The healthcare industry continues to grow at a phenomenal rate. As our population ages, and access to insurance grows, there is more and more demand for hospitals and clinics. In order to ensure that those facilities operate and grow as businesses, they need the best administration to manage them. That means that if you have a desire to help people, you no longer have to be a clinician or other first-hand healthcare provider. Your administrative or other talents can be of use to everyone.
The great state of Iowa is a fantastic place to begin a career in healthcare administration. If you are looking for a great salary, Iowa's 6,880 medical and health services managers were reported to earn an annual mean wage of $87,940 in 2019. While this is lower than more-populated states like California or New York, keep in mind that the cost of living in Iowa is significantly lower.
National Salary Outlook
On the national front, medical and health services managers were reported, by the BLS, to earn a median salary of $100,980 per year. They typically had a bachelor's degree and less than five years’ worth of experience. That means that if you pursue a master's degree and stay in your career you are likely to earn far more. The BLS projects that this employment sector to grow 20 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is far greater than the average.
When you compare health administration to other similar careers, you'll see that the pay is on par with similar workers. For instance, Human Resources Managers earn an average of $110,120/year and Top Executives earn an average of $104,700. While these numbers do surpass the average for your field, consider the rate of growth the healthcare industry is expecting. Also consider that these numbers are not only averages but also don't factor other compensation like health insurance and bonuses. One could imagine greater health benefits from a healthcare corporation, and fast-growing companies frequently have healthy bonus packages.
There are many different industries that employ people as administrators. You might first think of the hospital administrator from your favorite medical drama, or the office manager at your family physician's office. However, so many opportunities open up when you pursue a career in health administration. Here is a brief list of industries that will need you, and that will pay you well:
|Industry||Annual Mean Wage as of May 2017|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||$120,540|
|Outpatient Care Facilities||$103,460|
|Skilled Nursing Facilities||$92,750|
|Home Health Care Services||$99,220|
Undergrad Program Overview
To get started in this field, you should start with an undergraduate degree. A bachelor's degree typically consists of 120 credit-hours in a semester system. The first two years often are taken up with completing core curriculum such as your English, math, science, and elective requirements. You can make these courses pay off by studying pertinent topics such as technical writing, statistics, accounting, biology, or anything else your college offers that will provide a focused background for healthcare.
Though it is optimal to not work while you study, since there is no licensure requirement for working in health administration, you can start working in some capacity while you work on your bachelor's degree. Even if you work part-time as an orderly or other clinical assistant, you will be gaining valuable industry-specific experience that will pay off later in your career. Thus, once you have completed your degree you will be primed with contacts and experience to take your career to the next level.
In response to the vast growth in healthcare, colleges and universities now offer specialized degrees that will focus you on your chosen career path. Where once a bachelor's degree would reflect a rather generalized course of study, now there is more specialization. Employers will love seeing a resume that indicates that you have spent four (or more) years focusing on attaining skills and knowledge that you can immediately put into action. They won't have to train you quite as much as they might a general marketing or management major.
You might consider working towards one of the following degrees:
- Bachelor of Business Administration in Healthcare Management
- Bachelor of Healthcare Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration/Management
- Bachelor of Public Health
If you are not yet sure whether you want to create a career in healthcare administration, you will be well-served to take some healthcare-focused courses. That way, if you end up applying to a healthcare position, you can discuss what you learned in those courses. Healthcare-focused courses might include, but are not limited to the following:
- Financial Statement Analysis in Healthcare
- Strategic Planning in Healthcare Corporations
- Human Resource Management – Healthcare
- Medical Terminology
- Health Policy
- Introduction to Public Health
- Healthcare Marketing
Find the Best Program
Just as there is a wide range of jobs and working environments where you might make your career, there are just as many academic programs that will prepare you for a stellar career. With such a wide variety out there, it’s important to make sure you make the best decision for you and your future.
First, assess your specific strengths. If you are highly mathematical and analytical, you might be best served in a program that offers a lot of quantitative analysis. For instance, a program that weighs heavily on accounting and statistics might be for you. If you're more of a people person and thrive on the grey areas of human organization, you could find a course of study that will prepare you for human resources. Still others might be more creative and enjoy thinking outside the box. If you are such a student, consider a program that will help you develop your skills as a marketing executive. Creative writers might find themselves working on a hospital's internal and external communications products.
You can also pursue a public health path that might involve public outreach to teach people about nutrition, first aid, or other preventative measures they can implement to maintain optimal health. Other public health professionals study public health policy, epidemiology, or even travel to far off lands to help developing nations avoid problems associated with poor sanitation and nutrition.
Graduate Program Overview
If you want to ensure that you take your career to the highest high, you should start thinking about graduate school as soon as possible. To many students starting their academic work, this may seem overwhelming, but degrees such as the Master of Health Administration, Master of Healthcare Administration, and Master of Science in Health Care Administration are increasingly common in the workplace. In fact, some say that nowadays a graduate degree is as valuable as a bachelor's degree was a generation ago. This is because undergraduate bachelor degrees are more and more accessible.
To get started on your path to graduate school, you will need to put together an application packet. That packet must include several items that you should start collecting as soon as possible. That list includes:
- GRE scores
- Qualifying GPA for your desired program
- Letters of recommendation from former instructors and workplace supervisors
- Record of gainful employment in the field
- Personal essay detailing what you wish to achieve with your graduate degree
Though many instructors and supervisors are accustomed to providing letters of recommendation, dont' take that preparation for granted. Try to allow them adequate time to prepare their letter. This will only be to your advantage.
Just as undergraduate degrees have become more specialized and offer a background tailored to healthcare administration, so have graduate degrees. Graduate degrees are perhaps even more specialized, as you won't spend any time taking seemingly-unrelated core courses. When you start researching graduate programs, you'll likely find degree offerings such as:
- Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Administration
- Master of Healthcare Administration
- Master of Science in Healthcare Administration
- Master of Public Health
When you enter your program, you will probably be surrounded by students and faculty that have meaningful experience in your field. This is sometimes intimidating as some will have the sorts of stellar credentials you desire, but it is most often to your advantage. That is, you might be able to make mutually-beneficial professional contacts that may make the difference in your later success.
Job Prospects in Iowa
Iowa professionals know that there are always new opportunities to work in health administration. Here are a few selected job opportunities that may suit you at your current place on the career highway, others might be something to shoot for:
Chief Operating Officer
This position might be the capstone to your career. However, with a strong record of stellar performance, a graduate degree, and the right mix of moxie and luck you will one day land in the C-suites!
Medical Records Clerk
This entry-level position might be perfect while you complete your undergraduate degree. Here, you can earn a little money while learning about health systems from the bottom up.
Staff Development Coordinator
You'll make sure everyone receives the training they need to thrive in their careers. This position will familiarize you with many different healthcare positions.
Director of Health Center Operations
You'll need a bachelor's degree to take this position and you'll need full knowledge of federal, state, and local regulations governing the industry. You might even need a specialized license before you are hired.
Largest Employers of Health Admin Professionals in Iowa
Iowa may be a rather small state, but it is chock-full of great employers that have both a local and national presence. Here is a sample of some of the largest employers you might apply to:
- Genesis Medical Center
- UnityPoint Health
- Alegent Creighton Mercy Hospital
- VA Central Iowa Health Care System
- Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa
- University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
Healthcare Administration Associations in Iowa
As you progress in your profession, you'll need to join one or more professional association. These organizations offer resources for education, advancement, and leadership. Here's a short list of possible associations for you:
- Healthcare Financial Management Association
- Iowa Hospital Association
- American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management
- Healthcare Administrators Association