Health administration or healthcare administration is the field relating to leadership, management, and administration of hospitals, hospital networks, health care systems, and public health systems. Health care administrators are considered health care professionals.
The discipline is known by many names, including health management, healthcare management, health systems management, health care systems management, and medical and health services management. There are two types of administrators, generalists and specialists. Generalists are individuals who are responsible for managing or helping to manage an entire facility. Specialists are individuals who are responsible for the efficient operations of a specific department such as policy analysis, finance, accounting, budgeting, human resources, or marketing. (Source: http://www.mshealthcareers.com)
Reasons to Pursue a Career in Healthcare Management/Administration
Making a Difference/Social Mission — Decisions made by healthcare executives can help improve life for hundreds, even thousands of people every day. Healthcare executives have a sense of social mission—they deeply care about the people they work with and serve. Further, our hospitals and healthcare organizations provide opportunities for those who want to “do well by doing good.”
Career Opportunities — Healthcare is the largest industry in the U.S., and the second largest employer, with more than 11 million jobs. Virtually all new private sector jobs over the past 5 years came from healthcare; and the sector continues to grow faster than most other segments Furthermore, unlike many traditional management programs, graduates of healthcare management programs can find significant opportunities in areas ranging from small rural communities to large metropolitan areas and throughout the world.
Excellent Earning Potential — Students pursuing healthcare management careers have excellent earning potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers earned an average annual salary of $81,160 in 2006. Senior healthcare executives with more experience and achievements can earn $200,000 or significantly more.
Career Flexibility — An education in healthcare management can take you in many different and exciting directions. In addition to more traditional careers in healthcare management, graduates work in many other areas including: pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, management consulting, banks and other financial institutions, long-term care facilities, professional societies and state and Federal agencies.
The core skill set you develop in a healthcare management program provides a competitive advantage within the healthcare sector. In addition, these skills transfer readily across a variety of industries, providing flexibility for non-health sector positions as well.
Management and Advancement Potential — There is an excellent career ladder—and many people also take on roles in different sectors of the field over the course of their careers.
Visible and Valued Role in the Community — Healthcare executives typically are highly respected members of their communities. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations are among the largest employers in many communities and their organizations positively impact the health of the populations they serve and the well-being of their community.
Continual Self Improvement — Healthcare management is a career that values continual self improvement and education, and most employers encourage continued professional development. Many organizations often support tuition remission or in-service training for new skills. Innovation and continuous learning will be a part of the job from the day you start.
 “What’s really propping up the economy” BusinessWeek, September 25, 2006
What Kinds of Careers are Available in Healthcare Management/Administration?
Getting an education in healthcare management prepares you to enter the challenging healthcare industry. Healthcare executives have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to improving the health of the citizens in the communities they serve, and the opportunity to work in literally tens of thousands of health services organizations of increasing variety throughout the U.S. and the world. Career options for healthcare professionals have never been more diverse – or more exciting. For example, in the provider segment, healthcare managers are in leadership roles in hospitals, physician group practices, nursing homes, and home health agencies. In the insurance segment, insurance companies and HMOs are experiencing tremendous growth.
Graduates are also offered positions in the supplier segment for companies that make disposable supplies and equipment, pharmaceutical companies, and consulting firms. Finally, the increasing role of government in healthcare translates into more significant and more plentiful policy positions. Many graduates accept positions working for local, state or federal agencies or associations shaping healthcare policy. They may work for state health departments, private foundations, federal programs, or national associations, such as the Red Cross or the American Hospital Association.
The kind of entry-level jobs graduates are offered varies in terms of the graduate’s interest, skills and experience. Upon graduation, many graduates select either line management positions with staff supervision responsibilities - such as the Director of Admitting in a hospital - or staff positions - such as a Managed Care Analyst, Consultant, or Sales.
Today, an estimated 100,000 people serve in healthcare management positions, from middle management to CEO positions across organizations ranging from 1-2 people to major international companies employing hundreds of thousands. After requisite experience, healthcare management graduates assume leadership positions as hospital or association CEOs, managed care executives, partners in consulting firms, and officers in major healthcare companies.
*Median annual earnings of health services managers were $61,370 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $47,910 and $80,150. The lowest 10 percent earned less that $37,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more that $109,080. *Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What Education is Required?
Degrees in healthcare management/administration are available at baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral level. Most baccalaureate programs offer students three options: 1) general management; 2) specialist training in a specific discipline such as financial management or 3) focus on a specific segment of the industry such as ambulatory care or long-term care. AUPHA sponsors a certification process for undergraduate programs in healthcare management.
An undergraduate degree in healthcare management can serve students in a variety of ways. For the student confident in wanting an administrative career in a sector of the healthcare industry, the undergraduate program can provide the basic knowledge, skills and applied studies needed for certain entry-level positions. It can also be the springboard to a graduate program for those seeking higher-level positions in healthcare management. For the clinician, the undergraduate program can provide a course of study in healthcare management and prepare them for leadership positions within their clinical specialty. For the student who wants to be a clinician, the undergraduate program could provide the foundation in learning they need to go on to their chosen area. Lastly, the undergraduate degree could also serve as a general management program which can be applied to other service industries.
A B.S. or B.A. degree - in any field of study - is the primary prerequisite for admission to a graduate program. In the past most students chose the traditional route of a master’s degree in health administration or public health. Today, however, students are investigating other options, including degrees in business with course concentration in health services management. Some schools offer a joint degree--a master’s degree in both business administration and public health, or in both healthcare management and law, for example. Graduate programs generally last two years and lead to a master’s degree. They include coursework in healthcare policy and law, marketing, organizational behavior, healthcare financing, human resources, and other healthcare management topics. This program may also include a supervised internship, residency, or fellowship.
The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) accredits master’s level programs that prepare administrators for healthcare organizations according to established criteria. Only CAHME-accredited graduate programs may become full graduate members of AUPHA.
Executive education and continuing education programs in healthcare management are available for those currently employed in the field who want to broaden their knowledge and improve their skill base.
A doctoral degree in healthcare management, administration, research and policy, which is offered by many AUPHA member universities, or a doctoral degree in a related discipline - economics, political science, accounting, etc. - is required to teach at the college level.
What is the Typical Program of Study?
The basic curriculum in the programs covers three principal areas. The first is the study of management theory, concepts, and skills. Broadly defined, all programs are expected to teach students leadership, financial management, economics, law, organizational behavior, quantitative methods, and planning. The second area is the study of the healthcare industry including epidemiology, health and human behavior, and medical care organization. Finally, students demonstrate they have integrated the course material by applying management concepts to the healthcare industry in a major project, paper, or exam.
What Do Employers Look For?
Employers look for the following when evaluating candidates for entry-level management positions: appropriate education, healthcare work experience, communication skills, general management skills, leadership skills, business planning skills, quantitative skills, fit with organizational objectives and mission and finally, character.