What Do Healthcare Administrators Do? 

Healthcare administration involves running the business of healthcare. The field encompasses all the nonclinical functions that must happen to keep practices running smoothly, patients’ data protected, and the facility’s lights on. 

Healthcare administrators, who are also called medical and health services managers or healthcare executives, typically focus on particular areas, such as informatics, executive leadership or insurance. Within these focus areas, they help the system run seamlessly and better serve patients, providers, and places of care. 

Healthcare administrators work in a variety of settings, including nursing and residential care facilities and private practices. They may also work in the government or outpatient care centers. 

So, what do healthcare administrators do? Consider a couple of examples in the hospital setting. A hospital CEO oversees the facility’s daily operations, helps determine its mission and vision and serves as a public-facing official for donors and community members. A clinical administrator, on the other hand, may be responsible for a particular department within the hospital, managing its staffing needs and ironing out inefficiencies. 

But there’s so much more to the job and the field. Learn more about earning an online Master of Health Administration (MHA), one route to pursuing this career, from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

Responsibilities and Role of a Healthcare Administrator

The role of a healthcare administrator varies depending on their specialty and work setting. Two administrators in different areas may keep very different schedules. For example, a hospital administrator may spend their time coordinating the many departments of the hospital, setting rates for health services, evaluating hospital employees, or developing programs for scientific research

Meanwhile, an administrator specializing in finance at an insurance company may devote their efforts to improving price transparency, finding ways to clarify who pays which bill and to improve accountability. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) What Do Medical and Health Services Managers Do page defines healthcare administrator duties as:

  • Communicating with and between medical staff members and executives.
  • Developing departmental goals and objectives.
  • Ensuring compliance with laws and regulations in their facilities.
  • Improving efficiency and quality in healthcare service delivery.
  • Keeping records of their facilities’ services (e.g., number of ventilators in use). 
  • Managing the budget and finances of their facilities.
  • Recruiting, training, supervising and scheduling staff.

Qualifications Required to Earn an MHA Degree

Earning a master’s in healthcare administration is one pathway to becoming a healthcare administrator. To be accepted into an MHA program, applicants generally must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. 

Depending on the particular master’s of healthcare administration program, there may be additional requirements, such as GRE test scores. Other evaluations may include the TOEFL for international applicants. Some schools may require relevant work experience or prerequisite coursework. 

Learn more about the typical requirements for earning an MHA degree below, and find out about applying to MHA@GW on the application requirements page.

Often RequiredRelated Information
Bachelor’s degreeIn addition to standout grades, the applicant can demonstrate excellence and a commitment to the field through personal projects, internship or work experience, volunteering and extracurricular involvement.
Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)Applicants can create a dynamic picture of their experience and utilize language that incorporates the program’s values.
Personal Statement or Statement of PurposeThe statement is typically a response to a specific question or set of questions that schools provide. Where appropriate, it can be helpful to include anecdotes that highlight why the applicant chose a particular program.
Letters of RecommendationSome schools expect recommendation writers to hold the advanced degree the applicant is seeking, or require letters from specific types of recommenders.

Applicants likely will also need to submit official transcripts to be considered. 

Required Skills for Healthcare Administrators

The BLS distills the qualities required of those in healthcare administration into several key areas. These skills can be gained through an MHA program or other relevant degree. They include: 

  • Analytical mindset: Administrators must be able to understand current laws and regulations and apply new ones to their work when relevant.
  • Communication: Health administrators should be able to educate health professionals on complying with relevant laws and manage conversations across multiple parties.
  • Attention to detail: Administrators may be handling data or financial numbers for their facilities and need strong organizational skills.
  • Interpersonal skills: Part of the role of a healthcare administrator may include managing personnel issues and sharing information with other professionals, so working well with others is critical. 
  • Agile leadership: Because they often are faced with complex issues, administrators need to be creative thinkers with the confidence to push for innovative solutions and the ability to motivate staff.
  • Technical know-how: Many administrators need to keep up with advances in healthcare technology, which will affect their facilities’ operations (e.g., electronic health records).

Where Can Healthcare Administrators Work?

Because health administrators fill a variety of roles in the health system, they may work in very different settings. According to the BLS and the Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals, workplaces for a health administrator may include:  

  • Academic medical centers.
  • Acute care medical centers.
  • Governmental organizations.
  • Insurance companies.
  • Managed care providers.
  • Multi-service health facilities (e.g. a local health department).
  • Nursing and residential care facilities.
  • Outpatient care centers.
  • Private practices.
  • State hospital associations. 

Top Industries for Healthcare Administrators

Professionals in healthcare administration work in several industries. According to the BLS findings on work settings for health administrators, hospitals employ the greatest percentage of these professionals – one-third of the total population. Physicians’ offices employ 12%, while nursing and residential care facilities employ about 10%. Government and outpatient care centers employ 8% and 7% of all working healthcare administrators, respectively. 

Career Growth and Outlook

The BLS predicts that employment of those in healthcare administration will grow 32% from 2019 to 2029. This growth rate is much faster than other kinds of management occupations, which are projected to grow only 3% in the next decade. 

This prediction is partly due to the growing elderly population, which will likely require more healthcare services; the more patients, the greater the need for professionals to organize their services and data.  

According to May 2020 BLS data on health administrators’ salaries, the median annual wage was $104,280. The top 10% of earners made more than $195,630, while the lowest 10% earned less than $59,980. Learn more about industry-specific salaries below:

Median annual wage of healthcare administrators, May 2020
Healthcare administrators in the government earned the highest median annual wage at $116,380, while those in nursing and residential care facilities earned the lowest at $89,880. Go to an accessible version of this table below.

Learn More About The George Washington University Online MHA Program

Healthcare Administrators’ Median Annual Wage By Industry, as of May 2020.

IndustryMedian Annual Wage
Government$116,380
Hospitals (state, local, and private)$112,870
Outpatient Care Centers$100,690
Physicians’ Offices$94,240
Nursing and Residential Care Facilities$89,880