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What is a Healthcare Administrator?

A healthcare administrator is a professional with a complex blending of professional skills. They may have begun working in a healthcare field, then decided to advance by earning their degree and moving into the administration side of healthcare.

These professionals are also called Healthcare Managers or Healthcare Executives. They may have earned an MBA, which allows them to work in the highest positions in a healthcare facility. They may become closely involved with community meetings that concern healthcare. These professionals can work in hospitals, nursing homes, insurance companies, or at behavioral health facilities.

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Steps to Becoming a Healthcare Administrator

Examine the offerings of each university you may be interested in. This includes looking at BBA and MBA in healthcare administration offerings to determine if they offer a healthcare administrator major. Some do, others don’t.

Once you have narrowed down your choices, get all your paperwork in order. You’ll have to submit official transcripts from your previous college (community or four-year) and send in your ACT or SAT scores. If you are applying for a master’s degree, you will have to take and submit your Graduate Record Exam (GRE) results. If you are trying to advance from a nursing or medical career into administration, let the schools know.

  • Step 1: Earn Your Degree

  • Step 2: Get Experience

  • Step 3: Internship

  • Step 4: Earn Certification/License


Step 1: Earn Your Degree

Earn your bachelor’s or master’s degree in healthcare administration, depending on your previous educational experience. A bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration offers a healthcare-based program that helps you to develop your skills so that, when you are offered a job, you’ll feel comfortable in your day-to-day role.

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Your health administration program will require that you complete your general education classes (for a bachelor’s degree), then core classes that are related to nursing or another discipline, such as healthcare informatics. Your health administration curriculum should be designed for versatility so that you can gain the ability to adapt yourself daily to your required work responsibilities.

You will also take leadership courses and courses that will help you develop an analytical mind for health administration.

Step 2: Get Experience

If you can apply for a position working in a doctor’s office, behavioral health facility, or a nursing facility, you will be able to add to your experiences. Let hiring managers know that you are a student looking to gain more paid experience in health administration.

You may be offered a job in the billing department of a hospital or doctor’s office. Or you may work in the office manager’s office, assisting the manager with their work. Wherever you see entry-level work that does not require a bachelor’s degree, apply for the position.

Step 3: Internship

Begin a health administration internship. This gives you needed work experience that will serve you well in your first postgraduate job. For instance, you may begin working in the billing department of a hospital or public health clinic. You may also accept a health administration internship in a pharmaceutical company. Both of these give you the exposure you need on the administrative side of healthcare. Try to pursue several internships. The more experience you can get, the better and some of the internships available may be very competitive.

Step 4: Earn Certification/License

In healthcare administration, you will be required to hold certification that shows you have the professional knowledge to do your job. Before you earn the certificate or license, you’ll take an exam that shows you whether you are qualified to hold that certificate.

In your first health administration job, you will hold a provisional license that legally allows you to do the work you are doing. Once you pass the exam, you’ll receive your first official license. The Professional Association of Health Care Office Management gives the Certified Medical Manager (CMM) certification. Likewise, the American College or Health Care Administrators offers certifications for assisted living administrators and nursing home administrators.

What Does a Healthcare Administrator Do?

As a health administration management professional, you are responsible for the smooth running of a healthcare organization where patients are seen for illnesses and other health conditions. As a healthcare administrator, you need to understand the regulations that dictate how your organization functions. You need to know which private and governmental entities are involved in the operation of your facility, as well as what their roles are.

Your duties in health administration include communicating well regarding incoming policies and procedures to everyone responsible for healthcare. You will take part in strategic operational planning, and help to communicate with healthcare providers and caregivers about new regulations. If this involves training, you will explain this as well.

You will also help to formulate a master budget, then allocate funds within that budget, develop an emergency plan for unexpected adverse events, introduce measures to improve productivity, create and maintain a compliance program so that facilities remain accredited, provide management of any outsourced business services and communications with service providers and third parties, manage the human resources department, and manage and introduce all new technological updates (new software that handles record management, for instance).

Skills to Acquire

Even though you’ll be mostly focused on business administration as a healthcare administrator, you will be working with the public health of individuals. This makes your role vital to the smooth functioning of your facility, be it a behavioral health facility, doctor’s office, dental office, hospital, or nursing home facility. You need several specific skills:

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  • Detail oriented
  • Strong analytical skills
  • Adapt easily to new healthcare regulations
  • Strong leadership
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Highly developed technical skills
  • Strong affinity for financial matters

Healthcare administration is growing rapidly, with new technological advances happening frequently. This means that you need to be able to learn and adapt to those new developments and changes within your facility.

The nature of your work environment means that you will be required to learn and understand local, state, and federal laws pertinent to all healthcare organizations. Compliance with every law is vital to the continued operation of your healthcare facility. If you neglect to obey a law, you run the risk of your facility being shut down.

You will also have oversight of your facility’s human resources office. Along with hiring the right personnel, you need to ensure that human resources operates so that it is meeting all acceptable HR practices.

Alternative Paths

While there is no acceptable substitute for a strong education in healthcare administration, you can begin with an entry-level position. By starting as a medical office administrator in a medical practice, you will get a behind-the-scenes opportunity to learn about healthcare administration as a profession. Because this is an entry-level position, you will take care of accounts receivable, answer phones, get in touch with insurance companies, deal with contracts, and hire and manage staff members.

If you manage the human resources office, you will be close to the heartbeat of a medical practice. The job responsibilities and skills you will assume are highly similar to those of a hospital administrator. Health administration professionals will direct several administrative functions.

As a medical executive assistant, you will be able to work directly with the C-suite executives. Here, you will have an eyes-on view and gain experience as you manage projects. You may also write grant proposals.

Don’t forget about on-the-job training via internships. These opportunities give you the chance to work in several areas of healthcare, learning the administrative functions.

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Where Might You Work?


Upon your graduation and once you obtain your license to work in health administration, you will be able to work in several healthcare areas. For instance, you may work for a pharmaceutical company, directing market research for drugs that are in development. You help to establish policies for research methodology and data collection.

Or you may accept a position as a director of healthcare quality of a hospital association. You may assume this position with an advisory group, advising on quality improvement.

You may work as a nursing home administrator, running a nursing home or other facility that helps to care for people with disabilities or long-term injuries. You will recruit new personnel, take part in training and management, and supervise financial matters and ongoing medical care.

Clinic Administrators oversee department managers. You may be responsible for staffing, scheduling, and carrying out staff meetings. You will implement policies, oversee billing, and supervise facility maintenance.

Health Information Managers organize and secure patient records. You will work with IT professionals researching federally compliant software that aids in storing electronic patient information.

Department of Public Health & Human Services Healthcare Administrators work for the federal government, helping to protect the well-being of every American. Your work can help to influence healthcare worldwide.

Potential Career Paths

Health administration career options are wide open. You may work as a health information manager, CEO of a healthcare system, or as the director of healthcare quality for an entire hospital administration.

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You should have at least a bachelor’s degree and some experience in leadership to work in this field. If you have a master’s degree, you may be able to work in higher levels of healthcare administration. Your knowledge, expertise, and work ethic all help you to keep your healthcare organization running efficiently. If you work outside a true healthcare setting, you’ll still likely work in a field affiliated with healthcare.

Healthcare Administration/Business Leadership:
Receive advanced training via the Leadership Academy. Here, you will refine your skills and sharpen your knowledge so that, when you accept a healthcare administration position, you will be able to perform at your highest potential.

The first stage is a six-week program focusing on contemporary leadership and management skills. In stage two, you will be placed in a residency placement in specially selected centers within the organization.

You should have a master’s in Business Administration (preferred, but not mandatory). If you successfully complete this academy, you may be required to relocate based on company needs.

Project Analyst:
This position focuses on facilities and construction. You will be responsible for spearheading integrated or cross-departmental global projects, or you may manage ongoing maintenance of a group of several related activities. You will have to provide input into the policies associated with the job’s purpose and essential responsibilities: Collaborating with director, manager, physician leadership, and some internal/external stakeholders. Maintain active working knowledge of in-country demands, needs, and environment so you can place and manage physicians, programs, and staff assignments efficiently. Establish a recruitment timeline, ascertain funding streams, determine needs, create project plans, and carry out work team meetings.

Manager of Practice Operations—Department Specific:
Hold a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration or a related field. You are required to have a bachelor’s in healthcare administration or six years’ directly related healthcare administration experience. You will be responsible for assisting the area director in developing and implementing procedures and processes that are related to functions and operations issues. Duties include work plan development, facilitating process improvement, and communication to various sites. You are a resource to backfill open positions for key roles connected to operations.

Inventory Analyst:
Your work extends across all of an organization’s healthcare entities so that inventory standards and process flows are aligned with the organization. You are the supply chain facilitator and liaison between ITS applications, clinical and inventory users, and CareConnect so you can troubleshoot and design solutions related to a particular inventory module. You will also act as the inventory module lead for all inventory module project work. This will be for entities that are new to the inventory module.

Research Associate:
You will be working within a research service for a specific office within this organization. Your assignment could be in the Clinical Epidemiology program (CEP), which is a dedicated research group that includes epidemiologists, analysts, and statisticians, or in another specialty. You and your group will cultivate collaborative projects intended to advance patient-centered research that is derived from Veterans Health Administration (VHA) data. Your section’s primary research interests could be in vaccine and drug safety, and efficacy, focusing on healthcare disparities and resource allocation.

Manager Practice Operations—Emergency Department:
A bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration is essential. If you have six years of directly related work experience, this may suffice.

You will assist with the development of procedures and standardization of referral and authorization process and assist area director with operational and standardization efforts as needed. You’ll also serve as liaison between site staff and organization’s administrative departments and maintain general knowledge of area operations and specific functions related to process improvement efforts.

You might conduct site visits to confirm processes are in place and followed consistently based on procedures, serve as a liaison to physician and clinic staff as related to clinics operations when assigned, and work with the Human Resources Department in managing personnel issues (hiring, orientation, staffing, monitoring, and making recommendations for disciplinary actions).

Earning Potential by Occupation

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Community Support Manager $40,000 $50,000 $56,000
Training and Development Manager $55,000 $77,000 $88,000
Hospital CEO $72,000 $153,000 $306,000
Health Insurance Specialist $47,000 $60,000 $102,000
Human Resource Manager $48,000 $68,000 $95,000

**Salary info provided by PayScale

Career Outlook

Healthcare management is a vital service for people’s wellbeing. Therefore, it’s no surprise to see that the employment of medical and public health services managers is projected to grow 20% between 2016 and 2026. This is much faster than the average for all other occupations in the United States.

As the general population maintains an active lifestyle into their later years and the Baby Boomer population ages, the demand for effective healthcare management services will only increase. There will be an ever-expanding demand for doctors and other healthcare workers, which means a growing need for managers who are responsible for managing medical information, healthcare management staff, and organizing all of these entities. Employment growth should be the highest in healthcare practitioners’ offices.

Advancing From Here

If you begin your healthcare administration career working as an administrator of a nursing home or a private practice, then the next natural step for you would be to administer within a hospital.

If you enjoy the idea of international healthcare practice, consider joining up with the American Red Cross, the Peace Corps, or Doctors without Borders. Here, you will stretch your knowledge of healthcare administration, working with an international group.

Finally, you could move into clinical research as a manager. This complex specialization means you’ll coordinate study participants, researchers, doctors, and pharmaceutical executives.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do with a healthcare administration degree?

Some common healthcare administration careers include: hospital administrators, health care organizations, healthcare professionals, healthcare consultants, and medical professionals. You could also look into leadership positions such as health services managers, community service managers, or hospital managers.

What skills does a healthcare administrator need?

Leadership skills, communication skills, and teamwork skills are all important in healthcare administration careers. Business administration skills, budgeting, organization, quality assurance and an understanding of patient care are all important skills for healthcare administration. 

How much do healthcare administrators make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can make around $104,000 per year in healthcare administration.

Where do healthcare administrators work?

Healthcare administration jobs can be in nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, community health centers, pharmaceutical companies, assisted living facilities, or educational settings such as teaching hospitals.

What is the The American Hospital Association?

The American Hospital Association is national organization that serves all types of healthcare companies. The American Hospital Association helps regulate rules around hospital administration.

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