organization and CDC helps students stay aware of policies, issues, and challenges in healthcare and health.
Healthcare administrators should also check with local, state, and federal agencies to ensure continued regulatory compliance and to address the needs of the patients and communities they serve.
How to Switch Your Career to Healthcare Administration
Professionals working in nursing, public health, or a comparable medical field can transition into a career in healthcare administration by pursuing a graduate degree in the field. Advanced degrees in healthcare management, business administration, and human services help supplement existing knowledge applicable to the profession.
Proficiency in medical terminology, practice, and policy enables future healthcare administration professionals to enter an administrative role with relative ease. Managerial experience also makes it easier to enter the healthcare administration profession.
Additionally, business professionals can shift their focus to healthcare administration by studying topics specifically related to the field. Many master's degrees in business offer healthcare specializations that train learners to apply business principles to healthcare settings.
Where Can You Work as a Healthcare Administration Professional?
When beginning their job search, healthcare administration graduates should consider factors like industry, setting, location, and local population, which can help them narrow down their career choices.
Each of these factors can impact job availability, salary rates, and career growth. For example, the level of competition in a rural area where there are not a lot of other applicants may be lower; however, you will likely find higher salaries in more competitive markets, including cities.
A degree in healthcare administration opens up career opportunities across the healthcare sector. Hospitals, medical laboratories, and physicians' offices serve as common work settings for healthcare administrators. Healthcare administrators can also find career opportunities with insurance companies, government agencies, pharmaceutical corporations, and outpatient care facilities.
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
General medical and surgical hospitals are large organizations dedicated to providing broad care to patients, including intensive care, pregnancy care, pediatrics, and emergency care. These operations typically have many departments and include both physician and nonphysician staff.
Average Salary: $124,180
- Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories
Medical and diagnostic labs run tests to determine diagnoses and treatment options for patients. Healthcare administrators working in these labs oversee sensitive patient information and work closely with lab technicians.
Average Salary: $122,300
- Physicians' Offices
Physicians' offices include independent healthcare practices and can provide general or specialized care for patients. Healthcare administrators in this field manage doctors' offices, scheduling, inventory, and budgeting.
Average Salary: $108,750
- Nursing Care Facilities
Nursing care facilities offer care for the elderly and infirm. Healthcare administrators in these facilities manage day-to-day operations, personnel issues, inventory, and patient data.
Average Salary: $97,300
- Outpatient Care Centers
Outpatient care centers, also called ambulatory care centers, treat patients who do not need overnight observation in a medical facility. Healthcare administrators in these settings oversee scheduling, patient information, and inventory.
Average Salary: $110,530
Medical and health services managers tend to earn the highest salaries in the Northeast U.S. — specifically in the District of Columbia and New York. Average annual salaries in these areas are near $150,000.
However, states such as Hawai'i, California, and Washington also provide high wages, indicating that this profession offers high levels of earning potential from coast to coast.
Major metropolitan areas like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago employ the most medical and health services managers, while San Francisco offers the highest salaries among metropolitan areas in the United States; workers in this field earn an average salary of almost $160,000 annually.
Interview With a Professional in Healthcare Administration
Jane Kaye is a former health system chief financial officer with more than 20 years of healthcare leadership and consulting experience. In 2014, Jane founded Healthcare Finance Advisors. She teaches healthcare finance in the healthcare administration program at Rutgers University. Jane holds a master of business administration from Boston College and a bachelor of arts in art history from the University of Pennsylvania.
- Why did you decide to pursue a career in healthcare administration?
My choice to enter healthcare administration was serendipitous.
Prior to working in healthcare administration, I was employed by a large public accounting firm. A friend and colleague left the firm to become the controller of a hospital system and he recruited me to join him as the assistant controller. The hospital was a nonprofit, community hospital with a mission to improve the health and well-being of the community.
Prior to this position, I had not been fully satisfied with my employment situations, but I found the intersection of this nonprofit mission and my skills in finance and accounting to offer the perfect balance for my skills and interests.
- Is there one area of practice in healthcare administration that you find particularly rewarding?
I really enjoy teaching finance to nonfinancial clinical colleagues. Nurses and other technicians get promoted because they have outstanding clinical and interpersonal skills, but as they progress in their careers, they need financial acumen to succeed.
Very few clinicians have this financial knowledge and may find the subject boring or intimidating. I love helping clinicians understand healthcare finance by simplifying it and making it accessible — and yes, fun.
- What did your career path look like after graduating? How did you end up where you are now?
My career path was very circuitous and unusual.
After studying art history as an undergraduate, I decided to focus on my interest in public policy, so I worked in the state government sector. I had terrific jobs while working for the state but didn't see a future there, so I returned to school on a part-time basis for a master of business administration.
While in school, I focused on accounting and finance, then took a position in public accounting, then made my way to healthcare finance and administration through a friend and colleague.
- What does continuing education look like for you? How do you stay current with new research and developments in the field?
I am an active member of my association, the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA). HFMA offers webinars, seminars, and conferences that focus on current and changing industry trends, so there are many options for understanding developments in healthcare in general and healthcare finance in particular.
I also subscribe to several industry-specific daily email updates to stay current on breaking news.
- Why did you decide to pursue the academic side of healthcare administration by teaching at Rutgers University?
Healthcare is a growing sector of the U.S. economy. As a result, healthcare administration is an increasingly popular undergraduate and graduate major.
Shortly after I started my consulting practice, Rutgers advertised for part-time lecturers in all fields related to healthcare administration. I had experience with adult education teaching finance to clinicians and wanted to expand this experience to the more formal university setting.
Teaching undergraduates and graduate students has been tremendously satisfying. I get to share my knowledge with students who are eager to learn and provide career guidance and advice to our next generation of healthcare administration leaders.
- What advice would you give to someone interested in a career in healthcare administration?
First, get your foot in the door. Your first position after college does not have to be the perfect job. It simply needs to give you access to the healthcare administration field.
There is much to learn, and you will learn a lot in any entry-level healthcare position, which can lead to job growth and a great career.
Second, take advantage of every professional opportunity, because you never know where it will lead. Volunteer for employer committees and implementation teams, and never be afraid to ask thoughtful questions.
Related to this, and most important of all, don't be afraid to take risks. You don't have to know everything about a topic to be an important member of a team, or even to lead the team. Just be thoughtful and apply your talent and skills and you will discover that these new situations create opportunities for your future.
Resources for Healthcare Administration Majors
Professional and educational resources for healthcare administration majors help students prepare for careers in the field. Many professional organizations offer job boards and career information, while also providing mentorship and guidance for students entering the profession.
Certifications, publications, seminars, and training materials all prepare learners for healthcare administration positions.
- Professional Organizations
Association of University Programs in Health Administration: AUPHA serves as a resource for prospective students, current scholars, faculty members, and departmental leaders. The association maintains extensive online databases of healthcare administration programs and career opportunities. Members can also take professional certification exams in order to gain AUPHA certification.
Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals: AHCAP is one of the main certification agencies for healthcare professionals. Members also gain access to exclusive publications, career boards, and forums. The association hosts an annual networking conference and webinars to provide professional growth opportunities.
American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management: AAHAM provides multiple professional certifications for leaders in healthcare administration. Members also gain access to management training, periodicals, seminars, and conferences.
Health Care Administrators Association: HCAA is dedicated to members from multiple disciplines that work in healthcare administration. This organization regularly posts job and sponsorship opportunities. Members can also pursue certification if they wish to work with self-funded healthcare plans.
- Open Courseware
Open courseware for healthcare administration professionals is a free, convenient resource.
Offered in conjunction with Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology provides courses in health sciences and technology. The Harvard-MIT program incorporates undergraduate and graduate classes in topics such as principles and practices of drug development, information technology for the future of healthcare, and health information systems to improve the quality of healthcare.
MIT also provides online open courseware in healthcare management. Classes include comparative health policy, engineering capacity in community-based healthcare, and business model innovations of global health in frontier markets.
Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health also provides open courseware in healthcare administration-related areas. Learners can study public health, global health, and health policy while also exploring population science and health issues for aging populations.
Stanford University provides open courseware in health and medicine, with additional offerings in business and management. Classes applicable to healthcare administration careers include health across the gender spectrum and disaster medicine training.
The University of California, Berkeley offers open courseware in academic and science writing and solving public policy problems, while open educational resources provided by the University of Michigan cover topics like public policy and public health, nursing, and pharmaceutical science.
Journal of Hospital Administration: JHA is an international, open-access publication for healthcare management specialists. Dedicated to publishing articles related to managing research and practice in all branches of hospital administration, JHA puts out four volumes each year. Covered topics include clinical department management, health policy, and nursing management.
Journal of Healthcare Management: An official publication of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), JHM offers a forum for the discussion of issues and trends facing healthcare today. Published quarterly, JHM provides information that can help healthcare managers make strategic decisions and handle complex healthcare issues.
International Journal of Health Planning and Management: With an emphasis on policy and implementation, this journal also publishes articles on topics related to developing effective health systems and services around the world. Thejournal is interdisciplinary and international in scope, embracing content that addresses how health planning and management relate to social, economic, and cultural development.
Frontiers of Health Services Management: Published by ACHE, Frontiers functions as a "bookazine." Structured in a magazine format, Frontiers offers information normally found in books, albeit in a shortened form. Each issue focuses on one aspect of healthcare management, providing an overview of the topic before diving into debates, discussion, and expert opinions. Frontiers publishes four issues each year.
Journal of Healthcare Risk Management: Published by the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management of the American Hospital Association, this journal focuses on topics related to evidence-based healthcare risk management. Articles address areas including clinical risk management, risk management tools and techniques, quality improvement, and risk financing.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is a degree in healthcare administration worth it?
A degree in healthcare administration builds knowledge and skills in medical, business, and managerial topics. Graduates can pursue careers in hospitals, private physicians' offices, or short-term and long-term patient care facilities. A degree in healthcare administration also opens up opportunities to work in research settings, within government agencies, or with insurance companies.
- How do I start a career in healthcare administration?
Earning a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration is a common pathway to enter a career in the field. Professionals with a background in medicine or business may also have insight into healthcare administration, facilitating entry into the profession. Starting a career in healthcare administration requires strong communication, interpersonal, and critical thinking skills.
- What kind of jobs can you get with a healthcare administration degree?
With a degree in healthcare administration, learners can work as hospital administrators, healthcare office managers, or insurance compliance managers. A healthcare administration degree can also lead to jobs at nursing homes, outpatient care facilities, and community health agencies.
- How much do entry-level healthcare administrators make?
Wages vary by location. However, according to PayScale, the average salary for an entry-level healthcare administrator is about $52,000.
- Is healthcare administration a stressful job?
A career in healthcare administration requires strong organizational and critical thinking skills. Healthcare administration careers offer an opportunity to provide quality healthcare and improve the lives of patients, which can sometimes be stressful. Healthcare administrators take on duties related to facilities management, finance, and organizational development.