Healthcare administration — also called health or medical administration — combines business management, medicine, and health policy. Professionals in this field handle a variety of responsibilities, including policymaking, personnel management, and facility administration. Hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities all need healthcare administrators with sharp business acumen who understand the ins and outs of the healthcare system.
There are many career opportunities for graduates with healthcare administration degrees. For example, students can pursue jobs in human resources management, insurance, facility management, marketing, financial management, and data collection. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for medical health services managers was $99,730 in May 2018, and the number of these jobs are projected to grow by 20% between 2016 and 2026.
Skills Gained in a Healthcare Administration ProgramHealthcare administration students should work to develop skills in communication, organization, leadership, and analysis. They may also need technical skills in order to become effective leaders and managers. These skills can be gained in school, through practical experiences, and by earning specialized certifications.
- Communication Skills
- Healthcare administrators deal with policymaking 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.
- Organizational Skills
- Professionals in this field must be detail oriented with strong organizational skills. Healthcare administrators may need to manage scheduling and billing for hospitals or doctors' offices or organize buying new equipment. Whether their focus is on finance, management, or communication, healthcare administrators must stay organized and keep track of important details.
- Interpersonal Skills
- Many healthcare administrators handle staffing decisions or human resources management. Administrators must resolve conflicts, discuss staffing problems, and deal with sensitive patient information in a professional manner. The abilities to manage personnel and resolve conflict peacefully are key for healthcare professionals.
- Analytical Skills
- Health administrators must understand and implement new laws, regulations, and policies. They may also need to 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 may need a variety of technical skills, including coding, software classification, data analytics, and familiarity with healthcare technology. Administrators with a firm understanding of the digital systems in their facilities can help their staff understand and use that technology more effectively.
Why Pursue a Career in Healthcare Administration?
Because healthcare is a multifaceted industry, career opportunities in healthcare administration are diverse. Graduates with a healthcare administration degree can cultivate their areas of interest, choosing from options like finance, human resources, or management.
The BLS projects that the job outlook for healthcare administration will grow almost three times faster than the national average in the coming years. Hospitals, medical facilities, doctors' offices, and insurance agencies need administrators to manage their facilities and personnel. Students who choose this field have ample opportunity for career growth.
How Much Do Healthcare Administration Majors Make?
Healthcare administration jobs vary, and there are many factors that can influence a worker's salary potential. Some of these factors include a professional's job function, experience level, education level, and location. The table below lists some of the most common careers for graduates with healthcare administration degrees, including median salaries for individuals with different levels of experience.
|Job Title||Entry Level (0-12 Months)||Early Career (1-4 Years)||Midcareer (5-9 Years)||Experienced (10-19 Years)|
|Medical and Health Services Manager||N/A||$60,000||$64,000||$72,000|
|Nursing Home Administrator||$72,000||$81,000||$94,000||$97,000|
Interview with a Professional
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 — a consulting practice that specializes in healthcare business planning and consulting for healthcare executives. She teaches healthcare finance in the health administration program at Rutgers University. Jane holds a master of business administration from Boston College and a bachelor of arts in history of art 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 non-financial 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 indeed 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 up to date with new research and developments in the field?
I am an active member of my association — 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, health 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 health 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 health 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.
How to Succeed in Healthcare Administration
Graduates in healthcare administration can pursue a number of careers. However, advancement often depends on education level, and different careers have different educational requirements. An associate degree allows graduates to work as medical and health services managers, administrative services managers, and medical records and health information technicians. Meanwhile, a bachelor's degree qualifies workers for the same jobs, but also leads to opportunities like insurance underwriter and human resources manager.
Earning a master's degree allows graduates to pursue management positions, including nursing home administrator, clinical manager, and health information manager. However, upper-level management positions usually require a doctoral degree, especially for positions in academia. With a Ph.D., you can become a top executive or a professor.
In some cases, education alone is not enough to qualify for a particular healthcare administration career. Graduates may also need supervised training, internships or fellowships, and/or specialized work experience. Experience allows students to apply theoretical knowledge to practical settings.
For example, graduates interested in becoming a health services manager should seek work experience in a healthcare facility in either a clinical or administrative role. This experience helps them understand how hospitals work and gain a better understanding of the people they'll someday need to manage.
Licensure and Certification
Some healthcare administration positions — like nursing home administrators — require licensure. Licensure requirements vary by career and by state, and some positions ask for specialized certifications in addition to licenses. Job seekers interested in becoming an administrative services manager, for example, should seek certification from the International Facility Management Association.
Other certifying organizations include the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management, the American Health Information Management Association, and the American College of Health Care Administrators.
Concentrations Available to Healthcare Administration Majors
Healthcare administration offers many opportunities for specialization. For example, some students choose to work with people while others prefer numbers and data. Selecting a concentration prepares students for specialized careers and provides extra 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.
- Education: A concentration in education prepares students for life in academia, but can also come in handy when helping patients understand healthcare information or teaching healthcare professionals new skills and policies. In this concentration, students learn how to disseminate information to experts and nonexperts alike.
- Informatics: 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.
- Operations: Healthcare administrators manage day-to-day operations in medical facilities, from hospitals to doctors' offices. A concentration in operations teaches students to run the many moving parts of a medical facility and covers record keeping, human resources management, 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 rules and laws.
What Can You Do With a Healthcare Administration Degree?
While healthcare administration is a vast industry, 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 health administration, like CEOs, require at least a master's degree and often a doctorate.
Students must decide what level of education best aligns with their career goals. Some graduates only need an associate or bachelor's degree and an official certification to land their dream jobs, while others need to pursue graduate education in order to advance. Healthcare administration students 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 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, doctors' offices, or in other healthcare-related industries like insurance. They manage day-to-day operations or take on administrative tasks, like record keeping.
- 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 are in charge of managing patient paperwork, ensuring that insurance and eligibility are dealt with correctly. A medical bill manager might handle all the paperwork for a small clinic 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 be in charge keeping hospital or clinic computer systems up to date.
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 gain refined organizational and interpersonal skills that can help them succeed professionally.
- 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 be in charge of clinical records and patient reports.
Master's Degree in Healthcare Administration
Many upper-level careers in healthcare management can be obtained with 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 these higher-pressure 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 finances and budgeting, contract negotiation, conflict resolution, data collection, and legal compliance.
- 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 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 have 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 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 these degree options, doctorates in healthcare administration require the most time. In order to earn a doctoral degree, students must undertake a research project, write and defend a thesis, 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 graduates can also become professors at accredited colleges and universities.
- 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.
While professors are known for giving lectures, they may also conduct research, oversee student research, act as advisors, and publish academic papers. Professors benefit from strong backgrounds in research, data collection, analysis, and communication.
- Director of Operations
Directors of operations are primarily in charge of managing employees. In a hospital or clinical setting, this could mean doctors, nurses, janitorial or cafeteria staff, and any number of outside contractors. These directors may also oversee research and development departments or manage inventory and ordering.
Where Can You Work with a Healthcare Administration Degree?
When beginning their job search, healthcare administration graduates should keep in mind 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, career growth, and ease of hiring. For example, it might be easier to find a job in a rural area, where there isn't a lot of competition, but you will likely find higher salaries in more competitive markets, like cities.
Career availability and salary outlook can change drastically depending on where you live. Risk population, cost of living, and licensing requirements all have an effect on salary outcomes. Graduates should thoroughly research standard salaries in their particular career by state before applying to positions. The map below demonstrates how healthcare administration salaries and job availability can vary by location.
- 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.
- 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.
- Offices of Physicians
Offices of physicians include independent healthcare practices and can provide either general or specialized care for patients. Healthcare administrators in this field manage doctors' offices, scheduling, inventory, and budgeting.
- 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.
- 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.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How Do You Find a Job as a Healthcare Administration Graduate?
Earning a degree in healthcare administration is not always enough to distinguish graduates from other job seekers. While still in school, students should consider finding an internship in the industry where they wish to work, such as at hospitals or with insurance companies, or look into industry-specific certifications. These are great ways to build up a resume before graduation.
The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management, the American College of Healthcare Executives, and the National Association of Healthcare Access Management provide networking resources for students, recent graduates, and healthcare administration professionals, giving individuals the chance to connect with peers and advance their careers.
The medical industry employs the most healthcare administration graduates, though governmental agencies, consulting firms, and insurance agencies also hire from this field. The BLS projects that positions for medical and health services managers will grow by 20% from 2016 to 2026.
Professional Resources for Healthcare Administration Majors
HFMA is a membership organization for financial managers in the healthcare industry. It offers networking opportunities, industry news, and continuing education. It also oversees certifications and professional designations that help professionals advance in their careers.
AHIMA provides resources and tools to advance careers in the healthcare administration industry, including credentials, networking events, and career opportunities. AHIMA also sponsors conferences on topics like health data and information.
HCAA provides networking opportunities and events for healthcare administrators to exchange ideas and stay current with industry developments. HCAA offers forums, online webinars, and seminars, which provide continuing education for healthcare professionals. HCAA is a membership organization.
HIMSS is a global organization focused on the interplay of healthcare and technology. HIMSS collaborates with many other healthcare organizations to provide a holistic approach to healthcare and IT. The society provides many online resources, including podcasts, publications, and access to industry research.
AHA is a national organization of hospitals, healthcare networks, and healthcare communities. The association stays updated on national healthcare policies, legislative debates, and regulatory issues. It also offers career resources, industry data, and continuing education for professionals.
ASHHRA is a membership organization dedicated to healthcare managers in HR. With over 3,000 members, ASHHRA offers research data, networking opportunities, and professional resources for healthcare administrators. ASHHRA also oversees certification in healthcare human resources and is part of AHA.
PAHCOM is a membership organization for managers of small-group and solo-provider healthcare offices. PAHCOM offers a support network in which peers can exchange ideas, solve problems, and share knowledge. It also provides certification for medical managers and health information technology managers.
NCHL is a nonprofit organization that trains accountable leaders in the healthcare industry. NCHL develops leadership by encouraging collaboration, recognizing excellence, and establishing best practice standards.
The Healthcare Staffing Blog is offered by Medical Solutions and helps healthcare HR professionals resolve staffing challenges. It covers healthcare news, details on conferences, and legal/regulatory issues related to healthcare staffing. This blog also offers resources for continuing education and licensure.
AHCA is a nonprofit group made up of affiliate state health organizations. It represents over 13,500 nonprofit and for-profit care providers. AHCA offerings include career resources for job seekers, volunteer committees, and up-to-date information on state regulations and policies.