Leaders come in all forms: captains, executives, mayors, presidents, and healthcare managers. Without healthcare managers our healthcare system could not function. These professionals play a vital role in our society.
Healthcare managers coordinate, direct, plan and otherwise manage health and medical services. That includes staying abreast of the latest developments in healthcare law, regulation, and technology.
“Most medical and health services managers have at least a bachelor’s degree before entering the field. However, master’s degrees are common and sometimes preferred by employers. Educational requirements vary by facility and specific function.” – US Department of Labor
Education for healthcare managers is less of a legal requirement and more of an industry standard. Because of the skill sets involved –analytics, communication, attention to detail, and technical skills– it’s typical for healthcare managers to demonstrate at least a bachelor’s-level of education, as noted by the US Department of Labor. Common fields of study include:.
- Business administration
- Public health administration
- Health administration
- Health management
Typical duties of those in healthcare management include:
- Making efficiency and quality improvements in healthcare delivery
- Strategizing goals and objectives
- Recruiting and training staff members
- Creating work schedules and maintaining records
- Meeting with shareholders, government officials, investors, and insurance brokers
- Facilitating communication between medical staff and department heads
- Ensuring compliance with medical laws and regulations
- Managing finances and creating budgets
While experience is essential for promotion into more senior positions, master’s and doctoral-level education can also improve your professional appeal by magnitudes. Many advanced education programs are specifically tailored to healthcare management and administration.
It’s becoming increasingly common to find educational programs for healthcare administrators online. These are ideal in that they can accommodate a busy work schedule and enable you to be gaining valuable work experience during the day, while you can simultaneously advance your professional marketability through education in your free time.
Another way to improve your professional appeal is through optional certification. National professional organizations offer their own healthcare manager certification programs. You can earn these honorific titles which confer the reputation, professionalism, and respect that their sponsoring professional organizations garner. While browsing through job ads you’ll commonly see that employers are looking for someone who is professionally credentialed.
While each organization makes its own certification requirements, having a relevant college degree is a common way to qualify for eligibility for many.
Examples of organizations that offer certification programs are:
Healthcare managers can operate at different levels. They could manage an entire hospital or medical facility, manage a specific department, or work at a small clinic or doctor’s office. Most work in hospitals, physician offices, outpatient care centers, nursing care facilities, and with home health care services.
Healthcare managers are particularly important in public health. Coordinating, managing, and communication facilitation are three overlapping key duties shared by professionals in both fields. When there’s a major public health event like a pandemic, healthcare managers working with state and local public health departments are the ones on the front lines mounting an effective response.
How to Start Your Career in HealthCare Management
Each employer in the healthcare sector determines its own requirements for hiring healthcare managers. There are no state or national licensing or certification requirements.
The ticket to most healthcare management jobs is education, and there are entry points into this profession at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Academic certificates offered by colleges and universities are another commonly valued credential in this field.
Step 1 – Earn a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management or related field
Depending on your location you can probably start your career in the healthcare sector doing work that’s related to healthcare management with a high school diploma or associate’s degree. This is a good way to get highly relevant work experience at a healthcare facility in a clinical or administrative role.
But you’ll find that having a relevant bachelor’s degree makes an important difference for having a strong showing at the entry-level in this field. There are also mid-level healthcare management positions that are within reach of a competent healthcare manager with a good record of work experience and an undergraduate education.
Naturally a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management is most applicable for this field. Subjects covered in these programs include:
- Healthcare ethics and values
- Health insurance and reimbursement
- Healthcare terminology
- Business operations and human resources management
- Healthcare research and statistics
- Communication and professionalism in healthcare
- Healthcare policy and practice
- Financial resources management and accounting in healthcare
- Healthcare delivery methods
- Organizational development and leadership
Many of the subjects listed above could also be covered in a business, management, accounting, or other related degree program. These are also sufficient majors that will help you get started in this field, and should you choose they’ll also open the way for graduate study.
Consider a certificate in healthcare management
It’s becoming increasingly popular for colleges and universities to offer certificate programs in healthcare management. These can be at the undergraduate and graduate levels and can range from a few to several courses that can be completed on a scale from months to a year. They usually feature a shortened roster of classes you’ll also find in a full healthcare management degree program.
Graduate-level certificate programs may offer focused specialization within the field of healthcare management in areas like:
- Accounting and billing
- Human resources management
- Compliance and law
- Leadership and management
Often schools will let you apply the credits you earn in a certificate program towards a degree in healthcare management or other related major.
Step 2 – Earn a graduate degree in healthcare management or related field
A master’s degree in health care management is an ideal credential for this field that will give you a great amount of career mobility as well as a competitive edge.
Master’s programs often offer concentrations in specific areas within healthcare management that you can use to hone your skills for your ideal career path, including:
- Population health
- Healthcare compliance
- Systems and policy
- Executive leadership
- Innovation and entrepreneurship
- Business administration
Many master’s programs offer the additional advantage of an opportunity for supervised management internships in a healthcare or hospital setting. These are a great opportunity to gain real-world experience and develop professional links with potential future employers.
There are also other closely-related master’s degree programs that will result in competitive credentials for this field. For example, some MBA programs offer a healthcare management concentration.
While master’s-level education can qualify you for senior-level positions in healthcare management, you also have the option to continue your education and earn a doctoral degree in healthcare management. This is the highest level of education you can attain in this field. It will give you a competitive advantage over most of your colleagues and make a good argument for why you deserve to be in the most senior-level positions like CEO and CFO at the largest healthcare organizations. According to the US Department of Labor, medical and health services managers in the top-10% of the field earn in excess of $180k per year.
Step 3 – Start applying for healthcare management positions
With your degree in hand you’ll be ready to start applying for jobs in the healthcare management field.
One notable exception for educational requirements is for healthcare administrators at skilled nursing facilities or nursing homes. Every state requires these professionals to be licensed, and in most states a requirement for that includes a relevant bachelor’s degree. More information on the specific requirements for licensure as a nursing home healthcare manager is provided by the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB).
Healthcare manager Career Outlook and Salary
The US Department of Labor projects 71,600 healthcare manager jobs will be added to the national economy over the decade leading up to 2028. That’s an astounding 18% growth rate, “much faster than the average for all occupations,” it reports.
Nationwide, healthcare managers earn an average annual salary of $115,160 according to 2019 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median salary is $100,980, while the top 90th-percentile salary is $189,900.
Healthcare manager salaries also significantly differ by sector. The following are the five sectors that offer the highest average salaries for healthcare managers (BLS, 2019 ):
- Pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing – $204,300
- Scientific research and development services – $169,240
- Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers – $162,880
- Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing – $159,910
- Chemical manufacturing – $155,180
The healthcare manager’s 18% 10-year growth rate and six-figure average salary was calculated before the recent global Coronavirus pandemic that placed a spotlight on the critical importance of the healthcare industry. As people, government leaders, and policy makers realize the importance of this field, its funding and expansion will likely be even more robust going into the future.
For more information on the healthcare management field, networking opportunities, and job leads check with the following organizations: