At the end of the day, healthcare is a business, and it takes administrative professionals of all kinds to make it run efficiently. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 there were almost 600,000 hospitals, physician's offices, nursing care facilities and other healthcare institutions of varying function and size, employing a total of 14.3 million workers.

Healthcare institutions of all sizes and functions rely on management professionals to administer their day-to-day life-saving operations. These businesspeople use their management acumen to contribute to the public health while ensuring the financial viability of the institutions that employ them.

To qualify for entry-level positions in health management, candidates generally must have a master's degree in a healthcare management, or a combination of graduate and undergraduate work in other fields (an MBA in Educational Business Management or a BA in Communication, for example) and appropriate work experience.

Health service managers work in a variety of settings and functions. According to the BLS, in 2008:

  • 37% worked in public and private hospitals
  • 9% worked in the offices of physicians
  • 7% worked in nursing care facilities
  • 5% worked for home healthcare service provider
  • 5% worked for outpatient care providers
  • The remaining 37% worked in other healthcare areas.
Where do Health Service Managers Work?Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

As with other healthcare support personnel, the nature of medical and health service managers' duties vary, depending largely on the size of the facilities in which they work. Larger institutions like hospitals may employ a staff of administrators and assistant administrators to handle different aspects of the business. Smaller facilities like physician's offices may employ one single administrator to tend to all the business duties required of the practice, including finances, advertising, and operational management.

There are medical and health service management specialists with more specific responsibilities than general service administrators. Clinical managers often have experience in the areas that they administer, for instance an experienced RN may become his or her hospital's nursing manager, and administer the operations and budget of the hospital's nurses.

Healthcare Management Career Opportunities

Related Careers: MEDICAL AND HEALTH SERVICE MANAGERS

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 283,500 medical and healthcare service managers in 2008. The occupation is expected to grow by 16% from 2008 to 2018, faster than the 8.2% expected expansion of the civilian workforce over the same time period. That will mean over 45,000 new jobs for qualified candidates over 10 years.

Projected job growth for Health Service Managers is much higher than the average for all occupations.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Real job opportunities for medical service managers will be better than even that robust projection. According to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a project of the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, there will be 99,400 openings for qualified medical and health service managers from 2008 to 2018. That figure includes the 45,400 new jobs the BLS predicts AND existing positions vacated by retirement, career changes, and early termination.

As the largest employer of medical and health service managers, hospitals will continue to hire the most new professionals, but growth in hospitals will be tempered as more tests and treatments once limited to large medical facilities move to smaller, technologically sophisticated outpatient centers and physician's offices.

The BLS predicts that job opportunities will be best for those with healthcare experience and graduate degrees in business and healthcare administration.

Healthcare Management Earnings

Medical and health service managers are generally well paid for their efforts; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the annual median wages for that group were $80,240 in 2008. The middle 50% of the field made between $62,170 and $104,120, while the bottom 10% earned less than $48,300 and the top 10% earned more than $137,800.

Healthcare Services Managers made more than double national median yearly wages in 2008.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earnings vary widely in the field, depending on the health service manager's individual work and educational history, and on the type and size of the institution for which he or she works. Managers who administered large hospitals made the most; a median of $87,040 yearly. That's almost $13,000 better than the second-best finisher, managers of outpatient care centers, who made a median of $74,130 yearly.

The size of the practice dramatically affects the earnings of medical and health service managers; according to the Medical Group Management Association, managers for practices that employed 6 or fewer physicians made a median of $82,423 in 2007. Those working for practices that employed 7 to 25 physicians made a median of $105,710, and those working for practices that employed 26 or more physicians made an annual median of $119,000.

Healthcare Management Educational Benefits

Most healthcare service managers have graduate degrees, most commonly MHA (Master of Healthcare Administration) or MBA degrees with a healthcare focus. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor's degree may sometimes be sufficient for entry-level positions in small private practices. There are associate's degree programs in healthcare administration, but these are geared towards medical secretaries and other support personnel; they will NOT qualify you for management positions.

Health service managers, except for those working in nursing care facilities, are not licensed or regulated by the government, so different institutions have different qualifications for open positions.

According to the Occupational Information Network, 57% of medical and health service managers aged 25 to 44 reported having a bachelor's degree or higher. 32% reported some college, and the remaining 11% reported a high school education or less.

57% of Healthcare Services Managers have a bachelor's degree or higher. Source: Occupational Information Network

Medical and health service management degrees generally take 4 years to complete, and combine many elements of a bachelor's degree in business management with healthcare-specific knowledge.

Graduate and doctoral degrees take between 1 and 3 years, depending on the type and intensity of the program. Most graduate degrees are generalized to the management of all kinds of health services, but specializations in fields like communication, marketing, medical ethics, and clinical research are possible.

If you're interested in Public Healthcare Administration programs and careers, please see our section on Public Health Administration.

Some businesspeople with general business MBAs may be able to qualify for health service management positions by completing graduate certificates in healthcare administration. Graduate certificates can generally be completed in about a year.

Medical and Healthcare Management Programs Online

Degrees Possible: Bachelor's and Master's Degrees, Graduate Certificates

There are a growing number of medical and health service management/administration degrees offered online at all degree levels. The best online healthcare management degrees will offer a rigorous and thoughtful education as good as those offered by local ground schools in a more flexible format better suited to the working student.

As with any serious educational decision, do your research when picking an online medical and health service management program: is the school accredited? Will credits transfer? What is the school's job placement rate? What are people saying about this school in general and this program specifically? You'll be able to find the answers to many of these questions on the University Bound Network of Web sites, but don't be afraid to ask your admissions counselor the tough questions.

Healthcare Management Skills and Abilities

Like managers in other industries, medical and health service managers should be excellent leaders, communicators, and active listeners.

They should be organized and able to multitask, because of the wide range of responsibilities they may be expected to orchestrate.

Although there is little direct interaction between healthcare managers and patients, work experience in healthcare at any level may be useful because of the healthcare-specific organizational duties that medical and health service managers are expected to handle.

Healthcare Management Qualifications and Advancement

Generally, candidates need a graduate degree to qualify for entry-level Medical and Health Service Manager positions; in some smaller institutions a bachelor's degree and good experience may suffice.

In those positions that require a bachelor's degree, continued education will likely be necessary for advancement. In larger facilities like hospitals, top management positions are hotly contested, and candidates may need a combination of doctoral education and attractive work experience.

Additional Information

The Medical Group Management Association maintains a Web site at http://www.mgma.org.

The American College of Healthcare Executives maintains a Web site at http://www.healthmanagementcareers.org.