Editorial, Health Administration MHA

The What, Why, and How of Healthcare Management Careers

Woman in suit at conference table with 3 others

The healthcare industry is growing as it works to keep up with the needs of America’s aging population. Healthcare employment opportunities are projected to increase by an impressive 15% from 2019 to 2029, a much faster rate of growth than the average for all occupations. ((U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Healthcare Occupations,” last modified May 14, 2021: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm)) 

As part of this industry expansion, job openings in healthcare leadership are also on the rise, with 32% growth projections between 2019-2029. ((U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Medical and Health Services Managers: Job Outlook,” last modified June 2, 2021: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-6))  Those with the right experience, expertise, and education—such as a Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree—are poised to take advantage of this opportunity. A role in healthcare management is a great way to increase your responsibilities, salary, and positive impact on patient care.

What Is Healthcare Management?

Healthcare management is, simply put, the professional management of health and medical services. Given the advancements in medical technology and evolving legal regulations in the healthcare industry, organizations need educated leaders who can guide the intricate systems that make up hospitals, medical clinics, nursing homes, and more.

Ideally, healthcare leaders hold a wide view of the organization, gaining insights from data to make strategic decisions about improving systems and setting goals. At the same time, managers need fundamental knowledge about the health systems they oversee, which can range from budget creation to financial management, information technology, compliance, quality improvement, medical records management, and staff recruitment and supervision ((U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Medical and Health Services Managers: What They Do,” last modified June 2, 2021: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-2))  Of course, healthcare facilities in need of management vary across a broad spectrum. You can find opportunities in large medical centers, assisted living facilities, healthcare tech companies, clinical research labs, and doctors’ offices, to name a few.

Graphic of differences between healthcare management and healthcare administration

What’s the Difference Between Healthcare Management and Healthcare Administration? 

The terms “healthcare management” and “healthcare administration” may sound synonymous, but they are not. Broadly speaking, healthcare managers typically oversee an entire healthcare organization, while healthcare administrators are responsible for the organization’s workforce and operational details.

Healthcare managers develop strategies and make decisions to serve the big-picture needs of the organization. They implement policies and procedures, represent the facility at public events, and define organization-wide initiatives. By contrast, healthcare administrators focus on day-to-day operations. They typically handle budgets, staffing, and practical compliance issues. 

Skills Needed to Succeed as a Healthcare Manager

As a business-minded medical professional, you should cultivate certain skills to succeed in healthcare management. ((U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Medical and Health Services Managers: How to Become One,” last modified June 2, 2021: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-4)) 

  • Analytical skills. You will need a proven ability to monitor and adjust organizational strategies according to the evolution of healthcare regulations and laws. 
  • Communication skills. Effective leaders are clear communicators, balancing compassion with directness to convey their vision and address conflicts. 
  • Attention to detail. All the “in the weeds” details that keep a healthcare business functioning, such as best practices for data storage and security, require close focus.
  • Interpersonal skills. As a manager, you must be adept at engaging with a cross-section of staff members, investors, industry leaders, and patients to keep stakeholders satisfied.
  • Leadership skills. To build a unified workforce, you will need creative strategies for motivating, training, and directing staff.
  • Technical skills. It’s important to stay abreast of advances in medical technology and healthcare data management so that your organization can quickly adapt. 

A balance of these skills, combined with graduate-level education and hands-on experience in the field, will build the foundation for your career in healthcare management.

Healthcare Management Jobs

Management positions within healthcare are not restricted to the top tier. The size and complexity of many healthcare industry businesses requires layers of structured leadership. Positions such as nurse executive, nursing home director, and health information manager are just a few examples of the diversity of roles.

Median salaries for healthcare services managers by industry

The Typical Healthcare Management Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 2020 median annual wage for those in healthcare management was $104,280. Salaries can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as responsibility level, geographic location, and industry. For example, the top median industry-specific salaries range from residential care facility leaders earning $89,880 per year to government medical and health services managers making $116,380 per year. ((U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Medical and Health Services Managers: Pay,” last modified June 2, 2021: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-5)) 

Healthcare Management Career Outlook

Given the country’s rapidly growing population of older adults, American healthcare systems must evolve to meet the increased demand for services. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population of adults over age 65 will exceed 73 million by 2030. ((U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, “Projected Age Groups and Sex Composition of the Population: Projections for the United States, 2017–2060,” revised Sept. 2018: https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/popproj/tables/2017/2017-summary-tables/np2017-t2.xlsx))

Due to these increasing strains on healthcare resources, especially in areas with nursing shortages, leadership for planning how to best serve patients is more important than ever. This is reflected in recent projections that employment of healthcare management professionals will grow 32% from 2019 to 2029, a much faster rate than the average projected growth for all occupations. ((U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Medical and Health Services Managers: Job Outlook,” last modified June 2, 2021: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-6)) 

The Benefits of a Career in Healthcare Management

Highly competitive salaries and the availability of job opportunities are just two advantages of a career in healthcare management. Additional benefits may include:

  • Having a variety of job specialties to choose from: With the wide array of healthcare organizations in need of skilled leaders, you have choices available to find the right fit for you. 
  • Contributing to community health: The decisions you make as a leader in healthcare may impact public health. Your strategies for achieving operational efficiency and quality patient care translate to a healthier community.
  • Enjoying emotional satisfaction: Knowing that your actions can directly benefit your staff, individual patients, and the public can be very rewarding. Reports show that healthcare managers and administrators enjoy a higher-than-average job satisfaction level. ((Barbara Bean-Mellinger, “How Much Do Hospital Administrators Make?” Career Trend, Aug. 23, 2018: https://careertrend.com/13709640/how-much-do-hospital-administrators-make/))

Healthcare management provides another possible benefit for those who feel squeamish around blood or bodily fluids but are passionate about working in healthcare. These managers can pursue their optimal career path without engaging in direct patient care.

Do I Need a Healthcare Management Degree?

For a career in healthcare leadership, you need the right combination of experience and education. A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement for most positions. Obtaining an advanced-level degree, such as a master’s or doctorate, and accruing significant work experience in the field will increase your job prospects exponentially. 

The basic steps to a healthcare management career are as follows: ((U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Medical and Health Services Managers: How to Become One,” last modified June 2, 2021: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-4)) 

  1. Get a bachelor’s degree.
  2. Earn your master’s degree in healthcare administration, healthcare management, health science, public health, or business administration.
  3. Gain relevant work experience.
  4. Hone your leadership skills, such as problem-solving, negotiation, delegation, and data analysis.

You should examine the related degree options to identify which program best fits your goals. As a healthcare administration grad student, you will develop practical skills for use in managing and planning impactful change. Engaging in research and hands-on practice in disciplines such as finance, research, healthcare policy, and education, as you will in a graduate degree program, is important to building trust with your future colleagues and other stakeholders.

Healthcare management is a growing field with an abundance of possibilities for those who have the drive to blend leadership and vision. It offers opportunities to positively impact the community without requiring direct patient care, which may be the biggest perk of all for some candidates. Healthcare leaders are needed now more than ever, making this a great time to explore health science programs to get started.

USAHS offers a Master of Health Administration (MHA) program designed for working healthcare professionals who want to improve systems of finance, informatics, operations, policy, and other key functions of healthcare organizations. The program is taught online, with optional on-campus immersion weekends (scheduled to resume in 2022) and an optional internship. Whether you choose the traditional or accelerated track—or our specializations in Executive Leadership, Business Intelligence, or Interprofessional Education—you will gain real-life experience and expand your professional network. During your capstone project, you will work with an industry mentor.

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