People typically know what doctors and nurses do, but few know about the person who works behind the scenes to make sure a hospital, clinic or other facility is running smoothly – a healthcare administrator.
Healthcare administrators may not have one-on-one contact with patients like doctors and nurses, but their work can affect a patient’s treatment and health.
Career options may vary, depending on the size and type of organization. You may start a healthcare administration career handling patient care, human resources, finance, information systems or other function, according to the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Potential career advance may call for additional experience and/or more education.
What You Need to Know about Healthcare Administration
The path to a career in healthcare administration starts in a degree program. A degree can prepare students for the healthcare field. Part of a healthcare administrator’s responsibility is to make sure medical facilities run smoothly and efficiently.
New England College offers degree programs related to healthcare administration. An enrollment representative can help you determine which program is right for you.
Healthcare Administration Degree Programs
Healthcare offers various career possibilities, and different degree options abound for students aspiring to work in the field.
NEC’s healthcare administration degree program starts with liberal arts courses designed to help you learn how to analyze information, make decisions and understand events. Some of the classes you can take include writing, politics, history, art, literature and math.
An AS in Healthcare Administration and/or a BS in Healthcare Administration can help you start toward a career in the healthcare space or other career possibilities. You expect to take courses related to situations you may encounter in the healthcare field.
- Organization and Management in Healthcare – This course focuses on what you need to know to effectively manage a healthcare facility. You may learn about devising strategy, meeting goals, managing how employees behave, keeping an eye on costs and boosting efficiency.
- Issues in Ethics for Healthcare Administrators – You can learn about making ethical decisions by studying what other practitioners have done previously. You may also find yourself practicing how to apply the concepts in simulated exercises.
- Marketing for Healthcare – Applying the 4Ps of marketing strategy – product, price, promotion and place – in healthcare is part of what may be covered in class. You can also explore how to use numerical data to get a better idea of the marketplace and what your patients expect.
- Financial Management of Healthcare – Healthcare administrators are likely to deal with budgeting, accounting and other financial concerns. You may learn about financial statements (such as income statements and balance sheets), as well as revenue, net income, assets, liabilities and other financial concepts.
- Health IT – New technology can potentially impact the quality and safety of care. Knowing how healthcare information is collected, analyzed, stored and managed can help make smart decisions as a future administrator.
- Health Plans and Insurance – The class covers insurance issues from various perspectives: the buyer, the practitioner and the provider, and how any changes can affect how a healthcare facility can deliver services.
What Does a Healthcare Administrator Do?
Healthcare administrators lead the charge when it comes to providing medical and health services. They make sure patients receive the care they need, while keeping a facility – such as a hospital, nursing home or medical clinic – operating efficiently.
It’s important work in a field that is growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of jobs for medical and health services managers to grow by 18% through 2028.1
Healthcare administrators must keep up on laws and industry regulations, technology and any other trends that can affect how a facility may fare over time. The model of healthcare delivery that works well for one facility may not work at another.
They may also plan and coordinate services, manage employees, oversee billing, maintain records, monitor budgets and create work schedules.
Does Healthcare Compare to What I See on TV?
If you’d like some insight into what a healthcare administrator does, turn on your television. Episodes of “House” and “Nurse Jackie” show administrators and medical staff working together.
Keep in mind, TV shows like “House” and “Nurse Jackie” are fiction. The plots may exaggerate what it’s like to work in a hospital. After all, a well-run medical facility – a healthcare administrator’s primary goal – wouldn’t provide the drama viewers expect from a TV series.
That said, TV can show how administrators can create an environment that allows doctors and nurses to focus on patients.
Healthcare Administration Job Outlook and Salary
Healthcare administrators can work in a variety of settings, from small practitioners’ offices to large healthcare systems. There are opportunities with both for-profit and nonprofit organizations.
The BLS projects the healthcare industry to add more than 1.9 million new jobs through 2028.2
Overall growth includes a variety of job functions such as healthcare practitioners (e.g., nurses and physicians) and healthcare support positions, including occupational therapy assistants and medical transcriptionists. With that expansion, there is a likelihood that demand for healthcare administrators may grow as well.
The average annual salary for healthcare administrators, categorized as medical and health services managers by the BLS, was $113,730 as of May 2018.3 Professionals working in general medical and surgical hospitals earned an average salary of $122,460, the BLS reported. The highest 10% earned around $182,600, while the lowest 10% earned $58,680.
Entry Level Healthcare Administration Jobs
While it’s more common to find healthcare administrators in hospitals, there are opportunities to work in nursing homes, assisted living centers, home health services, offices of healthcare practitioners, and outpatient facilities such as laboratories or radiology centers, and walk-in clinics.
Other opportunities can be found in pharmaceutical companies, insurance carriers, mental health agencies and health IT firms.
Skills for Entry Level Healthcare Administration Jobs
Healthcare administrators need good communication, teamwork and critical thinking skills. They may interact with doctors, nurses, staff, outside vendors, insurance companies and others.
ACHE lists some qualities employers seek for entry level healthcare administration candidates:
- A commitment to develop professionally and continue your education
- An ability to develop reports and deliver presentations
- Career goals that align with an organization’s objectives
- An attitude that shows your level of professionalism and honesty
- An ability to train people, delegate and negotiate
These professionals also make decisions that consider the needs of the facility and the care of their patients. Significant trends – the aging population and so forth – call for administrators to demonstrate strategic thinking and to make critical decisions as needed.
Career Options with an Associate Degree in Healthcare Administration
People often think a job in healthcare may require a lot of education. However, there may be opportunities for people with an associate degree.
- Medical Scribe – Some doctors enlist the help of medical scribes to record a doctor’s notes and record interactions with patients. They also enter the information into an electronic health records (EHR) system. An eye for detail is important in this job, as medical scribes must make sure records are accurate. Some medical scribes also attain the designation of Certified Medical Scribe Specialist (CMSS), a credential overseen by the American College of Medical Scribe Specialists.
- Electronic Medical Records Specialist – These professionals record, organize and manage a patient’s information in an EHR system. They also classify and code patients’ records to make sure claims between healthcare providers and insurance companies are handled smoothly.
- Community Health Worker – These professionals collect healthcare data, conduct community outreach and serve as healthcare advocates in their community. They also can provide referrals for food, housing, education, Medicaid and Medicare benefits, as well as mental health services, according to the BLS.
- Occupational Therapy Assistant – These professionals help patients recovering their normal range of motion after illness or injury. They often work directly with patients to carry out a treatment plan developed by an occupational therapist. Part of their job includes showing the proper way of performing exercises, such as stretches for various parts of the body.
Career Options with a Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Administration
Among the career possibilities for graduates with a bachelor’s degree:
- Healthcare Administrator – These professionals may oversee a healthcare facility, a specific department or a small medical practice. Staying up to date on the latest healthcare laws, regulations and technology come with the territory, as they may have to think about the implications of any changes on their facility.
- Nursing Home Administrator – Managing staff, finances, admissions and patient care at a nursing home or assisted living center are the primary duties for these professionals. Professional licenses are required to work in this area, according to the BLS.
- Home Healthcare Administrator – Although their duties may be like those of people who run hospitals or other facilities, the primary focus involves providing treatment and services to patients where they live.
- Medical Practice Administrator – They may either oversee a single medical practice or multiple offices that provide specialized services such as chiropractic treatment, optometry, and physical, occupational and speech therapy.
- Outpatient or Ambulatory Care Administrator – Now that services and procedures once traditionally offered in hospitals are available in an outpatient setting, administrators are needed to manage these facilities.
- Insurance Underwriter – Reviewing and evaluating risk and determining the amount of coverage are some of the responsibilities of insurance professionals.
- Social Service Manager – Also known as community service managers, these professionals may work in clinics, hospitals and other healthcare settings to provide services and support for people facing challenges.
Tips for Getting Started in Healthcare
Beyond completing your college degree, the following tips may help you land your first job in healthcare:
- Start early. Examine what’s required to take on a degree program before you commit. The Association of University Programs in Healthcare Administration lists what kind of classes you may need to take, as well as any education requirements based on the level of degree program (associate, bachelor’s, etc.).
- Volunteer. Consider helping at a hospital, doctor’s office, clinic or other healthcare facility during your spare time. You can see how things work and gain some experience at the same time, according to the American Health Information Management Association’s career prep tools page. It may also help you connect with people who can help you after you graduate.
- Build a network. The healthcare field has opportunities to connect with other professionals. Build relationships with other healthcare providers in-person and online.
- Study industry trends. Part of a healthcare administrator’s job is to stay current on any issues related to healthcare. Consider subscribing to trade publications or monitor health websites online.
- Observe others in the field. Ask healthcare pros in your network if you can spend an hour, day or week experiencing their day-to-day alongside them. This is an experience you can’t get from a textbook, according to AHIMA.
- Keep an open mind about places to work. Don’t limit yourself to just job postings. Learn about opportunities to potentially work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities and home healthcare providers.
- Join healthcare associations. There are specialized healthcare industry associations, such as the American College of Healthcare Executives, American Health Information Management Association, the Medical Group Management Association and the American Hospital Association, which may have resources and advice for landing work, listings for open positions and continuing education.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical and Health Services Managers, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm (visited 11/8/2019).
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Healthcare Occupations, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm (visited 11/8/2019).
3Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018, Medical and Health Services Managers, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119111.htm (visited 11/8/2019).
National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Information provided is not intended to represent a complete list of hiring companies or job titles, and program options do not guarantee career or salary outcomes. Students should conduct independent research for specific employment information.