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Healthcare Management Degree and Career Guide

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Why Healthcare Management?

Working in healthcare management offers an opportunity to focus on the administrative and business aspects of healthcare while choosing from a range of diverse roles and environments. While this field typically requires an interdisciplinary skill set in business and healthcare, there are many pathways to succeeding in these roles.

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The good news is that no matter which path you choose, opportunities in healthcare management may lead to a rewarding and secure career. As the aging population increases and the delivery of healthcare services becomes more complex, the demand for healthcare managers is expected to increase dramatically.

“The healthcare ecosystem is so large that there are an incredible number of places for a student to pursue a position in healthcare administration,” says Cathy Bartell, MHA, associate director of the Sloan Program in Health Administration in the Cornell University School of Public Policy and chair of the National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL) Career Trajectory Group.

Career Overview

While the traditional roles for healthcare managers involve hospitals and healthcare facilities, a career in healthcare management can encompass a wide range of positions in both clinical and non-clinical settings. And while titles and even specific responsibilities may differ, all healthcare managers are involved in the business and management of healthcare.

Generally, a healthcare manager is involved in aspects of planning, directing, and coordinating medical and health services. While a healthcare manager handles the administration of services, the role shouldn’t be confused with administrative professionals like office managers, whose work relates to coordinating and facilitating patient care.


While titles and even specific responsibilities may differ, all healthcare managers are involved in the business and management of healthcare.

Steps to a Career in Healthcare Management

These steps may help you determine what you’d like to do within the field of healthcare management:.

Define your career goals.

female manager speaking to group of healthcare students

Do you want to be an administrator or a manager? How far do you want to advance in your career? Do you know if hospital administration is what you want, or do you prefer a smaller practice, or a network of practices?

Find out what degrees are available.

woman on park bench researching jobs on laptop

Your goals and interests could determine what degree you choose and whether you stop at a bachelor’s degree or pursue a master’s. You can always start with a bachelor’s and move onto a master’s further in your career, as options like online, after hours classes, and other flexible options exist in healthcare management.

Gain practical experience.

two healthcare managers talking with three employees at table behind them

An internship is a great way to prepare for your job search and gain an edge over other candidates, as is any administration or healthcare setting experience you may have.

Consider earning a certification.

woman with back to camera filing binder in library

Although certifications aren’t generally required, these credentials may demonstrate your expertise and commitment to your field. There are several certifying bodies you can look into, including American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).

Healthcare Manager Roles

With so many options, it can be confusing to identify a role that aligns with your career interests and goals. Since terms like administrator and manager may be used interchangeably or vary by institution, it’s important to look past a title in understanding the role and responsibilities of a specific position. For example, a hospital administrator in a large hospital may have different responsibilities from a hospital administrator in a hospice.

Higher-Level Administrator Management Roles

Hospital Administrator:
A hospital administrator manages the day-to-day operations of a hospital or other healthcare facility. They work to ensure that resources and services are used efficiently in providing medical care to patients. A hospital administrator may plan and manage budgets, set goals for the staff and hospital, and participate in community health and fundraising initiatives.
Executive Director:
An executive director is an administrator who has responsibility for the overall management and operation of a hospital or other healthcare facility. They participate with the board of directors in making decisions that support the institution’s philosophy and general objectives. An executive director may also recommend hospital policy positions, work with regulatory agencies, and ensure compliance and sound fiscal operations.
Public Health Director:
A public health director is an administrator responsible for the overall management of a public healthcare program or organization. A person in this role typically works for a government branch, with responsibilities like those of an executive director or hospital administrator in the private sector. The role involves organizing and directing, with responsibilities for programs on a local or statewide level.
Nursing Home Administrator:
A nursing home administrator manages the clinical and administrative aspects of a long-term care facility. This role typically involves overseeing staff, financial matters, medical care, and regulation compliance. Due to the nature of long-term care, a nursing home administrator is often involved in communicating with families of prospective and current patients.

Middle Management Roles

Healthcare Compliance and Risk Auditor:
A healthcare compliance and risk auditor ensures that their organization adheres to state and federal healthcare regulations and internal organizational guidelines. They may also recommend plans for implementing improvements to align with industry regulations.
Health Information Manager:
A healthcare information manager plans, organizes, and oversees all activities necessary to ensure the integrity of financial and clinical data and patient records for a hospital, medical practice, public health agency, or another type of healthcare facility. This manager often leads collaboration among clinical staff, patients, and payers.
Revenue Cycle Manager:
A revenue cycle manager manages all the functions related to a healthcare facility’s billing and revenue cycle. Their responsibilities include managing patient billing and insurance claims, while also maximizing cash flow for a facility.
Medical Practice Manager/Practice Administrator:
A medical practice manager/practice administrator oversees the business side of a medical practice or facility. Their responsibilities typically involve managing revenue, risk and compliance, finance, contracts, data and technology, clinical education, and other business-related areas.
Department Head:
A department head typically is responsible for the efficiency and quality of services in their assigned department. They may develop and implement departmental goals and policies, oversee staff, and create work schedules. Their duties can vary widely depending on the type of service the department provides and the size of the facility.

The demand for healthcare managers and administrators is strong in general, but an area of particular need is expertise in constantly evolving state and federal regulations.

“Having expertise in risk management and compliance would help your career tremendously,” says Coley Bennett, CMM, CHA, CMDP, COCAS, chairwoman of the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM) National Advisory Board.

Healthcare Manager vs. Healthcare Administrator

The terms healthcare management and administration are often used interchangeably.

While titles and responsibilities can vary based on the size and type of organization, there are usually basic differences between the roles and duties of a manager versus an administrator in larger healthcare settings, such as a hospital or multi-facility organization. However, in smaller organizations, these roles may overlap or even be handled by the same professional.

A healthcare administrator may have these responsibilities:

  • Manage staff within a department or facility
  • Ensure regulatory compliance
  • Handle budget and finance
  • Oversee the day-to-day operations of a department or facility
  • Measure and develop plans for risk management

A healthcare manager may have the following responsibilities:

  • Develop strategies for the facility as a whole
  • Ensure that practices align with the organization’s mission and goals
  • Manage processes to ensure financial stability
  • Coordinate with boards and other governing bodies
  • Investigate ways to improve efficiency

Education to Become a Healthcare Manager

Since a career in healthcare management can involve so many options, determining your interests and goals can help you choose the education that’s right for you. What aspect of healthcare management interests you most? How far do you want to advance?

Defining your goals can help you plan for the right educational pathway and career track. “People at the top levels of hospital administration—meaning COOs, presidents, and vice presidents of the organization—are very highly likely to have an MHA, or even an MBA,” Bartell says.

Bachelor’s Programs

Healthcare Management:
A bachelor’s degree in healthcare management establishes a foundation in the business of healthcare with studies related to healthcare technology, promotion, informatics, and behavioral issues. Basic coursework typically includes the fundamentals of accounting, statistics, and finance.
Public Health:
A bachelor’s degree in public health provides the education necessary for those who want to make a difference in healthcare outside of a clinical practice. Studies are related to healthcare communication and education, disease prevention, community needs, and public health research.
Healthcare Administration:
A bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration is similar to a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management and may be named differently depending on the institution. The degree focuses on preparing students for the business of healthcare.

Master’s Programs

Master of Public Health (MPH):
An MPH trains students to protect and improve the health of populations worldwide with in-depth study of the principles of biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, program planning and research, and health policy and management.
Master of Health Administration (MHA):
An MHA concentrates on the business and management of healthcare, building on the foundations of an undergraduate degree and often, practical work experience in healthcare. The emphasis is on strategic planning, policies, practice management, and financial oversight.
Master of Healthcare Management:
Like an MHA, a Master of Healthcare Management explores analytical, political, economic, and technological elements of the healthcare system at an advanced level.
Master of Health Services Management:
A graduate degree in health services management is similar to advanced degrees in health administration and healthcare management. The emphasis is on mastering advanced knowledge related to the business of healthcare.
Master of Business Administration (MBA):
An MBA is a generalist advanced business degree. It concentrates on business processes and best practices that are applicable across a broad range of industries. It’s possible to earn an MBA with a concentration in healthcare administration if you’re interested in applying this degree toward healthcare.

Gain Practical Experience

While education can help you learn about the business of healthcare, graduates of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs typically need practical experience in the daily aspects of healthcare, often in assistant-level positions, before they can become effective managers.

Here are three ways to gain experience.

Job shadowing:
Job shadowing involves observing a professional at work for a short period of time to learn about a specific role and daily responsibilities as part of your decision to pursue a career path.
Both undergraduate and graduate degrees in healthcare management typically require a supervised internship that relates to the student’s course of study, though the length of time and placement vary by program.
A fellowship is an optional supervised work program, typically two years in length, that helps top graduates of advanced degree programs transition into leadership positions.

Consider Earning Professional Certifications

While there’s no professional certification required to work in healthcare management, you can broaden your career opportunities by qualifying for specialty certifications in a wide range of areas related to your expertise or interest.

Having a certification can demonstrate to a potential employer that you’re dedicated to the profession and have an interest in lifelong learning. This can be a valuable characteristic for leaders in an industry like healthcare, which involves constantly changing regulations and guidelines.

Below are some common certifications related to healthcare management and the organizations that award the credentials.

Credentialing OrganizationCredential
American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM)Certified Revenue Cycle Executive (CRCE)
Certified Revenue Cycle Professional (CRCP)
American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE)
American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE)Certified Medical Practice Executive (CMPE)
National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM)Certified Healthcare Access Manager (CHAM)
Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM)Certified Medical Manager (CMM)

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for healthcare managers is $104,830. However, the exact salary you earn may vary depending on your workplace, geographic location, education, experience, and demand. For example, the median salary in the lowest 10% of health services manager roles is $64,100 compared to $209,990 in the top 10%, says the BLS.

No matter which direction you go in healthcare management, opportunities are expected to surpass other career fields. In fact the BLS says jobs for medical and health services managers are expected to grow by 28.3% through 2031. That compares to 5% growth for all jobs nationally.

Stay Informed

Keeping current with trends in healthcare management can help you stay on track with your professional goals. Joining healthcare management organizations and others in your area of expertise can give you access to resources for networking, mentorship, and continuing education.

Connecting with these groups on social media and other platforms can keep you abreast of legislative, regulatory, and other issues that may affect your job and workplace.

American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE):
Offers certification, career development, networking, and educational opportunities
American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) :
Focuses on financial matters through certification, webinars, and conferences
Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM) :
Offers certification and continuing education
anna giorgi

Written and reported by:
Anna Giorgi
Contributing writer

cathy bartell

With professional insight from:
Cathy Bartell, MHA
Associate Director, Sloan Program in Health Administration in the Cornell University School of Public Policy and Chair of the National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL) Career Trajectory Group

coley bennett

With professional insight from:
Coley Bennett, CMM, CHA, CMDP, COCAS
Chairwoman, Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM) National Advisory Board