A career in healthcare management is an opportunity to focus on the administrative and business aspects of healthcare while working in a range of diverse roles and environments. While this field typically requires an interdisciplinary skillset 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 are likely to 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.
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
Follow these steps to launch your career.
- Define your career goals.
Do you want to be an administrator or a manager? How far do you want to advance in your career?
- Find out what degrees are available.
Your interests could determine what degree you choose and whether you stop at a bachelor’s degree or pursue a master’s.
- Gain practical experience.
An internship is a great way to prepare for your career and gain an edge over other job candidates.
- Consider earning a certification.
Although certifications aren’t generally required, these credentials demonstrate your expertise and commitment to your field.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 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.
|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 $104,280. However, the exact salary you earn can vary depending on your workplace, geographic location, education, experience, and demand. For example, the median salary in the lowest 10% of jobs is $59,980 compared to $195,630 in the top 10%.
No matter which direction you go in healthcare management, opportunities are expected to be plentiful. Jobs for medical and health services managers are expected to grow by 32% through 2030, according to the BLS. That compares to 8% growth for jobs overall.
No matter which direction you go in healthcare management, opportunities are expected to be plentiful.
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