Healthcare Administration Career Guide
Healthcare provision is changing rapidly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from ensuring equal access to care, professionals are increasingly grappling with challenges around employee well-being, business sustainability, and the impact of technology on health management.
Healthcare administrators are at the forefront of many of these changes, working to ensure that caregiving facilities continue running smoothly. These individuals are often responsible for addressing many of the challenges facing the modern health delivery system.
Healthcare administrators may be employed in many different work environments. Some focus on multiple areas, such as finance, quality control, and human resources, while others may develop specialized knowledge in a particular area.
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What Is Healthcare Administration?
As a field, healthcare administration is about addressing organizational needs in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers. From identifying personnel gaps and analyzing costs to supervising the overall functioning of a caregiving institution, healthcare administrators, also known as medical and health services managers, carry out a range of short- and long-term operational tasks. Unlike other administrators who may have similar responsibilities, these professionals have unique knowledge of how to manage people, resources, and programs in various healthcare settings.
These professionals have unique knowledge of how to manage people, resources, and programs in various healthcare settings.
A bachelor's degree in healthcare administration covers the science of overseeing modern health delivery systems. Aside from gaining a broad understanding of the national healthcare landscape, students learn about the challenges facing this industry as well as the best practices professionals employ to guarantee the effective delivery of care. Many healthcare programs also explore how modern technology and big data are shaping this sector. Graduates typically develop the knowledge and skills necessary to land entry-level positions as healthcare administrators.
Healthcare Administration Career Paths
Becoming a medical and health services manager is the most straightforward career path in the healthcare administration field. However, healthcare administration graduates can also pursue other, more specialized career paths within this large and growing field.
Administration services and facilities managers typically superintend multiple operations in a healthcare setting. Their main objective is to make sure that the department, program, or institution they supervise runs smoothly, and that it abides by existing laws and regulations. These individuals tend to focus on long-term organizational effectiveness, so a large proportion of their day-to-day activities involves identifying goals, conducting performance reviews, and developing policies for other employees. This means that administrative services and facilities managers in the healthcare industry work with a diverse range of other professionals, including physicians, nurses, accountants, and managers.
Most caregiving facilities need professionals who can manage sensitive healthcare information concerning insurance policies, diagnoses, and billing. Database administrators and architects are hired to fill this need. These employees typically have a background in healthcare and computing, which they use to organize data, develop access protocols, and carry out daily maintenance on servers and applications. While their roles tend to overlap in specific areas, architects and administrators usually have different responsibilities. The former tend to possess more technical expertise and are therefore involved in building and maintaining healthcare databases. The latter help ensure these information systems remain secure and meet various organizational needs.
Hospitals, clinics, and similar healthcare institutions need a roster of professionals and experts who can help deliver care effectively. In addition to identifying hiring opportunities for various medical departments, human resource managers in the healthcare world are trained to oversee a variety of personnel needs. These can include developing individualized benefits packages for employees, providing information on organizational policy, and managing potential disputes between workers. Human resource managers must also have in-depth knowledge of employment and labor laws, particularly as they apply to healthcare professionals such as surgeons, physicians, and nurses.
Medical records and health information specialists work closely with patients to verify their medical history. This may involve conducting interviews with patients, organizing data in registries, reporting information as necessary, and updating national databases used by public health officials. The work medical records and health information specialists do is crucial for primary caregivers such as physicians and registered nurses, as it provides much-needed background. In addition to ensuring records stay up to date, the primary responsibility of these professionals is to maintain patient confidentiality when it comes to medical backgrounds.
Like human resources specialists, training and development managers work directly with an organization's workers to improve overall performance. However, these individuals focus more directly on coordinating and implementing programs that allow employees to upskill. Working in a healthcare environment where giving care is constantly changing to reflect new developments, they strive to ensure that caregivers are up-to-date with cutting-edge medical practices. This may require training and development managers to select appropriate educational materials, identify healthcare conferences, or set up instructional programs internally. They also periodically assess the effectiveness of development initiatives.
How Much Do Healthcare Administrators Make?
Working in healthcare administration can be quite lucrative when compared to other career paths. For instance, medical and health services managers — one potential job for graduates — earn a median annual salary of $101,340, which is three times the U.S. economy average across all occupations. The top 10% of these professionals make over $200,000 annually, while the bottom 10% earn roughly $60,000 a year. Moreover, the number of open positions is expected to increase by an exponential 32% through 2030. Many other positions in this also field a six-figure annual income.
How To Become a Healthcare Administrator
Getting an accredited bachelor's degree in healthcare administration or a related area such as healthcare management is the first step towards a career in this industry. A bachelor's degree will provide you with an understanding of common management concepts, including in areas such as finance, human resources, and leadership. It will also train you to apply these concepts in a healthcare institution, thus equipping you with the required knowledge for most entry-level positions.
Advancing Your Career in Healthcare Administration
While a bachelor's degree can help you break into healthcare administration, advancing your career in this field will typically require a combination of experience and further education. For instance, earning a master's in healthcare administration accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education can qualify you for higher-level openings and may also better position you for employment in large healthcare facilities, such as public hospitals. If you have a few years of work experience and hope to move into a management role with more responsibility, you may consider completing an MBA in healthcare management.
While not necessary, a certification can increase your chances of getting a job by showing potential employers that you have an advanced level of training and expertise. In addition to helping you develop your career, these credentials may also provide the opportunity to specialize within a particular area of healthcare administration. Some common certifications include:
Certified Medical Manager (CMM): CMMs are trained in various areas of healthcare management including risk, human resources, finance, and marketing. They are often well-qualified to oversee daily operations in many different complex healthcare settings. To ensure they remain up-to-date with the best processes, CMMs must renew their certification through continuing education credits or retesting.
Certified Physician Practice Manager (CPPM): Like CMMs, CPPMs have experience in a broad array of healthcare administration areas. This credential is a good choice for professionals who want to develop the skills to take on a management position in private practices or healthcare clinics.
Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP): For healthcare administrators who want to delve deeper into finance, a CHFP qualification can provide the training necessary to supervise a caregiving institution's books. CHFPs are knowledgeable in how to predict future trends in healthcare, and develop corresponding strategies that meet short -and long-term financial goals.
Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ): CPHQs have a strong understanding of techniques to improve and maintain healthcare quality. This credential provides training in how to communicate with external stakeholders, manage employees, set and achieve organizational goals, and develop quality control protocols.
Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS): With the healthcare industry increasingly utilizing big data analytics, providers need professionals who understand how to manage information effectively. A CPHIMS shows employers that an individual is well-versed in working with healthcare data, as well as identifying and fulfilling various information needs.
To be an effective healthcare administrator, you need to have an understanding of the organizational challenges facing care facilities, as well as a strong grasp over how to apply management principles in different real-world scenarios. In addition, however, it's important to complement this knowledge with the sort of soft skills that allow you to carry out various everyday tasks as a healthcare administrator.
Critical Thinking: Healthcare administrators must constantly work to improve the delivery of care. To do so, they must be comfortable taking on fresh perspectives and examining challenges in new ways.
Communication: Knowing how to liaise effectively is one of the most important skills necessary to be a healthcare administrator. These professionals interact with many different employees, including medical workers, staff, and management, so it's essential that they are familiar with how to communicate with different audiences.
Organization: As a healthcare administrator, you will likely be responsible for coordinating activities across several departments, including those that carry out management and medical functions. Knowing how to organize your work and prioritize tasks is therefore a must-have skill.
Problem Solving: Given their complex nature, modern healthcare delivery systems can run into problems regularly. Administrators need to know how to come up with quick, often creative solutions that ensure the smooth running of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare institutions.
Where Can You Work as a Healthcare Administrator?
With their skillset, healthcare administrators can find employment in a variety of industries. However, a majority find work in the health services sector. Top employers can include large insurance companies and providers, like Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealth Group, and Humana, as well as government agencies such as the Department of Veteran Affairs and the U.S. Air Force.
When it comes to locations, it's perhaps no surprise that healthcare administrators work in states with some of the largest populations — where the demand for care is typically the highest. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top five states employing medical and health services managers are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Massachusetts.
Should You Pursue a Career in Healthcare Administration?
Healthcare administration can be a suitable choice if you're hoping to embark on a career in a well-paying industry where the future job outlook is favorable. For instance, the BLS projects that the number of opportunities in the healthcare industry is expected to increase by 16% through 2030. Moreover, the median annual pay in this sector is $70,040, which is significantly higher than the U.S. economy average across all occupations.
A healthcare administration career may also suit you if you enjoy working with others, solving complex problems, and constantly learning new skills. These professionals collaborate with others to come up with ways to improve access to healthcare and must often attend seminars or conferences to stay up-to-date with developments in the field. If you're interested in using cutting-edge management ideas to improve how a challenging and fast-paced industry functions, working as a healthcare administrator can prove to be a professionally rewarding choice.
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