How to Become a Healthcare Administrator

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4 Steps to Becoming a Healthcare Administrator, Healthcare Executive, or Medical and Health Services Manager.

Step 1 Complete a bachelor’s degree program

A baccalaureate degree is the minimum educational obtainment for healthcare administrators. Curriculum varies by postsecondary institution. General education coursework includes study in composition, communications and math, while core coursework includes study in medical coding and terminology, anatomy and physiology, medical office management, health records management, healthcare marketing, finance and delivery systems, and human relations and resource management.

Step 2 Consider completing a master’s degree program

A primary reason why many organizations and care facilities prefer to hire candidates with master’s degrees is because graduate-level coursework is on an entirely different level than what administrators learn in their undergraduate studies. Coursework can include study in statistical reasoning in public health, microeconomics, budgeting and management, legal and ethical issues in healthcare management, and quantitative tools for healthcare managers. These courses dive deep, and graduates are typically better positioned for divisional or organizational executive leadership roles than administrators with lower educational obtainment.

Step 3 Earn key industry certifications

While certification for healthcare administrators is voluntary, earning certifications demonstrates a high degree of proficiency and aptitude in a given area, such as healthcare finance, access or informatics. There are many different professional organizations dedicated to healthcare administrators that offer industry certifications.

Step 4 Gain additional experience

In addition to logging hours working in administrative roles, healthcare administrators should consider joining industry organizations, attending key conferences and events, and completing continuing education courses to ensure they stay on top of industry trends. They also can gain insight into key issues by subscribing to medical and healthcare industry publications and journals. A combination of these factors adds additional layers of expertise upon the foundation learned in college and on the job.

FAQ on Earning Your Healthcare Administration Degree

  • Continuing education requirements vary by position. For roles that don’t require a clinical background, healthcare administrators typically don’t need to complete any continuing education coursework. However, administrators who earn specialty certifications in their field, such as Certified Revenue Cycle Specialist, Certified Healthcare Access Manager, or one of the many other industry certifications, are usually required to complete continuing education credits to earn recertification. Administrators who run care facilities or other clinical facilities may be required to earn state licensure and complete regular continuing education credits to maintain licensure.

  • Although many administrators do have years of experience working in care settings on a hospital floor, it’s not a requirement for a wide range of administrative positions. Healthcare administrators come from a many different careers, including working as administrative assistants, finance clerks, medical records supervisors and similar non-clinical jobs.

  • Although healthcare administrators with bachelor’s degrees meet the minimum educational obtainment for a wide range of jobs, those with master’s degrees face more favorable – and better paying – job prospects. Many senior-level positions in administration and management are only available to candidates who have completed graduate-level work. The level of educational obtainment administrators decide to obtain can dictate many of their career options.

  • Certification truly depends upon the type of setting in which administrators work. The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management offers two types of certification, while the American Health Information Management Association offers 10 different health information, coding and specialty certifications. The Professional Association of Health Care Office Management also offers two types of certification. Administrators interested in earning specialty certifications should look into relevant industry trade groups and organizations to determine which certifications carry the most weight for their particular job.

  • Many of the industry’s professional and trade organizations offer student scholarships, and colleges and universities offer scholarships as well. State and public colleges entice high-achieving students with strong GPAs to enroll at their campuses by offering scholarships as a means of competing with more prestigious private institutions. There also are many different national and regional scholarship opportunities available for students with strong academic and civic pedigree.

Healthcare Administrator Salary & Job Growth

The large number of aging Baby Boomers, coupled with advances in health information technologies, is expected to create strong demand for trained healthcare administrators. Learn more about salary expectations and job opportunities below.

Pay for healthcare administrators

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers and healthcare administrators earned median annual salaries of just over $98,000 in May of 2017. However, the top 10 percent of wage earners in the industry took home more than $176,000 annually. Pay was greater for healthcare administrators who worked in state, local and private hospitals ($107,230) and for government healthcare administrative employees ($106,230).

Payscale.com notes that salaries for healthcare administrators varies greatly by location and experience level. Duties also vary depending upon the facility in which administrators are employed. Late-career administrative professionals can earn as much as 46 percent more than entry-level candidates. Likewise, administrators with well-rounded skill sets, such as strategic planning, project and people management, and budget or operational management, also command higher wages.

The chart below shows state-by-state mean annual wages and employment data for healthcare administrators.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $103,660
Currently Employed: 2,810
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%
Alaska Mean wage annual: $122,760
Currently Employed: 930
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21%
Arizona Mean wage annual: $112,480
Currently Employed: 8,100
Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A
Arkansas Mean wage annual: $82,930
Currently Employed: 4,360
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 22%
California Mean wage annual: $34,140
Currently Employed: 122,500
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 25%
Colorado Mean wage annual: $116,570
Currently Employed: 4,990
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 30%
Connecticut Mean wage annual: $132,600
Currently Employed: 5,440
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%
Delaware Mean wage annual: $129,070
Currently Employed: 1,010
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%
Florida Mean wage annual: $113,810
Currently Employed: 14,440
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 26%
Georgia Mean wage annual: $108,410
Currently Employed: 8,140
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 25%
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Job Outlook for Healthcare Administrators

In 2016 there were 352,200 medical and health services managers employed in the U.S., and the field of healthcare administration is expected to see a 20 percent jump in employment through 2026, the BLS reports. That’s approximately 72,000 new jobs, with demand primarily stemming from the need for additional medical services by America’s rapidly aging population of Baby Boomers.

Hospitals will remain a primary place of employment for healthcare administrators. However, nursing care facilities and private physician practices are expected to need qualified administrators as well. Job prospects will be best for administrators who complete graduate-level work in healthcare administration, and for administrators with in-depth knowledge of health information technology and informatics systems, the BLS reports.

Finding a Healthcare Administration Program

Healthcare administrators come from many different backgrounds. While a bachelor’s degree is a common educational obtainment for entry into the field, many employers prefer candidates who have completed graduate-level study, the BLS reports.

Before enrolling in a healthcare administration program, students should carefully consider these three primary points:

  • Program length: Bachelor degree programs can be completed in four years, sooner for accelerated online degree programs. Master’s degrees typically add another two years of study time, and some programs include an additional year’s worth of supervised clinical experience. That’s a long time spent in college before crossing the finish line.
  • Cost: For the 2017-2018 academic year, average in-state undergraduate tuition at four-year state colleges was almost $10,000. For out-of-state students at state colleges, tuition was $25,620. Tuition at private universities was $34,740. Tuition for master’s students at public universities was $8,670, and it jumped to $30,000 at private institutions. Students should strive to ensure they can fund their entire academic journey prior to enrollment in a health administration program.
  • Delivery method: Many colleges offer health administration degrees that can be completed 100 percent online, or students can attend a nearby college campus that offers the degree path. Knowing what delivery method works best can ease the burden of studying and assimilating new material.

Students can use the search tool below to find colleges separated by state, program and type of degree offered

State
Degree Level
School Type
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Professional Healthcare Administration Associations & Groups

Healthcare administrators often perform a wide variety of duties. Joining one of the following organizations is an excellent way for healthcare administrative professionals to gain new skills, obtain key industry certifications that can help advance their careers, or network with like-minded professionals. Many of the groups mentioned below also have resources dedicated to helping students advance in the field of healthcare administration as well.

  • American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management

    A leading organization dedicated to healthcare administrative professionals. Founded in 1968, the AAHAM provides members with resources for education, publications, conferences, seminars, professional certifications and networking opportunities.

  • National Association of Healthcare Access Management

    Provides many different forms of education, certification and networking opportunities for healthcare administrators who deal with patient access functions, such as registration, admissions, scheduling or patient finance. Also provides a career center, annual conferences and subscription to the Access Management Journal.

  • American Health Management Association

    AHIMA was founded in 1928. It plays a leading role in advancing data analytics, informatics and information governance in the healthcare industry, as well as provides a robust certification program for healthcare administration professionals. Student members can access AHIMA’s student volunteer program, as well as its mentor-match program.

  • American College of Healthcare Executives

    This international professional organization is made up of more than 40,000 healthcare administrators and executives. Offers the board certified in healthcare management fellow (FACHE) credential, as well as provides members with many different forms of career and educational resources. ACHE supports students with internships, fellowships, scholarships, and relevant industry news.

  • Health Care Administrators Association

    Formed in 1980, this non-profit organization supports health care administrators and related occupations through education, networking, annual conferences, job postings and other resources.

10 Resources for Healthcare Administrators

While the organizations above provide a wealth of professional and personal resources for healthcare administrators, there are many other forms of career development and support available as well. From online sites to noted healthcare industry publications, these resources can help healthcare administrators excel and gain additional knowledge in their field.

  • American Hospital Association

    Founded in 1898, this national organization of more than 5,000 hospitals, healthcare systems and healthcare providers has more than 43,000 members.

  • American Management Association

    While not specific to healthcare administration, the AMA provides valuable resources to help individuals and organizations optimize management practices through educational materials, podcasts, webinars and many other forms of professional development.

  • Harvard Business Review

    Founded in 1994, HBR strives to help executives and others improve management practices through print and digital media.

  • Healthcare Leadership Alliance

    This consortium of healthcare administrative associations represents more than 140,000 healthcare management professionals.

  • Healthcare Leadership Council

    This coalition of healthcare executives strives to develop plans, policies and programs that ensure high-quality healthcare for all Americans.

  • Health Resources & Services Administration

    Health care administrators can stay abreast of legal and legislative updates, healthcare law, data and statistics through this U.S. government site.

  • Medline Plus

    An official site of the U.S. government that provides many different healthcare and information resources that administrators may find useful.

  • National Center for Healthcare Leadership

    The mission of this non-profit is to optimize healthcare delivery and public health through organizational excellence and administrative leadership.

  • New England Journal of Medicine

    The premier medical journal and web site offers peer-reviewed research and clinical content for healthcare professionals and administrators. Also available for mobile devices.

  • U.S. Cooperative for International Patient Programs

    This network of U.S.-based health systems and academic centers strives to advance global access to America’s expertise in healthcare delivery.