Medicare expansion, new payment models, shifts toward telehealth medicine, emerging medical technologies –– these changes along with many others put great pressure on health care organizations to adapt at breakneck speed. They also create great opportunities for talented administrators ready to help health care organizations navigate the new landscape.
Serving in clinical facilities, insurance companies, and drug manufacturing facilities, these professionals can often command high salaries: A master’s degree in health administration salary typically outpaces other salaries in health care management.
The Importance of Health Care Administration
In hospitals, long-term care facilities, and nursing homes, health care administrators make significant contributions to improving community health.
Their expertise in financial management allows them to effectively address issues such as rising costs and the need to invest in the latest health care technologies, so their organizations can deliver quality health services.
Health care administrators also use their leadership and management skills to develop strategic plans that create productive work environments. This allows for the efficient use of resources. It enables staff members and clinicians to perform at their best, which in turn leads to better patient care.
The primary goals of health care administration include the following:
Health care administrators play a key role in the strategic allocation of funds across an organization. An equitable distribution helps ensure that the various departments can support and hire talented employees and purchase necessary supplies and equipment. The effective management of resources makes it possible for organizations to undertake essential capital improvement projects, such as replacing an outdated electronic health record (EHR) system.
To survive in today’s health care market, organizations often need to expand existing services and introduce new ones. This may mean purchasing MRI and ultrasound machines for a facility’s radiology department so patients don’t have to seek imaging services elsewhere. It may also mean adding behavioral health services at a primary care center. Whatever the case, the strategic management of resources makes these and other investments possible.
Without good customer service, the reputation and viability of a health care organization suffers. Subpar business processes in a health care organization, such as a flawed system for appointment scheduling or billing, impede its ability to meet patient needs.
Health care administrators locate inefficiencies in business processes that prevent patients from receiving top-notch service. For example, they identify problems such as long wait times or poor communication. Then they develop procedures and practices that can address such issues. This may involve streamlining administrative tasks to eliminate bottlenecks and delays that frustrate patients. It may also involve implementing payment processing procedures to reduce billing errors.
Additionally, health care administrators devise methods for responding to patient concerns and complaints, an important aspect of good customer service.
Medical mistakes are often the result of flawed systems. Health care administrators develop systems that keep patients safe.
For example, health care administrators may survey patients to gain insight into potential safety risks and identify gaps in their systems that leave patients vulnerable. Health care administrators may also implement protocols that help clinicians and staff match patients to EHRs. Mismatches, which may occur when patients share similar demographic information, can lead to medication errors and delayed treatment, along with other potentially dangerous mistakes.
A web of regulations about patient privacy, patient safety, and billing practices govern the health care industry. Noncompliance can result in hefty fines, the revocation of licenses, poor patient care, or lawsuits. Health administrators help ensure compliance in everything from staff licensing to medical waste disposal.
This monitoring involves putting policies and procedures in place that support compliance with company and governmental requirements. Furthermore, health care administrators set up compliance training and policy updates.
What Is the Salary for Master’s in Health Administration Graduates?
The median annual salary for master’s in health administration graduates is $79,000, according to PayScale data as of December 2021. Salaries can vary depending on the size of the organization. Job location, years of experience, and industry also factor into health care administrator salaries.
The top industries employing health care administrators paid the following median annual salaries, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data as of May 2020:
- Government: $116,380
- Hospitals: $112,870
- Outpatient care centers: $100,690
- Doctor’s offices: $94,240
- Nursing and residential care facilities: $89,880
The industries that paid health care administrators the highest salaries were:
- Pharmaceutical and drug manufacturing
- Scientific research and development services
- Medical supply manufacturing
- Computer systems design and related services
What Is the Health Administration Job Outlook?
The BLS projects massive job growth in health administration. Between 2020 and 2030, the bureau expects positions in the field to increase by 32%. That’s quadruple the average 8% job growth forecasted for all occupations.
A number of factors are likely fueling this incredible expansion. For one, the aging baby boom generation will likely increase the demand for health services. Big changes in the health care system are another likely culprit.
The Changing Health Care System
In recent years, an increasing number of doctors have joined medium or large medical group practices. These consolidated medical groups, sometimes treating thousands of patients a week, require diligent management of health administration.
Another notable change in health care is a shift toward the managed care model. This model focuses on lowering costs while maintaining quality health care delivery. The characteristics of managed care include prior authorization for certain types of care and incentives for preventive care.
The increasing complexity of medical group practices and the growing adaptation of the managed care model are changing how and where health care is delivered, as well as who delivers it. As a result, health care organizations need more administrators who can introduce and manage these shifts.
Other trends in health care prompting a rising need for expert health care administrators include the following:
- Increased pressure placed on health care organizations to show the value of the services they deliver and control costs
- A drive toward continuous quality improvement (CQI): an ongoing process of finding ways to increase efficiency and quality while decreasing costs
Health Care Administrator Work Settings
The transforming health care landscape has expanded where health care administrators can find employment.
In addition to working in hospitals, home health agencies, consulting firms, and long-term care facilities, professionals in health care management may also secure positions in:
- Integrated delivery systems
- Managed care organizations
- Ambulatory care facilities
- Health care associations
- Medical group practices
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Mental health organizations
- Insurance companies
- Universities and research institutions
- Public health departments
Health Administration Career Paths
Individuals holding a Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree can pursue various careers.
Clinical directors manage the medical departments of health care organizations, ensuring that they deliver quality medical services. This involves organizing and directing both people and programs with the goal of using best practices in patient care.
It also involves developing and implementing departmental work policies for:
- Administrative personnel
These policies guide the department’s daily activities and are designed to make clinical and administrative operations efficient and effective. Clinical directors engage department staff to help develop and review policies that are practical and safe. For example, a clinical director may work with nurse managers to devise sensible hygiene policies that help reduce hospital-related infections among patients.
Additionally, clinical directors set up procedures that ensure that their staff know, understand, and follow departmental policies.
Other work duties of clinical directors include the following:
- Managing budgets for medical supplies and equipment
- Overseeing staff hiring and training
- Conducting employee reviews and delivering feedback
- Supervising the department’s compliance with governmental regulations
- Answering questions and listening to the concerns of patients and their families
Clinical directors can expect to earn a median annual salary of about $79,900, according to PayScale data as of November 2021.
Clinical Director Skills
To lead successful medical departments, clinical directors need to master several skills, including the following:
- Communication skills. The development of effective work policies requires collaboration between clinical directors and medical personnel. Clinical directors must actively listen to their staff and ask relevant questions. They also need excellent communication skills to ensure that members of their department clearly understand policies.
- Analytical skills. Clinical directors must critically evaluate their department’s services to determine how well they meet patient needs. They must also assess the efficiency of departmental operations, a skill that requires astute analytical ability.
Health Information Manager
Quality patient care delivery depends on gathering, analyzing, and protecting health information, including the following:
- Patient medical histories
- Patient diagnoses
- Clinical notes
- Laboratory and test results
Health information managers oversee how their organizations collect and store this critical data, monitoring its accuracy and security. They also make sure patients and authorized medical professionals can access health information when they need it. This involves designing systems that effectively compile, organize, and protect private medical data.
It also involves maintaining the databases that health care organizations use to maintain patient health information. The government has strict rules that dictate how health care organizations store and maintain patient medical records. Health information managers make sure their organizations’ databases comply with these regulations and meet medical and ethical standards.
Health information managers typically supervise a team of health information professionals, working with them to design administrative and technical safeguards that protect health information.
Additional health information manager responsibilities include the following:
- Evaluating health records for completeness and accuracy
- Releasing patient medical records to authorized parties
- Checking the visibility of scanned documents
- Reviewing medical records to ensure that they accurately document diagnoses
Health information managers can expect to earn a median annual salary of around $59,600, according to PayScale data as of November 2021.
Health Information Manager Skills
The responsibilities of health information managers call for skills such as the following:
- Technology skills. To work with databases and digital health records, health information managers must be fluent in information technology (IT). They often need experience working with networks; the experience will help them develop EHR systems and maintain the security of electronic information.
- Detail-oriented skills. When assessing the accuracy of health information or sharing it, health information managers need to pay attention to detail to avoid costly mistakes. Errors can lead to security breaches or flawed records.
Nursing Home Administrator
Nursing home management can serve as another health administration career path. Nursing home administrators oversee daily operations. They tend to the business aspects of the nursing home and to resident care. This involves coordinating the various teams that make a nursing home run, including the following:
- Caregiving staff: nurses, nursing assistants, paraprofessionals, therapists
- Support staff: activity directors, cooks, janitors, maintenance workers, groundskeepers
- Administrative staff: billing specialists, accounting professionals, staff managers
Nursing home administrators ensure a facility’s safety by developing and overseeing programs that comply with health care regulations. They also implement programs to evaluate and improve the facility’s various services, such as recreational activities, food service, and clinical care.
Additionally, nursing home administrators act as liaisons among residents, families, staff, and physicians.
Typical duties of nursing home administrators may include the following:
- Hiring caregiving, support, and administrative staff
- Preparing and managing budgets
- Negotiating contracts with consultants or other third-party vendors
- Overseeing safety and compliance training
- Setting fees and supervising billing
The BLS classifies nursing home administrators as medical health and services managers. They made a median annual salary of $104,280 in May 2020, according to BLS data.
Nursing Home Administrator Skills
To effectively run their facilities, nursing home administrators should cultivate skills such as the following:
- Interpersonal skills. Nursing home administrators must build productive relationships with staff to effectively manage and coordinate facility operations. They also need people skills to resolve any conflicts that may arise among staff or with residents and their families.
- Leadership skills. To implement programs that ensure quality services for residents and to organize staff, nursing home administrators must act decisively. They must inspire trust, motivate others, and communicate effectively.
Operations managers in health care help their organizations deliver quality health care services while also controlling costs. Their work involves overseeing a health facility’s staff, finances, resources, and procedures.
These health care administrators focus on how to improve the efficiency of operations. They may develop work programs that improve the performance of processes in their organizations. For example, they may devise methods for streamlining how claims are processed to reduce errors and eliminate unnecessary steps. They may also set up systems that simplify how inventory is tracked.
Operations managers tend to administrative tasks, such as keeping detailed inventories of office and medical supplies. They also handle scheduling, patient concerns, and questions from staff.
Operations managers have financial responsibilities, such as managing claims, reimbursements, and medical billing. They also handle revenue cycle management, a process that ensures health care facilities get paid for their services.
Typical duties of an operations manager include the following:
- Ordering medical and office supplies
- Setting departmental goals for improving patient satisfaction
- Monitoring employee compliance policies
- Recruiting and training staff
- Conducting financial and operational reviews and writing reports on the findings
Operations managers earn a median annual salary of about $65,000, according to PayScale data as of November 2021.
Operations Manager Skills
Successful operations managers in health care develop the following skills:
- Organization skills. To juggle their various responsibilities, such as monitoring policy compliance and inventories, developing procedures, and hiring employees, operations managers need to have excellent organizational skills. They also need to effectively prioritize tasks and manage their time.
- Problem-solving skills. Improving processes and systems requires operations managers to effectively identify problems, such as unnecessary redundancies in procedures, and then find solutions for them. This requires close observation and creative thinking.
Director of Managed Care
Directors of managed care oversee the activities of managed care departments. They also lead contract negotiations between facilities and health insurance companies. These contracts can affect key aspects of a health care organization, including the following:
- Clinical decision-making
- Practices and procedures
- Record keeping
Managed care contracts define who can provide medical services, as well as how and when they can provide them. Directors of managed care manage these contracts, as well as business contracts with other health facilities and health care systems. They keep accurate records of these various contracts and track their performance. Then they report their findings and recommendations to senior executives.
Directors of managed care also coordinate the work responsibilities of the clinical and administrative staff in their department.
Additional responsibilities of directors of managed care include the following:
- Assessing their facility’s performance
- Evaluating their facility’s finances
- Promoting their facility’s health services
- Implementing their facility’s policies and procedures
As of September 2021, directors of clinical care earned a median annual salary of about $120,200, according to PayScale.
Director of Managed Care Skills
Successful directors of managed care benefit from key skills such as the following:
- Negotiation skills. Contract negotiation is central to a director of managed care’s work. To reach favorable terms in their contracts, directors of managed care need to effectively persuade others. They also need to strategically compromise, demonstrate patience, and build rapport with potential partners.
- Communication skills. Directors of managed care coordinate programs across departments, make recommendations to senior executives about contracts, and interact with teams outside their organization during contract negotiations. This requires excellent written and oral communication skills.
Pharmaceutical Project Manager
Pharmaceutical project managers oversee product development from conception to completion. This involves delegating tasks, mapping production stages, and setting a target date for project completion. In the pharmaceutical industry, project managers typically work with development scientists and biochemical engineers to study the potential of recently developed medications.
Pharmaceutical project managers organize research chemists and technicians to test these pharmaceuticals with the aim of verifying the reliability of data that’s already been collected. Pharmaceutical project managers also organize clinical trials.
Once research testing and clinical trials have produced data, pharmaceutical project managers assemble teams to interpret the data. This step helps pharmaceutical companies determine the potential side effects of a drug.
Additionally, to bring a drug to market, pharmaceutical project managers collaborate with manufacturing and marketing teams.
Pharmaceutical project managers can expect to earn a median annual salary of around $94,400, according to PayScale data as of November 2021.
Pharmaceutical Project Manager Skills
Managing pharmaceutical projects successfully requires skills such as the following:
- Communication skills. Managing the various stages of a project requires regular communication between pharmaceutical project managers and their teams. Project managers need to carefully listen and give feedback to solve problems. They also need to clearly convey information regarding timelines, expectations, and progress.
- Leadership skills. Pharmaceutical project managers need to motivate their teams to advance projects and meet deadlines. They also need to recognize team members’ strengths and weaknesses and delegate assignments accordingly.
Building a Competitive Edge as a Leader in Health Administration
Aspiring leaders in health care administration can take strategic steps to build a competitive edge and land coveted positions in the field. Employers favor candidates who can demonstrate knowledge and competency in the key areas of health care management. They also seek individuals with advanced education and certifications that indicate a high level of expertise. Consider the following career-building strategies for health care administrators:
Keep Up with the Latest Trends in Health Care
Successful health care administrators keep up with the changing health care landscape. They learn about the newest health care policies and make sure they understand the latest reimbursement practices. They also know about the challenges facing health care management and current solutions for addressing them.
People who want to enter the field of health care administration can benefit by reading up on articles exploring health care issues in newspapers and magazines. They can also subscribe to trade publications, such as the Journal of Healthcare Management, Healthcare Executive, Frontiers of Health Services Management, and Modern Healthcare.
Professional publications offer insight into health care leadership styles. Readers can also discover trends in health care, such as weeding out institutional racism in health care organizations. Additionally, readers can learn about the challenges confronting health care leaders early in their careers.
Earn an Advanced Degree and Obtain Certifications
Though not all positions require an advanced degree, most employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree in health care administration or a related field, such as business administration. An MHA degree offers coursework that covers health care finance, organizational behavior, health care policy and law, or human resources.
Comprehensive knowledge of these topics gives health care administrators a real advantage in performing their work well and securing higher positions in the field.
In addition to earning an advanced degree, health care administrators should consider obtaining certifications in health care management. These certifications indicate both a commitment to one’s profession and a certain level of competency in health care administration.
Certification options include the following:
- Certified Medical Manager (Professional Association of Health Care Office Management)
- Registered Health Information Administrator (American Health Information Management Association)
Certifications in health care administration have different education and work experience requirements. However, they typically require candidates to pass an exam.
Cultivate Sought-After Skills
Technological innovations and data play an ever-growing role in health care. They factor into how health care organizations store and access EHRs, schedule appointments, and analyze patient information.
Health care administrators with skills in interpreting data and with knowledge of how the industry uses technological tools, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, stand to gain when seeking to expand their career options.
Intense competition between health care organizations means they need to not only deliver stellar health services but also expertly manage health care finance. For this reason, these organizations place a premium on job candidates with financial savvy and advanced accounting skills.
Additionally, communication and relationship-building skills are central to effective health management. Aspiring health administrators must therefore cultivate people skills and work on becoming experts at giving feedback, actively listening, and expressing ideas clearly.
Explore the Potential of a Master’s Degree in Health Administration
Health care administrators can make a meaningful impact on people’s health while pursuing fulfilling careers. The potential for a rewarding master’s degree in health administration salary along with significant growth in the field make careers in health care management worth considering.
Ohio University offers a comprehensive health care administration degree program that equips graduates with the skills they need to thrive in the industry. Courses cover relevant topics in health care, from strategic planning health to finance to leadership.
Explore how OHIO’s online MHA prepares health care administrators to lead successful organizations.