How to Become a Health Care Administrator

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A health care administrator standing in front of a medical staff meeting.Health care administrators are leaders in an industry that has an enormous role in individual lives — and in the U.S. economy. Nearly a quarter (24%) of all U.S. government spending goes toward health care, according to the Brookings Institution. Individuals direct 8% of their spending on health care costs. An aging population and the rise of chronic illness point to an even greater role for health care in society going forward.

COVID-19 has elevated the importance of health care, especially in areas related to health information technology. The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on staffing levels as well. Demand for professionals such as physicians and nurses, which already was outpacing supply, has intensified — creating an increased need for administrators to recruit and train personnel.

With roles that vary from overseeing nursing homes and clinics to maintaining patient records, health care administrators are an essential — and in-demand — part of the health care industry. And, just as the role of, and demand for, health care is likely to increase, health care administrator employment is projected to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of medical and health services managers is expected to jump by from 2019 to 2029.

Those who are interested in pursuing this growing career typically need bachelor’s degrees. Additionally, many employers require candidates to have administrative or clinical health care work experience. Beyond these steps in how to become a health care administrator, advanced degrees come into play. Master’s degrees — such as a Master of Health Administration program — can be required to advance to higher-level roles.

What Is a Health Care Administrator?

The BLS describes health care administrators as those who plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. This work can take place in a variety of settings and under various job titles, but health care administrators typically oversee large groups of medical professionals such as nurses and nursing assistants.

Job Titles of Health Care Administrators

When considering what a health care administrator is, it is important to note the career encompasses a broad range of roles that can focus on everything from personnel to IT. The following are examples of health care administrator job titles, which vary according to the workplace and area of expertise.

  • Health care administrator
  • Hospital administrator
  • Health services manager
  • Health care executive
  • Health administrator
  • Operations manager
  • Medical manager
  • Medical services manager
  • Health information manager
  • Health care consultant
  • Clinical manager
  • Nursing home administrator

In addition to holding any of a broad range of job titles, health care administrators work in various environments. Most, however, are based in offices, with a third of them at hospitals. Among the other workplaces for health care administrators are those listed here.

  • Nursing homes
  • Correctional facilities
  • Group physician practices
  • Educational organizations
  • Health insurance companies
  • Mental health facilities
  • Government organizations
  • Outpatient care centers

Role of the Health Care Administrator

Professionals in health care administrator positions manage the operations of medical facilities, playing an important part in improving health care delivery.

The job is not a clinical role, however. In other words, individuals in these positions do not work directly with patients on a regular basis.

What is a health care administrator, then? A health care administrator works with those medical employees who are in clinical roles, such as physicians and surgeons, RNs, and medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians. Health care administrators help ensure those who work directly with patients are providing high-quality care.

Health care administrators are responsible for a variety of responsibilities related to the overall goals and vision of a facility. They often oversee professionals who execute the following responsibilities.

  • Attract and retain top talent
  • Hire and train clinical and business staff
  • Conduct performance reviews
  • Ensure appropriate accreditation for the facility
  • Conduct market analysis to understand how best to expand growth and revenue
  • Manage financial operations, finding ways to reduce costs while maintaining quality care
  • Provide marketing and advertising for the facility
  • Monitor staffing levels

Challenges Health Care Administrators Address

Health care administrators play a key role in tackling a range of challenges to ensure facilities’ success. Among the concerns, they must collaborate with staff to address are the following.

  • Rising costs, with health care spending, often outpacing inflation
  • Regulatory challenges, with the potential for any policy changes to affect the delivery of health care
  • Technological advances, with virtual care presenting technology and privacy concerns
  • Training and education, with a focus on ensuring that clinical personnel partner with patients in determining plans for care
  • Ethics, with the goal of protecting the public’s trust in health care professionals

What Does a Health Care Administrator Do?

A health care administrator is typically an upper-management position. Administrators supervise projects and people, and guide a medical facility’s processes.

Health Care Administrator Day-to-Day Responsibilities

But what does a health care administrator do daily? Depending on their specific role, they may perform the following tasks:

  • Develop departmental and general policies and goals
  • Prepare and monitor budgets, providing daily and periodic reporting
  • Convey business needs to clinical and business employees
  • Evaluate a medical facility’s compliance with laws, regulations, and in-house requirements
  • Draft work schedules
  • Keep and organize facility records, noting trends such as inpatient bed usage
  • Create instructional materials, and lead in-service and community educational programs
  • Develop computer or information systems
  • Represent the facility in public, including at investor meetings or on boards

Health care administrators typically work daytime hours, but schedules may vary at facilities with multiple shifts such as hospitals and nursing homes. Administrators may also need to be on call after hours in case of emergencies.

Examples of Health Care Administrator Jobs

 The BLS shares examples that show the range of different health care administrator jobs along with their required tasks.

  • Nursing home administrators — Manage personnel, patient admissions and care, budgeting, and building maintenance
  • Clinical managers — Direct a certain area (nursing, surgery, or physical therapy, for example), setting goals and policies, evaluating staff work, and reporting on budgets
  • Health information managers — Oversee patient record security, staying current with technological trends and laws, and keeping data current

Health Care Administrator Required Skills

Skills helpful in health care administration range from interpersonal to technological. Health care administrators should demonstrate the following competencies.

  • Staff leadership — Guiding health care staff and administrative efforts
  • Operations management — Ensuring efficient and effective processes
  • Attention to detail — Tracking budget and patient information
  • Human resources — Interviewing, hiring, and training personnel
  • Analysis — Understanding regulations and laws
  • Communication — Conveying policies and procedures verbally and in writing

Health care administrators also may require technical skills to work with electronic health records (EHRs) and adapt to telehealth needs.

Technology and Health Care Administrators

Thanks to improved medical technologies, health practitioners are increasingly offering procedures that were once available only at hospitals. The expanding offices of those practitioners will need health care administrators.

Technology also is fueling the increased use of electronic health records, creating a greater demand for health care administrators who have expertise in IT and informatics. And with the coronavirus pandemic leading to increased use of digital tools to provide care remotely, the need for health care professionals with technology skills is even greater.

Health Care Administrator Job Outlook and Career Growth

The BLS projects faster than average employment growth for medical and health services managers between 2019 and 2029, with a 32% increase in jobs during that time period. That increase translates to 133,200 additional hires in the United States, bringing the total number of jobs to 555,500 by 2029.

One factor that is fueling job growth has to do with population demographics. The baby boom generation is growing older, and people are staying active longer, according to the BLS. Those trends are likely to lead to a greater need for health care — and for administrators to manage health care facilities.

The BLS also projects increased demand for administrators at nursing homes. The coronavirus pandemic could exacerbate that need. COVID-19 has ravaged those facilities, whose residents account for 2 in 5 coronavirus deaths. Demand for administrative action to address this issue is likely to increase.

The expected retirement of health care administrators — as with physicians and nurses — could open additional administration positions. Job candidates who have master’s degrees along with IT knowledge will be in the best position to take advantage of additional positions.

What Is a Health Care Administrator Salary?

The median annual health care administrator salary was $100,980 in May 2019, according to the BLS. Salaries vary according to experience, education, and location. Skills in operations management, strategic planning, team leadership, and budget management generally lead to the highest pay, with human resources aptitudes associated with lower pay.

The top-paying industries for health care administrators are listed here, along with their median annual wages as of May 2019

  • Government — $111,520
  • Hospitals — $110,430
  • Outpatient care centers — $95,320
  • Physicians’ offices — $91,600
  • Nursing and residential care facilities — $86,820

Health Care Administrator Education Requirements

Health care administrator positions require health care and management-related education and training. Many roles also call for previous health care experience.

Health Care Administrator Degrees

Health care administrator education requirements begin with a bachelor’s degree, focusing on areas such as the following fields or another related discipline.

  • Health management
  • Health administration
  • Public health
  • Business administration

Further education can lead to greater opportunities in health care administration, as some employers prefer job candidates to have master’s degrees. A master’s degree that focuses on health services and business management, such as a Master of Health Administration, can provide an advantage to those seeking health care administrator positions. Doctoral, medical, or law degrees also may be requirements to advance to higher-level roles.

Health Care Administrator Previous Experience

Before or after graduating, candidates for health care administrator positions should gain experience working in a medical facility. Many employers value a candidate who has worked in administrative or clinical roles such as RN, medical records and health information technician, administrative assistant, or financial clerk.

Health Care Administrator Licenses and Certifications

Most health care administrator positions do not require specific licensing. Nursing home administrators require state licensure, however. The steps to attaining that licensing vary by location. In some areas, administrators of assisted living facilities also must hold state licensure. Some roles in health care administration may require RN or social worker licensing.

Health care administrators may choose to become certified by organizations such as the following.

  • Professional Association of Health Care Office Management — for medical management
  • American Health Information Management Association — for health information management
  • American College of Health Care Administrators — for Certified Nursing Home Administrator and Certified Assisted Living Administrator designations

Pursue a Career as a Leader in Health Care

Those who wish to gain a competitive advantage in the job market would do well to pursue a master’s in health administration (MHA) degree. The Ohio University online Master of Health Administration program is specifically designed to develop health care leadership skills and provide the knowledge you can put to work right away. Among the topics, you’ll cover are the following:

  • Health care
  • Ethics
  • Law
  • Policy
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Human resources

You’ll learn from experienced faculty with expertise in areas such as quality of care and health care law who are committed to helping you achieve your health care leadership goals. You’ll study a flexible, online curriculum that enables you to take one course at a time if you like, or graduate in as little as two years.

Explore the Ohio University online Master of Health Administration program — and discover the path to expanding your impact as a leader in health care.

Recommended Readings

Health Care Administration vs. Health Care Management: What’s the Difference?

Hospital CEO Career Outlook and Salary

MHA Career Path: How to Become a Hospital Administrator

Sources:

AARP, “AARP Answers: Nursing Homes and the Coronavirus”

Becker’s Hospital Review, “Five Top Challenges Affecting Healthcare Leaders in the Future”

Brookings, “A Dozen Facts About the Economics of the U.S. Health-Care System”

CNBC, “America’s Aging Population Is Leading to a Doctor Shortage Crisis”

Forbes, “The Key to Health Care’s Success Post-Pandemic? Decentralization”

Indeed, Health Administrator Job Description

O*NET OnLine, Summary Report for: Medical and Health Services Managers

PayScale, Average Healthcare Administrator Salary

StatPearls, Nursing Shortage

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

VeryWell Health, “Differences Between Clinical and Non-Clinical Medical Jobs”