Healthcare administrators, also known as medical or health services managers, perform a wide range of management and administration tasks in a multitude of medical settings. Typically found working in public and private hospitals, clinics, and nursing care facilities, these professionals are in charge of the overall coordination and functionality of various health services and staff within a facility.
Additionally, healthcare administrators and managers focus on performance and process improvement. They ensure that the facility or department that they manage is functioning efficiently so that patients are provided with the highest quality care. Other titles for healthcare administrators include nursing home administrators, health information managers, or clinical managers.
What does a healthcare administrator do?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare administrators may perform any of the following tasks:
- Coordinate healthcare services and staff in a way that ensures maximum efficiency
- Ensure compliance with current laws and regulations
- Supervise lower-level management within a facility
- Oversee financial matters of a facility
- Create and manage work schedules of facility employees
- Serve as a representative of their facility at board meetings or media events
As the BLS reports, healthcare administrators may serve different job roles depending on where they work. For example, some healthcare administrators work as nursing home administrators. In this role, they are typically in charge of managing the financial resources of their facility, along with general management of the staff, admissions process, and facility residents.
Other healthcare administrators may work as clinical managers. Unlike general healthcare administrators, these professionals are typically in charge of a specific unit or department. Health information managers, on the other hand, focus primarily on maintaining and securing patient records held within their facility, whether digitally or on paper. According to the BLS, health information managers also ensure compliance with regulatory bodies and keep records up to date.
Another percentage of the healthcare administration field takes places in hospitals. Hospital administrators ensure that licensed clinicians are being hired into their facility, and that employees are working within their scope of practice. They may be responsible for training staff members and developing departmental goals. There is also a financial component involved in being a hospital administrator. Preparing and monitoring budgets and properly allocating funds are important parts of this role.
How to become a healthcare administrator
While education requirements vary by facility and job title, most healthcare administrators have at least a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online. As such, individuals wondering how to become a healthcare administrator should begin by exploring bachelor's degree programs in healthcare administration. It is not uncommon for some positions to require graduate degrees. The Department of Labor reports that 31 percent of healthcare administrators in the U.S. possess a master's degree and another 10 percent hold a post-baccalaureate certificate of some kind.
While an associate degree in healthcare administration covers general legal, procedural, and patient privacy issues, a bachelor's program delivers more in-depth material on medical terminology, hospital organization, and health information systems. According to the BLS, a bachelor's program typically includes courses in:
- Health services management
- Accounting and budgeting
- Human resources administration
- Strategic planning
- Law and ethics
- Health economics
Where one's particular path to a healthcare administrator position begins depends upon the size of the facility offering the position and the experience of the job applicant. In large hospitals, graduates of a healthcare administration program may begin as administrative assistants or assistant department heads, whereas in smaller facilities they might start as department heads or assistant administrators. Experienced healthcare administrators may go on to become consultants or professors of healthcare management.
Healthcare administration certification
Requirements for certification and licensing of healthcare administrators are often up to the individual employer, but certain occupational specialties are subject to licensing regulations at the state level. Administrators at nursing care facilities, for example, are required in every state to pass a certification exam and undergo a post-baccalaureate training program approved by the state.
Even though it may not be a requirement for some positions in the healthcare administration field, there are marked benefits to attaining certification, including:
- Demonstration of dedication -- Earning a certification in your field may help show employers that you have acquired experience in your field and you're committed to doing the best job you can.
- Skill building -- Certification courses and study materials are designed to help you refine the knowledge and skills gained during your education for better application to the challenges of the workforce.
- Professional development -- Some healthcare administrator certifications may unlock exclusive continuing education activities that can help you stay on the cutting edge.
- Career advancement -- Certifying bodies and professional organizations can provide access to exclusive professional networks that might help you make advantageous career moves.
It's also the case that some employers may prefer candidates with healthcare administration certification from a particular certifying body. Here are three examples of professional organizations that provide certification in the field:
- The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) requires that certification candidates complete an accredited health information management program and submit a transcript for evaluation before they can take their exam.
- The Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM), which offers a general healthcare administrator certification, requires three years experience on the job and at least 12 credit hours in college-level business or healthcare management courses.
- The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) offers multiple certifications, each of which focuses on a particular management skill, and maintains a different set of educational requirements for each one.
Career and salary information
According to the BLS, the mean annual wage for health and medical services managers was $103,680 in 2014, with the top 10 percent earning $161,150 or more. The BLS reports that the following states offer the highest pay for health and medical services managers, based on mean annual salaries:
- District of Columbia: $131,160 per year
- California: $122,410 per year
- New York: $121,930 per year
- Connecticut: $117,680 per year
- New Jersey: $115,370 per year
Thanks to an anticipated increase in the overall demand for healthcare services in coming years, employment in healthcare administration is expected to see steady growth. Specifically, the BLS projects that employment of medical and health services managers will increase 17 percent nationwide between 2014 and 2024. That's much faster than the average growth for all occupations combined, which the BLS estimates will be seven percent over the same timeframe.
- Career: Health Care Administrator, The Princeton Review, http://www.princetonreview.com/careers.aspx?cid=76
- Certification, American College of Health Care Administrators, http://www.achca.org/index.php/development/certification
- Certified Medical Manager (CMM), Professional Association of Health Care Office Management, https://www.pahcom.com/cmm/qualifications.html
- Medical and Health Services Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119111.htm
- Medical and Health Services Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
- Medical and Health Service Managers, The US Department of Labor O*Net, Summary Report, 2014 http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9111.00
- Online Bachelor's Degree in Health Care Administration and Management, Colorado State University Global Campus, http://csuglobal.edu/undergraduate/programs/bachelors-degrees/healthcare-administration-and-management/
- Overview of AAHAM Certification, American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management, http://www.aaham.org/Certification/OverviewofAAHAMCertification.aspx
- Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), The American Health Information Management Association, http://www.ahima.org/certification/RHIA