Nationally, the healthcare industry continues to be among the most in-demand of all professions. As the median age of the population climbs and baby boomers remain active into their retirement years, healthcare services are expected to expand in response to those demographic shifts.
Among the fastest-growing disciplines, according to federal statistics, is healthcare administration.
Healthcare administrators manage, direct and coordinate medical services in a variety of settings, from clinics and hospitals to practices operated by groups of physicians. As the person in charge of a medical facility, a healthcare administrator’s duties can be varied and complex. Handling such responsibilities requires a mix of business administration skills and knowledge of medical services, as well as the regulations that govern the industry.
Generally, healthcare administrators work to minimize costs and maximize efficiencies, while also ensuring that the services provided are the best possible. They must keep up-to-date on changing federal and state laws governing healthcare.
Depending on the type of facility, healthcare administrators may oversee functions related to medical records and billing, as well as create work schedules for department heads and other staff members.
The job outlook for healthcare administrators is strong, with the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting 22% growth nationally in the profession from 2010 to 2020, well above the 14% average for all occupations. As noted by the BLS, more nurses and physicians will be needed to care for an aging U.S. population. Consequently, more healthcare administrators will be needed to manage the increasing number of healthcare professionals and facilities.
The average annual wage for healthcare administrators was more than $96,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS. For healthcare administrators overseeing general medical and surgical hospitals, the average was more than $102,000. The average annual wage was $93,770 for administrators at physicians’ offices, while those overseeing home healthcare services earned an average of $85,860.
Salary potential and job opportunities typically are affected by a number of factors, including a candidate’s educational attainment and professional experience, as well as by regional market conditions.
A bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration or business administration is a typical requirement for employment as a healthcare administrator. Coursework may include organization and management within the medical field, accounting and budgeting practices, strategic planning, law and ethics, and health economics.
The BLS identifies a set of fundamental competencies that healthcare administrators should possess, including the ability to analyze complex information, organize varied tasks, lead and motivate staff members, and communicate clearly with other professionals.
Healthcare administrators often work their way up through the ranks, perhaps starting as a department head or assistant administrator, the BLS reported. In order to manage a nursing care facility, healthcare administrators may be required to pass a state licensing exam.
Professional advancement may come with additional educational qualifications, supervisory experience or a combination of both.