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Reasons to Pursue a Health Management Degree

In this career, you’ll have variety, camaraderie, and plenty of opportunity for growth (not to mention good pay).

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Home » Blog » Reasons to Study Health Management
lisa jaffe

Written and reported by:
Lisa Jaffe
Contributing Writer

There are a multitude of careers you can pursue if you are interested in business or management as careers. One of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy—healthcare—combines both with such a diverse array of potential jobs that it’s worth giving serious consideration to when you’re thinking about your future.

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Career Overview

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment in healthcare management to grow by 28.4% through 2032, creating an additional 136,000 jobs.

Among the health management careers you can consider:

And the list goes on. In all of these careers, however, there are some skills and traits that are universal for success—strong people skills, the ability to change as technology and healthcare change, and the ability to thrive in a busy, fast-paced environment, to name a few.

“The healthcare industry offers so many opportunities,” says Patricia Buttner, MBA/HCM, RHIA, CDIP, CPHI, CCS, CICA, the practice director of informatics, analytics, and data use at the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). “That is one of my favorite aspects of this position. A person can seek out opportunities for positions that include what they enjoy and thrive on.”

If you still need convincing, here are 10 reasons to consider a career in healthcare management.

1. Higher-Than-Average Salaries

While salaries can vary widely across a broad field with roles that have different requirements for experience and education, the BLS estimates the median income for healthcare managers across all areas at more than $104,830. The BLS doesn’t break down median salary by role, but it does based on where medical and health services managers work:

WorkplaceAverage Annual Salary
Scientific research facilities$219,050
General medical and surgical hospitals$139,490
Outpatient care centers$122,870
Offices of physicians$126,210
Nursing and residential care facilities$103,800

2. Strong Job Outlook and Opportunities

General administrative management positions in the U.S. are expected to grow by about 4.2% through 2032. Compare that to healthcare management roles, which the BLS estimates will grow by 28.4% during that time.

Healthcare Management Employment Growth through 2032:

  • 28.4%

Changing technology related to healthcare, including greater use of electronic health records (EHRs), is one area to watch.

Buttner cites the healthcare data and information sector as an example. “The growth of healthcare Internet of Things (IoT) may lead to new roles and positions,” she says. “Big Tech such as Microsoft and its purchase of Nuance (an AI software company in the healthcare industry) may offer opportunities involving healthcare data.”

3. A Wide Variety of Workplace Options

Choosing a healthcare management career opens up many possibilities for where you might work:

  • Pharmaceutical company
  • Research organization
  • Dental practice
  • Optometric practice
  • Legal, accounting, or consulting firm with a large healthcare practice
  • Correctional facility

There are also opportunities for full-time and part-time educators, says Buttner. “I have heard of some individuals, by asking questions and being inquisitive about processes, being able to create new roles in organizations that were not aware of the scope of knowledge the healthcare information professional has,” she says.

4. Growing and Urgent Healthcare Needs

The baby boomer generation is aging and living longer, and healthcare is struggling to keep up. The people who work behind the scenes to ensure quality care—health data analysts, medical researchers, quality-control professionals, and more—are vital to the success of healthcare systems.

In addition, many services that used to be performed in hospitals are shifting to physicians’ offices, making the need for practice managers more acute. And with the rise of virtual appointments, managers who are adept at identifying and incorporating new technologies are needed.

The sheer number of people needed to work in the non-medical aspects of healthcare means that human resource managers who can bring new staff on board quickly—and also work to retain that staff once hired—will be more important than ever.

5. Emphasis on Teamwork

Working in a healthcare setting requires collaboration. You may be part of a team that includes housekeepers, brain surgeons, and everyone in between. There is no management job in healthcare that doesn’t touch patient care. In some roles, you’ll collaborate with managers from other departments to address particular problems.

For example, if you work in data management in a hospital trying to decrease wait times in the emergency room, you may be asked to be part of a team that looks at data you’ve collected on ER use. This could include:

  • Feedback from physicians and nurses on what they need to improve care
  • Facility manager insight on ways to improve ER design and layout
  • Housekeeping proposals to streamline cleaning rooms as patients come and go

You’ll likely interact with people who have years more education than you do, and others who’ve never taken a college class. People of all classes, races, and religions work in busy healthcare settings, and you’ll likely work with people from places you’ve never thought of visiting.

“You can’t do this job alone,” says Todd Nelson, MBA, FHFMA, director of professional practice and partner relationships and chief partnership executive at the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA).

Through teamwork, you learn to see things through other’s eyes. A problem that seems clinical to a physician probably has financial and administrative aspects that are discovered when managers from these areas work with a physician to solve the problem. “It really is joyful to work with people who are different, who have different perspectives from you,” Nelson says.

6. Regular Hours and Little Physical Labor

For the most part, healthcare management jobs are Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 positions. There will always be operational emergencies that may keep you late at certain times—for example, when healthcare organizations are up for recertification and are preparing for reviews by government agencies. Your job will likely be in an office, and it’s unlikely you’ll have to do much physical labor. Most of your duties will require brains, not brawn.

Some people who work in healthcare management jobs—particularly in financial and data management—might work partly from home, but most jobs aren’t entirely remote.

Most of the time healthcare management involves leadership and management of people and the various functions of a department, says Nelson. “Typically, this is done in person,” he says. “The team building, discussions on human and financial resources, and the collaborative nature of the job is more easily done when you are physically together and not in a [virtual] room.”

7. Many Potential Careers

There are a wide variety of positions at different levels of healthcare management, and they can require different skills and education. Here are some examples:

Facilities and Operations Managers:
These managers may oversee housekeeping, food service, or maintenance. Often, they have risen up the ranks from frontline staff.
Practice and Hospital Administrators:
These and other overarching administrators oversee hospitals, nursing homes, rehab hospitals, and surgery centers. In this position, you’ll manage staff and daily facility operations. In a small practice or facility, you may be the only manager, while in larger ones, you may have other managers working under your direction.
Clinical Unit Manager:
In this role, you might manage an imaging lab, ICU, or a department such as surgery or maternity within a hospital.
Department Manager:
These managers oversee entire departments, such as nursing, legal affairs and risk reduction, information and records, finance, and human resources. They have a variety of titles, including chief financial officer, human resources director, and IT manager.

8. A Four-Year Degree Isn’t Always Required

Depending on where you start your career, you may not need a bachelor’s degree to be a manager in a healthcare setting. Some department managers start on the frontlines—housekeeping or food service staff who rise to become department managers, for example. A manager of a small physicians’ practice may reach that position with an associate degree.

However, in most cases, a four-year degree, advanced degree, or certification from a professional organization can lead to higher pay and the ability to rise higher in the ranks of management.

A bachelor’s in business administration or accounting can help get your foot in the door in financial management. It’s how Nelson, the HFMA executive, says he got into the field. Computer science degrees are sometimes required for those interested in data or information management.

Degrees Tailored to Healthcare

Nelson says some general management degrees can have weaknesses.

“Before now, the industry hasn’t been great at preparing people for the uniqueness of this work environment,” he says. “You can have an accounting degree, like me, but there is something different in healthcare that no other non-profit organization’s accounting department understands or needs to understand. From payments to revenue cycles, this is different. Getting a context of the healthcare industry is tremendously helpful.”

There are increasingly bachelor’s and master’s degree programs designed specifically for healthcare, especially in information management and administration. Master’s degrees are available in public health administration, health management, and health information management.

Organizations for healthcare professionals also often have continuing education and certification options that can help you advance your career and salary. And for students who work while they go to school and need flexibility, many programs are online.

9. Career Advancement

No matter where you start in healthcare, there is always a new direction to go—usually up, but also laterally to new departments or organizations. If you get bored with financial management, you can get training from organizations like AHIMA in information management and work in that area.

Hospital administrators and health plan CEOs often come from the world of finance or operations management. Nelson says he started out in a general business office before moving into finance.

From Nursing to Coding

Even if you work in a clinical area, you can find online or work-friendly evening degrees and courses that can help you shift to a non-clinical management position.

Buttner was a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in a hospital, unaware of the world of healthcare information and IT professionals. “When I discovered it, I found I really enjoyed learning about coding,” she says. “When an opportunity arose, I was able to join the department and expand my knowledge.”

She completed a health information training program and went to graduate school. “Continuing my education has led me down a very satisfying journey in the world,” she says. “Over the many years in this profession, I have heard many stories of individuals that loved the healthcare field but discovered hands-on patient care was not for them, but healthcare information was a perfect fit.”

AHIMA and HFMA both offer general and fellowship-level certifications in financial and information management that can help you advance or change course in your career. The American Society of Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) also offers certifications, and many universities have certificate courses in healthcare management or mini-MBA courses related to healthcare.

10. A Dynamic Field

Healthcare is ever-changing. What you do in any position today is likely to be at least somewhat different in five years. Working in healthcare will require you to continue to learn, if not formally through continuing education courses, then on the job or through your own reading and research.

What’s driving change? Many factors:

  • Technology
  • Policy and law
  • An aging and increasingly diverse population
  • A mobile and fast-moving public
  • Issues brought forward by the pandemic

“If after 10 years in this industry you are still doing things the same way, you are likely doing something wrong,” Nelson says.

His advice: “Learn everything you can. Volunteer for committees. And do things you don’t really want to because it will help you understand something new about where you work.”

“The more you know about what is happening in your organization and your industry,” Nelson says, “the better positioned you are to take on something new and different.”

patty buttner

With professional insight from:
Patricia Buttner, MBA/HCM, RHIA, CDIP, CPHI, CCS, CICA
Practice Director of Informatics, Analytics, and Data Use, American Health Information Management Association

todd nelson

Todd Nelson, MBA, FHFMA
Director of Professional Practice and Partner Relationships and Chief Partnership Executive, Healthcare Financial Management Association