How to Become a Healthcare Administrator ￼
Professionals who understand the regulatory framework and complexities involved with patient care are tasked with managing administrative tasks in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Known as healthcare administrators, these individuals are often executive-level candidates with advanced degrees and expertise in healthcare administration.
While this role goes by several other job titles such as healthcare manager, health services manager and healthcare executive, one thing remains the same: healthcare administrators utilize analytical and organizational skills when diving into the details of a facility’s operations.
Here, we’ll discuss how to become a healthcare administrator, break down the steps to become a healthcare administrator and share the common duties and average salaries associated with the role.
What Is a Healthcare Administrator?
So, what is a healthcare administrator exactly? Healthcare administrators work behind the scenes to direct the operation of healthcare organizations, regularly interacting with doctors, nurses, surgeons and technicians in the healthcare facility. It’s their job to make large-scale decisions for the healthcare facility or organization they work for and deal directly with policy and budgets to create better patient experiences while ensuring the safety of all patients and staff.
Despite their in-depth knowledge of the regulatory framework in patient care, healthcare administrators rarely meet directly with patients since their responsibilities are entirely different from those of a doctor or physician. While doctors routinely interact with their patients, healthcare administrators oversee the facility itself and usually have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in healthcare administration.
Steps to Become a Healthcare Administrator
A career in healthcare administration may be a natural fit for leaders and organizers who enjoy overseeing complex systems. Healthcare administrators hone their leadership skills, technological proficiency and business expertise through postsecondary education and experience. There are a variety of pathways to this career. If you’re wondering how to become a healthcare administrator, the process outlined below explores some common steps to become a healthcare administrator.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Many professionals begin their journey earning a bachelor’s degree. Common majors include healthcare, nursing, management, public policy and more. Undergraduate coursework may include a mix of healthcare and business courses to prepare you for the various job responsibilities that come with being a healthcare administrator.
Healthcare management degrees combine business and healthcare fundamentals that will help you understand daily operations, budgets, strategies and communication for healthcare professionals within medical facilities. You may also complete coursework in accounting, finance and economics to prepare you for budget planning and management — which are central responsibilities of healthcare administrators.
Gain Experience in the Healthcare Administration Field
Not all master’s programs require work experience, but having some may help you stand out during the application process. In addition, many employers may prefer candidates to have experience working in a healthcare setting, as this may indicate that you’re qualified to take on more leadership responsibilities in an organization. You can complete an internship in the healthcare administration field, apply for an entry-level position or work part time while completing your bachelor’s (or master’s) degree program. Applicable experience in a different but related field could also be valuable — for instance, working for a hospital’s human resources department or coordinating billing at a doctor or physician’s office.
Complete Your Master’s in Healthcare Administration (MHA)
For many students, the next step toward a career as a healthcare administrator may include earning their master’s in healthcare administration (MHA). Many senior-level positions require a graduate degree, so earning an MHA may help with career advancement. When selecting a program, accreditation is an important factor to consider. This ensures the program will adequately prepare you for a future career in the healthcare management industry and that the program meets rigorous academic standards and provides its students with up-to-date information. The online Master of Health Administration (MHA) from the George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME), which is the only accrediting organization in the healthcare management industry recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
While all programs are different, typical MHA programs include courses in community health, healthcare management and strategy, medical informatics, organizational research, healthcare law and policy, health economics, healthcare financing, human resources and more. Internships, fellowships or immersion experiences may also be required as part of the curriculum. This is a great way to gain relevant work experience while in school and may be particularly useful for students who aren’t currently employed in the healthcare administration field.
Consider Earning Additional Certifications
While not required to work in the field, earning industry-recognized certifications may help you improve your job prospects and advance your career in healthcare management. They are a viable way to demonstrate your expertise in the field and help you stand out during the hiring process. Additionally, getting certified might increase your earning potential and allow you to expand your skill set through continuing education. There are many healthcare administration certifications available, such as:
- Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional (cHAP): This is best suited for administrative professionals who work within healthcare organizations and wish to demonstrate their healthcare administrative skills, knowledge and experience.
- Certified Healthcare Access Manager (CHAM): Designed with frontline staff and managers in mind, this certification places an emphasis on patient access services.
- Certified Revenue Cycle Executive (CRCE) and Certified Revenue Cycle Professional (CRCP): Offered by the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management, these certifications may be a good fit for senior and executive leaders in revenue cycle management and require candidates to have comprehensive working knowledge of patient account management, financial operations and information systems.
- Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP): This certification is geared toward industry professionals who understand the complex financial procedures of healthcare. It is best suited for financial, clinical and nonclinical leaders and payers.
- Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ): Professionals with this certification have a deep knowledge of healthcare quality practices and related competencies.
- Certified Medical Manager (CMM): Individuals with this credential have developed the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to manage today’s ever-changing medical practices, signaling to the public, physicians, medical boards and other healthcare stakeholders their competence and commitment to the field.
Healthcare Administrator Duties
Whether they work in nursing homes, private medical facilities or state-run emergency centers, healthcare administrators, also called medical and health services managers, keep medical facilities running smoothly by managing the day-to-day operations and planning of future improvements.
Healthcare administrator duties vary depending on the role and organization, but typically include:
- Planning operations management strategically within the facility responsible for healthcare services.
- Performing clerical duties, including coordinating staff schedules, overseeing hiring and salaries and maintaining health records.
- Addressing the needs of doctors, nurses and other staff members.
- Formulating master budgets and allocations.
- Improving efficiency and productivity measures in the workplace.
- Introducing and managing technological updates, like the use of new software for record management.
- Designing and maintaining a compliance program to ensure that facilities maintain proper accreditation.
- Creating an emergency plan to be used in the case of adverse events and unforeseen circumstances.
- Informing healthcare providers and caregivers about new regulations and providing training, if necessary.
- Communicating effectively about new policies and procedures to staff, caregivers and providers.
Not all of these duties will apply to all healthcare administrators. Those working within the government may focus on health policy more so than administrative duties. You may also move into a higher position at a facility and take on greater responsibilities, like shaping programming for the entire organization. Through coursework, internships, full-time work and certifications, you can choose to focus on a particular area within healthcare administration.
Healthcare Administrator Salary and Job Outlook
Healthcare administration is a rapidly growing field with room for career advancement, above-average earning potential and degree programs that can be completed online. It’s one of the high-paying careers available to those who want to get into the healthcare field without becoming a nurse or physician. Healthcare administrator salary varies from role to role and by level of experience, but the median annual salary for medical and health services managers in 2021 was $101,340, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Notably, the highest 10 percent of these professionals earned more than $205,620, and those in government earned $117,000. In contrast, administrative services and facilities managers earned a median annual salary of $99,290.
As you gain experience and stay up to date with trends in healthcare management, patient care and healthcare as a whole, you can apply for competitive roles in the field. Employment of medical and health services managers is projected to grow 32 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.
Citation for this content: MHA@GW, the George Washington University online Master of Health Administration program