Are you interested in a career in health administration? This field is ideal for those who want to develop and administer healthcare programs intended to address the health of individuals and families within a community. The job of health administration professionals is multifaceted but they frequently manage healthcare systems within hospitals, as well as medical networks. These professionals often strive to ensure community members are receiving the very best care possible. While their primary responsibility is effectively managing the overall operation, specific job tasks of health administrators vary drastically from position to position. Some common responsibilities include:

  • Plan, coordinate, and implement medical and health services
  • Establish educational programs to teach healthier lifestyle habits, including disease and illness prevention
  • Understand and ensure adherence to healthcare policies and laws
  • Take an active part in investor and governing board meetings
  • Supervise other healthcare professionals
  • Communicate regularly with department heads and other medical staff
  • Ensure financial effectiveness
  • Develop systems intended to enhance overall efficiency
  • Oversee the hiring process, as well as address employee salary issues

Salary Outlook

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that medical and health services managers made a median wage of $47.29 per hour, or a median salary of $98,350, in the year 2017. While the top 10 percent of these healthcare professionals earned over $176,130, the bottom 10 percent made less than $58,350. This rather drastic variance in pay is generally attributed to differences in education, professional experience, location, and job setting. Higher level health administrators with more job responsibilities are frequently paid more. For example, a professional overseeing a large medical company, hospital, or multiple facilities simultaneously is likely to fall in the upper range of the scale, as opposed to a professional who manages a single department, medical practice, or small grouping of facilities.

There are a number of different industries that utilize health administrators, some of which pay significantly more than others. The highest paying industries in the field include:

  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing
  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing
  • Computer Systems Design and Related Services
  • Business, Professional, Labor, Poetical, and Similar Organizations

While the industries mentioned above tend to pay health administrators more money, the majority of professionals in this field are employed by hospitals, the government, outpatient care centers, physician offices, or residential care facilities. Among these, hospitals at the state, local, and private level provide the highest salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health administrators working in hospitals received a median annual wage of $107,230 in 2017. Government was the second highest paying industry, with a median salary of $106,230. However, even those working in residential care facilities, the lowest paying of the five options, still received a median annual wage of $82,950.

Pay is also heavily dependent upon location. The states with the highest annual mean wage for health administrators in 2017 were:

  • District of Columbia
  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Massachusetts

While Alabama wasn’t among the top five highest paying states, the annual mean wage for health administrators was still $103,660. Additionally, the state employed 2,810 health administrators in 2017, the majority of which worked in the Birmingham-Hoover area. This is because metropolitan areas generally have the highest employment level in this field.

Undergraduate Health Administration Degree Programs

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Most professional health administrators have at least a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration, business administration, or a related field. Typically, this level of education is enough to qualify individuals for entry-level positions in the field.

There are a number of different programs offered in Alabama, all with varying titles. Some common degrees include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management
  • Bachelor of Arts in Health Promotion
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Services Administration
  • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration
  • Bachelor of Science in Public Health
  • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management

While programs differ slightly from school to school, most will consist of 120 credit hours which can generally be completed within a four year period. Part-time students may require additional time to meet graduation requirements. Many programs also offer opportunities to expedite the process by applying college credits from upper-level high school classes and/or transferring credit hours earned during an associate’s degree program.

Some of the most common courses at the undergraduate level include:

  • Principles of Accounting
  • Principles of Marketing
  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems Management
  • Health Care Communication
  • Community Health
  • Medical Terminology
  • Critical Issues in Healthcare
  • Financial Management in Health Care Organizations
  • Health Care Law
  • Business Law
  • Business Statistics
  • Human Resources Management
  • Ethics of Health Care
  • Human Diseases and Health Care Technology
  • Development and Strategic Planning in Health Care
  • Long Term Care Administration
  • Standards for Health Care Staff
  • Health Services Management Problems
  • Insurance and Risk Management
  • Budgeting in Health Care
  • Quantitative Methods for Health Care
  • Health Unit Coordination

Graduate Health Administration Degree Programs

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While a bachelor’s degree in health administration will be sufficient for many entry level positions, higher positions often require more education. A master’s degree will provide a number of advancement opportunities, especially for individuals interested in upper management work. Not only do these positions generally accompany more responsibilities, they typically pay more in salary.

Other benefits of a master’s degree in health administration include:

  • Significantly more advancement opportunities
  • Opportunity to make a lot more money
  • Deeper understanding of the field
  • Training in a wide range of relevant disciplines
  • Flexibility in future career options
  • Opportunity to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of others

There are a number of different programs offered in Alabama, all with varying titles. Some common master’s degrees include:

  • Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Administration
  • Master of Business in Health Care Management
  • Master of Art in Health Studies
  • Master of Science in Health Administration
  • Master of Health Administration
  • Master of Public Health

Every master’s in healthcare administration program is a little different, but most consist of 30 to 60 credit hours that can typically be completed within two years. This can take longer, however, if additional prerequisite courses are needed. Most universities require candidates complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field before admittance, as well as a minimum GPA requirement, recommendation letters, and professional experience in the field. Some of the most common course content includes:

  • Strategic Management and Business Policy
  • Management Information Systems
  • Advanced Marketing
  • Research Methods
  • Organizational Research and Theory
  • International Business
  • Human Resource Management Methods
  • Health Resources and Policy Analysis
  • Advanced Health Care Management
  • Public Health Concepts
  • Applied Biostatistics
  • Concepts of Epidemiology
  • Principles of Health Behavior
  • Concepts of Environmental Health
  • Law and Ethics in Public Health

Job Prospects in Alabama

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Overall, prospects for this field are favorable, especially for candidates with a master’s degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers can expect to see employment growth of 20 percent before the year 2026. Comparatively, this average rate of employment growth is much faster than other occupations. This is likely due to the baby-boomer population remaining more active as they grow older, increasing the demand for healthcare services. It’s also probable that many of the services traditionally offered in hospitals will be provided more frequently in health practitioner offices, a setting that will likely experience the most job growth. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an increase in demand for health administrators familiar with health information technology, electronic health records, and informatics systems.

While health administrator job prospects in Alabama change regularly, here are several examples of job postings collected in July of 2018:

Director of Healthcare Leadership Initiatives at University of South Alabama

Responsible for leading all healthcare leadership initiatives at the University of South Alabama for degree and non-degree program offerings, as well as perform the duties of an Associate Professor of Medicine.

Executive Director of Healthcare at Eye Health Partners / SEES Group

Responsible for developing and implementing strategic plans to the efficiency and effectiveness of the practice, as well as supervise and coach center managers, staff, and external representatives.

Medical Administration Specialist at Veterans Health Administration

Responsible for overseeing the medical center operations and providing support to medical staff, as well as offering technical guidance regarding procedural and legal actions.

Executive Director at Allen Health and Rehabilitation

Responsible for developing and administering facility operations by designing financial programs, quality service, strong operating systems, and effective sales programs, as well as establish procedures, guidelines, and regulations.

*Please be advised that these positions are intended to illustrate job opportunities that might be available in the state of Alabama; these are not current job offers and do not guarantee employment in the field.

Most health administrators hold full time positions that may require evening, weekend, and holiday hours depending on the healthcare facility by which they are employed. Approximately 30 percent of administrators, however, worked more than 40 hours a week during 2016. Individuals working in hospitals and nursing homes are most likely to work more hours per week due to the need to provide services around-the-clock. Additionally, many hospital and nursing home professionals need to be on call for emergency situations.

Prominent Employers in Alabama

While many industries employ health administrators, some of the most common employers are hospitals, physician offices, residential care facilities, outpatient care centers, and the government. In Alabama, several of the most prominent employers include:

  • University of Alabama at Birmingham Health Services in Birmingham
  • Baptist Health in Montgomery
  • Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham
  • Children’s Health System in Birmingham
  • DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa
  • East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika
  • Eastern Health System in Birmingham
  • Trinity Medical Center in Birmingham
  • St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham
  • Springhill Medical Center in Mobile
  • Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan
  • Regions Financial Corporation in Birmingham
  • Regional Medical Center in Anniston

Health Administration Associations in Alabama

There are a number of health administration associations for professionals in Alabama, but two of the most prominent are the Medical Group Management Association of Alabama and the Alabama Association of Health Information Management.

Medical Group Management Association of Alabama (MGMA/Alabama)

MGMA/Alabama is the state affiliate of the American College of Medical Executives, a leader in the nation’s medical group practice profession. The association’s goal is to provide members with current information about the profession. With over 750 members, MGMA/Alabama serves as a valuable resource for a number of important resources, such as education, contacts, and idea exchange between those in the field.

Medical Group Management Association of Alabama (AAHIM)

AAHIM is the state affiliate of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). AHIMA serves over 103,000 health information professionals, provides quality training opportunities, and is considered to be the leading source of health information management in the United States.

Additional resources for health administration professionals include:

  • American Association of Health Care Administrative Management
  • The Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators
  • National Association of Healthcare Access Management
  • American College of Health Care Administrators
  • American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administrators