A successful healthcare system relies on a the coordinated efforts of many professionals. Doctors, specialists, nurses, and individuals not directly involved in the delivery of healthcare — such as billing, coding, and finance professionals — provide intricately related services. Thankfully, the entire academic arena of healthcare administration is dedicated to organizing and continually improving the industry. Students can preview this dynamic field through an array of free online healthcare administration courses.
Administrators are charged with both day-to-day decisions and long-term business strategies. Some are responsible for policy decisions, others for department management and others take on human resources too, all wrapped into one job description. The nature of this dynamic profession ensures no two days will be the same.
The Princeton Review describes healthcare administrators as those who coordinate the delivery of care and assist in the management of health facilities. Sometimes called medical and health services managers or healthcare executives, the role of these professionals will vary depending on the size and type of the healthcare organization.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), healthcare administrators might manage an entire facility or oversee a specific clinical area or department, such as nursing, surgery, physical therapy, cardiology, or gerontology. A nursing home administrator might be tasked with staff management, admissions, finances, facility administration and providing care to residents. A bigger hospital will have subsets of managers or assistant administrators in specific departments.
The bachelor's curriculum for a healthcare administration degree will encompass a breadth of classes relating to management for the practice, skills, and attitudes of healthcare organizations. Many programs also ask students to apply their newly acquired knowledge in an internship or practicum experience.
The following courses are required for healthcare administration bachelor's programs around the country:
- Healthcare Law
- Healthcare Employment Law
- Intro to Healthcare Organizations
- Healthcare Supervision
- Healthcare Information Systems
- Management and Organizational Behavior
- Healthcare Human Resources
- Healthcare Finance
- Healthcare Quality Improvement and Patient Care
- Psychology of Aging
- Healthcare for the Elderly
- Ambulatory Care Services: Organization and Administration
- Public and Community Health
- Healthcare Ethics
- Contemporary Issues in Public Safety
- Concepts and Issues in Public Planning
- Healthcare Administration History, Culture, and Language
- Statistical Methods for Health Science Research
Students who pursue healthcare degrees at the graduate level will see increased options for specialization. Most often, students can focus in areas that match certain kinds of medical or healthcare facilities, such as mental health centers, group medical practices, or hospitals.
In addition, students at certain universities can pursue specialized master's degrees that combine healthcare administration with another complementary field. Master of Health Services Administration degrees are geared toward the organization, financing, marketing, and management of health care institutions. Those who enroll in Master of Public Health programs, which take a more holistic approach to all the factors that influence healthcare, often find work in the public sector. Some schools even offer an MBA in Healthcare Administration that incorporate much-needed business skills into the curriculum.
The BLS states that a bachelor's in healthcare administration is typically the minimum requirement for positions in the healthcare sector, but most entry-level employees come equipped with at least a master's in healthcare administration. There are many different associate degrees with a focus in healthcare administration, but most entry-level positions would require the student to transfer their associate credits to obtain a four-year degree. A Ph.D. in healthcare administration enables administrators to pursue teaching, researcher, or consultant roles.
While a bachelor's or master's degree program is the most common educational pathway to the profession, those with healthcare experience may be able to advance into the profession through on-the-job experience, or experience coupled with an associate in healthcare administration or a certificate in the field. For example, a nurse or physical therapist might have a credential from the field, and then advance into a management position over-time.
Ideal Candidates for Healthcare
Professionals need a variety of skills to succeed in this fast-paced, complex industry. The BLS suggests strong analytical skills are important for understanding and adapting to changing regulations. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are critical since an administrator must work effectively with a variety of health professionals. Detail-oriented problem solvers will also have a leg up in the field.
Employment of medical and health services managers is expected to grow 22 percent from 2010 to 2020. Demand will be greatest in areas that serve the aging generation of baby boomers, such as nursing care administrators.
Pay varies a lot depending on organization size, but it is a generally well-paid profession: in May 2010, the median salary for medical and health services managers was $84,270. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,000 and the top 10 percent earned more than $144,000, according to the BLS.
Use this guide as a jumping off point in your research into the field. Shadow a professional, spend time volunteering and talk to university admissions or guidance counselors to figure out the best academic pathway for reaching your career goals.