Healthcare Administration Education, Schools, and Career Overview

Healthcare Administration Education, Schools, and Career Overview

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.

Healthcare Administrator Specializations and Duties

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.

When considering which specialization might be right for you, read about a similar occupation and learn how to become a medical office manager.

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.

Healthcare administration certification and professional resources

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.

Healthcare Administrator Salary and Career Outlook

As with any profession, salaries for health service managers and similar occupations vary due to factors like experience, level of education, and location. Here’s a snapshot of a salary you might expect as a health service manager:

CareerAnnual Mean WageBottom 10% Annual WageTop 10% Annual Wage
Medical and Health Services Managers$115,160$58,820$189,000
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Positions for these and simliar occupations may expect job growth, partly due to an increase in the number of doctors and medical workers needed to provide services to the aging baby boomer population. Here’s an idea of what job growth could look like for professionals such as health service managers in the coming years:

CareerTotal Employment
Medical and Health Services Managers394,910
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

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9.     Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), The American Health Information Management Association,

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