Health Care Administration Careers: Trajectories for MHA Graduates

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A smiling worker at a desk.When most people think of fast-growing jobs, they think of the technology sector. While jobs involving computers and mathematics are forecast to rise between 2020 and 2030, no industry will add the number of jobs that the health care industry will create.

  • Six of the 10 fastest-growing jobs over the decade will be in the health care and social assistance fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • Health care and social assistance will create 3.3 million new jobs as an aging population, longer life expectancy, and more people living with chronic conditions drive demand.
  • Within the health care industry, jobs for people who provide health care services to individuals and families will grow the fastest, at 3.3%.

Health care administrators ensure that providers are able to meet the skyrocketing demand for their services while improving patient outcomes and experiences and enhancing efficiency. A result of these trends is tremendous growth in opportunities for people interested in pursuing a career in health care administration.

The four health care administration positions highlighted in this guide illustrate the range of health care administration careers available to holders of a Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree:

  • Health care administrator
  • Hospital administrator
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Health information manager

Careers in Health Care Administration

Health care administrators play key roles in combating threats to public health through their support of doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals in clinical and primary care settings.

The skills required to succeed in a health care administrator career depend on the area of health care an individual chooses to focus on. These are among the common job titles for health care administrators:

  • Health care manager: Health care managers, also called health services managers and health care executives, may manage all aspects of a facility and its workers or a particular clinical area or specialties, such as medical records or operations management.
  • Nurse manager: Nurse managers lead a team of nurses and ensure that nurses and other staff comply with all regulations and policies. They manage nurse schedules and play lead roles in hiring and training nurses.
  • Insurance underwriter: Insurance underwriters evaluate the risk involved in insuring assets or people. In health care settings, they determine the health status of applicants for health insurance, the type and cost of coverage to offer applicants, and any limitations or exclusions to an applicant’s coverage.
  • Operations manager: Operations managers oversee the organization’s business processes and identify ways to improve them. They support human resources, coordinate interdepartmental teams, and communicate potential problems or opportunities to senior executives.
  • Hospital manager: Hospital managers ensure that hospital patients receive quality care by making sure that all departments are adequately staffed and supplied. They manage hospital budgets and other financial matters, plan work schedules, devise and implement policies, and communicate policies and processes to staff.
  • Medical records manager: Medical records managers focus on managing databases of sensitive medical information. Their duties include ensuring that the data is accurate and up to date, securing access, and confirming that all records staff members comply with standards and regulations.
  • Facilities manager: Facilities managers ensure that the work environment is safe, comfortable, productive, and sustainable for staff members, patients, and visitors. New technologies create the potential for more efficient facility operation, but they also present challenges in planning and implementation.

Employers of health care administrators include government agencies, medical and diagnostics laboratories, outpatient care facilities, and private businesses.

What Does a Health Care Administrator Do?

Managing a health care facility entails creating budgets and managing other financial matters, as well as understanding the needs of health care providers and their patients. Health care administrators are responsible for all non-clinical functions of a hospital or other health care facility. They manage the business operations of the organization, including its daily operation and infrastructure.

Health Care Administrator Job Description

Among the duties of health care administrators are creating employee schedules; managing budgets; maintaining medical records; coordinating all operations; and addressing the needs of doctors, nurses, and patients. However, what a health care administrator does on a given workday varies widely based on the department or type of facility. These are among the many roles the position plays in keeping a health care organization functioning smoothly:

  • Managing and participating in the training of new hires
  • Conducting performance reviews of direct reports
  • Ensuring accreditation of the facility by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) or another accrediting agency
  • Developing goals for the department or organization
  • Overseeing patient billing and other financial matters

Most health care administrators work a standard weekday shift but often put in overtime when managing facilities that operate 24/7. In addition to establishing patient care protocols and best practices, administrators are constantly investigating ways to improve the efficiency and quality of care the facility provides. They must have a thorough understanding of all health care laws and regulations, and they’re responsible for crafting and implementing the organization’s emergency preparedness plan.

Health Care Administrator Education and Certifications

While a bachelor’s degree is considered the minimum educational requirement for a health care administrator, a master’s degree in health care administration, public health, or a related field can maximize an individual’s career prospects. For example, the MHA curriculum includes courses in the leadership of health organizations, strategic planning, and marketing of health services, health law, health care finance, and ethical issues in health care.

While certification isn’t required for most positions, credentials can show employers specific expertise. The Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals (AHCAP) offers a Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional (cHAP) certification. Candidates must pass an examination that tests their skills, knowledge, and experience in matters related to health care administration. Experienced health care  administrators may qualify for AHCAP’s Fast Track Program to immediately sit for the examination, while those with little or no administration experience must meet other educational and professional criteria.

Similarly, the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) sponsors certification as a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) for members who’ve earned a master’s or other postgraduate degrees. Fellows must have at least five years of health care management experience and currently hold a health care management position, among other requirements.

In addition, the American Association of Healthcare Administration Management (AAHAM) provides several certification options for health care administrators, including Certified Revenue Cycle Executive (CRCE), Certified Revenue Integrity Professional (CRIP), and Certified Compliance Technician (CCT).

Resources on Health Care Administrator Careers

 

A list of health care administrators’ main duties.

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Whether managing hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, or another type of health care facility, a health care administrator is responsible for five management roles, according to the Balance Careers: 1. Hire and supervise management and staff. 2. Oversee the facility’s finances. 3. Confirm compliance with all applicable regulations. 4. Develop goals, objectives, and strategies for all departments. 5. Represent the facility to the public.

Health Care Administrator Salary

The salary survey site PayScale reports that the median health care administrator salary is about $73,000 per year in a range from around $60,000 for people with less than one year of experience to around $94,000 for administrators with 20 or more years of experience.

The skills that have the greatest impact on the salary are business analysis (42% higher salary than average), strategic project management (27%), leadership (26%), home health (18%), and data analysis (17%).

Health Care Administrator Job Outlook

The shortage of qualified health care professionals that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated is only one of the many challenges that the health care industry faces. Overcoming the serious staffing issues and funding shortfalls that many health care organizations face has increased demand for health care administrators. Between 2020 and 2030, the number of jobs for medical and health services managers will increase by 32%, according to the BLS, more than four times the average for all occupations.

What Does a Hospital Administrator Do?

Hospital administrators oversee all aspects of a hospital’s operation, including finance, staffing, strategic planning, employee training, and regulatory compliance. What a hospital administrator does primarily is communicate and encourage communication and teamwork among various departments and teams. Hospital administrators may participate in payroll and hiring activities and are responsible for all infrastructure and operations, including monitoring technology projects and conducting community outreach.

Hospital Administrator Job Description

The areas of responsibility of a hospital administrator include medical, nursing, clerical, technical, maintenance, and all staff the hospital employs. The position manages human resources; employee training; and coordination of medical, nursing, and support operations, including staffing, supplies, records management, and regulatory compliance.

Hospital Administrator Duties and Qualifications

The duties of a hospital administrator include accounting, budgeting, and other financial management activities, as well as facility management, risk management, and process utilization. These are among the other activities that are likely to fall under the purview of hospital administrators:

  • Establish channels of communication with and between governing boards, medical personnel, and department heads to facilitate interdepartmental operations.
  • Create work schedules and make staffing assignments to meet workload demands while ensuring efficient use of resources.
  • Stay abreast of technological advances and changes in government regulations, health insurance, and financing sources that affect the hospital’s operation.
  • Investigate work restructuring, technological advances, and changing models of health care provision that automate tasks and otherwise make staff more efficient.
  • Meet with other medical executives, business partners, and community groups to better understand the needs of patients and coordinate joint activities.

As a subset of the broad category of health care administrators, hospital administrators benefit from earning a certificate in health care administration from the AACHP, ACHE, or AAHAM, especially if they lack extensive experience in hospital administration. Graduate programs such as the MHA degree help prepare hospital administrators by offering curricula that include courses in health policy, health care finance, and leadership of health organizations.

Resources on Hospital Administrator Careers

Hospital Administrator Salary

PayScale estimates that the median annual hospital administrator salary is about $87,000 in a range from around $76,000 for administrators with less than one year of experience to around $104,000 for those with 20 or more years of experience. Salaries for the position vary based on the skills and qualifications of the candidate:

  • Hospital administrators with strategic management skills earn an average annual salary of about $94,000.
  • Administrators with operations management, budget management, or administration experience earn an average annual salary of about $89,000.

Salaries for hospital administrators also vary based on location:

  • In Los Angeles, hospital administrators earn 40.2% more than the national average, according to PayScale.
  • Salaries are 20% higher than the national average for hospital administrators in Houston, and 11.5% higher for those in Chicago.
  • Conversely, hospital administrators in Dallas earn about 16.6% less than the national average; those in Denver 11.4% less; and those in New York City 6.8% less.

Hospital Administrator Job Outlook

Hospitals were the first line of defense against the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to play a prominent role in the short- and long-term health of communities. However, the roles of hospitals and health care professionals are changing in fundamental ways as a result of shifting demographics, medical advances that convert deadly diseases into chronic conditions, and new methods of financing health care.

Demand for hospital administrators with the right combination of skills and experience will rise along with that for nurses and other health care professionals. Robert Half describes areas of opportunity for hospital administrators:

  • Medical coding manager
  • Senior executive assistant
  • Human resources benefits specialist
  • Call center manager

What Does a Nursing Home Administrator Do?

Nursing homes, which are also called long-term care facilities, bore the brunt of COVID-19’s early impact, but demand for long-term care continues to increase as a result of an aging population. What nursing home administrators do becomes more important as communities struggle to meet the health care needs of older adults and others with chronic medical conditions.

Nursing home administrators are responsible for all aspects of running a facility, from building maintenance to patient care to employee training. They also manage the business’s budget and other financial matters, and they must ensure that the operation meets all regulatory requirements. In addition, they’re involved in community outreach and marketing.

Nursing Home Administrator Job Description

Nursing home administrators plan, implement and evaluate the nursing services that the facility’s staff offers to confirm that patients receive quality care. They oversee the food the organization serves, the recreational programs available to the home’s residents, and the hiring and training of staff. These are among the typical tasks of a nursing home administrator:

  • Conduct tours of the facility for prospective residents and explain the services the facility offers.
  • Recruit and train nursing and non-nursing staff and complete regular performance reviews of staff members.
  • Investigate and implement new technologies and equipment updates as needed to ensure that the facility runs as effectively and efficiently as possible.
  • Plan the organization’s budget and ensure that all departments operate within their budgets.

Nursing Home Administrator Duties and Qualifications

The primary duties of nursing home administrators are to ensure that the policies the organization’s governing board have set are implemented and adhered to, maintain the safety and comfort of patients and staff, and keep the facility running smoothly on a day-to-day basis. These are among the other areas of responsibility for nursing home administrators:

  • Submit required reports to government regulatory bodies at the state and federal levels, and keep the business’s governing body updated on all pertinent matters.
  • Meet regularly with staff, residents’ families, government officials, insurance executives, and representatives from Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Interact with doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who regularly visit the facility to work with residents.

Nursing home administrators must be licensed by the state to work in a skilled nursing facility; licensure entails passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). They typically have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing, health care administration, or a related field, although an MHA or a master’s degree in gerontology is standard for many people in the position. Nursing home administrators are expected to have extensive experience working in hospitals, clinics, and other health care settings in both patient-centered and management roles.

Resources on Nursing Home Administrator Careers

Nursing Home Administrator Salary

According to PayScale, nursing home administrators earn a median annual salary of about $93,000 in a range from around $74,000 annually for administrators with less than one year of experience to approximately $110,000 annually for those with 20 or more years of experience. Certain skills increase the potential salary for nursing home administrators:

  • Administrators with operations management experience earn about $97,000 per year.
  • Those with budget management experience earn about $94,000 per year.
  • Having experience with Medicare and Medicaid boosts an administrator’s salary by 29% over the average for all people in the position.

The nursing home’s location also affects salaries, according to PayScale. For example, administrators working in Detroit earn approximately 20% more than the median, and those in New York City earn 48% above the national median. Conversely, administrators working for nursing homes in Oklahoma City earn about 17% below the national median.

Nursing Home Administrator Job Outlook

The effort that nursing homes need to overcome the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented has transformed the long-term care industry. Nursing home administrators remain confident that the hard lessons learned in the battle against COVID-19 will lead to a more resilient and rejuvenated industry. However, regaining the public’s confidence remains a daunting challenge.

Several trends point to an improved outlook for the nursing home and long-term care industries:

  • The 2021 Senior Report from America’s Health Rankings estimates that more than 54 million people in the U.S. are aged 65 and over; they account for 16.5% of the population.
  • By 2050, the U.S. will have more than 87 million people aged 65 and over, representing 20% of the population.
  • CNBC reports that 44% of older millennials (born between 1981 and 1988) report having a chronic medical condition, many of which will ultimately require a stay in a long-term care facility.
  • Global Market Insights forecasts that the long-term care market will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5% between 2021 and 2027, reaching a total value of $595 billion.

What Does a Health Care Information Manager Do?

Health information management involves gathering, analyzing, securing, and sharing information in digital and traditional formats. What a health information manager does is make accurate and up-to-date patient information available to health care professionals when and where they need it. These managers play an important role in the daily operation of all departments in a health care facility.

Health information managers combine skills in the latest technologies with an understanding of how health services function. They apply technology solutions to address the needs of patients, doctors, and nursing staff. These managers contribute to positive patient outcomes by making sure that patients’ medical data is accurate, accessible, and secure.

Health Care Information Manager Job Description

The role of a health care information manager is to safeguard medical records, patient information, laboratory and diagnostic records, and other internal hospital communications. They confirm that the organization complies with all applicable regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). They also check for compliance with guidelines and policies relating to patient safety.

Health care information managers typically oversee a group of information technology (IT) professionals who work together to develop strategies for information collection and security. The position requires experience leading teams and managing projects, as well as knowledge of computer technology and health information systems. It also calls for strong interpersonal and communication skills.

Health Care Information Manager Duties and Qualifications

The BLS describes the typical activities of medical records and health information specialists as follows:

  • Make sure that patient records are timely, complete, and accurate.
  • Maintain clinical databases and registers to keep records organized and updated.
  • Assign clinical codes for reimbursement by insurance companies and Medicare or Medicaid, as well as for data analysis.
  • Collect data and securely store it for analysis, retrieval, and reporting.
  • Meet with nurses and other staff members to clarify diagnoses or gather more information.
  • Have a thorough understanding of electronic health record (EHR) software and privacy and security practices.

Health care information management degree programs help students qualify for positions in the field by offering courses in health care delivery systems, information systems for health services, and leadership in health organizations. The curriculum for MHA programs usually includes courses in information systems as well as research and quantitative methods in health care.

Among the certifications available for health care information managers are Certified Professional Coder (CPC), which the AAPC issues, and Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT), which the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) issues.

Resources on Health Care Information Manager Careers

Six ways health care institutions protect patients.

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Health care services are taking advantage of the data collected to improve patient outcomes and keep patients safe. These are some of the ways health information management enhances patient health and safety, according to Indeed: secures all patient information; reduces medical errors by enhancing data entry; identifies underserved populations in greatest need of health care; makes health care delivery more effective and less expensive; finds new channels to disseminate health information; helps separate health care networks work together more efficiently.

Health Care Information Manager Salary

PayScale reports that the annual median salary of health information managers is about $60,000 in a range from $51,000 for people with less than one year of experience to about $67,000 for those with 10 or more years of experience. In-demand skills for health information managers include HIPAA compliance, electronic medical records, and medical coding.

Health information managers with experience in project management had salaries that were 48% higher than the national median. Other experience that boosts salaries includes health care informatics (30% higher) and operations management (13% higher).

Health Care Information Manager Job Outlook

The BLS forecasts that the number of jobs for medical records and health information specialists will increase by 9% between 2020 and 2030, about as fast as the projected average growth for all occupations. Factors that affect the outlook for health care information managers are an aging population’s need for more health services, the growth in the use of EHRs as paper medical records are converted, and the tremendous increase in the amount of health-related data being generated.

Meeting the Growing Demand for Health Care Administrators

The four health care administration careers profiled here are only a sample of the many career options available to MHA degree holders. Health care managers will lead the transformation of the industry as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and works to address the critical shortage of nurses and other trained health care professionals. Demand for the services of health care administrators will continue to grow in many different health care settings.

Sources:

The Balance Careers, “What Does a Healthcare Administrator Do?”

Indeed, “What Is Health Information Management?”