When we think of hospitals, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the work of the physicians and nurses who work directly with patients suffering from injury or illness. Yet this is only half of the picture. We also need to consider the professionals who organize and lead the teams of caregivers that patients see. These professionals are the healthcare administrators who run the hospitals and enable caregivers to provide the treatments patients need.
Healthcare administration is a management profession, designed for those with a strong interest in workplace leadership, team organization, budget allocation and overall strategic planning. Administrators also serve as the faces of the organization, and may represent medical facilities in community outreach or business negotiations.
Healthcare facilities, particularly large hospitals, can be incredibly busy and diverse working environments, employing teams of specialists in often stressful conditions. Managing these specialists takes professional training and organizational expertise. The right decisions can directly impact patient recovery, while the wrong decisions can frustrate physicians and hinder treatment options.
Healthcare administrators can work in medical facilities of all sizes, ranging from large research hospitals to local clinics. While duties and responsibilities can vary depending on the size of the organization, positions can be seen as both exciting and rewarding for those with the right skill sets.
Education and Training Requirements
For those with an interest in working in healthcare administration, the entry-level requirement is a bachelor’s degree. While a college that offers a bachelor’s degree specifically in healthcare administration would be a natural choice, related business or management degrees can also meet the requirements. Coursework should focus on general management principles, leadership, finance, quantitative analysis and general background of the healthcare industry. Many hospitals also note strong interest in those with foreign language abilities, particularly Spanish, so coursework in this area could also be beneficial.
Higher-level positions generally favor candidates with master’s degrees in healthcare administration. Available concentrations and the choice of online education can vary from school to school, but all licensed master’s degree programs should be adequate for promotion to higher management.
If available as part of a degree program, students are encouraged to take advantage of internships in administration. While the nature of the internship can vary largely depending on whether it is geared more toward undergraduate or graduate students, both the training provided and the networks formed can prove invaluable for securing jobs in the field.
Relevant Certifications and Skills
Healthcare administrators generally do not require certifications beyond formal degrees. Even so, there are several optional certifications available through organizations like the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA) or the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM). Another useful organization to keep in mind is the Health Care Administrators Association (HCAA). HCAA is a professional networking organization that, through events and other informal gatherings, encourages strong business relationships and the exchange of ideas among those working in the field.
Because of the particularly large and diverse staff at hospitals, each member with specific technical requirements, healthcare administration tends to favor those who can adapt quickly to new challenges. Future leaders must bring both an interest in policy with a sensible knack for knowing how to put ideas in practice, all while enabling nurses and physicians to provide the best care possible. Strong communication ability and professionalism are also core traits for healthcare administrators.
Job Outlook and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted an expected growth rate of 23% for healthcare administrators from 2012 to 2022. This is a much higher rate of growth than the average across all other professions, reflecting the strong need for healthcare workers in the years to come due to an aging population and an increasing demand for medical services.
The BLS reported a median annual salary for healthcare administrators of $101,340 in May 2013. The lowest 10% of professionals in terms of wages reported earning less than $55,470, while the highest 10% reported earning more than $155,130.
Employment prospects and salary ranges typically vary based on an individual’s work history and educational qualifications.
Is a Career in Healthcare Administration Right for You?
If you have a strong interest for working in healthcare yet want to do so in a way that utilizes business and financial management skills, you may find healthcare administration to be a natural choice. For those with an interest in leadership, planning and decision-making that can truly affect the lives of those seeking care, healthcare administration can be a career like no other.