When you think about a hospital or a health clinic, you might think about doctors and nurses. What you often do not see are the administrators for these facilities, the people who work behind the scene to keep these health care centers functioning smoothly. What are administrator jobs like, what are their salaries and how can you prepare yourself for a job as a health administrator? This ultimate guide to health administration careers can help you learn the answers to those questions.
Health care is a business that needs good management to function smoothly. Health administrators, also known as medical and health services managers, supervise people, solve problems and make critical decisions. Additionally, with the changing face of health care, administrators must be prepared to deal with the integration of health care delivery systems, technological innovations and an increasingly complex regulatory environment. But, individuals who choose this career have a wide variety of career paths open to them.
Large facilities, such as medical centers, may function with several layers of administration. In large health care facilities, such as hospitals or in organizations such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), several assistant administrators will be in charge of areas such as surgery, therapy, and nursing. Other assistants may be responsible for medical records and health information services. There will also be other managerial personnel in non health care related areas.
Smaller facilities, such as nursing homes, will have a senior manager with responsibilities for most operational areas. Managers in the healthcare sector have varying responsibilities, qualifications, salary range, and work hours depending upon education level and time working in the field.
For instance, entry-level administrative positions may include marketing assistants, operating assistants, project consultants and managers, health provider representatives and accountants. Mid-level positions may include all the above and department managers, case managers, managers of ancillary services such as laboratory and radiology departments, ambulatory care managers, contract negotiators and controllers. Senior-level positions may include chief executive officers, chief operating officers, chief financial officers, senior vice presidents and vice presidents for various sections and services.
Medical and health services managers held about 283,500 jobs in 2008. About 38 percent worked in hospitals, and another 19 percent worked in offices of physicians or in nursing and residential care facilities. Many of the remainder worked in home healthcare services, Federal Government healthcare facilities, outpatient care centers, insurance carriers, and community care facilities for the elderly.
Job opportunities will be good, especially for applicants with work experience in healthcare and strong business management skills. Medical and health services managers with experience in large hospital facilities will enjoy an advantage in the job market, as hospitals become larger and more complex. Competition for jobs at the highest management levels will be keen because of the high pay and prestige. Most healthcare management positions go to graduates of health administration programs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers’ earnings vary by type and size of the facility and by level of responsibility. For example, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) reported that, in 2007, median salaries for administrators were $82,423 in practices with 6 or fewer physicians; $105,710 in practices with 7 to 25 physicians; and $119,000 in practices with 26 or more physicians.
According to a survey by the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM), 2009 average total compensation for office managers in specialty physicians’ practices was $54,314 in gastroenterology; $54,201 in dermatology; $58,899 in cardiology; $48,793 in ophthalmology; $44,910 in obstetrics and gynecology; $51,263 in orthopedics; $51,466 in pediatrics; $48,814 in internal medicine; and $47,152 in family practice.
While health administrators earn competitive salaries, they also must tolerate unusual work schedules. Health care is an around-the-clock business, and often fraught with emergency situations. Along with handling budget and staffing matters, administrators must attend numerous meetings. Depending on the size of the organization, administrators may be required to travel extensively to meet with board members, oversee other facilities or attend industry conventions. But, a health administrator with an MHA can make almost double the salary of a health administrator with a bachelor’s degree, depending upon the size and location of the facility.
That said, this job can provide a satisfaction that few other jobs may provide. Excitement, travel and the ability to keep a health care business running smoothly might prove a dream job for many individuals. What do you need to do to prepare for a job as a health administrator?
Many health professionals begin their careers in administration or management with a bachelor’s degree. High school students can prepare for an undergraduate degree by loading up on courses in English, math, social studies and science. Some background in a foreign language, particularly Spanish, could prove helpful as well.
The basic college curriculum in healthcare administration covers management theory, concepts, and skills, and an overview of the health care industry. These programs are designed to teach students leadership, financial management, economics, law, organizational behavior, quantitative analysis methods, and planning. Other programs, such as the Master of Health Services or a Master of Medical Informatics, lead to specific jobs within the health management field.
When evaluating candidates for entry-level management positions, employers look for the same characteristics as they would for any manager in a career. You need an appropriate level of education, some work experience in the field, general management and leadership skills, business planning skills and a fit with organizational objectives. One way to achieve some of these goals outside college is to volunteer or apply for internship positions with health care providers to supplement education and to enhance your resume.
Because programs vary from college to college, it is best to investigate as many as possible. Be sure to check out grants and scholarships as a way to help pay for that college education. And, stay tuned to various job resources to stay on top the ever-changing demands in the health care field.
To become a health administrator or manager, a master's degree is usually required. Some of the most popular types of health degrees include the Master of Health Administration (MHA), the Master of Public Health (MPH), and the MBA in healthcare management. Below is a carefully compiled list of accredited institutions offering such programs to help you meet your career goals.