Healthcare is a highly rewarding sector to work in. Every day, your decisions and actions have an impact on people’s lives.
It is a chance to make a positive difference in the health of hundreds or even thousands of people.
Healthcare management is a challenging career.
Healthcare is a fast-paced and rapidly changing industry, so you can expect your job to be varied and interesting, with myriad opportunities for advancement.
Range of Roles
The healthcare industry is a huge sector, with roles varying from frontline jobs in nursing to behind-the-scenes management as healthcare operations managers.
Within healthcare management, roles are also varied, ranging from high-level administrative roles to very senior positions such as the chief financial officer or chief operating officer for a hospital.
As the largest industry and the second-largest employer in the US, the healthcare sector offers a huge range of career opportunities, with plenty of scope for moving around to different fields within the sector.
More than 11 million people are employed in healthcare, and it is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the US.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 429,800 roles in healthcare management and administration in 2020.
What Do Healthcare Managers Do?
There are numerous types of healthcare management roles with widely varying job descriptions, so there isn’t a short answer to this question.
However, for a typical generalist role, you can expect to be responsible for managing operations efficiently so that healthcare can be provided in an affordable way to all patients requiring services.
Your focus is on the business, administrative, and leadership aspects of healthcare provision.
Importantly, this is in the context of an ever-growing demand for healthcare, with more patients and a greater life expectancy.
General healthcare management roles cover a wide spectrum of activities, and for these, you will need a strong and broad skillset, including skills and experience in finance, leadership, and operations management.
You will also need a good level of knowledge of the healthcare sector or the ability to learn very quickly on the job.
Responsibilities can include:
- Setting goals at the departmental or organizational level
- Setting budgets and monitoring actual spend
- Improving healthcare service delivery
- Monitoring changes to laws and regulations that are applicable to the healthcare industry and ensuring compliance with them
- Managing organization and security of patient data
- Managing staffing and schedules
Operational healthcare managers in hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities have responsibility for dealing with a range of challenges, from emergency shortages of beds, equipment, or staff to longer-term management of costs and staff retention and recruitment.
They may also be responsible for ensuring that the facility is compliant with all relevant government regulations. This helps to maximize patient and staff safety, as well as minimize the risk of costly fines and criminal prosecution for non-compliance.
This area of healthcare management can involve long hours, being on call outside office hours, and the ability to stay calm under sustained pressure.
When the clinic, unit, home, or hospital you are responsible for is open long hours or even 24/7, you are likely to be asked to work out of hours at times.
If this type of role would not suit your lifestyle, there are plenty of other roles in the healthcare industry that do not involve such a demanding work schedule.
The wide range of roles available in the healthcare sector means that it can suit people with many different skill sets.
There are many openings to get into the industry, and once you are working in the field of healthcare, there are plenty of opportunities for development and progression and to move into different areas or specializations within the sector.
For example, digital technology is playing an increasingly important role in the healthcare industry, creating new roles for tech experts to join and develop solutions to problems in the sector, from issues with data management to automation in the provision of healthcare services.
There is also a growing emphasis on preventative healthcare. The potential benefits in this area are considerable, with the scope to improve population health, improve patient outcomes, ease the pressures on the overburdened healthcare system, and reduce overall costs.
Designing and implementing policies and solutions to support this requires high levels of strategic thinking, vision, creativity, and leadership.
The healthcare industry is very heavily regulated in the US. Ensuring compliance with all aspects of government regulation can be an onerous responsibility, but it is an essential one.
This aspect of healthcare management requires close attention to detail as failure to comply can lead to prosecutions or fines.
Options for specialist career fields in healthcare administration and management include:
- Human resources
- Information systems
- Operations (e.g., for a hospital or physician’s practice)
- Planning and development
- Quality assurance
- Risk management and safety
No two days are the same when you work in healthcare. Each day brings fresh challenges and fresh rewards.
Your day could involve anything from meeting with staff and liaising with suppliers or investors to presenting at board meetings.
You will not work directly with patients, but everything you do will have an impact on them.
The healthcare sector is continually evolving, with new conditions and treatments and innovative technology bringing further change. This can make the role both demanding and exciting.
Managing anomalous events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, adds to the already complex nature of working in the healthcare sector.
However, it can help you to develop skills that you can lean on in future situations.
If you have the resilience to deal with long hours and, at times, a stressful and fast-paced environment, then a career in healthcare management can be very rewarding.
Attractive Salary and Benefits
Medical and healthcare services roles command good salaries.
In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that this sector had an average annual salary of $118,800, while in hospital settings, the median salary was $127,330.
Senior healthcare executives can easily expect to earn $200,000, and often significantly more, depending on the type of organization.
In addition to annual salaries, many employees in healthcare roles have a wider compensation package, which may include cash bonuses or stock options.
There is a huge and growing demand for healthcare professionals. This is true right across the industry, from nurses and physicians to healthcare managers.
The demand for healthcare workers is set to grow significantly for the rest of the decade and beyond.
Factors such as the aging population in the US, the Affordable Care Act, and more complex health needs are contributing to the extra demand for healthcare.
With increasing life expectancy, people are, on average, requiring care for more years, as well as often having more ailments and conditions requiring treatment with aging.
For example, the demand for nurses in the US is projected to increase by 9% between 2020 and 2030. There are currently not enough nurses entering the profession to fill the growing number of job vacancies.
This is partly due to shortages of nursing educators, which is being aggravated by the overall shortage, with fewer experienced nurses available to move on into education. Demand for physicians is also outstripping supply.
The Association of American Medical Colleges published data from 2020 that indicated that the US could see a shortfall of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033 across both primary care and specialty care.
These shortages are sizeable, but for healthcare management, the demand is projected to be far higher still. Demand is anticipated to grow by 32% between 2020 and 2030.
Demand is predicted to be highest for roles in information technology and for medical group practice managers.
With this scale of increase in the need for people to fill roles in this sector, it is considered recession-proof. There has never been a better time to start or progress your career in healthcare management.
The healthcare sector is so vast and far-reaching that it opens up employment opportunities to you right across the US and beyond.
Graduates from a master’s healthcare program will be able to find employment in any state, either in cities or in rural areas, and even in other parts of the world.
Every country has some form of healthcare provision, so if you would like to work outside the US, you are likely to be able to find roles where your experience is relevant and valued.
Despite the fact that careers in healthcare are demanding, people working in the sector generally report high levels of job satisfaction. They know that their job is beneficial to the community.
The challenges that healthcare workers face are offset by the reward of knowing that patients are getting the care they need.
Difficulties such as shortages of personnel, budget constraints, and sourcing equipment present ongoing obstacles to achieving goals.
However, when you are delivering on your goals and healthcare provision is being made available efficiently to those who need it, working in healthcare management can be highly rewarding.
Many people working in healthcare also place a high value on being part of a team of individuals all pulling together to deliver the best outcomes possible for their patients.
Much of the experience you gain working in the healthcare sector will be relevant to other sectors.
This means that should you decide to move on from healthcare at some point in the future, you will be in a strong position to be recruited into another industry.
Healthcare management is well-respected, and having this type of employment on your resume will indicate to prospective employers outside the sector that they can expect you to have a well-rounded skill set, including high levels of resilience and good problem-solving skills.
Qualifications Required for a Career in Healthcare Management
The qualifications you need to work in healthcare management vary according to the specific role, but most roles at the managerial level will require a bachelor’s degree as a minimum.
If you want to study for a master’s degree in healthcare management, you will need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, but it is not mandatory for the degree to be in a related subject.
Some healthcare managers will have specialized degrees – for example, if they began their career in the healthcare industry in a role such as nursing.
A nurse with a BSN would be in a position to make the transition into healthcare administration.
Others will have started out in healthcare management with a degree in health services. In either case, a postgraduate degree, such as an online Executive Master of Health Administration, is ideal for furthering your career in healthcare management.
For more senior roles, a master’s degree may be a requirement rather than optional – for example, hospital management or executive nursing positions.
Executive Master of Health Administration
The Online Telfer Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) is run by the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management and is designed to prepare you for and support you in leadership roles in healthcare management.
The program provides a rounded education in business management and health, focusing on building your skills in the areas of data, innovation, technology, leadership, and policy development.
Course studies are completed online, with the exception of the final week of the program, which is spent on campus for an immersive interactive experience with peers, faculty, alumni, and sponsors.
How Long Does an EMHA or MBA in Healthcare Management Take?
The duration of a healthcare MBA varies by school. Some full-time programs last for two years, but some schools also offer accelerated programs.
If you choose to study part-time for an MBA in healthcare management, then the course will take longer – often up to three years.
What Background Do EMHA Students Have?
People studying for an EMHA or MBA in healthcare come from diverse work sectors.
Some will be physicians who are looking to add new skills to their portfolio with a view to moving into managerial roles in the future.
Healthcare MBA programs are ideal for nurses who wish to progress their careers – for example, for leadership roles – or who have a career shift in mind into another field within the health sector.
Your MBA student group may also include people who do not have a background in healthcare but who are keen to move into the industry.
Given that thousands of jobs in a wide variety of roles are being created in healthcare management every year, it is not surprising that many people from different walks of life are looking for a route into a career in this sector.
With the added advantages of security, good compensation, and the rewarding nature of the work, the healthcare sector has plenty of attractions for high-caliber individuals.
For some managerial roles, you will be expected to have frontline work experience.
For example, nursing experience would be a prerequisite for applying for a role as a clinical manager in a nursing department.
However, for many healthcare management positions, the requirement would be broader, and more general work experience in the sector would be perfectly adequate.
Strong leadership and other transferrable skills will be particularly important for anyone joining from outside the sector, as you have more to prove and will need to demonstrate to people within the sector that you can quickly acquire the knowledge and understanding required for the role.
Soft Skills for Healthcare Management
People who choose a career in healthcare management and administration would be expected to have the following skills:
- Strong communication skills (both written and spoken)
- Creativity and vision
- Problem-solving skills
- Attention to detail
In all avenues of healthcare and no less in management, there is an expectation of continuous self-development and ongoing learning.
Many healthcare organizations will facilitate this through in-service training or tuition support.
Some roles will also require applicants to have a license, and they may need to have passed a national licensing examination.
This could be applicable for specific roles in a nursing home setting. The license would be recognized across all states.
Where Do Healthcare Managers Work?
Around 33% of health services and medical managers in the US were working in hospitals in 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are also many roles in physician’s practices, dental clinics, nursing homes and assisted living facilities and many other healthcare-related settings.
There are also openings for healthcare management graduates and executives in a range of related careers in sectors and organizations such as:
- Federal agencies
- Health insurance
- Management consulting
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Professional societies
With so many different roles and prospects for development in healthcare administration and management, it is easy to see the attraction of working in this industry.