What is Healthcare Administration?

Healthcare administration is the business side of healthcare. Doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals are all on the front lines of providing high-quality care to patients. However, at the end of the day, the clinics and hospitals where these professionals work are businesses and must be managed as such. 

There are professionals at all levels of healthcare administration, from facility management all the way up to the CEO of the hospital. These professionals are responsible for maintaining a smooth-running operation centered on quality patient outcomes. Some of these roles involve supervising staff, while others may entail establishing policy or even compliance. Those working in healthcare administration rarely have contact with patients, although they typically work in teams with other healthcare professionals or administrators. 

While it may seem second nature to have administrators in healthcare settings, this has not always been the case. The first hospital superintendents appeared in the early 1800s, with the first formal association, the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, being established in 1844.

In 1899, eight hospital superintendents founded the Association of Hospital Superintendents, later becoming the Association of Hospital Administrators (AHA). Even from the early days, costs were at the forefront of administrators concerned with the rising costs of healthcare. In 1904, the AHA established its first formal committee to develop a uniform hospital accounting system.  

Over the years, the focus of the AHA (and healthcare administration as a whole) has shifted. In the 1930s, AHA prioritized education and research; by the 1940s, the organization started looking at better patient care; and in the 1950s, it moved to improve public welfare through improved hospital care. Lobbying became a priority for the AHA in the 1970s and has remained a cornerstone of their organization. Overall, healthcare administration has transformed to create a standardized, consistent system that provides quality medical care. 

Healthcare administration is a vast field. Below is an overview of this line of work, including work environments, specific job titles, day-to-day duties, and job outlook. 

Job Titles in Healthcare Administration

Within healthcare administration, there are numerous roles. Titles for professionals in this field vary based on place of employment, education level, and job duties performed. Typical titles in this career include:

Jobs in healthcare administration are divided into two categories. Generalists can be tasked with overall facility or organizational management, such as a hospital CEO. Specialized healthcare administrators, such as human resource managers, work within a department or designated field. 

Work Environment of Health Administrators

Most professionals in healthcare administration work in offices and rarely interact directly with patients. However, healthcare administration members tend to be a part of a larger team and interact with other professionals daily. They also frequently work with clinicians, physicians, nurses, lab staff, and other health professionals who work directly with patients. 

Healthcare administrators generally have office hours of nine to five, Monday through Friday. However, administrators may have to work weekends or odd hours if they work in a 24-hour facility. It is also common for healthcare administrators to be on-call in case of emergencies. Hospital administrators primarily work full-time, and overtime hours are not uncommon. 

The most common place for healthcare administrators to work is in hospitals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2023) estimates that a third of medical and health service managers work in hospitals. The rest work in physician’s offices, nursing or residential facilities, outpatient care centers, and government agencies. 

Education Requirements of Health Administrators

It is possible to become a healthcare administrator with only a bachelor’s degree, although a master’s degree is the most common degree obtained and preferred by many employers. The most common majors for those pursuing an undergraduate degree are healthcare administration, social work, public health, or business administration. 

Master’s degrees in healthcare administration (MHA) are offered all across the country in online, hybrid, and on-campus formats. These degrees take two to three years to complete and often include hands-on internships that directly provide students with valuable experience in this field. 

Other master’s degrees that may provide the necessary education to enter this field include public health, social work, nursing, and health information management. In addition, students who want to pursue this career should take business administration courses, medical terminology, health information systems, ethics, accounting, and hospital organization. 

Education alone is often not enough to enter this field directly. Recent graduates may need a year or two of relevant work experience to advance into a healthcare administration career. Typical entry-level work can include nursing, administrative assistance, health information technology, or finance. 

Typical Job Duties of Health Administrators

The primary role of healthcare administrators is to plan, direct, and manage medical services. This can be done in various ways, from large-scale planning to managing a facility to coordinating human resources. While healthcare administrators’ day-to-day duties vary depending on their place of employment, there are universal tasks.

  • Finding ways to improve the efficiency of medical care delivery
  • Setting goals for a given department
  • Maintaining compliance with federal, state, and local regulations
  • Recruiting and training staff
  • Setting work schedules
  • Writing budgets for a department
  • Ensuring a department stays within budget 
  • Communicating with medical staff and senior staff to keep them up to date 
  • Maintaining careful records

Career Outlook of Health Administrators

The BLS (2023) classifies professionals in healthcare administration as medical and health services managers and anticipates a 28 percent increase in positions nationally between 2022 and 2032. This is more than nine times the national average for all professions during the same period. 

There are several reasons for this substantial growth, but the primary one is an aging Baby Boomer population. As this population ages but wants to stay healthy and active, they will continue to increase the demand for high-quality medical care. 

Another reason for the increased demand for healthcare administrators is the change in how healthcare is delivered. For example, most medical procedures were provided at hospitals in the past as they had the resources, facilities, and staff. Now, more and more clinics and outpatient centers have the necessary equipment and staff to provide the procedures themselves, often at a lower cost. However, facilities must provide additional administrative staff to help manage the equipment, budgeting, staff, and resources these other procedures require. 

Working in healthcare administration can be quite lucrative. The BLS (May 2022) estimates that the average wages for professionals in this field are $127,980 per year. The top 90 percent of earners make $209,990 per year or more, while the bottom 10 percent earn $64,100 or less. Wages are primarily based on place of employment and education level. Those with master’s degrees or higher make the most and work in urban areas such as Los Angeles and New York.

Useful Professional Associations in Healthcare Administration

  • American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM)
  • American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA)
  • American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)
  • American Hospital Association (AHA)
  • Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA)
  • Commission on Accreditation Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
  • National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL)
  • Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM)

Professional Certification for Healthcare Administrators

Professional certification can benefit healthcare managers and the organizations they work for. Healthcare administrators have numerous professional certifications that can be earned by completing a specialized educational program and passing an exam. In addition, professional certifications demonstrate to employers that a healthcare administrator has the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their job effectively. 

One of healthcare administrators’ most popular professional credentials is the Fellow of American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) for those specializing in management, IT, finance, and operations. The Certified Medical Manager (CMM) is offered by the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM), which is focused on healthcare office managers. The Certified Revenue Cycle Executive (CRCE) and Cycle Professional (CRCP) credentials offered by the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) are available to those with four years of experience in a healthcare-related field. 

Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson


At HealthcareDegree.com, Kimmy Gustafson has delivered in-depth and insightful articles since 2019, aiding prospective students to navigate the complexities of choosing the right healthcare degree. Her recent work includes topics such as the ethics of gene editing and physician assistant’s fight for autonomy.

Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working, she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.

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