Medical and health administrators manage the operations of a variety of healthcare facilities, from small physician's offices to large hospitals. Read this article to learn more about working in the medical and health administration field and how you might be able to work in the industry yourself.
The healthcare industry is among the largest in the United States, and medical and health administrators are integral to the daily operations of any healthcare facility. Medical and health administrators work to improve the overall delivery of healthcare by performing a number of administrative and related tasks, such as maintaining patient records, managing an office's finances, filing insurance claims and supervising others. If you have a desire to work within a team to help others and hold a high attention to detail, you'll likely do well in this area of work.
The majority of medical and health administration jobs are found within healthcare facilities and health services organizations, including hospitals, nursing homes, physician's offices, assisted-living facilities and clinics. You could work as an administrator in a generalist practice for an entire office or as a specialist for a specific branch. Additional job opportunities can be found within health insurance companies or in government, such as for state and county health departments. Specific job titles can include health services manager, medical administrator, policy analyst or project director. With advanced education and experience, you may qualify for positions such as health system president, chief financial officer or chief nursing officer.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 16% growth for medical and health services managers, which includes healthcare administrators, between 2008 and 2018 (www.bls.gov). This growth is considered faster than the average growth of all occupations during this period. According to the BLS, an expanding healthcare industry will increase the demand for these workers to improve overall healthcare delivery and manage increasingly large and complex facilities. As of May 2010, the BLS also reported that the average annual salary earned by medical and health services managers was $93,670, so high wage opportunities may be available to you if you decide to pursue a career in this field.
Medical and health administration degrees range from the associate's to doctoral levels. While you can earn an associate's degree in healthcare administration, a bachelor's degree in health administration or a closely related field is typically the minimum requirement for entry-level jobs. However, the master's degree is the standard credential in the field, according to the BLS. The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education accredits professional master's degree programs in healthcare management, including the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), Master of Public Health and Master of Public Administration (www.cahme.org).
Many of today's hospital administrators are trained specifically in business and financial management. In addition, the BLS reports that job prospects are expected to be particularly good for candidates with business and managerial skills. As such, you might consider a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree with an emphasis on healthcare administration. Alternatively, you could pursue a joint degree that combines healthcare administration with another field, such as the joint Juris Doctor and MHA or the MHA/MBA program. If you'd like to work as an administrator for a nursing care or assisted-living facility, you'll likely need to become licensed in your state as well.
Major coursework of a medical and health administration program often includes human resources management, finance, accounting and organizational theory, as well as healthcare law, health policy and marketing. Advanced master's degree programs may further incorporate studies in public health, strategic management, operations research, health forecasting and budgeting, quality management and organizational theory. Some of these master's degree programs also require completion of community service in a social or health organization. Doctor of Health Administration programs also require advanced coursework such as financial management and management of healthcare administration systems and completion of a doctoral exam on specific issues in healthcare, as well as proposal and completion of an independently-researched applied management study in a real organization.
Following the completion of a master's degree, you may begin an administrative residency or fellowship program at a healthcare facility before seeking work independently. You may also consider earning professional credentials to further your career. The Professional Association of Health Care Office Management offers the Certified Medical Manager national credential, which requires having three years experience working in the healthcare field, completing 12 college-credit hours of related coursework and passing an examination (www.pahcom.com).