Like any business, healthcare requires strong management to keep things running smoothly. Medical and health services managers, also known as healthcare executives or administrators, plan healthcare delivery to patients, and direct and coordinate healthcare services. While specialists may oversee a department, generalists often manage an entire system or facility.
Management challenges increase with healthcare innovations, changes in the financial structure of care, and technology improvements. New medical and health services managers will face an increasingly complex regulatory environment, restructuring of service delivery, and an increased focus on preventative care.
Medical and health services managers can specialize in a single area, filling such roles as physical therapy directors, health information managers, and medical record administrators.
In group medical practices, managers work closely with physicians, formulating business strategies and coordinating activities. In managed care settings, medical and health services managers perform the same duties, and often manage assistant administrators as well.
Health Services Manager Job Summary
- Favorable job growth is expected in the medical and health services management field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
- Job opportunities will favor applicants with work experience in healthcare and strong management and business skills
- Typically, a master’s degree is the standard, although a bachelor’s degree may be adequate for certain positions.
- Long work days are common, and medical and health services managers may need to deal with problems at any hour.
Work Environment for Medical and Health Services Managers
Medical and health services managers work in all types of healthcare settings, such as private physicians’ offices, nursing care facilities, hospitals, and healthcare facilities. Some have private offices, while others may share space with colleagues.
Because healthcare is an around-the-clock operation, medical and health services managers may be called at any time to deal with issues. Employers may require long work hours and travel.
Education, Training, and Licensing
For entry-level medical and health services manager jobs in smaller facilities, a bachelor’s degree is sometimes adequate; in certain healthcare facilities, work experience may substitute for formal education. However, the standard for most management positions is a master’s degree in health services administration, long-term care administration, health sciences, public health, public administration, or business administration. This level of education will provide the management knowledge needed to succeed as a medical or health services manager.
Colleges, universities, and schools of public health, medicine, allied health, public administration, and business administration offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs in health administration. The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) had accredited the master’s degree programs of 72 schools as of 2008.
Becoming the head of a clinical department may require only a degree in the appropriate field and work experience. But a master’s degree in health services administration or a related field could be required to advance. As an example, nursing service administrators are usually registered nurses with administrative abilities and graduate degrees in nursing or health services administration.
Those seeking health information manager positions typically need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program. In 2008, the CAHME had accredited 48 bachelor’s degree programs and five master’s degree programs in health information management.
Graduate program admission is competitive, and applicants must have higher-than-average grades to qualify. While some graduate programs prefer students with business or health administration undergraduate degrees, others look for liberal arts or health profession backgrounds. Candidates with healthcare experience may have an advantage.
Programs usually last two to three years, and may include up to a year of supervised administrative experience. Coursework generally usually includes hospital organization and management, marketing, accounting and budgeting, human resources administration, strategic planning, law and ethics, biostatistics or epidemiology, health economics, and health information systems.
While nursing care facility administrators in all states are required to hold bachelor’s degrees, pass licensing examinations, complete a training program, and pursue continuing education, most other medical and health services management positions do not require licensing.
Medical and health services managers must be dependable, since they are responsible for facilities and equipment worth millions of dollars, as well as hundreds of employees. They require strong decision-making, analysis, financial, and leadership skills. Because they work closely with others, medical and health services managers should possess flexibility, openness, tact, diplomacy, and communication skills.
Health information mangers can earn certification as a Registered Health Information Administrator from the American Health Information Management Association. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree or a post-baccalaureate degree from an approved program and passing an examination.
Medical and health services managers advance by moving into higher paying positions with more responsibilities, or moving to larger facilities.
Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook, and Earnings
Medical and health services managers held about 283,500 jobs in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Approximately 38% of these positions were in hospitals, with 19% in physicians’ offices or nursing and residential care facilities. The remainder worked for home healthcare companies, outpatient care centers, insurance companies, and community care facilities.
The BLS predicts employment for medical and health services managers to grow faster than other occupations, due to the continued expansion and diversification of the healthcare industry.
BLS figures from May 2009 show the median annual salary for medical and health services managers was $81,850. The middle 50% earned between $63,700 and $105,980, while the lowest 10% earned about $49,750. The highest 10% received a salary of approximately $140,300 annually.