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What is Healthcare Administration?

Health administrators, often referred to as health managers, are professionals in charge of the healthcare facility operations. Their jobs are multifaceted, and administrators generally have a number of different responsibilities, such as coordinating medical and health services, supervising staff, establishing workplace procedures and systems, ensuring adherence to healthcare policies and laws, managing overall financial effectiveness, and creating educational programs. While health administrators rarely work directly with patients, they are charged with developing and maintaining healthcare systems that address the health of the community they serve.

Specific job titles vary depending on facility type and the area of expertise, but some common examples include:

  • Nursing Home Administrator
  • Clinical Manager
  • Health Information Manager
  • Hospital CEO
  • Hospital Department Manager
  • Hospital CFO
  • Dental Office Manager
  • Chiropractor Office Manager
  • Government Policy Maker
  • Insurance Company Analyst
  • Human Relations Personnel
  • Government Lobbyist
  • Facility Project Manager
  • Lab/Testing Facility Manager
  • Insurance Contract Negotiator

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Work Environment

Health administrators typically work in offices but interact regularly with other professionals, such as physicians, surgeons, nurses, and technicians. While few will have direct contact with patients, some positions do require patient interaction. They may also need to communicate with insurance agents.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of medical and health services managers work 40 hours a week. However, approximately 33 percent of professionals in this field worked additional hours each week in 2020. It’s also not uncommon for health administrators to work evenings, weekends, and holidays, especially if they manage a 24-hour facility like a hospital or nursing home. Serving on an emergency on-call rotation may also be required.

Medical and health services managers are qualified to serve in many different industries.

Some of the most common work settings include:

  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
  • Offices of Physicians
  • Outpatient Care Centers
  • Nursing Care Facilities
  • Home Health Care Companies
  • Outpatient Care Centers
  • Specialty Hospitals
  • Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturers
  • Scientific Research and Development Facilities
  • Government Organizations

While there are numerous employment options, most medical and health services managers work in hospitals, physician offices, residential care services, outpatient care centers, or government facilities. Hospitals at the state, local, and private levels are the biggest employer for health administrators.

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Because health administrators work in a variety of diverse settings, every position and job description is different. In many cases, these professionals are responsible for managing multiple facilities, but they may also oversee a single medical practice, clinical area, or department.

Some of the most common health administration duties are:

  • Plan and manage delivery of healthcare services
  • Direct facility operations
  • Supervise and provide support for medical departments
  • Establish practice, staff, patient, and financial goals
  • Effectively communicate goals to employees
  • Create scheduling procedures and protocols
  • Confirm the needs of physicians, nurses, and other staff at met
  • Build relationships with key community individuals and organizations
  • Maintain consistent patient services
  • Set and manage department and facility budgets
  • Monitor departmental spending to ensure limit compliance
  • Adopt procedures that attract and retain talented healthcare professionals
  • Oversee the hiring and training process
  • Develop marketing and advertising strategies
  • Ensure compliance with state and national regulations
  • Check patient records for accuracy
  • Improve overall department, facility, and/or company efficiency
  • Represent the practice at investor meetings
  • Adapt to ever-changing healthcare laws, regulations, and technology

Education Requirements

Generally, the minimum educational requirement for health administrators is a bachelor’s degree. This will qualify many candidates for entry and mid-level positions in the field. Those interested in higher-level and better paying jobs, however, will likely need a graduate degree in health administration, business administration, or a related field. Most employers require employees have an undergraduate degree but give preference to professionals with a graduate education. Associate and doctorate programs are also available.

There are several reputable degree programs available throughout the nation. Institution offerings will vary, but the following program titles are most common:

  • Healthcare Administration
  • Health Information Management
  • Health Services Administration
  • Business Administration (often with a concentration in Healthcare Management)
  • Public Health

Associate Degrees

While most employers require candidates to have an undergraduate degree, some do consider associate degree graduates. These programs provide a very basic introduction to the field and prepare students for work as medical administration assistants, medical billing clerks, and medical records technicians. Most consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and are designed to be completed in two years.

Undergraduate Degrees

Those who are interested a more in-depth exploration of health administration should strongly consider earning an undergraduate degree. These programs cover a wide variety of topics and often allow students to specialize in an aspect of the field. Many graduates find work as assistant administrators, billing managers, and human resource managers.

While programs will differ from school to school, most consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and can be completed in four years.

Common coursework includes:

  • General Pharmacology
  • Administration of Health Programs
  • Health Education in a Medical Setting
  • Information Processing and Analysis
  • Healthcare Legal and Ethical Issues
  • Principles of Accounting
  • Production Management
  • Risk Management
  • Community Health Problems
  • Facility Planning
  • Administration of Health Programs
  • Systems Analysis and Design
  • Health Care Finance

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Graduate Degrees

A graduate degree in healthcare administration is generally considered the gold standard for health administration professionals. These programs are meant to hone student skills and develop a broader understanding of healthcare organizations, their unique needs, and how to overcome management challenges. Those with a master’s in health administration often make more money and have more career advancement opportunities. Many graduates find work as nursing home administrators, directors of development, and healthcare executives.

Every college and university offer slightly different graduate degree programs, but most consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework. Full-time students can expect to complete requirements in two to three years.

Common coursework includes:

  • Managerial Decision Making
  • Strategic Financial Management
  • Managing Business Processes
  • Managing for Results
  • Information Systems and Data Analytics
  • Health Policy
  • Managing Community Health
  • Healthcare Operations and Quality
  • Administrative Issues

Doctorate Degrees

Doctorate degrees in health administration are not required, but they do offer a number of unique possibilities for those who complete them. These programs provide students with the knowledge and skills required to conduct important public health research, as well as teach others about the field. Many graduates find work as public policy researchers and fellows, healthcare advocates, and healthcare administration faculty. Doctorate programs vary drastically and may consist of 60 to 120 credit hours of coursework. It can take students between three and seven years to complete them.

Job Prospects and Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects for health administrators are very promising. In fact, job availability is projected to increase by 32% from 2020 to 2030. This growth is significantly faster than the average for all other professions, making health administration a very viable career choice. It’s expected that an additional 139,600 jobs will become available in this field before 2030.

There are several likely reasons for this projected growth, but the primary one is the aging of the baby-boomer population. As this large group continues to age, there will be an increased need for quality healthcare services throughout the United States.

Additionally, things are changing in the healthcare industry. In the past, only major hospitals had the resources, staff, and technology required to offer certain medical procedures. Current trends show that more and more private practices now have the means to expand upon the services they offer. With the addition of more services, however, comes the need for health administration professionals to manage them. As private practices continue to grow, more health management positions are likely to become available.

Overall, the outlook for health administrators is favorable, especially for those with a solid educational background. The Bureau of Labor Statistics asserts that medical and health services managers with advanced degrees will have an edge in the field, as will those with experience in advancing medical technologies and management. Training in and familiarity with health information technology, electronic health records, and informatics systems will appeal to most employers.

In 2020, there were a total of 429,800 health administrators employed in the United States. Metropolitan areas are home to most positions, as their significantly bigger populations require more medical services.

Learn more about the healthcare administration education requirements in your state.

The states with the highest employment level in this field were:

Because health administrators require extensive training and experience, they are often compensated well for their work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers earned a median salary of $104,280 in 2020. Salaries in the 10 percent of the pay scale, however, were as high as $176,130. Professionals in jobs within the bottom 10 percent of the pay scale made less than $58,350.

Health administration salaries are impacted by several factors, including job title, position responsibilities, education level, and past experiences. Location also plays an important role.

In 2020, the states with the highest average pay for health administration professionals were:

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