Health administrators are leaders. They head up hospitals, physician group practices, nursing homes, and home health agencies.
Healthcare managers, also known as health services managers and health administrators, direct the operation of hospitals, health systems and other types of organizations. They have responsibility for facilities, services, programs, staff, budgets, relations with other organizations, and other management aspects, depending on the type and size of the organization.
They also work in the public sector, for example in health departments, or in the private sector, such as with pharmaceutical companies, health insurance providers, consulting firms, or companies that make medical supplies and equipment.
The career opportunities with a healthcare management degree are expansive and invigorating. The healthcare management community and program alumni provide you with advancement opportunities and a network of contacts that is invaluable as you progress throughout your career.
Prepare to launch your career in healthcare management by selecting the approach that provides specialized skills and knowledge essential to managing health-related organizations—something not always available in traditional management programs.
Many graduates help to shape healthcare policy by pursuing careers with local, state, or federal agencies (such as the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) or health-related national associations, such as the Red Cross or the American Hospital Association.
Today, an estimated 100,000 people serve in health administration, from middle management to CEO positions -- at organizations of only 1-2 staff members to major international companies employing hundreds of thousands of employees.
Health administrators are either specialists or generalists. Specialists head up specific clinical departments or services, while generalists manage (or help to manage) an entire facility or system.
The Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) offers:
7 Reasons to Pursue a Career in Healthcare Management
For more information, see AUPHA website.
To learn more, watch the video profile of "Medical and Health Services Managers."
You can download, save and print a PDF of this career profile:
Health Administrator Health Administrator 05 Oct 2010 [pdf, 151 KB]
For more information, see Association of University Programs in Health Administration website. You might also consider buying a copy of the Healthcare Management Education Directory.
Unlike clinicians, health administrators or managers do not deal directly with patients on a day-to-day basis. Instead, they help to shape policy, make needed changes, and lead our nation's health-related organizations in a way that serves individual patients by helping to improve the healthcare system.
Most health administrators work long hours. Since the facilities they manage (nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, etc.) operate around the clock, a manager may be called at all hours to deal with issues. Some travel also is involved in this field, since managers may need to inspect satellite facilities, attend meetings, etc.
Healthcare managers work in a variety of settings, including hospital and health systems management, medical groups, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, care management organizations, health information technology firms, supply chain companies, government/policy organizations, investment banks, health insurers, and healthcare management consulting firms. Some graduates may also work with large corporations directing their health and other benefits programs.
NOTE: For profiles of real-life people working in health administration -- including a Managed Care Director, a Health Services Project Administrator and an Assistant Administrator, as well as professionals in Business Development and Quality & Accountability Initiatives -- see the American College of Healthcare Executives website.
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Degrees in health management/administration are available at the baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral levels.
Applicants for the 4-year baccalaureate degree program should have a high school diploma or equivalent. A 4-year baccalaureate degree--B.S. or B.A.--is the primary prerequisite for admission to a graduate program, and the degree can be obtained in any field of study ranging from healthcare management and business, to biology, sociology, policy, public health, government, social work or allied health professions. Some coursework in economics and statistics is helpful, but not generally a requirement.
In the past, most students chose the traditional route of a master’s degree in health administration or public health. Today, however, students are investigating other options, including degrees in business with course concentration in health services management. Some schools offer a joint degree--a master’s degree in both business administration and public health, or in both healthcare management and law, for example.
The most traditional field of concentration is either health services administration or public health, but you also can focus on health policy, health sciences, public administration, or even business administration. Some schools even offer a joint master's degree (i.e., business administration/public health or healthcare management/law). Search for schools that provide training for this career.
Master's degree programs in this field generally last two years and include coursework in healthcare policy and law, marketing, organizational behavior, healthcare financing, human resources, and other healthcare management topics. They also may include a supervised internship, residency, or fellowship. Some schools even offer a joint master's degree (i.e., business administration/public health, healthcare management/law, and public policy/public health).
Sometimes physicians, nurses or other practicing health professionals decide to add this credential to become more involved in leadership roles. In certain cases, students will complete the masters prior to going to medical, nursing or other academic programs.
The American College of Healthcare Executives maintains a very useful site for students. Once you have earned your degree, check out their online Career Services.
The pre-professional curriculum should include appropriate general education credit predicated on the requirements of the academic institution. Professional curriculum can include coursework in healthcare policy and law, marketing, organizational behavior, healthcare financing, human resources, health information management, and other healthcare management topics. Academic programs may also include a supervised internship, residency, or fellowship. For specifics on curriculum, go to www.aupha.org/DirectoryOfPrograms/
Medical and health services managers must be familiar with management principles and practices. A master's degree in health services administration, long-term care administration, health sciences, public health, public administration, or business administration is the standard credential for most generalist positions in this field. However, a bachelor's degree is adequate for some entry-level positions in smaller facilities, at the departmental level within healthcare organizations, and in health information management.
How to Apply
The Healthcare Administration, Management & Policy Centralized Application Service (HAMPCAS) is the first national centralized application service designed for students applying to graduate programs in health administration, healthcare management, and health policy. The service will enable applicants to apply to these programs across different colleges and universities throughout the U.S. by way of a single, web-based application.
For more information, go to http://www.aupha.org/ApplyViaHAMPCAS. New programs are joining each week. For the most current list of programs you can apply to in one application, go to http://www.aupha.org/HAMPCASSchools.
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Last updated: May 23, 2013
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