In hospitals, outpatient surgery clinics, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, and public health facilities across the country, an army of medical and health services managers work behind the scenes to oversee operations and focus on areas such as strategic planning, financial reporting, billing, revenue management, human resources, IT, regulatory compliance, and workflow processes.
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“Healthcare includes more than doctors and nurses, surgeons and the clinical care of patients,” says Rick Gundling, FHFMA, CMA, senior vice president of healthcare financial practices at the Health Financial Management Association (HFMA). “It’s also about the administrative infrastructure and consumer experience support of the healthcare system—the business side of healthcare.”
Many of these managers have undergraduate or graduate degrees; others have extensive on-the-job experience and certifications in key areas. “The demand for qualified and well-trained medical and health services managers in today’s healthcare marketplace is astronomical,” says Coley Bennett, CMM, chairwoman of the National Advisory Board of the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM) and practice manager at A Plus Medical, P.C., a medical practice providing comprehensive care for adults in Takoma Park, Maryland.
“Astronomical” is not an overstatement. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth for this occupation to be a whopping 32% through 2029, much faster than the national average of 4% for all occupations—creating attractive opportunities for career changers who have transferable skills but no prior healthcare experience.
What Do Medical and Health Services Managers Do?
Medical and health services managers provide administrative leadership and oversight for the healthcare business, hospital, department, medical practice, or facility in which they work. They run the business side of healthcare so that medical professionals can focus on what they do best: taking care of patients.
Responsibilities might include some or all of the following:
When it comes to running the business side of an organization, department, or practice, “it is often the medical and health services professionals who serve in administrative leadership positions, not those with the medical degrees,” says Gundling. They are often the ones with the best skill set to deal with issues like “understanding the future, charting the organization’s course, and changing corporate culture.”
Medical and health services managers operate under a wide variety of titles, including:
Bennett says that medical and health services managers, especially those in physician or clinical practice management, should have the following skills and knowledge:
Where Do They Work?
Medical and health services managers work where you’d expect to find them: behind the scenes in a variety of healthcare settings, including public health agencies, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and outpatient surgery centers.
According to the BLS, the industries with the highest level of employment for medical and health services managers are:
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||126,410|
|Offices of Physicians||49,480|
|Outpatient Care Centers||29,250|
|Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing)||25,380|
|Home Health Care Services||20,540|
Many other organizations employ medical and health services managers as well, including some you may not have thought of. These include:
Where you work determines the type of duties you’ll have. If your employer is a large regional hospital, you may be the business manager for a department (pathology, pediatrics), the director in charge of audit and compliance for the entire operation, or vice president of regulatory affairs for the institution.
Medical and Health Services Managers often work in unconventional places, such as insurance companies and health clubs.
If you are a practice manager for a group of physicians, your job duties are likely to include the nuts and bolts of the practice and encompass everything from financial reporting and revenue management to hiring, patient safety, and implementation of new regulations issued by the government.
If you work for an insurance company, you may be reviewing and approving (or rejecting) claims for payments from providers—or training those providers on your company’s newest insurance programs.
As you think about this career option, keep an open mind and do your research. The number of employment opportunities and environments will surprise you.
How to Become a Medical and Health Services Manager
According to Gundling, because of the projected job growth for medical and health services managers, the work will be there for those who want to pursue this career. “Solid growth for this position will be driven by several factors,” Gundling says, “including the aging population, with its more complex conditions and required interventions; a rise in the number of outpatient clinics and services; and the drive for more patient-centric services such as telehealth applications and extended hours of service.”
The 32% job growth projected for this field means the work will be there for those who want it.
To establish a path forward for this career, Gundling suggests that you do the following:
According to Gundling, “many of those already in systems, finance, accounting, and business management in other industries have skills that are easily transferable and highly sought after.” These include those with:
Bennett gives a shout out to all those already working in healthcare and stresses that for those with the interest, experience, and the right skills, becoming a medical or health services professional is absolutely a viable career option.
And she knows what she’s talking about. “After working in every conceivable position in a medical office, I learned billing and coding,” Bennett says. “There is a natural progression from billing manager to office manager. My managing physician was thrilled with my ability to develop and maintain a profitable revenue cycle and offered me the leadership position in his practice. Medical office staff who want to be promoted need to chase certifications and credentials that prove their desire to lead. It is what I did more than 12 years ago and now I am the practice manager of a multi-office medical practice in suburban Maryland.”
A job as a medical and health services manager position is an attainable goal for someone already working in an administrative position in healthcare.
Both Bennett and Gundling agree that intentional focus coupled with experience, education, training, degrees, and certification and credentialing in specialty areas will be crucial to your success.
Types of Degrees
There is a plethora of undergraduate and graduate degrees—with both in-person and online options—that will prepare you to work as a medical or health services manager. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree is recommended for those who want to pursue this career track.
A bachelor’s degree is suitable for someone pursuing a career as a medical and health services manager.
Depending on the level and scope of responsibility, many job postings for positions in this category require undergraduate degrees in business, health administration, public health, or nursing, with at least one year of experience in healthcare. For more senior positions, the requirements will often stipulate graduate degrees and five years of experience in healthcare.
Depending on your interests and anticipated job requirements, those who pursue an undergraduate degree might choose majors in accounting, finance, business administration, healthcare administration, public health, health services coordination, nursing or other related areas like data analytics and informatics.
Those who intend to pursue leadership positions or more senior levels of responsibility over time will opt to pursue graduate degrees as well and enroll in programs for master’s degrees in areas such as healthcare administration, healthcare leadership, business administration, or public health administration. Some schools also offer dual graduate degrees such as a combined MBA/MHA (a combined graduate business and health administration master’s degree). For leadership positions, when it comes to college degrees, “having both an MBA and MHA represents the pinnacle of qualification,” says Gundling.
Post-Graduate Certificates, Certification, and Licensure
In general, licensing is not required for most medical and health services positions. Licensing is usually required, however, for positions like long-term and nursing home administrators and assisted living administrators. You’ll need to check on the requirements in the state where you’ll be working to see what type of licensing is required, if any, for the positions you want to pursue.
There are a number of important and highly respected specialty credentials in this field that may help you stand out to employers and obtain the positions you seek. Both Bennett and Gundling stress the importance of pursuing post-graduate specialty certificates and going through the credentialing process. “It shows commitment and respect for the field,” says Gundling.
Pursuing and obtaining a specialty credential shows commitment and respect for the field.
“Learning never stops,” Bennett says. “Credentials are my way of keeping current with the ever-changing industry standards for leaders in our field.” She has earned several credentials, including a CCM (Certified Medical Manager), which “denotes that you have a level of mastery of the skills required to run a successful medical practice. It’s not an easy credential to earn, but is well worth the challenge. It has made a profound difference in my career,” Bennett says.
Credentials are generally earned by completing a course of study, obtaining experience, and sitting for an examination. Following is a sampling of some of the credentials available to medical and health services professionals:
Certified Medical Manager (CMM):
- Certifies expertise in office and practice management in healthcare settings. Issued by the Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management (PAHCOM).
Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP):
- Certifies deep understanding of the financial and business realities in healthcare. Issued by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA).
Certified Revenue Integrity Professional (CRIP):
- Certifies knowledge of revenue cycles in outpatient, inpatient, and surgical settings settings; techniques to increase revenue; and insurance payer compliance regulations. Issued by American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM).
Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS):
- Demonstrates you meet an international standard of professional knowledge and competence in healthcare information and management systems. Issued by Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE):
- Recognition of those with competency in all areas of healthcare and who are among the top leaders in healthcare management. Issued by the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
Salaries for medical and health services managers vary widely depending on your position, where you work, and your location.
In May 2020, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for professionals in this job category nationally was $104,280, with the lowest 10% earning $59,980 and the highest 10% earning $195,630. The median for all occupations in the U.S. economy was $41,950.
The career outlook for this field is expected to be very strong over the next decade. The BLS is projecting 32% growth in the number of jobs in the medical and health services manager category, which is much higher than the 4% projected growth for all jobs nationally.
For further information on the healthcare industry and the role of medical and health services managers, check out the websites of the following organizations: