Healthcare managers plan, coordinate and supervise medical services in hospitals, clinics, public health departments, nursing homes or physicians’ practices. Often they work for public or nonprofit organizations, but may be employed by for-profit companies as well. Healthcare management is an expanding career field and an excellent reason to earn a Master of Public Administration degree.
The country as a whole is working to improve health care outcomes while decreasing costs by gradually shifting away from a pay-for-procedure model to pay-for-performance. This new paradigm values healthy outcomes over the number of tests, surgeries and other interventions performed. This shift, along with the demographics of aging baby boomers requiring more medical care in their later years, is causing an increased demand for healthcare managers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 17% increase in employment of medical and health service managers from 2014 to 2024. This is a faster growth rate than the predicted for the average of all occupations over the same decade. Healthcare is truly a rapidly growing field with a number of job opportunities.
Also referred to as healthcare administrators, healthcare managers are responsible for ensuring that the day-to-day operations of their healthcare facilities run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. This includes ongoing, daily communication with healthcare providers and department heads, as well as regular reporting to investors and boards of directors. Some of the more routine aspects of this position include configuring staff work schedules and supervising assistant managers.
Depending on the size of the healthcare facility, a manager may have budgeting responsibilities. However, even if these responsibilities fall to C-level staff, healthcare managers typically manage or at least track the facility’s finances, process purchase orders, pay invoices and help to bill patients/insurers. For planning and reporting purposes, healthcare managers are often tasked with keeping records like the number of patients seen per year, number of inpatient and outpatient procedures, transfers, and other statistical data.
Healthcare managers must also stay up-to-date on the latest healthcare policies and regulations to ensure their facilities are compliant with all state and federal laws. This is a time of great change for the healthcare industry, and successful managers make a point to keep tabs on changes coming down the pipeline, both regulations and technological advancements.
According to the BLS, the median annual wage for medical and health service managers was $94,500 in May 2015. The actual range of salaries for this field is relatively large. The lowest 10% of earners made less than $56,230, and the top 10% brought in over $165,380. This span is attributable to the great variety of healthcare facilities, type and size, that healthcare managers can oversee. Additionally, level of responsibility, education and professional experience will have a significant impact on salary as well.
At the very least, a healthcare administrator must have a bachelor’s degree, and if it is the employee’s sole degree, it must be a Bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration. In order to remain competitive in this industry, job candidates would be better served by earning an MPA, a master’s in public health or healthcare administration, or another advanced degree specific to the type of facility they intend to serve (e.g. a master’s in long-term care administration for employment in nursing homes or assisted living facilities).
Graduates should be able to demonstrate interpersonal skills, as well as analytical and technical skills. Healthcare managers are, first and foremost, leaders who must be able to motivate and inspire loyalty in their staffs. But the ability to think critically and problem solve are also crucial. Familiarity and experience with a variety of EHR platforms and practice management software can also contribute tremendously to a candidate’s marketability. Previous professional experience may not be necessary for entry-level assistant manager positions, and a path for advancement can usually be made clear at that point.
If you are a “people person” who enjoys advocating for others, a career in healthcare management may be a good decision. Be sure to do your research and think carefully about the type of healthcare facility that is right for you, as that decision could help determine what degree program is best for you. For example, nursing home administrators must be state licensed, but this is not a requirement to manage other types of facilities. There is a great deal of variety in the field, but at its core, it is a job that puts people first.