What You’ll Do as a Healthcare Manager

Healthcare managers have a variety of responsibilities, but most include some degree of financial planning, managing staff, and setting policies.

healthcare business professionals discuss chart in hallway

Healthcare managers are responsible for the efficient administration of medical and healthcare services. While these roles exist in a wide range of work environments and specialties, they typically don’t involve direct patient care. Instead, healthcare managers plan, direct, analyze, and coordinate services with the aim of making operations as smooth as possible.

Healthcare managers can expect to find an increasing demand for their skills. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of medical and health services managers to grow 32% through 2029. A growing aging population and an ever-changing healthcare industry will contribute to this dramatic increase in the need for healthcare managers.

The emergence of new and innovative solutions and increasing demand for services have also fueled job growth and expanded career options.

“Right now, it’s just an exciting time to be entering healthcare administration with all the new innovative, disruptive ways of thinking about things and redoing them, because we’re on a path of unsustainability,” 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. “You’re at this juncture where traditional delivery is meeting disruptive innovation and that makes the ecosystem even bigger to choose from.”

Overview

Healthcare management is at the intersection of healthcare and business. This requires applying sound business practices to the demands of the healthcare industry.

While many healthcare managers support the day-to-day operations of hospitals and other healthcare facilities, the profession extends beyond roles in clinical environments. A degree in healthcare management can prepare you for positions outside of a patient setting, such as:

  • Health insurance
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing
  • Computer systems and design

There are many opportunities to pursue specialty skills and interests. Healthcare managers oversee departments and areas such as nursing, finance, and patient records in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and medical practices.

They also manage public health programs, scientific research and pharmaceutical or medical equipment manufacturing.

Healthcare management is at the intersection of healthcare and business. This requires applying sound business practices to the demands of the healthcare industry.

“The healthcare industry needs people with extremely different skill sets to all come together to create changes in healthcare,” Bartell says. “Consider who you want to be at the boardroom table. From there, determine what your education, priorities, and even certifications should be to pursue opportunities.”

Duties and Responsibilities

While healthcare managers work in many positions in different work environments, most roles involve some aspect of the following duties:

Policy and program development:

Healthcare managers direct policies and programs at their level of responsibility, ensuring that their directives remain in sync with facility and organizational goals.

Financial planning:

Healthcare managers can oversee many areas of financial planning, which can include accounting, planning budgets, establishing service rates, authorizing expenditures, and coordinating financial reporting.

Human resources management:

Healthcare managers supervise or conduct the recruitment, hiring, scheduling, and/or training of staff in the departments or facilities they direct.

Data documentation:

Healthcare managers develop and manage information systems and/or maintain operational records for documentation to internal and external audiences.

Risk and compliance management:

Healthcare managers ensure that all aspects of a department or facility meet laws and regulations to ensure safety and other concerns.

While a degree in healthcare management can prepare you to take on these duties, work experience can help you fine-tune your knowledge of a specific workplace or specialty.

“Healthcare is one of those industries that you can’t lead unless you’ve actually been in it,” says Coley Bennett, CMM, CHA, CMDP, COCAS, and chairwoman of the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM) National Advisory Board. “It’s hard to discern where you are clinically if you have no clinical background.”

Common Healthcare Manager Roles

The role of a healthcare manager can vary based on the size and type of employer and your area of expertise. Here are some common roles and responsibilities.

Healthcare Manager RoleCommon Responsibilities
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)Work at the highest level of management to plan, direct, and coordinate policies and overall direction of a facility or organization
Nursing Facility AdministratorManage staff, admissions, care of residents, and maintenance of a facility
Clinical ManagerOversee policies, procedures, goals, and staff of a specific department
Health Information ManagerManage maintenance and security of all patient records and data
Medical Office ManagerManage the business aspects of a medical practice, including revenue, risk and compliance, and data and technology

Where Do Healthcare Managers Work?

Since every workplace is unique, opportunities and responsibilities for the same title can vary by employer. Consider how healthcare management roles can differ in these common workplaces.

Hospitals:

Manage daily operations including budgeting, patient care, and organizational issues

Nursing care facilities:

Oversee daily operations and admissions and communicate with families

Outpatient care centers:

Oversee day-to-day operations, implement policies and procedures, and work to improve efficiency

Insurance carriers:

Investigate pending claims, resolve billing discrepancies, and manage provider and/or patient relations

Medical Supply Companies:

Oversee sales/marketing, supply chain management, and facility operations

Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals:

Supervise programs and staff, communicate with families, and manage facility operations

Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories:

Supervise facilities, oversee lab analysis, and ensure quality standards are maintained

Scientific research and development services:

Direct research and development programs, implement procedures, and manage day-to-day operations

Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing:

Oversee sales/marketing, research and development, and facility management

Offices of physicians:

Oversee revenue management, risk and compliance, and finances

Four Skills a Successful Healthcare Manager Needs

While a formal education and related work experience can prepare you with the knowledge you need to work in healthcare management, people who thrive and succeed in this profession tend to have a common set of personal strengths. These can help you succeed in this demanding field.

Leadership:

Healthcare managers can only achieve their goals when everyone in the system brings their best every day. To accomplish this, healthcare managers need to inspire individual and organizational excellence to work toward a shared vision and goals.

“You have to be able to motivate and cultivate and support your team along a huge range,” Bartell says. “Healthcare administrators have to be just as respectful of the people who are going to clean and prepare your operating room for the next case as you need to be respectful of a lead physician with 12 years of education and a fellowship after that.”

Attention to detail:

Healthcare managers make decisions that affect employees, facilities, and patients. They must work carefully toward a cohesive goal while balancing the needs of many interests.

Whether it involves settling a staff dispute or handling a healthcare crisis, healthcare managers must consider all aspects of a situation when resolving problems and weigh any action against issues such as budgets, laws, regulations, and safety.

Relationship building:

The nature of healthcare requires that managers are people-oriented and comfortable working with, communicating with, and teaching people.

“Nothing is more important than being a people-forward kind of person,” Bennett says. “Ultimately, working together as a team so that our patients reach their optimal health goals is what’s most important and if we can make money while we’re doing that, then it’s a plus, plus, plus. But you have to be a people person, not just for your patients but you have to effectively communicate with your staff.”

Communication:

Healthcare managers need to communicate clearly across all levels of the healthcare system. This is key to keeping a fine-tuned facility, department, or practice running smoothly and poised to pivot when change is necessary.

Depending on your role, you may have to communicate with both internal and external individuals and groups. It can also require coordinating diverse, and sometimes conflicting, interests to achieve goals.

Education You’ll Need

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for most entry-level positions in healthcare management. Whether that is your stopping point depends on the type of roles you want to pursue and your career goals.

“Companies and organizations are typically looking for master’s-prepared healthcare leaders,” says Christina G. Hall, MHA, ACC, LSSGB, improvement manager at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and founder of CGH Careers, LLC. “However, there are still many opportunities for individuals with a bachelor’s degree. Typically, you are able to work your way up as you gain more experience in the industry.”

If your goal is to work at the highest levels of an organization, you’ll likely need a master’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree can typically help you qualify for positions with responsibilities at the assistant manager level, where you can gain valuable hands-on, practical industry experience, Bennet says. At this level of education, you’re likely qualified for these roles once you have related practical experience:

  • Program coordinator
  • Physician practice manager
  • Healthcare department manager

If your goal is to work at the highest levels of an organization, you’ll likely need a master’s degree, Bartell says. With an advanced degree, you can pursue roles like these:

Healthcare Manager Versus Healthcare Administrator


As you explore this profession, you’ll find that different titles sometimes are used for the same roles. “Healthcare management and healthcare administration are often used interchangeably, but the two occupations differ in how they operate daily,” Hall says.

In smaller organizations, these roles may overlap or even be handled by the same manager. But in larger healthcare settings, there usually are some basic differences.

Healthcare administrators manage the staff in one department or multiple departments within a medical facility, depending on the organization. They oversee finances, risk management, and day-to-day operations of the facility or their area of responsibility.

Healthcare managers ensure that strategies and practices align with an organization’s mission. They manage processes to ensure financial stability and coordinate operations with boards and other governing bodies at the organizational level.

What Certification Do I Need?

Healthcare managers usually don’t need professional certification as a condition of employment, though earning this type of credential can be a valuable addition to your qualifications. Professional certification proves that you’re a lifelong learner, which may be valued by a current or prospective employer and help set you apart from other candidates, Bartell says.

If you choose to earn a certification, it’s important to make sure you pick a credential that aligns with your career goals. You can choose from certifications related to general healthcare management as well as specific areas of expertise.

Here are three common certifications and the roles they can enhance.

Professional CertificationTypical Role
Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE)Hospital manager or administrator
Certified Professional in Healthcare Risk Management (CPHRM)Director of risk management
Certified Medical Manager (CMM)Medical practice manager

What Can I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median salary for health and medical services managers, a category that includes healthcare managers, is $104,280. While salaries in this profession start at $59,980, the top 10% of healthcare managers earn $195,630.

The broad salary range reflects the number of career options you’ll find in this profession. Factors including your position, workplace, education, experience, and geographic location can play a role in your salary.

Industry experts say there’s a particular need for managers with expertise in information technology, patient data management, health tech, and risk and compliance.

In addition to achieving the required minimum education and work experience, adding professional certifications, an advanced degree, and/or areas of specialization can potentially increase your career opportunities and pay.

What’s the Career Outlook for Healthcare Managers?

With a growing need anticipated for healthcare managers, having the right education and work experience can help you qualify for competitive salaries. While the demand for general healthcare managers is expected to grow overall at a staggering rate of 32% through 2029, industry experts say there’s a particular need for managers with expertise in information technology, patient data management, health tech, and risk and compliance.

“There’s a place for anyone in healthcare because there are so many different types of jobs,” Bartell says. “With healthcare, we have so many things we have to tackle that it’s an all-hands-on deck situation.”

anna giorgi

Written and reported by:
Anna Giorgi
Contributing writer

coley bennett

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

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, National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL) Career Trajectory Group

christina hall

With professional insight from:
Christina G. Hall, MHA, ACC, LSSGB
Career and Leadership Coach, Founder of CGH Careers, LLC, and Improvement Manager at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia