Today’s healthcare delivery system faces enormous challenges. Front-line staff from medical assistants to surgeons need the help of seasoned, knowledgeable administrators who know how to keep the lights on, acquire the latest technology, and provide leadership.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says positions in healthcare administration will grow dramatically in the coming years—32% through 2029, much faster than the average for all jobs.
With the BLS citing more than 422,00 professionals nationwide as of 2019, they may have titles such as practice manager, hospital administrator, and chief executive officer. They may have a healthcare background, or they may come from a non-medical field, such as finance.
You’ll almost certainly need a bachelor’s degree to land your first job as an administrator in a clinic, hospital, or other healthcare organization. A bachelor’s degree may qualify you for a senior-level position in a smaller organization.
Most Jobs Require a Master’s
The vast majority of employers with mid-level and senior-level jobs in healthcare administration prefer or require a master’s degree. Sharon Galler, executive director of the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM), says very few of her members have PhDs.
However, some positions, especially healthcare administration teaching roles at major higher education institutions, such as professor or researcher, require a doctorate.
Some professionals in healthcare administration start out with a different education. Galler holds a degree in marketing and advertising. Earlier in her career, however, she worked in medical billing.
“We hear from a fair amount of people looking to change careers,” Galler says. “A lot of people start off in other areas.”
Perhaps you’re a medical assistant with a certificate or two-year degree who wants to advance to a management position. Or perhaps you’ve run an accounting business for several years and you want to become part of the growing healthcare field—but prefer not to work directly with patients.
10 Jobs You Can Get with a Healthcare Administration Degree
No matter your role or employer, you’ll likely find working in healthcare administration satisfying.
“It’s very fast-paced, and there’s a lot of camaraderie,” says Galler.
A bachelor’s degree can be sufficient for some management-level jobs. Popular positions include:
Healthcare Department Managers
Larger healthcare facilities have complex operations and many departments that operate separately. The managers who run these departments plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. They may lead a medical unit, work in finance, oversee inventory, and more. The minimum educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree.
Workplaces: Larger medical facilities like hospitals, outpatient centers, and long-term care facilities
Salary: Median annual salary of $104,280, according to the BLS
Skills: Scheduling, budgeting, communicating, developing department goals, improving efficiency
Certification: Optional, but various certifications are available, including Certified Medical Manager (CMM)
Healthcare financial managers follow the money, or at least they track the money, making sure the books are balanced according to strict financial accounting standards. Although patient care is always an organization’s first order of business, finance managers make sure the business is profitable, or in the case of a non-profit, that income equals expenses. The minimum educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree.
Workplaces: Hospitals, insurance companies, public health agencies, and more
Salary: Median annual salary of $134,180, according to the BLS
Skills needed: Technical, analytical, organizational, problem-solving, attention to detail, leadership
Certification: Optional but several available, including Certified Revenue Cycle Executive (CRCE), Certified Revenue Cycle Professional (CRCP), and Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP)
Someone has to manage the details of running a clinic or physician’s practice, and that job often falls to a practice manager. They oversee day-to-day operations, manage the budget, and deal with minor personnel conflicts. The minimum education required is a bachelor’s degree.
Workplaces: Group medical practices, outpatient clinics, surgical centers, and more
Salary: Median annual wage of $94,240, according to the BLS
Skills needed: Communication, even-tempered disposition, conflict resolution, multi-tasking, eye for detail
Certification: None required but several available, including Certified Medical Practice Executive (CMPE)
Most healthcare administration jobs require a master’s degree. Some are:
Chief Executive Officer
Most medium and large, multi-faceted healthcare organizations are headed by a chief executive officer. Above all, the CEO provides leadership to the entire organization, making tough decisions about growth and finance, encouraging and rewarding the workforce, meeting with department heads, and maintaining good relations with unions, governments, and vendors. Virtually all CEOs have one or more master’s degrees, usually in business or a healthcare field, and many years of experience in lower-ranking jobs.
Workplaces: Hospitals and other large medical facilities, healthcare associations, and more
Salary: Median salary of $160,950, according to the BLS. Bonuses for leaders in the largest healthcare organizations are not uncommon.
Skills needed: Leadership, mentorship, communication, data analysis, relationship development, decision making
Certification: Optional but available: Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE)
Health Information Manager
The days of paper prescriptions and charts on clipboards are fading fast. Everything is going digital, and the health information manager makes sure all technology works smoothly and efficiently while keeping up with the latest trends. Just as important, this role is responsible for the privacy of patient records. You’ll manage databases and analyze patient data and other information. Health information managers have a master’s degree in health informatics, information systems, or information management.
Workplaces: Hospitals, clinics, outpatient centers, and more
Salary: Median annual salary of $104,280, according to the BLS
Needed Skills: Critical thinking, problem solving, project management, tech savviness, management
Certification: None required, but Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) available
Healthcare administrators may run an entire hospital or medical facility, or they may lead just one department, if it’s part of a large health system. They oversee budgets, hire staff, and ensure that their facilities meet their legal and regulatory obligations. Most healthcare administrators have a master’s degree in a healthcare field or in healthcare administration.
Workplaces: Mid-size to large medical facilities, such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, outpatient centers, and more
Salary: Median annual salary of $114,100, according to the BLS
Skilled needed: Leadership, communication, planning, budgeting, data analysis, legal expertise
Certification: Optional but several are available, including Certified Professional in Healthcare Risk Management (CPHRM), Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional (cHAP), and Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ)
Every healthcare organization, from the smallest clinic to the largest hospital, deals with government regulators and elected officials, especially at the state and federal level. Healthcare lobbyists—some prefer “government relations consultant”—advocate for their clients’ interests when agencies propose new rules or politicians consider new laws. Lobbyists typically have a broad range of educational backgrounds, usually in law, political science, or public policy, although specialists in healthcare may have a bachelor’s or master’s in healthcare administration.
Workplaces: Private businesses, nonprofit groups, advocacy groups
Salary: Median annual pay of $125,350, according to the BLS
Skilled needed: Negotiating, communicating, in-depth knowledge on specific issues, writing
Certification: None required
When medical facilities want to improve their operations, they might hire a healthcare consultant to offer advice. Healthcare consultants are experts in one or more fields, including policy, regulations, finance, and the law. They tend to have extensive experience and/or a master’s degree. Consultants analyze an organization’s operations and suggest strategies to improve processes and efficiencies with the general aim of reducing costs and increasing revenues. Consultants may travel frequently to meet with clients.
Workplaces: You could own your own consulting business advising medical facilities or work for a consulting firm
Salary: Median annual salary of $87,660, according to the BLS
Skilled needed: Analysis, critical thinking, communication, technical, management, financial expertise
Certification: None required, but Certified Healthcare Business Consultant is available
Nursing Home Administrator
As the population ages, more and more elders will live in nursing homes, sometimes called “long-term care facilities,” where their health can be closely monitored. As well as dealing with nitty-gritty business decisions, nursing home administrators may meet with family members to explain services or solve problems. Most nursing home administrators have master’s degrees in business or healthcare administration.
Workplaces: Long-term nursing facilities, assisted living centers, memory care homes, and home care agencies
Salary: Median annual pay of $94,020, according to the BLS
Skilled needed: Leadership, interpersonal communications, analysis, detail-oriented, budgeting
Certification: Nursing home administrators must be licensed. There are several to choose from, including Licensed Nursing Home Administrator (LNHA), Residential Care and Assisted Living (RCAL), and Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). Certification is optional, but many are available, including Certified Healthcare Administrative professional (cHAP).
Many healthcare administrators become teachers after spending years, perhaps decades, in the healthcare administration field. They’re eager to pass on what they’ve learned to a new generation of professionals. Smaller schools hire experienced administrators with master’s degrees as teachers. Larger universities usually require a doctorate.
Workplaces: Universities, smaller four-year colleges, and community colleges
Salary: Median annual pay of $80,790, according to the BLS
Skilled needed: Strong speaker, communicator, and listener, writing, analysis, time management
Certification: None required
Which Path Is Right for You?
Healthcare administration is growing at least as fast as the healthcare economy in general. Americans are aging as a population, and that means more demands on doctors, nurses, and the facilities where they work.
Which path you take could depend on your interests and whether you want to get a bachelor’s or master’s.
Which path you take could depend on your interests and whether you want to get a bachelor’s or master’s. You can be on the forefront of offering the best care for your community by making sure healthcare institutions are run smoothly, efficiently, and in the best interests of everyone.
Whatever your path, you’ll have a lot of company. As of 2020, the healthcare sector now employs 12% of the American workforce according to the Kaiser Family Foundation website.
With professional insight from:
Executive Director, American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management