Healthcare managers have a role that is similar to those of health administrators—but it is not the same. As a healthcare manager, you would be responsible for taking care of a department within your organization; work as a policy analyst; community relations; as the manager of a dental office; healthcare analyst or as a clinical trial investigator. You may also oversee the filing of insurance claims, billing, work as a liaison between the staff and administrators and maintain detailed, accurate records.

This profession does require that you hold either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. Within each level, you’ll have differing responsibilities—but, at both levels, your career role is critical to the delivery of healthcare to the population you serve.

Before you begin your college education, you need, at the least, a high school diploma. Next, you should have earned a diploma in allied health services—this is at the associate degree level.

Once you’ve earned your degree, you’ll be much better prepared to take on your job role and help to ensure that every person who enters your healthcare facility will receive the level of care they need and deserve.

What is Healthcare Management?

Healthcare “management” is just that. Managing the healthcare facility at which you’re employed. It’s also helping to coordinate and plan every service that your facility offers. On a slightly smaller scale, healthcare management is managing and overseeing a specific department.

If, for instance, you’re employed in a large physician’s practice, you may manage the entire practice. Or you may be responsible for one part of it. For instance, you may manage dermatology, running a specialty with a few physicians, the nursing and clerical staff.

You may also be responsible for the tech department—running the IT staff, overseeing the roll-out of a new patient tracking program and ensuring that it is HIPAA-compliant. Or you may be responsible for ensuring that your healthcare facility is up-to-date with all healthcare regulations. You may also be responsible for ensuring the facility is complying with those new regulations.

Management vs. Administration

As stated earlier, these two roles and their activities are totally different. In healthcare management, this is controlling, handling or directing primary healthcare services. In health administration, you would be administering existing policies and directing the policies and principles in “one executive activity.” In the billing and insurance sector, you, as the administrator, would exercise policy that covers insurance, payments and the activities of government contractors. You’ll dive into budget planning, accounting, authorizing needed expenditures, determining the rates for your services and coordinating the financial reporting. You’ll supervise, direct and evaluate the activities of each staff member, from maintenance to medical.

Your communication skills will require that you communicate between each governing board, department head and medical staff so issues are working out.

You’ll develop work schedules and assign staff members to different departments and work assignments.

You’ll oversee the diagnostic services your facility uses. To ensure the most efficient use of resources, you’ll oversee the assignment of beds, facilities and staff to ensure that they are being used by those in the greatest need for them. If you need additional staff, you’ll determine this as well.

Using your computer knowledge, you’ll help to develop record management systems for personnel, information and for producing reports.

Healthcare managers concern themselves with services equipment, supplies and personnel so that their facility is sufficiently supplied and staffed. You’ll be responsible for running the day-to-day operations of your facility. If you have “know how,” as opposed to just “knowing” or knowledge, you’re going to be highly sought after.

Expect to work closely with doctors, lab techs and nurses.

The main similarities between healthcare management and health administration are understanding and exercising legal and ethical responsibilities in the practice/office, HIPPA regulations and the medical terminology that medical/dental specialists use.

Digging even deeper, the differences between management and administration, healthcare managers have to possess a vastly different subset of information from that needed by health administrators.

Healthcare managers must be extremely familiar with computers and patient scheduling, patient reception, the office environment, patient processing and daily operations within the healthcare facility. Managers need to be highly familiar with accounting, so they will specialize in these classes in college.

On the other side of the coin, as a health administrator, your responsibilities would lean much more toward overseeing your employer’s interaction with staff and patients. You should be highly familiar with specific details or a facet of health treatments or medical research, so you can direct the staff to the job responsibilities for which they are best suited. When you think about sub-disciplines, these are current healthcare policies, coding practices, billing, reimbursements, financial practice, banking and human resources.

Education Needed

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At a minimum, you need a bachelor’s degree so you can become a healthcare manager. In general, your coursework should include accounting, strategic planning, health information systems, law and hospital management.

For some employers, a master’s degree is more to their preferences. No matter which degree you possess, you should have strong communication skills—oral and written, analytical and technical skills.

You should also be detail-oriented, so you can see the most minor detail buried in the mass of data you’re considering.

A healthcare facility will often choose a healthcare manager who has risen through the employee ranks, beginning by managing one department. If you work in a nursing care facility, you may be required to hold a bachelor’s degree, take a state-mandated exam, pass that and obtain either licensure or a certificate to work in your position.

Bachelors

As you think about your options for your future, you know you need to continue your education. At the least, you need your bachelor’s degree in healthcare management.

Look for a university program that offers you the classes and learning opportunities that will make you employable. Along with the expected business classes, such as accounting, you’ll need to sign up for courses in communication, healthcare finance, healthcare reimbursement and health insurance.

Just as you would at any other college, you’ll have to complete your general education courses before declaring your healthcare management major. Once you’re in this program, you’ll take the core courses that are required of this major. Then, you’ll be able to opt for the elective courses, which help to round out your knowledge and give you additional information and insight into this field. Finally, you’ll take your undergraduate capstone course, where you’ll synthesize everything you’ve learned into one final project.

As a general example, you’ll take courses in the health system here in the U.S, If you’re interested in informatics, the program you choose should have at least one course in this subject.

Sign up for accounting courses, legal and ethical courses, classes that discuss current healthcare issues, health insurance classes, healthcare finance and healthcare organization. You’ll learn about managing the staff within a healthcare facility or medical practice. Another course teaches you about managing human resources and developing leadership. A big part of management is strategic planning and marketing. You’ll also have to take a class in research methods and analysis.

The elective courses range from general education courses to public health courses that will enrich your learning.

Other bachelor programs have undergraduate healthcare management courses aimed at students who have already earned an associate degree in allied health or business. The classes in these programs will specialize in the changeable nature of healthcare. You’ll be required to take classes on organizational systems, integrated managerial responsibilities, containment of cost, community, information technology, healthcare access and the quality of healthcare.

Other universities will teach you about how government policies affect healthcare. You’ll also learn about prudent investments in healthcare. Once you graduate from such a program, you’ll be ready to work in both non-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations, to include residential healthcare facilities, ambulatory care facilities, group practices, community healthcare settings, health maintenance organizations, hospitals and government organizations.

Masters

As a master’s candidate for a healthcare management degree, you’ll be effectively prepared to lead and manage a healthcare organization.

You’ll also learn, in detail, about finance, information systems, human capital and strategic planning. Look for programs that allow you to learn about health policy issues, moral, ethical and legal issues in healthcare. In your capstone, you’ll be able to work on a project that shows just how much understanding you’ve developed about healthcare management.

Within other master’s program, your classes will be heavy on business principles. You’ll also develop those skills necessary to manage a healthcare organization. You’ll soon be able to manage performance management, quality and risk. Learn about the different healthcare systems and policies, healthcare technology, new developments in technology and managerial epidemiology.

You may prefer a master’s program in management that has a concentration in healthcare. In such a program, you’ll learn everything you need to manage both people and projects as a healthcare manager. If healthcare promotion is something you’re serious about, then this program type could work for your goals.

Still other master’s programs offer the MBA, with a specialty in healthcare management. Here, you’ll take your core classes, then begin taking the specialty courses, your electives and your capstone course.

Potential Job Titles

Once you graduate with either your bachelor’s or master’s in healthcare management, this field is wide open for you. As an example, here is a list of some of the job titles you may see:

  • Health and Social Service Manager
  • Health Services Manager
  • Program Manager
  • Healthcare Strategist
  • Medical Insurance or Medical Device Manager
  • Hospital Administrator
  • Medical Office Manager
  • Strategic Healthcare Consultant
  • Medical Record Manager
  • Medical Practice Manager
  • Operations Administrator

All of these job titles range widely in the responsibilities you may have.

Here are more possible job titles for you to consider:

  • Coordinator of Rehabilitation Services
  • Health Consultant
  • Emergency Medical Services Coordinator
  • Health Services Administrator
  • Social Welfare Administrator
  • Public Health Educator
  • Nutritionist
  • Director of Volunteer Services
  • Health Economist
  • Fitness Program Coordinator
  • Hospital Personnel Director
  • Public Health Statistician
  • Occupational Safety and Health Inspector
  • Sports Coach
  • Substance Abuse Education Coordinator
  • Director of Outpatient Services
  • Public Health Director
  • Health Advocate
  • Recreational Therapist
  • Health Information Specialist
  • Public Health Director
  • Medical Records Administrator

Career and Salary Outlook

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Before you step into a college classroom, ready to major in healthcare management, you need to know what your prospects in this field will be like. You want to enter a field that is expanding due to the need for the services the profession provides.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical entry-level education for healthcare managers is an undergraduate degree. The employment outlook is excellent, with new positions being added at a rate of 20 percent. The median pay for a healthcare manager is about $47.29 per hour. Annually, it is about $98,350.

Next Steps

Healthcare management was called “the business behind the medicine“ on one website. That’s what you’ll be—the business expert behind the medical personnel in the healthcare agency where you work. If you’re interested in working in the medical field but working directly with patients and bodily fluids isn’t quite your thing, then working as a healthcare manager may suit you much better.

Once you graduate, you need to know what happens next. If you accept a position as the manager of a nursing home, more studying for the state licensure test is in your immediate future. Once you pass that, then, you apply for and receive your certificate to operate the facility.

If you’ll be managing other types of healthcare facilities or practices, you won’t need licensure or certification. Instead, once you’ve accepted a job offer, you’ll begin working. Your responsibilities include budgeting, overseeing patient scheduling and finding ways to improve healthcare delivery. Expect to deliver healthcare services to your patient population. You’ll also supervise the hiring and training of hospital staff, manage the day-to-day records, coordinate delivery of care and maintain communication with medical directors.