What is Healthcare Administration?

Healthcare Administration

The healthcare industry offers a wealth of positions and roles for healthcare managers and administrators. Healthcare managers play a critical role at all career levels. They may serve in high-profile roles like CEO of a major hospital or work behind the scenes in risk management or quality improvement. Some healthcare managers might choose to work more directly with the public in positions like public health or health education. Healthcare managers can be found working in hospitals, physician offices, outpatient care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, government agencies, research laboratories, colleges, and many additional places of employment. While each of these roles involves a different set of duties and tasks, the primary function of a healthcare administrator is to improve and increase the efficiency of healthcare organizations and the insurance providers they work with.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the healthcare administration and management field to grow by 7% through 2031, putting healthcare administration skills in high demand. Meanwhile, healthcare occupations are expected to grow at an even faster rate of 13%, leading to the creation of “about 2 million new jobs over the decade.”

Would a healthcare administration career be right for you? Read on to learn more about this exciting and rapidly growing field, including job duties, salary information, education requirements, and more.

History and Evolution of the Healthcare Administration Field

Over the years, the healthcare administration sector has experienced considerable growth and transformation, adapting to the dynamic requirements of both patients and healthcare practitioners. Healthcare administration as a specialized discipline can be traced back to the early 20th century, in response to the need for well-structured and efficient healthcare systems.

A pivotal milestone in the field was the founding of the American College of Hospital Administrators (now known as the American College of Healthcare Executives) in 1933, which promoted professional growth and solidified healthcare administration as a unique profession. As the years progressed, technological innovations, demographic changes, and the increasing intricacy of healthcare regulations have compelled the healthcare administration sector to continually adapt and refine its approach.

Presently, healthcare administrators play an essential role in overseeing healthcare facilities, optimizing operations, and guaranteeing top-notch patient care while constantly seeking methods to enhance healthcare system efficiency and effectiveness. With the ongoing progression in digital health and data-driven decision-making, the healthcare administration sector is set for further development in the upcoming years.

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Healthcare Administration Roles and Responsibilities

What is the role of a healthcare administrator, and what are some of their typical tasks or duties?

While doctors, surgeons, and nurses examine and treat patients, healthcare administrators handle the “behind-the-scenes” tasks and decisions that enable hospitals, clinics, and similar organizations to operate successfully — for example, setting hospital policies and making budgetary decisions.

As we’ll see later in this article, numerous careers fall within the scope of health administration, meaning that specific tasks and duties can vary significantly. With that in mind, here are a few examples of the types of responsibilities that health administration professionals may be expected to handle:

  • Coordinate with departments like HR and accounting to optimize efficiency
  • Create employee schedules and handle other staffing-related issues
  • Lead and oversee departments and staff members
  • Manage medical facilities (or specific departments within larger organizations)
  • Monitor and replenish inventory, such as ordering more medical equipment before stocks run out or become too low
  • Taking steps to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)

Want to take a deeper dive into this topic? Learn more about the role of healthcare administrators and how to become one, or explore some essential hard and soft skills for a successful career in health administration.

Where Do Healthcare Administrators Work?

Now that we’ve answered what a healthcare administrator is, where do healthcare administrators work?

Healthcare administrators can be found in a surprisingly varied set of work environments, from hospitals and nursing homes to insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Here are just a few examples of the types of employers and workplace settings where a healthcare administrator might work:

  • Community health centers
  • Healthcare organizations
  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Insurance agencies
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Private medical offices and practices
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Career Paths for a Degree in Healthcare Administration

You might think a Healthcare Administration degree is only for students wanting to become healthcare administrators. However, a healthcare administration degree is more versatile than many people realize. It’s possible to enter numerous career fields with a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in healthcare administration, including but not limited to:

  • Database administrator
  • Emergency preparedness administrator
  • Medical coder and billing
  • Case management
  • Hospital manager or administrator
  • Medical staff director
  • Quality assurance manager
  • Telehealth program manager
  • Human resources manager
  • Economics manager
  • Finance manager
  • Global Health
  • Healthcare Policy and Politics

Read on to learn more about these and other career paths, including job duties and salary information, and discover where you can take your Healthcare Administration degree.

Hospital Administration and Management

A hospital manager is responsible for developing, overseeing, and optimizing all aspects of a hospital’s operations and strategies, from medical research and staff performance to patient records and budgeting issues. Hospital administrators provide additional support and oversight, such as setting operational goals and training staff members.

According to the BLS, medical and health services managers (such as hospital managers) earn median salaries above $101,300, with the top 10% earning more than $205,000. The BLS does not supply data for hospital administrators, but the average salary for this position is approximately $90,460, according to PayScale. Moreover, the BLS anticipates 28% growth in the field of medical management, which is significantly faster than the average growth rate of 5%.

Medical Staff Director

Medical staff directors are responsible for coordinating and overseeing staff members’ activities, which includes ensuring that all team members are adequately credentialed and qualified. The BLS does not explicitly report on medical staff directors, though as noted above, medical managers are reported to earn more than $101,300 as of 2021. Based on reports submitted to ZipRecruiter, the salary for this position ranges anywhere from $76,500 at the low end to more than $131,000 at the upper end.

Database Administrator

Database administrators design systems that are used to keep data organized and secure, in addition to performing tasks like database maintenance and data restoration. The BLS reports that database administrators earn median salaries of $101,000 per year, with the top 10% earning above $151,000.

This field is expected to grow rapidly in the coming decade, expanding by 9% compared to the national average of 5%. Between above-average pay and faster-than-average job growth, database administration is a promising career path to explore with your degree in healthcare administration.

Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors develop, lead, and execute plans for responding to emergencies like natural or man-made disasters. BLS data indicates that emergency management directors earn median salaries of over $76,700, with the top 10% earning above $133,500. The top-paying employers or industries within this field include scientific services, hospitals, and colleges.

Quality Assurance Manager

The BLS does not supply data for quality assurance managers but reports that quality control inspectors earn median salaries of approximately $38,600 annually. The top 10% earned salaries above $62,000, with the highest-paying employers found within industries like manufacturing, wholesale trade, and scientific or technical services. According to Salary.com, “The base salary for [a] quality assurance manager ranges from $108,704 to $136,712 with [an] average base salary of $121,729.”

Telehealth Program Manager

The rise of telemedicine has created numerous job openings and career opportunities since 2020. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a rise in demand for telehealth program managers. While the BLS does not currently provide salary information about this position, data is available from sources like ZipRecruiter and Glassdoor, which respectively report that telehealth program managers earn average salaries of about $88,700 and $70,600.

Clinical Manager

While the BLS does not supply data specific to clinical managers, it does report more broadly on medical and health services managers, who earn median salaries exceeding $101,000. In addition to offering above-average pay, job growth in this field is exceptionally robust, growing at a “much faster than average” rate of 28% compared to the national average of 5%.

Ambulatory Care

Ambulatory care refers to healthcare services that are provided in an outpatient setting, including clinics, dialysis centers, and “on-the-go” or mobile services. According to BLS data, ambulatory care service providers earn more than $37 per hour on average, which equates to an annual salary of about $76,960.

Pharmaceutical Project Manager

BLS data shows that project managers, or project management specialists, earn median salaries of $94,500 as of 2021. However, the top 10% earn above $159,000. Pharmaceutical project managers are responsible for monitoring and overseeing all stages of the drug development process.

Human Resources Manager

A Human Resources (HR) Manager oversees an organization’s human resources department, manages employee relations and ensures a company’s workforce operates effectively and efficiently. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data as of September 2021, the median annual wage for Human Resources Managers was $121,220. The BLS projected a 7% growth in employment for Human Resources Managers from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations.

Economics manager

An Economics Manager analyzes economic data, trends, and policies to provide valuable insights and recommendations for an organization’s decision-making processes. Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data as of September 2021, the median annual wage for economists, which would include Economics Managers, was $105,630. This field is projected to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Finance manager

A Finance Manager oversees an organization’s financial activities, ensures financial stability, and facilitates strategic financial planning. Their responsibilities would include budgeting, financial analysis, risk management, and reporting. According to the (BLS) data as of September 2021, the median annual wage for financial managers, including Finance Managers, was $131,710, and a projected 17% growth in employment from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

Education Requirements for a Healthcare Administrator

The education requirements that will impact your job search will depend on the type of healthcare administration career you intend to pursue and the employer’s hiring preferences. For example, an employer might specify that bachelor’s degrees are acceptable, but that master’s or even doctoral degrees are preferred.

However, the minimum education required in this field is typically a bachelor’s degree. Most bachelor’s degree programs require four years to complete, or the equivalent to 180 quarter units. Therefore, completing online coursework can be a highly effective strategy for students looking to accelerate their learning and graduate sooner.

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Earn Your Healthcare Administration Degree at National University

Explore a new career, accelerate your professional development, and make a positive difference in public health outcomes in your community. Pursue your degree in healthcare administration at National University, which offers online and on-campus programs for graduates, undergraduates, and transfer students.

Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration

As discussed throughout this article, most employers require a bachelor’s degree — at a minimum — for applicants of healthcare-related positions. Earning a bachelor’s degree also increases earning potential while providing a robust foundation for students who plan to pursue an advanced degree.

The Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration at National University is designed to prepare students for leadership and administrative roles within the healthcare industry. Students who enroll in our undergraduate healthcare administration program complete industry-current coursework in topics like healthcare marketing, healthcare economics, issues and trends in healthcare, and health informatics

Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration (MHA)

Earning a master’s degree has numerous benefits, like increasing your earning potential, creating professional networking opportunities, providing opportunities to sharpen your skills and advance your learning, and empowering you to advance in your career. The Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration (MHA) at NU prepares graduates with the conceptual and analytical skills necessary to overcome the greatest management challenges confronting healthcare systems today.

The MHA is built around a rigorous, career-focused curriculum that covers the most pressing topics facing today’s healthcare industry. Coursework includes biostatistics, epidemiology, healthcare law, and public health research methods, culminating in an internship and capstone project.

Offered in partnership with the San Diego Organization of Healthcare Leaders (SOHL), the MHA has received candidacy status from the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

Learn More

Learn more about healthcare programs at National University, or talk to an admissions counselor about how you can apply today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Most healthcare administration jobs require a bachelor’s degree, and many prefer a master’s degree. It generally takes four years to complete an undergraduate degree, with an additional two to four years required for most master’s degree programs. This means it typically takes anywhere from four to eight years to obtain the necessary education.

No. Nurses receive clinical training to provide hands-on patient care and treatment, which is not part of a healthcare administrator’s role. For a comprehensive overview of nursing careers, browse our guide to 39 types of nurses or explore our accredited nursing programs.

The BLS does not provide this information. However, according to ZipRecruiter, healthcare administrators earn an average salary of approximately $68,300.

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