If your goal is to become a health administrator in Montana you've chosen an excellent career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) health administers (also known as health managers) careers are expected to grow by 20 percent nationwide over the next decade and by 17 percent in the state of Montana. This is a projected growth of 50 job openings per year, which is quite high for a state with a low overall population.

Salary

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The median annual salary for a health administrator in Montana is $86,170, which is below the national average of $98,350 but well within the same range when the cost of living is factored in. The lowest 10 percent, which typically represents those with the least experience and education, earned $52,230 per year and the highest 10 percent of health administrator salaries was $142,330.

While 12 percent of those in the Montana health administrator field hold an associate degree the majority have at least a bachelor's degree or higher. Here's the education breakdown:

Associate’s 12 percent
Bachelor’s 31 percent
Master’s 24 percent
Doctoral or Professional degree 8 percent

This demonstrates the importance of continuing your education once you enter the field of health administration. Because most employers require administrative or clinical experience many who enter the field are already employed in the healthcare industry. Registered nurses, administrative assistants, medical records and health information technicians, and financial clerks are all career examples that may continue their education to become a health administrator.

Because Montana has a high population of Native Americans it's an excellent idea to plan your education to include cultural diversity coursework. The population majority of Montana is concentrated in a few cities, and diversity training will open you to positions in more rural areas as well as in reservation health care systems.

Undergrad Program Overview

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Because almost one-third of health administrators hold at least a bachelor's degree you should make this your education goal if you're entering the healthcare field. This will give you access to low and mid-level managerial positions, so you can begin to accrue the experience you'll need for higher level jobs.

Since the highest paid positions are typically held by those with graduate degrees you should keep this in mind while choosing your undergrad program. Make sure it will segue smoothly into a master’s degree and that all your credits will transfer when you're ready to start working on your higher degree.

An undergrad program in healthcare administration is quite rigorous due to the skill sets you'll need to be successful in this field. Typical degree choices besides health administration are health services management, nursing, business administration, and public health administration. Ideally you should choose a degree that focuses on both healthcare and management, so your coursework is heavy in classes such as:

  • Medical terminology
  • Hospital organization
  • Health information systems
  • Health services management
  • Human resources administration
  • Accounting and budgeting
  • Healthcare policies, laws, and ethics
  • Healthcare legal issues
  • Strategic planning
  • Health economics
  • Healthcare research
  • Epidemiology

Because the field involves managing personnel you should also take classes in English, writing, and speaking in order to communicate effectively with others.

Since most employers prefer to hire those with experience you should strive to do your required internship in a position that will stand out in your resume. For example, if your goal is to administer a nursing home you should try to do an internship in an assistant administration position at a reputable facility; if you will eventually be working within a specific tribal organization you should try to work within that reservation or organization when you fulfill your internship obligation.

Graduate Program Overview

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In order to advance in the field of health administration you should plan to continue your schooling and earn your master’s degree. This will be your key to the highest paying positions, such as health information manager over an entire hospital or an executive position. Graduate programs can last between two and three years and usually include up to a full year of supervised experience in a healthcare consulting or hospital position.

The titles of your coursework will vary depending on the specialty, school, and program you choose for your graduate program. Here are some examples of the types of coursework you'll need to complete in your graduate studies:

  • Statistics for healthcare administration
  • Managerial accounting and budgeting
  • Evidence based management research and evaluation methods
  • Managerial epidemiology and population health
  • Health quality techniques
  • Health economics
  • Health operations methods
  • Healthcare human resources
  • Health quality techniques
  • Healthcare finance and reimbursement
  • Rural healthcare management
  • Health law
  • Health policy
  • Health informatics and information systems
  • Healthcare marketing and strategies

In addition, you'll be required to complete an internship and Capstone project before earning your degree.

Certification

Licensure is required for nursing home administers. Although certification is not required for health administrators you should plan to become certified in whatever area you choose as a specialty. Certification shows you are at the top of your field and often makes the difference when you're competing for the best jobs. Here are some organizations that offer certification in various areas of the health administration field:

  • American Health Information Management Association: health information management certification
  • American College of Health Care Administrators: Certified Assisted Living Administrator and Certified Nursing Home Administrator
  • Professional Association of Health Care Office Management: certification in medical management

Job Prospects for Montana

While many think hospitals and nursing homes are the only places that hire health administrators the field is much wider. Here are some examples of other employers that require healthcare administration:

  • Clinics
  • Consulting Firms
  • Healthcare Associations
  • Health Insurance Organizations
  • Human Resources Groups
  • Long-term Care
  • Medical Group Practices
  • Mental Health Organizations
  • Patient Care Services
  • Physician Practices
  • Public Health Departments
  • Tribal healthcare services
  • Universities and Research Centers

The majority of health administrators are employed in the southwest area of Montana, followed by the cities of Billings and Missoula. The western area of the state has the least number of employed health managers. Here are some samples of health administration job openings on Indeed.com as of July 2018:

Nursing Home Administrator
Hot Springs, MT area
LNHA / Executive Director in a lovely long-term care skilled nursing facility.
Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in health care administration, finance, business administration, or a medical specialty.
  • Current state licensure.
  • Three years’ experience as a Licensed Executive Director in a Skilled Nursing Facility.
  • Comprehensive knowledge of Long Term Care Medicaid and Medicare regulations and standards.
  • Ability to work with a large staff.
  • Expertise in P & L, cost reporting, and budget compliance.
  • Cultural sensitivity, the ability to communicate effectively with a diverse resident population.
  • Skilled in motivating and directing the workforce.
  • The ability to communicate effectively with residents, doctors, families, and corporate leadership, utilizing discretion and diplomacy.

Director of Health Services, Saddle Drive full-service retirement community
Touchmark, Helena, MT
Requirements:

  • bachelor’s degree in business or health care administration
  • minimum four years of healthcare management experience, or an associate’s degree and minimum six years of healthcare management experience
  • minimum of two years’ management experience in an assisted living environment
  • Hold a current Residential Care Facility Administrator’s Certificate
  • Be currently licensed as a Registered Nurse in this state, preferred though not required

Director of Patient Financial Services, PFL Director for hospital
StaffPointe, Drummond, MT $95,000 - $115,000 a year, full benefits and relocation assistance are offered.
Minimum requirements:

  • Bachelor's Degree required; Master's Degree preferred.
  • Strong, complete background in business office experience.

Physician Practice Manager, small, newly rebuilt hospital with Ambulatory Surgery Center
The Tatz Group Inc, Northwest Montana
Requirements:

  • Business degree required, master’s desirable
  • Experience in physician practice management required

Practice Administrator, St. Vincent Medical Group
SCL Health, Billings, MT
Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree required, master’s degree preferred.
  • Three to five years operational leadership experience within ambulatory care or physician practice management required.

Largest Employers of Health Administration Professionals in Montana

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According to Career InfoNet hospitals are the biggest employer of health administrators as well as providing almost half of the state healthcare employment. Billings Clinic and its subsidiaries is the largest employer in the city, followed by St. Vincent Heart Center. In Missoula the largest employers are the Community Medical Center and St. Patrick Hospital; in Bozeman the largest employer is the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. Here are other large employers of health administrators:

Public Health & Human Services Helena
Benefis Hospital and Health System Great Falls
Kalispell Regional Healthcare Kalispell
US Veterans Medical Center Fort Harrison

As previously noted, there are many positions associated with major hospitals and medical groups, so the list of largest employers should be used as a guideline when seeking employment. For example, because the Billings Clinic is such a large employer you will find many physicians groups in the same area of Billings.

Associations for Health Administration Professionals in Montana

As you progress through your formal education to become a health administrator you should plan to join as many professional organizations as possible. There are many benefits in joining these associations, such as:

  • Access to journals and research publications
  • Notification of events, webinars, and conferences
  • Continuing education classes and certification opportunities
  • Networking with other professionals in your field
  • Updates regarding state and federal changes in healthcare services
  • Information on the most recent improvements and innovations in healthcare
  • Employment opportunities

There are many associations for health administration; you should join some general groups and once you know what area you plan to specialize in you can request membership in groups geared to your own career. Here are some state groups for health care professionals:

  • The Montana Health Care Association
  • The Montana Public Health Association
  • Montana Medical Group Management Association
  • Montana Hospital Association
  • Montana Health Care Association
  • Montana Medical Association
  • Montana Osteopathic Medical Association
  • Montana Society of Healthcare Human Resource Administrators

In addition, you may choose to join national groups:

  • Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals
  • American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management
  • Healthcare Administrators Association
  • American College of Healthcare Administrators
  • American College of Healthcare Executives