Health administration, healthcare administration, healthcare management, and hospital management comprise the field related to the leadership, management, and administration of public health systems, health care, hospitals, and their networks. All of these are non-clinical positions, meaning they do not engage in direct patient care. Instead, these professionals are on the business side of the healthcare systems.
The leadership of those in health administration has come into prominence since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. On February 22, 2020, the United States averaged 3 cases per day. On January 8, 2021, new cases reached a peak of 249,837 per day. The statistics are not as bleak as February proceeds; however, a health crisis remains. Managers and front-line workers struggle to make progress as more people receive vaccines across the nation.
The lead organization for healthcare leaders is the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), which boasts more than 48,000 members throughout the U.S. and worldwide. Education, career development, networking, and research are examples of the services available as a member. Each of the 77 chapters provides educational programs, career opportunities, and leadership development. The New Mexico Healthcare Executives, for example, offers information on Native Indian culture, disability organizations, Veteran health resources, clinics, and maternal health.
Health administration proliferated as the number of U.S. hospitals grew from 170 in 1875 to 7,000 in 1925. Initially, nurses handled the management duties. In 1929, a book titled – Hospital Administration, A Career changed the business. The book proposed a two-year graduate degree in the discipline, which lead to the University of Chicago offering the first graduate program in 1934. The number increased exponentially; currently, there are innumerable bachelor’s and master’s programs in the field.
Individuals interested in a career in healthcare administration or management have several degree choices. The profession’s various functions afford different areas of specialization. Here are some of the roles in health management:
- Human Resources
- Data Collection and Analysis
- Financial Management
- Social Services
- Patient Advocacy
- Business Relations
As you see from this list, there are jobs for those with a degree in accounting, finance, sociology, law, marketing, business, management, psychology, statistics, nursing, and more. Health leaders work in schools, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, medical labs, scientific research, and private practices.
Is this a good career choice?
Absolutely! According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Medical and Health Services Managers’ occupations should grow by almost a third from 2019 to 2029. As of May 2019, there were 422,300 employed in the profession. The median income was $100,980 with a bachelor’s degree and less than five years of experience. Also, the BLS predicted that 133,200 jobs would change over the ten-years from 2019-2029. Those are enticing numbers! The majority work in General Medical and Surgical Hospitals (125,230), followed by Offices of Physicians (48,780). The top three states for healthcare managers are California, Texas, and New York: 36,940, 33,320, and 25,740. By combining New York City, Newark (NJ), and Jersey City, the total (28,490) exceeds New York State.
The metropolitan area with the highest annual median wage is Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California- $163,280. (BLS 2019)
The road to working in health management and administration begins with an undergraduate degree. As mentioned above, your preferred position will influence your degree. However, a Bachelor of Science in Health Care Management is one place to start your research. The B.S. at the University of Texas at Dallas, for example, includes a diverse curriculum that covers many of the specialty areas. There are math, life sciences, communication, government, business law, financial accounting, finance, and marketing classes. Similarly, Nebraska Methodist College has a B.S. in Healthcare Management that includes human resources, accounting, marketing, business law, leadership, and economics courses.
Students will typically concentrate on the foundational subjects of finance, communication, business law, accounting, ethics, and human resources at the undergraduate level.
A well-rounded curriculum provides students with the confidence to discuss business concepts, navigate the legal environment, formulate plans, write comprehensive reports, perform public speaking, possess leadership skills, and manage resources. These qualities are some of the requirements to succeed in healthcare administration. Equally important, those who aspire for a leadership role (and not relegated to accounting) require impressive soft skills. These include empathy, compassion, patience, critical thinking, and listening skills.