What Is Healthcare Administration? What Does a Healthcare Administrator Do?
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- Healthcare administrators manage healthcare departments and organizations.
- They specialize in financial management, health informatics, and hospital management.
- Healthcare administration jobs pay high salaries and report strong demand.
- With a healthcare administration degree, you can apply for healthcare administrator jobs.
Healthcare administrators keep hospitals and other healthcare organizations running smoothly. And it's a great time to earn a healthcare administration degree. Healthcare administrators can earn high salaries and can expect solid job growth over the next decade.
But before you jump into healthcare administration, you need to understand the job duties, requirements, and career outlook. Is healthcare administration the right field for you? Our guide walks through everything you should know before applying to healthcare administration programs.
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What Is Healthcare Administration?
Healthcare organizations hire physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers to care for patients. They also hire healthcare administrators to manage non-clinical tasks. Healthcare administration includes everything from staffing to health information management.
As administrators in healthcare organizations, these jobs require management skills and strong leadership. You'll also need good communication and interpersonal skills to work with clinical and non-clinical team members.
In addition, healthcare administrators need specialized skills based on their focus areas. If you work in healthcare finance, for example, you'll need to understand financial management and budgeting. Jobs in healthcare analytics require strong data management skills.
What Does a Healthcare Administrator Do?
Healthcare administrators oversee daily tasks and long-term planning. They help healthcare organizations run efficiently and effectively. But what do they do? As managers, healthcare administrators set goals for their departments and implement quality improvement plans.
They supervise administrative professionals and create schedules to staff the facility. In order to suggest improvements, healthcare administrators analyze data on patient outcomes. Healthcare administrators also oversee the finances, including billing, reimbursement, and budgets.
Healthcare administrators work in several settings. Some manage a department within a facility. Others oversee a medical practice or an entire hospital. Specialists in healthcare information might work in a data management department.
Why Should You Become a Healthcare Administrator?
Healthcare administration jobs offer some major perks, including high salaries. But make sure you also understand the downsides of working in healthcare administration.
Pros of Being a Healthcare Administrator
- High salary. The median annual healthcare administration salary reached $101,340 in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
- Strong demand. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 28% from 2021-2031. That's much faster than the average growth rate across all occupations.
- Educational requirement. You can apply for entry-level healthcare administrator jobs with a bachelor's degree.
Cons of Being a Healthcare Administrator
- Time investment. You'll need a bachelor's degree plus experience, and many employers look for a master's degree. This can take six years or more.
- Changing regulations. The healthcare industry is evolving. Changes to regulations and policies can make it hard to keep up.
- Long hours. Many healthcare administrators work over 40 hours, and the job can require night and weekend work.
Which Degree Should You Get for Healthcare Administration Jobs?
Healthcare administrators need a bachelor's degree to enter the field. Many colleges offer a major in healthcare administration. You can also earn a healthcare administration degree online. Other common majors include health information management and public administration.
You'll also need some healthcare experience, either in a clinical or an administrative role. For example, you can become a healthcare administrator with a nursing degree plus training in healthcare administration or nursing administration.
Many employers prefer a master's degree. A master's in healthcare administration includes graduate-level coursework plus supervised experience in a healthcare setting.
What Is the Career Outlook for a Healthcare Administrator?
In addition to six-figure salaries for healthcare administrators, healthcare jobs are in demand. The BLS projects the field will grow 28% from 2021-2031. That translates into around 56,600 job openings every year.
Is Healthcare Administration Right for You?
You'll need strong analytical, leadership, and communication skills to work in healthcare administration. A detail-oriented approach plus an interest in healthcare will also help you succeed.
If you're stuck, consider taking an introductory healthcare administration class. You can also reach out to healthcare administrators to learn more about the field. And spend time considering your personal and professional goals. As a growing, lucrative field, healthcare administration can be a great career path— but only if it's the right fit for you.
Is Healthcare Administration Right for You?
Are you a compassionate person looking for non-clinical leadership opportunities in healthcare?
Do you have strong management skills, including attention to detail and good communication skills?
Are you an analytical thinker interested in both healthcare and business?
Do you have the technical skills to adapt to changing healthcare information systems?
Can you communicate effectively with physicians, insurance representatives, and policymakers?
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 BA in art history from the University of Pennsylvania.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a career in healthcare administration?
A: 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.
Q: Is there one area of practice in healthcare administration that you find particularly rewarding?
A: 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.
Q: What did your career path look like after graduating? How did you end up where you are now?
A: 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.
Q: What does continuing education look like for you? How do you stay current with new research and developments in the field?
A: 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.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue the academic side of healthcare administration by teaching at Rutgers University?
A: 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.
Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in a career in healthcare administration?
A: 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.