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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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment in healthcare to grow by 16% between 2020 and 2030, creating an additional 2.6 million 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 $104,000. The BLS doesn’t break down median salary by role, but it does based on where medical and health services managers work:
|Workplace||Median Annual Salary|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||$112,870|
|Outpatient care centers||$100,690|
|Offices of physicians||$94,240|
|Nursing and residential care facilities||$89,880|
2. Strong Job Outlook and Opportunities
General management positions in the U.S. are expected to grow by about 9% between 2020 and 2030. Compare that to healthcare management roles, which the BLS estimates will grow by 32% during that time. That translates into more than 51,000 new jobs per year.
Healthcare Management Employment Growth between 2020 and 2030:
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:
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.
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 will be more important than ever.
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:
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
“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.”
Healthcare is ever-changing. What you do in any position today is likely to be at least somewhat different in five years.
“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.”
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