Healthcare Project Manager

No matter the size, scope, or service level of an organization, the completion of projects is key in growing the world’s economy. Projects big and small are what drive economic progress forward. All professional organizations create products and services through projects, and the process of refining innovative products and services can either help or hinder a company depending on how well a project is coordinated. 

Without the expertise of a manager, the productivity of an organization and the quality of a product can drop. Team members and customers suffer from the results of a poorly managed project. Organizations providing critical services such as healthcare cannot afford to lose time and money when the livelihoods of their patients are at stake. As the healthcare industry continues to grow, so does the demand for highly qualified healthcare project managers to ensure that healthcare organizations can efficiently provide care and research cures.  

The healthcare industry is one of the fastest-growing occupational sectors in the United States and is poised to be one of the leading employers of project managers. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that six out of the 10 fastest-growing careers in the United States are in healthcare and other related occupations (BLS 2021). 

Career-specific data from the BLS estimates that 133,200 new medical and health services manager positions will be created between 2019 and 2029 (BLS 2021). The majority of healthcare project management professionals in the United States are employed in hospitals, with others working in environments such as physicians’ offices, outpatient care centers, nursing care facilities, and home healthcare services (BLS 2021). 

Read on to learn more about becoming a healthcare project manager.

Healthcare Project Manager Specializations & Degree Types

The multifaceted nature of the healthcare industry means that a wide variety of career specializations are available for healthcare project managers. Areas of specialization in this career include hospital administration, pharmaceuticals, healthcare operations, healthcare consulting, and healthcare informatics. 

Entry-level positions for healthcare project managers typically require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to business administration or healthcare. Master’s degrees are required for some positions and pursuing graduate-level education can give applicants a competitive edge in their job searches, preparing them for career advancement in healthcare administration leadership. Common graduate degrees pursued by those wanting to further their careers include: 

  • Master of healthcare administration degree (MHA)
  • Master of business administration (MBA) with a specialization in healthcare
  • Master of public health (MPH) 
  • Master of science in nursing (MSN) 
  • Master of health information systems (MHI) 

Having one of these advanced degrees can bolster the qualifications of a prospective healthcare project manager and lead to leadership positions and higher salaries.

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Admissions Requirements for Healthcare Project Manager Programs

Admissions requirements for college and university programs featuring healthcare project management degrees vary for each institution. Here is a list of general admissions requirements for students applying to bachelor’s and master’s degree programs: 

  • Official high school diploma or GED (for bachelor’s degree programs)
  • Official bachelor’s degree transcript (for master’s degree programs) from a regional or nationally accredited college or university
  • Completed application
  • Application fee
  • Grade point average (GPA) minimum scores (typically ranging from 2.5 to 3.0)
  • Personal essay or statement
  • Letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources (typically one to three sources required depending on the school)
  • Resume
  • Interview with an admissions committee
  • Campus visit
  • Official SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, or other standardized test scores
  • Official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores for international students
  • For courses taken outside the United States: official transcripts must be evaluated and translated into English

To learn more about admissions requirements for specific schools, please see the four featured on-campus and online healthcare program manager programs linked below. 

Healthcare Project Manager Program Accreditation

Accreditation is a metric of educational quality and shows that an educational institution has met the highest standards. If a program is not accredited by a regional or national accreditation organization, it can be difficult to determine its caliber. Prospective students, employers, and faculty members all benefit from the distinction of accreditation, and students in the United States can only use federal loans to pay for tuition at colleges and universities with regional or national accreditation.

There are two types of accreditation: programmatic and regional. Healthcare management programs can earn programmatic accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). Master’s of business administration degree programs with specializations in healthcare can be programmatically accredited through the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredits schools of public health and public health programs in the United States. 

Colleges and universities can also earn regional accreditation through a list of organizations from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which approves reputable accreditation organizations including the ones listed above. 

On-Campus Healthcare Project Manager Degree Programs

While specific degree programs in healthcare project management are few and far between, earning a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in a health-related field is typically a requirement for entry-level positions in healthcare. Here are two featured on-campus degree programs related to healthcare project management. 

Fremont College

Located in Cerritos, California, Fremont College offers a bachelor of science (BS) degree in healthcare management. This program has an accelerated 15-month completion timeline for students who have already completed their two-year associate’s degree and a 30-month timeline for those starting without any college credits. 

Students in the program are supported by five mentors who provide guidance throughout the academic program. With an impressive 77 percent job placement rate, most graduates from this program go on to work as medical and health services managers. 

Courses in this program include human resources management, anatomy and medical technology, epidemiology and global health, electronic health records management, medical coding and billing, and quality management and patient safety. Students complete a capstone project documenting their ability to identify and solve a current problem relevant to the field of healthcare management as a final graduation requirement. 

  • Location: Cerritos, CA
  • Duration: 15 to 30 months
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Tuition: $400 per credit

Kent State University

Kent State University offers a bachelor of science in public health. Graduates of this program are prepared to pursue careers in public health or advance their studies by applying to graduate degree programs in public health or related fields. Students in this program can choose concentrations to refine their future career paths in allied health, clinical trials research, community health outreach and development, environmental health science, environmental and occupational health and safety, global health, health services administration, and pre-medicine, dentistry, and osteopathy. 

The College of Public Health at Kent State also offers a formal combined degree program for students wanting to earn a bachelor of science in public health and a master of public health degree. Upon graduation from the bachelor’s program, the application for the master’s degree program is automatically activated and students can substitute some graduate-level courses in place of undergraduate classes. Students in both the undergraduate and graduate degree programs can opt to take courses on-campus or online. 

  • Location: Kent, OH
  • Duration: 48 months
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $11,131 per year for in-state residents, $20,007 per year out-of-state residents

Boston University’s Metropolitan College

The master of science in project management degree at Boston University’s Metropolitan College prepares graduates for work in all areas of project management, including healthcare. Students can choose to complete this program on a full-time or part-time basis. Many courses are offered in the evenings, allowing students to continue working or to care for the family while still earning their degrees. 

To align with how project management works in the real world, this program has a group project-focused approach with students collaborating from day one. As such, one emphasis of this program is on communication techniques in order to ensure all parties are apprised of every step of a project. 

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Duration: 12 to 20 months
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Tuition: $940 per credit 

University of Washington – School of Professional and Continuing Education

Healthcare administrators and other healthcare professionals who need training in project management can complete the University of Washington’s School of Professional and Continuing Education certificate in project management. While this program doesn’t have a specific healthcare focus, those who are working in healthcare can apply the principles to the project they have been tasked with.

Courses in this program are offered in the evening, making this program perfect for working professionals. Students gain hands-on experience using industry-standard tools such as Smartsheet. This program culminates in a team-based capstone project that simulates a real-world business case. Graduates of this program are eligible to sit for Project Management Institute (PMI) certification. 

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Duration: Varies
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Tuition: $4,991 per course

Georgetown University – School of Continuing Studies

The master’s in project management at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies gives students the tools to manage even the most complex projects. Courses cover all stages of project management, from planning to execution and completion. Students gain hands-on experience by reviewing case studies and have the opportunity to network with top professionals in the field. 

There is both a full-time and part-time option in this program, so students can complete their studies quickly or work at a slower pace while still employed or raising a family. One unique aspect of this program is that is does cover both agile and traditional project management methods, giving students a breadth of experience with different techniques. 

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Duration: Two to five years
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $44,490 total

Online or Hybrid Healthcare Project Manager Degree Programs

Here are two featured online campus degree programs related to healthcare project management. 

Colorado State University Global

Colorado State University Global offers a fully online 120-credit bachelor of science in healthcare administration and management. Students in this program are taught essential foundational skills related to project management, including management and supervision, communication, decision making, strategic planning, and operations finance. In-depth knowledge of risk management, healthcare laws and regulations, risk management, and ethics are also key cornerstone practices emphasized throughout the program curriculum. 

Students who are interested in project management can choose to apply 15 of the required degree credits towards a project specialization track that pairs the bachelor of science in healthcare administration and management with other related healthcare and business degrees. A dual enrollment option allows undergraduate students to apply for a master of healthcare administration (MHA) and management by applying nine credits towards two separate degree programs.

With new courses beginning each month and accelerated completion options, Colorado State University Global offers students the opportunity to earn one or two degrees at a pace that works best for their schedule. 

  • Location: Aurora, CO
  • Duration: 24 to 48 months
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $380 per credit 

Liberty University

Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, offers a fully online master of science in healthcare administration with a specialization in project management. Students in this program are taught project selection, risk management, and global logistics. Courses include informatics, public health, nursing disciplines, strategic planning, business management, and financial principles and models. 

Offering eleven specializations related to healthcare administration, Liberty University aims to prepare students to be effective leaders with strong project management skills. Students have access to a wide range of online resources to support their learning. Boasting no increases in tuition for the past four years, Liberty University aims to keep tuition costs steady while maintaining a high quality of instruction in their online degree programs. 

  • Location: Lynchburg, VA
  • Duration: 18 months
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $390 per credit

Colorado State University Global

Colorado State University Global offers an online bachelor’s degree in project management. This four-year program prepares students for a career in this field with best practices and hands-on training. Students can choose from 27 different specializations, including healthcare management. The healthcare management specialization teaches the fundamentals of healthcare, ethics, quality assurance, and more. 

Courses in this program, under the healthcare management specialization, include introduction to the U.S. healthcare system, introduction to health policy, quality and risk management in healthcare, managed care and health insurance, and population health management. 

  • Location: Aurora, CO
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $350 per credit

Harvard University – T.H. Chan School of Public Health

For professionals already working in healthcare, who want to get into the project management side, Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health offers an online five-day course on healthcare project management. Specifically, this course is designed for healthcare administrators who have had to already step into project managing roles with little or no training. 

This online program covers how to improve the quality of care by delivering projects on time and staying within budget. Students will cover each step of project management in detail, including planning, execution, and close-out. Classes are live, so students have the opportunity to interact with each other and the lecturer. 

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Duration: Five days
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Tuition: $2,400 total

American University

In just eight short weeks, professionals working in healthcare can complete a Certificate in Healthcare Project Management from the American University. This certificate is offered entirely online and consists of eight modules. Students can complete these units at their leisure, which makes this course perfect for those already working in the field. 

In addition to learning the principles of project management, this course covers how these principles apply uniquely to healthcare. Students will also learn how to use the latest tools and techniques to help project management go smoothly. Leadership skills that are vital to project management success are also taught. 

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Duration: Eight weeks
  • Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools
  • Tuition: $3,995 total

How Long Does it Take to Become a Healthcare Project Manager?

The short answer is: it depends! Since most positions require a bachelor’s degree, how much education an applicant pursues is the main factor in determining how long it takes to become a healthcare project manager. 

An applicant with a high school diploma would need four to five years to earn a bachelor’s degree and become qualified to be a healthcare project manager, while an applicant with an associate degree can become qualified in two to three years. 

Having an advanced degree with a specialization in healthcare project management can be attractive to prospective employers. Master’s degrees in healthcare-related fields take anywhere from 18 to 24 months to complete. 

Certification exams are another factor to consider. While not required for every position, certifications can help an applicant stand out by showing commitment to the field and having proof of professional skills and competencies. 

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a globally-recognized certification association offering two relevant examinations for healthcare project managers: the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification which requires a minimum of 23 hours of project management education, and the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification requiring up to 7,535 hours of project management education and experience. 

Both certifications have specific educational requirements for post-secondary (high school diploma) and bachelor’s degrees depending on the certification pathway chosen.

How To Become a Healthcare Project Manager – Step-by-Step Guide

Step One: Graduate from High School or Earn a GED

Completion of a high school diploma is a basic necessity for many careers and is a requirement for admission at two- and four-year degree programs at colleges and universities.

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

Earning a bachelor’s degree in healthcare or business administration enables applicants to be qualified for entry-level positions in healthcare project management. Pursuing internship opportunities is a great way to gain professional experience while earning credit towards a bachelor’s degree.

Step Three: Gain Professional Experience (Two Years or More)

Interested in healthcare project management but not sure if it is the right career choice? Starting out in an entry-level job is an ideal way to explore the ins and outs of a specific field. After gaining a few years of professional experience, one can decide if staying or pivoting onto a different career path would be the best choice depending on career goals, interests, and personal strengths. 

Step Four: Get Project Management Certification (Optional, Timeline Varies)

Project management certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) gives professionals educational training opportunities to use within an existing or future career. Certification programs require a certain number of project management hours which can be earned on the job. Certification also demonstrates a commitment to current employers and can be an attractive feature on a resume for prospective employers. 

Step Five: Earn a Master’s Degree (Optional, Two Years)

Earning a master’s degree can prove to be a logical investment for those wanting to gain in-depth knowledge of healthcare project management and leadership.

It helps professionals stay current with the latest research and best practices, become qualified for lucrative leadership positions, and make resume qualifications stand out to future employers.

What Do Healthcare Project Managers Do?

From the job title, it is easy to understand that healthcare project managers oversee projects, but what does that actually mean? To be a healthcare project manager is to be in charge of a wide scope of activities with multiple departments and overlapping deadlines. 

Examples of projects in healthcare are: 

  • Hiring new medical staff
  • Reducing emergency room wait times
  • Overseeing the remodel of a hospital wing
  • Coordinating the launch of a research initiative to study or eradicate a disease

Essential job responsibilities for healthcare project managers include: 

  • Identifying problems and potential solutions
  • Monitoring the progress of multiple projects 
  • Following up with key stakeholders
  • Delegating tasks and responsibilities
  • Staying informed about current legislation, regulations, and policies
  • Communicating clearly and frequently with project team members
  • Using databases and project management software to stay organized 
  • Preparing reports for upper management on project status

Healthcare Project Managers Certifications & Licensure

Certification is not required for project managers, but being in possession of professional certification demonstrates a commitment to the field and increases an applicant’s chances of being promoted or hired.  

Certification for project managers is offered through the Project Management Institute (PMI). There are two certifications relevant to the field of healthcare project management: 

  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) is a starting-level certification for professionals wanting to expand their project management abilities. Applicants can register for the 150-question exam if they have earned a secondary degree (high school diploma, GED, or associate’s degree) and completed a 23-hour online course in project management offered by PMI.  
  • Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is recognized worldwide as an industry standard. In order to register for the 200-question exam, applicants must have a secondary degree, a minimum of 7,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education or CAPM certification.

How Much Do Healthcare Project Managers Make?

Professionals with bachelor’s degrees in healthcare-related fields who have less than five years of work experience in the healthcare industry are qualified for entry-level healthcare project manager positions. Healthcare project management careers can expect to earn annual salaries starting at around $80,634, including bonuses and overtime pay (Payscale.com 2021). 

Finally, the BLS (May 2020) reports that medical and health services managers—a field closely related to healthcare project management—earn an average annual salary of $118,800. 

Salaries are determined by a number of factors, including level of education, work experience, and location. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $59,980
  • 25th percentile: $78,820
  • 50th percentile (median): $104,280
  • 75th percentile: $139,650
  • 90th percentile: $195,630

Healthcare Project Manager Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a health project manager. 

Become a Health Services Manager

Health services managers keep hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare settings running smoothly. They are responsible for managing budgets, overseeing hiring, adhering to regulatory compliance, implementing IT systems, and managing facilities maintenance. 

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management (PAHCOM)

Become a Nursing Home Administrator 

Long-term care facilities are managed by nursing home administrators. Nursing home administrators must obtain a state license in most states. They are responsible for ensuring patient safety, facility compliance, and the quality of the staff in the centers. 

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Board (NAB)

Become a Clinical Research Coordinator

The key to a smooth-running clinical trial is having an outstanding clinical research coordinator. These coordinators collect data, audit the trial for regulatory compliance, manage the budget, keep participants and researchers on schedule, purchase supplies, and assist with closing out the project when the trial is complete.  

  • Typical Education: Associate degree or higher
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) and the Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA)
Rachel Drummond

Rachel Drummond

Writer

Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. A dedicated Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Rachel is interested in exploring the nuanced philosophical aspects of contemplative physical practices and how they apply in daily life. She writes about this topic among others on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).