Medical & Health Services Manager / Administrator

Healthcare is big business. It employs more people than any other industry in America. Over $3.5 trillion in spending flowed through the market in 2018. But doctors and other medical staff aren’t necessarily business experts—and that’s where medical and health services managers come in. While other medical staff members are focused on delivering the best quality care to patients, it’s up to medical and health services managers—sometimes called health administrators—to see that the business side of a medical facility is running as efficiently as possible.

With the retirement of the Baby Boomers, the size and scope of the healthcare industry will only grow further, and medical and health services managers are needed to tackle the financial, managerial, and regulatory issues that go with that. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019), openings for medical and health services managers are projected to grow 18 percent between 2018 and 2028, a rate more than three times greater than the national average for all professions during that same decade.

To become a health services manager requires expertise at the nexus of health and business. One must be able to lead an organization, balance a budget, and develop strategic goals that allow for care providers to do their jobs effectively. But they also need a fundamental understanding of community health issues, epidemiology, reimbursement procedures, and psychology. And those are just the table stakes.

To get the details on this rapidly growing, highly lucrative profession, read on.

Health Services Manager Specializations & Degree Types

Degree programs for health services managers are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. For undergraduates, relevant degree programs may be in healthcare administration, health services management, or health services administration. At the graduate level, one can pursue a master’s in healthcare administration (MHA), a master’s of public health (MPH), or even a master’s of business administration (MBA) with a focus in healthcare. Some schools may offer accelerated bachelor’s to master’s programs which can help a student earn both degrees in a shorter period of time (and for less money) than if they were earned separately.

In both undergraduate and graduate programs, students may have the option to specialize by adding a relevant concentration. These vary widely from program to program but may include focuses in finance; care coordination; health information management; policy and compliance; or personnel management.

Admissions Requirements for Health Services Manager Programs

For undergraduate programs, admissions requirements typically include a competitive high school GPA (3.0 or greater); SAT and/or ACT scores; letter(s) of recommendation, and a personal statement.

For graduate programs, admissions requirements may include a combination of the following: a competitive undergraduate GPA (3.0 or greater); GRE and/or GMAT scores; letter(s) of recommendation; work experience; and a personal statement.

Do note that admissions requirements will vary from program to program. In some cases, achievements in one area may compensate for what’s lacking in others. It’s best practice to consult each program’s admissions requirements individually and reach out to the school’s admissions counselors with any questions.

Health Services Manager Program Accreditation

Students enrolling in a degree program for health services management should be sure to check the school’s accreditation status. Accreditation verifies that a school’s educational programs are meeting peer-reviewed standards of excellence.

At the undergraduate level, regional accreditation for health services manager programs is generally acceptable. A full list of regional accreditation entities is available on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website. At the master’s level, the ideal programmatic accreditation for health services manager programs is provided through the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

Do note that some schools will state that their health services management curriculums adhere to guidelines set by the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) or the National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL). While this is not required for all health services management programs, it does demonstrate a commitment to industry-wide best practices.

On-Campus Health Services Manager Degree Programs

Drexel University

Drexel’s bachelor’s of science (BS) in health services administration gives students a foundational understanding of the management and economic principles related to healthcare services. Their City Center Campus includes the Hahnemann University Hospital, which allows students to observe clinical lectures and hear presentations by leading researchers and practitioners.

Core requirements include classes in healthcare ethics; financial management in healthcare; healthcare policy; the economics of healthcare systems; and management of health services. The curriculum follows the guidelines of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA), as well as the key competency areas outlined by the National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL). The program consists of between 180 and 184 credits.

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $52,146 per year

Sam Houston State University

SHSU has a bachelor’s of science (BS) in healthcare administration program that focuses on the conceptual and analytical skills needed to manage modern healthcare organizations. Boasting a low faculty-to-student ratio (1:25), the program takes a multidisciplinary approach that prepares students to coordinate service delivery that prevents disease and fosters wellness in communities. Courses cover a broad spectrum of topics in business, economics, management, policy, strategy, and psychology. The program consists of 120 credits.

  • Location: Huntsville, TX
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $9,332 per semester for non-residents

University of Washington (UW)

The master’s of healthcare administration program at the University of Washington is consistently ranked as one of the best in the nation by US News & World Report (2019). Designed for early-career professionals, it gives students the leadership skills needed to advance their careers in health services management. Classes cover topics such as managing healthcare organizations; healthcare financial management; epidemiology; informatics; and population health management strategy. The program consists of 76 credits.

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: CAHME
  • Tuition: $821 per credit

Online Health Services Manager Degree Programs

Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global offers a bachelor’s of science in healthcare administration that may be completed entirely online. Students will gain a solid foundation in the core disciplines of the field and the means to apply them through on-the-job experience in a relevant internship.

Courses cover topics such as healthcare policy and economics; operational analysis and quality improvement; IT and systems for healthcare; and strategic planning and organizational development for healthcare. Students may also pursue an accelerated bachelor’s to master’s option. The baseline degree program consists of 180 credits.

  • Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $371 per credit

Southern New Hampshire University

SNHU has a fully-online bachelor’s of science in healthcare administration that focuses on the business, technology, quality management, ethics, and policy of healthcare. The curriculum is designed to align with the principles established by the Association of University Programs in Healthcare Administration (AUPHA).

Students may choose to concentrate in either health information management or patient safety and quality. Courses may include healthcare economics; healthcare reimbursement; the principles of epidemiology; human resource management; and healthcare research and evaluation methodologies. The program consists of 120 credits.

  • Location: Manchester, NH
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Tuition: $320 per credit

George Mason University

George Mason University offers a hybrid master’s of healthcare administration with a focus in health systems management. The curriculum follows the same standards as the school’s on-campus CAHME-accredited program and is taught by the same faculty. Courses include organizational behavior and healthcare leadership; health economics; legal issues in health administration; financial management in health systems; and statistics in health services management. In addition to online classes, students will participate in two in-person experiences. The program consists of 47 credits.

  • Location: Fairfax, VA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: CAHME (pending)
  • Tuition: $895 per credit

How Long Does It Take to Become a Health Services Manager?

The timeline to becoming a health services manager varies depending on what type of health services manager you want to be.

While it’s possible to start work straight out of an undergraduate program, the top health services managers will have built up early work experience and earned a master’s degree. Some health services managers may pursue graduate-level education on a part-time basis, maintaining full-time jobs in the process.

Allowing for variations in context and ambition, it takes between four and eight years to become a health services manager.

How to Become a Health Services Manager or Administrator – Step-by-Step Guide

Step One: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)

Entry into this profession requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Relevant majors include healthcare administration, health services management, and health systems administration. At this stage, aspiring health services managers are learning the fundamentals of care delivery, including the administrative tasks that keep health care organizations running effectively.

Step Two: Pursue Early Work Experience (One to Two Years)

It’s possible to begin work as a health services manager with only an undergraduate degree, but positions with higher responsibility and greater salaries will require early work experience. This work experience can be a full-time paid position, a part-time unpaid internship, or anything in between. Building early experience can facilitate entry into a graduate level program, or advancement into leadership positions, and also help direct one’s decision to specialize.

Step Three: Earn a Master’s Degree (Two Years)

While it’s not a requirement, many health services managers decide to pursue a master’s degree in their field of study. A master’s degree not only explores the nuances of the profession, but it also prepares graduates to take on leadership roles with higher levels of responsibility. Furthermore, specializations allow graduates to develop expertise in a niche area of health services management.

Step Four: Gain Professional Certification (Timeline Varies)

While professional licensure and certification are only mandatory for those working in long-term care administration, many health services managers go on to achieve professional certification. These types of certification are offered through peer-led associations, and they connote a dedication to the profession as well as a mastery of best practices. Health services managers with professional certification can command higher salaries, and better compete for top jobs. (See the relevant section below for popular credentials in this profession.)

What Do Health Services Managers and Administrators Do?

The daily responsibilities of a health services manager will depend upon the precise location of their employment, but generally include some combination of the following:

  • Designing health services budgets
  • Hiring, training, and managing staff
  • Creating intake flows for patients
  • Maintaining compliance with new regulations
  • Researching and implementing new data management systems
  • Managing a facility’s systems for billing and reimbursement
  • Fostering communication between administration and staff
  • Coordinating services with insurance company representatives
  • Helping patients access services within the bounds of their insurance

Health Services Manager Certifications & Licensure

Except for certain roles in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, health services managers do not need certification or licensure in order to work. However, there are some professional certifications available for health services managers who wish to distinguish themselves and their commitment to the profession. One such certification is as a Certified Medical Manager (CMM), offered through the Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management (PAHCOM).

Other professional associations of relevance for health services managers include:

  • The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM)
  • American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)
  • Health Care Administrators Association (HCAA)
  • The National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM)
  • Healthcare Business Management Association (HBMA)
  • Medical Group Management Association (MGMA)

How Much Do Health Services Managers Make?

According to the BLS (2019), there are currently 372,670 medical and health services managers employed in the US. The average salary for this profession is $113,370 per year. Breaking that down further, the mean annual wage is $99,730, with the lowest 10 percent of medical and health services managers earning $58,680 (or less) per year, and the top 10 percent earning $182,600 (or more) per year.

Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog

Writer

Matt is a writer and researcher from Southern California. He’s been living abroad since 2016. Long spells in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America have made the global mindset a core tenet of his perspective. From conceptual art in Los Angeles, to NGO work on the front lines of Eastern Ukraine, to counterculture protests in the Southern Caucasus, Matt’s writing subjects are all over the map, and so is he.