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How to Become a Health Services Manager

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Medical & Health Services Manager At a Glance

  • What you’ll do: Oversee operations, planning, human resources, workflow processes, and other behind-the-scenes departments.
  • Where you’ll work: Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities
  • Degree you’ll need: Bachelor’s
  • Median annual salary: $104,830
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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.

In this Article

“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 28.4% through 2031, much faster than the national average of 5% for all occupations—creating attractive opportunities for career changers who have transferable skills but no prior healthcare experience.

An Inside Look at Medical and Health Services Management

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:

  • Leadership and development: providing direction in establishing and accomplishing organizational goals
  • Financial management: budgeting and monitoring financial performance
  • Revenue management: optimizing revenue and ensuring accurate billing
  • Human resource management: handling staffing, development, and scheduling
  • Business operations: managing infrastructure, workflow, and the delivery of care
  • Compliance management: establishing procedures to comply with government regulations
  • Facilities management: oversight of location, computer systems, supplies, and inventory

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:

  • Practice Manager or Director
  • Business Manager or Director
  • Health Information Manager
  • Billing Manager
  • Process Improvement Manager
  • Compliance Manager
  • Office Manager
  • Clinical Manager
  • Laboratory Manager
  • Nursing Home Administrator
  • Chief Financial Officer

Bennett says that medical and health services managers, especially those in physician or clinical practice management, should have the following skills and knowledge:

  • Be well-versed in revenue management, finance, contracts, and risk management
  • Know how to make money and keep it
  • Be experienced in human resources, facilities management, marketing, and patient education
  • Be tech and data savvy
  • Be adept at working well with federal and state regulators

The following qualities may improve your chances for success:

  • A talent for leadership
  • Strong analytical skills and an eye for detail
  • Effective communication and interpersonal skills
  • A comfort with technology
  • The ability to multitask with ease
  • An openness to change

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. There are also higher concentrations of these managers in certain cities.

According to the BLS, the geographic areas with the highest level of employment for medical and health services managers are:

Metropolitan Areas Employment
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 30,540
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 16,430
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH 15,650
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 14,280
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 11,980
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 10,520
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 10,220
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 10,140
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 8,660
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 8,630

Many other organizations in every state employ medical and health services managers as well, including some you may not have thought of. These include:

  • Specialty hospitals
  • Healthcare industry associations
  • Medical and diagnostic labs
  • State and local governments
  • Pharmaceutical and medical manufacturers
  • Public health agencies
  • Healthcare software developers
  • Healthcare training firms
  • Insurance companies
  • Colleges and universities
  • Medical research institutes
  • Venture capital firms
  • Behavioral health facilities
  • Policy think tanks
  • Healthcare policy groups
  • Health clubs with medi spa or weight loss services
  • Law firms that focus on healthcare
  • Corporations with employee wellness programs

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.

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.”

To establish a path forward for this career, Gundling suggests that you do the following:

  • Network with others already in the business to get an idea of what employers look for
  • Join local chapters of national associations in the field; this leads to connections and awareness of jobs in your area
  • Begin taking professional development courses and/or attending college; where you learn is a good place to hone professional connections
  • Do a lot of reading in the field; this really helps you understand the job, the trends, and the terminology
  • Consider how your experience and skills are transferable to this field and be prepared to highlight that in discussions or in a resume

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:

  • Expertise in enhancing the customer experience
  • Experience developing websites and telehealth platforms
  • Background in consulting and process improvement experience
  • Expertise in using data to chart business performance and growth opportunities
  • Experience in transforming internal culture
  • Overall business management experience

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.” 

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.

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.

Sample Degree Programs

There are many viable and dynamic programs offered by schools across the country. Following is a sampling of programs and degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level to give you an idea of what you’ll study, how long it might take, and what types of jobs you may qualify for. 

Type of degree: Bachelor’s, Healthcare Administration 

How long it takes: Three to four years

What you’ll study: Foundational classes in health care administration and leadership

Type of jobs you may hold: Clinical manager, practice manager

Type of degree: Bachelor’s, Health Information Management

How long it takes: Three to four years

What you’ll study: Healthcare and data management and the business of IT

Type of jobs you may hold: Director of informatics, manager of health records

Type of degree: Master’s, Health Informatics and Analytics

How long it takes: 18-24 months

What you’ll study: Emerging technologies, advanced information systems, use of data analytics

Type of jobs you may hold: Vice president of health IT systems, business analytics manager

Type of degree: Master’s, Health Administration

How long it takes: 18-24 months

What you’ll study: The business and operational side of health care

Type of jobs you may hold: Clinical healthcare vice president, director of revenue

Type of degree: Executive Master’s in Health Administration

How long it takes: Two years

What you’ll study: Leadership, policy, overall healthcare administration; geared to experienced professionals with 10 or more years of management experience

Type of jobs you may hold: Chief executive officer, vice president of regulatory affairs

Type of degree: Dual Degree Master’s in Business Administration and Health Administration

How long it takes: Three years

What you’ll study: Foundational classes in both business and health administration

Type of jobs you may hold: Chief financial officer, vice president of strategic planning

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.

“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; 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).

Median Annual Salary

Salaries for medical and health services managers vary widely depending on your position, where you work, and your location say the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Take a look at median annual salary data for your state below.

Medical and Health Services Managers

National data

Median Salary: $104,830

Projected job growth: 28.4%

10th Percentile: $64,100

25th Percentile: $81,430

75th Percentile: $143,200

90th Percentile: $209,990

Projected job growth: 28.4%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $82,160 $58,690 $138,770
Alaska $116,920 $71,490 $213,290
Arizona $102,940 $61,980 $203,360
Arkansas $80,330 $53,250 $136,180
California $131,880 $67,250 $219,000
Colorado $120,820 $75,210 $220,570
Connecticut $109,990 $76,870 N/A
Delaware $127,950 $80,270 N/A
District of Columbia $133,050 $82,830 N/A
Florida $101,700 $58,580 $205,330
Georgia $113,060 $63,140 $214,900
Hawaii $117,330 $61,930 $178,230
Idaho $102,560 $59,630 $176,730
Illinois $105,940 $70,620 $213,830
Indiana $96,460 $56,680 $160,810
Iowa $95,380 $65,820 $157,580
Kansas $96,280 $57,930 $164,340
Kentucky $94,180 $57,530 $168,390
Louisiana $98,760 $60,310 $167,140
Maine $99,680 $67,800 $160,430
Maryland $127,390 $78,120 $217,620
Massachusetts $127,020 $76,820 N/A
Michigan $100,090 $58,520 $186,850
Minnesota $102,560 $74,080 $165,280
Mississippi $80,950 $53,800 $134,200
Missouri $100,100 $61,750 $165,970
Montana $96,700 $61,370 $147,730
Nebraska $99,220 $63,940 $171,840
Nevada $101,880 $54,760 $170,450
New Hampshire $132,970 $78,700 $203,770
New Jersey $127,760 $88,790 $226,420
New Mexico $108,050 $72,140 $205,240
New York $138,010 $79,730 N/A
North Carolina $102,910 $67,910 $208,900
North Dakota $106,210 $74,490 $216,530
Ohio $99,890 $61,860 $172,300
Oklahoma $95,580 $60,700 $156,860
Oregon $124,730 $78,020 $222,160
Pennsylvania $103,790 $67,060 $176,280
Rhode Island $128,670 $80,770 $209,510
South Carolina $98,690 $61,670 $187,270
South Dakota $104,940 $77,000 $173,590
Tennessee $98,860 $61,450 $173,510
Texas $102,940 $64,950 $174,270
Utah $99,660 $51,500 $205,450
Vermont $103,790 $67,790 $199,300
Virginia $107,020 $66,980 $182,020
Washington $129,870 $77,220 $215,100
West Virginia $101,770 $56,330 $165,780
Wisconsin $110,010 $79,070 $194,420
Wyoming $100,230 $57,480 $150,800

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries may vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Career Outlook

The career outlook for this field is expected to be very strong over the next decade. The BLS is projecting 28.4% growth in the number of jobs in the medical and health services manager category, which is much higher than the 5% projected growth for all jobs nationally.

Professional Resources

For further information on the healthcare industry and the role of medical and health services managers, check out the websites of the following organizations:

  • American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management
  • American College of Healthcare Executives
  • Association for Healthcare Administration Professionals 
  • Healthcare Financial Management Association
  • Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
  • Medical Group Management Association
  • National Association of Healthcare Access Management 
  • Professional Association of Health Care Office Management
sheila mickool

Written and reported by:
Sheila Mickool
Contributing Writer

rick gundling

With professional insight from:
Rick Gundling, FHFMA, CMA
Senior Vice President of Healthcare Financial Practices, Health Financial Management Association (HFMA)

coley bennett

Coley Bennett, CMM
Chairwoman, National Advisory Board of the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM) and practice manager, A Plus Medical, P.C.