So, what exactly, is Healthcare Management? Similar to healthcare administration, management takes on the business end of the health industry—with the primary focus on improving customer experiences and outcomes.
And, it’s a career path with no signs of slowing down. With an aging population, the demand for healthcare workers across the board is evident. Doctors and nurses, as well as their assistants, are needed to provide additional care, sure. But, with all those hands-on workers, you’re also looking at demand for everything on the admin side, too.
So, what does a healthcare manager do? Healthcare management offers a wide range of opportunities, depending on your degree and work experience. Those in a management role work to oversee departments or the whole facility—hospitals, nursing homes, or even physician networks. Healthcare managers are tasked with many of the hospital’s daily operations. You may find yourself as a liaison to a board of directors or manage social services that benefit a disadvantaged group.
What kind of skills do you need? Naturally, you’ll want to play to your strengths and interests when selecting a career path. Leadership, communication, tech-savvy, and business sense all come together in this job description. You’ll do well with a mix of compassion and financial sense, as you’ll be simultaneously working to reduce costs and improve care.
Education Needed to Become a Healthcare Manager
There’s not one specific path that will set the stage for a successful career as a healthcare manager. Some folks come to this field after spending time as a doctor or a nurse. Others get a bachelor’s degree and enter the workforce. Those who wish to maximize earning potential and opportunities may opt for a master’s degree.
Healthcare management covers a vast pool of jobs at all levels. You might be able to find work behind the scenes with an associate’s degree, but these jobs don’t come with much room for growth—both in terms of title and wage. Your best bet is to get a bachelor’s degree, and possibly a master’s.
Here’s a little background on each:
Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Management
If you’re looking at a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management, you’ll study business, marketing, and finance. You’ll also learn how to manage healthcare systems, learn the ins and outs of ethics and privacy requirements, and about public health.
Getting a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management is similar to studying something like business administration or finance. Here, it’s geared toward the healthcare industry. You’ll study compliance regulations, risk management, and financial planning.
With a bachelor’s degree, you’ll start off in an entry-level job. Unless you have some existing background in healthcare. Job opportunities in marketing, billing, human resources, or coordinating community services are all a great place to start.
Additionally, taking on an internship can help you learn the tricks of the trade before stepping out into the job market.
Master’s Degree for Healthcare Managers
Generally, prospective healthcare managers are looking at better job prospects with a master’s degree. You’ll have a few options if you want to break into the space or level up to an executive level role.
Still, different jobs require different educational requirements. One path—perhaps the most obvious, is a master’s in healthcare management—an MBA.
Or, you can pursue a Master’s in Public Health or a Master’s in Health Administration. An MPH will focus on things like pandemics, epidemics, and food safety. You’ll also focus more on policy, government programs, and social services. An MPH focuses more on promoting health and disease prevention.
A degree in healthcare management might not be offered at every school, but your program will look a lot like an MBA, just tailored for the healthcare space. You’ll look at ethics and regulatory requirements, as well as how to run a successful healthcare facility.
Some MBAs do allow you to focus on healthcare management. In these cases, you’ll study business management, accounting, marketing, and health care as a business model.
Alternatively, you can go for your Master’s in Health Administration, too. While the job description differs—there’s a lot of overlap. Both an MBA and an MHA will combine health-focused study and business-centric courses.
In general, though, an MBA is a pretty flexible degree—so if you’re lucky enough to find a program that allows you to focus on healthcare management, you’re in good shape for getting on the executive track.
Certifications and Licensure
With healthcare management, the field is so broad that certification and licensure requirements aren’t consistent across job types or states. All 50 states do require a license for operating a medical facility. So, if you plan to run your own clinic or long-term care facility, you’ll need to go through the steps of getting a certification.
While specific requirements for healthcare managers vary on the state level, you don't need a license to perform this job in most medical facilities.
That said, there are credentialing boards that offer certification through written exams, as well as your education and experience.
One example is The American College of Healthcare Executives (1), which provides certification to healthcare managers. The Fellow of American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) is awarded to experienced professionals that showcase your expertise in the field. You’ll need to be board certified and pass an exam, submit references and already be involved with the ACHE.
The National Association for Healthcare Quality (2) and the American College of Medical Practice Executives (3) also provide credentials to healthcare managers and health administrators.
While you don’t need a certification in most cases, they can be an attractive differentiator once you hit a certain point in your career.
While healthcare management and healthcare administration sound like two names for the same function, there are some fundamental differences. In fact, healthcare management and administrators are often used interchangeably at several colleges. Additionally, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies both professions under one broad umbrella.
Healthcare administrators generally oversee a department or the whole facility. Administrators handle the financials and staffing components of an organization and help keep things running smoothly. All in the face of changing regulations, budget cuts, and balancing board relations with those of the greater public.
Healthcare managers, by contrast, take on a slightly different role in the system. This person may act in a similar capacity to an HR rep. Healthcare managers deal with day-to-day operations like patient care, budgeting, and looking for ways to improve hospital functions.
In short, administrators focus more on the staff and the organization’s needs, while managers focus on the patients and the service provided to the community.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were over 429,000 jobs in Healthcare Management as of 2020. (4)
While that was a few years ago, demand for these positions has been steadily climbing. Jobs are found in places like hospitals, of course. But, there's also a need for healthcare managers in private practices, nursing homes, and in some cases, at health insurance or pharmaceutical companies.
BLS reported that the median salary for healthcare managers was $104,280 per year or $50.13 per hour in 2020.
Pay ranges significantly, as healthcare management encompasses assistant jobs that go to people with an associate's or bachelor's degree, as well as highly specialized roles designated for people with an advanced degree.
Additionally, this career path allows you to find the type of facility that works for you. If you want to improve patient outcomes in a low-stress setting, small facilities may be a good fit.
Others may thrive in a busy hospital with long hours and a longer to-do list. With the expanding demand for these positions, there is a continuing need to find caring individuals who wish to serve the community in the healthcare management field.
Types of Healthcare Management Jobs
Once you’ve finished school or built up some work experience in the healthcare management field, you have a pretty broad selection of jobs you can pursue. Positions range from titles like clinical director to medical records manager. You might also find work as a social services manager.
The benefit of working in this field is, there are plenty of opportunities to advance. There’s not a linear career path you need to follow, and there’s a real need for staff at every level—from recent grads to seasoned pros.
Here is a look at some of your potential career choices:
- Healthcare Manager
Probably the most straightforward job title of the bunch, the healthcare manager can work at a hospital or another healthcare facility.
This role exists at several types of facilities. Most healthcare managers work in a hospital setting, while others work in nursing homes, psychiatric centers, rehab facilities, or independent clinics.
About 30 percent of healthcare managers work in ambulatory surgery facilities. These facilities are affiliated with a hospital but operate on their own.
Managing one of these facilities means you’re responsible for ensuring patients get the best possible care.
- Hospital Administrator
Though we mentioned that hospital administration is a little different than management, the skillset is quite similar. As such, you have the option of pursuing an administration role, which involves setting budgets and ensuring staff is scheduled and compliant with laws and government regulations.
Entry level applicants can get their foot in the door by working as assistant administrators. In this role, you’ll work with the hospital manager or administrator. Typically, you’ll carry out the plans developed by a higher level administrator.
- Clinical Manager
Clinical managers oversee a department within a practice. In this role, you’ll develop policies and procedures for the staff. Managers are responsible for evaluating performance and improving the patient experience. This position involves looking for more efficient ways to deliver care and compiling data that supports new initiatives.
- Medical Director
A medical director is in charge of all aspects of patient care. You’ll manage the doctors and nurses, setting standards for changing compliance and looking for ways to improve the quality of care provided by the facility. Your primary goal is making sure that patients receive efficient, high-quality care. You’ll set benchmarks and create plans for achieving goals aimed at boosting patient satisfaction.
- Health Information Managers
Health information managers work to ensure that patient records are kept secure and organized correctly. In addition to understanding patient privacy laws and ethics, you need to stay up-to-date with the latest database systems and medical software.
- Hospital Executives
Earning potential is enormous when you get to the top. Hospital executives can easily top $200k, 500k, or even $900k. Salaries and bonuses depend on where you work—whether it’s a large metropolitan hospital or a small rural facility.
At the CEO level, your job is to head the organization, plan operations, negotiate contracts, and create a budget. A CFO, on the other hand, would take on all things finance—mitigating risks, keeping records, and planning budgets.
While executive roles may be hard to reach, a master’s degree will sweeten the possibilities. CFOs will start by working in the finance department an should have an advanced degree in a related field. A hospital administrator or manager could work their way up to VP and eventually to the top spot.
- Practice Manager
Another position that requires an MBA or MHA. A practice manager is responsible for medical office operations within a private practice.
This role is similar to the hospital administrator or hospital manager but on a smaller scale. You’re responsible for a private practice or small network of doctors. While this role requires similar qualifications to a manager at a larger facility, it may be an opportunity worth exploring for those in their early-mid career, a stepping stone to a higher profile role.
Those who have an interest in the medical field may want to take a close look at healthcare management. Not only does this path present the potential for an average to high incomes, but it also falls within an in-demand field.
As healthcare management continues to grow, there are plenty of opportunities for entry-level applicants to start their career, but also a high demand for managers, directors, and executives.
Applicants with a bachelor’s degree only should be able to find work at the entry and mid-levels, but if you want a shot at the top positions, you’ll need to get a master’s degree.
Still, you can always start your career and go back to school for that MBA.