The Role of Health Administrators and How to Become One

The healthcare administration industry is growing at an explosive rate, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting “much faster than average” job growth of 32 percent for medical and health services managers from 2019 through 2029. However, considering that the “average” national growth rate is currently four percent, the phrase “much faster than average” may be a bit of an understatement. In fact, the BLS ranks healthcare administrators in eighth place among their “20 fastest growing occupations” for 2019 to 2029, placing them just between physical therapist assistants (with a 33 percent growth rate) and physician assistants (with a 31 percent growth rate). 

So exactly what function does this booming industry serve? As the BLS explains, the purpose of healthcare administration is to “plan, direct, and coordinate the business activities of healthcare providers,” such as hospitals, with the ultimate goal of enabling patients to receive better care.  

This article will explore that role in depth, examining critical topics like what healthcare administrators do, what types of skills or abilities are required, and what sort of healthcare administration degree requirements you’ll need to meet. If you’ve been wondering how to be a medical administrator, this short and simple guide will help point you in the right direction — and if you still have questions, our knowledgeable admissions counselors are always here to provide more information about our accredited programs.

What is Healthcare Administration?

Despite its immeasurable impact on our society — and its impressive job outlook — health administration remains a field that many people are unfamiliar with. Our admissions officers are frequently asked the question, “What does healthcare administration mean?” 

Healthcare administration is an exciting, dynamic field that merges elements from a broad range of professional disciplines, such as business development, risk management, accounting, human relations, regulatory compliance, and — of course — healthcare. The healthcare administration definition supplied by the American Public Health Association (APHA) is that this field “concentrates on the improvement of health service administration, including cost-benefit and operations research, program activities, finances, standards and monitoring the organization of health services.” Distinct from the practice of medicine or treatment of patients, health administration is a non-physician role that deals with the financial, employment-related, and organizational aspects of healthcare.  

All types of medical systems and providers are directly impacted by healthcare administration, creating a wide range of employment opportunities for students who are interested in following this type of career path. Depending on what type of setting you’re most passionate about working in, healthcare administration jobs can be found with hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, community clinics, dental offices, pharmacies, and — as you may be surprised to learn — even insurance providers. 

Unsurprisingly, healthcare administrators must tackle a wide range of responsibilities — and possess a broad range of skills — in order to effectively lead, direct, and oversee such complex systems. Let’s take a closer look at the tasks healthcare administrators perform, then review some of the educational qualifications that are needed to excel in this career. 

What Do You Do in Health Administration? 

Hopefully, we’ve helped to provide you with a clearer understanding of healthcare administration. But that leads to another question: what is a healthcare administrator? And what do health administrators do in terms of their roles, responsibilities, and duties? 

The answer depends on what sort of career you choose to pursue in this field, which ranges across a diverse variety of occupations. For instance, your job duties will differ depending on whether you become a hospital administrator, a compliance officer, or a patient registrar — which are only three among dozens of potential career paths. To see more examples of the careers you can enter with a graduate or undergraduate degree in health administration, skip ahead to the next section. Otherwise, let’s review some of the duties and responsibilities you might be expected to perform in various health administration roles. Depending on your specific job title, these duties may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Ensuring compliance with financial regulations
  • Implementing and improving strategies 
  • Managing staff members and resolving HR-related incidents
  • Marketing and developing a business 
  • Monitoring and analyzing quality indicators and outcomes 
  • Overseeing the daily operations of various departments 

Healthcare Administrator Education Requirements: What Sort of Degree Do I Need?

Like many fields, healthcare administration encompasses a broad range of professions and careers. Depending on what sort of occupation you want to pursue within this field, the corresponding degree requirements can also vary. 

While various entry level positions are open to applicants with a bachelor’s degree and minimal work experience, many employers and/or job positions require candidates to hold an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree or a doctoral degree, in addition to substantial experience in prior relevant roles. Examples of job titles you may qualify for with a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration include, but are not limited to: 

  • Administrative medical assistant
  • Clinic or practice administrative manager
  • Health information management abstractor
  • Intake coordinator 
  • Medical and health services manager
  • Medical records associate 
  • Patient registrar
  • Program reimbursement specialist 
  • Project coordinator 

As you gain more educational and work experience — including experience at residencies, fellowships, or supervised internships — you’ll become qualified for an even wider and more challenging range of professional roles. Here are just a few examples of the many careers you could potentially pursue with a master’s degree in healthcare administration:

  • Chief executive officer (CEO) 
  • Clinic manager
  • Clinical utilization manager 
  • Compliance officer 
  • Director of healthcare quality
  • Division or department director 
  • Facility manager 
  • Health services manager  
  • Healthcare consultant 
  • Hospital administrator 
  • Medical records manager 
  • Nursing director 
  • Operations manager

In addition to a broader range of employment opportunities, there’s also another reason you may wish to consider pursuing a master’s degree once you’ve completed your undergraduate studies: the difference in earning potential. According to the BLS, “The median annual wage for medical and health services managers was $104,280 in May 2020,” showing the potential for high earnings in this industry. However, as the BLS also noted, the range in earnings was significant. According to BLS data, “The lowest 10 percent earned less than $59,980” — a little over half of the median wage — while “the highest 10 percent earned more than $195,630,” or close to double the median wage. While an advanced degree does not necessarily guarantee higher earnings, there is ample data demonstrating a correlation. 

Whether you’re at the very beginning of your academic journey and are submitting college applications to undergraduate programs, or you’re an experienced professional who’s thinking about changing (or accelerating) your current career, NU offers an accredited program to match your professional goals. Through the Health Sciences department of our College of Law and Public Service, two dynamic programs are available for undergraduate and graduate students: the Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration (BSHA) and the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA). Both are designed to help you become a stronger, more competitive candidate for a wide variety of careers in healthcare administration, culminating with carefully selected internships or capstone projects that challenge you to synthesize all of the skills you’ve honed throughout the program.

Earn Your Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration from an Accredited Program at National University

By providing visionary leadership for healthcare facilities like hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and clinics, health  administrators play a profoundly impactful role — not only in the lives of individual patients or their families, but the entire communities that are served by healthcare systems. Make your mark on your community by providing exemplary leadership and building a culture of excellence at your facility or company. It starts with the skills and professional networks you cultivate here, at National University. 

Ready to find out whether our graduate or undergraduate health administration programs are a good fit for you, or a related program like a Master of Public Health (MPH)? Our enrollment counselors are standing by to provide you with all the information you need to make the right decision. Take the first step today by contacting our admissions office, or start your application using our secure portal. 

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