How to start a job in healthcare administration

Christina Omlor

So, you’re interested in a job in healthcare administration? That’s great news! Not only is the entire healthcare industry going from strength to strength in the US right now, healthcare administration jobs are expected to grow by 23% from 2012 to 2022! This is a much higher rate than a lot of other occupations, and it means that you can expect consistent job security, a great salary, plenty of advancement opportunities and lots of perks and benefits in the coming years if you commit to training to become a healthcare administrator! 

What is healthcare administration?

Let’s go back to basics. If you’re still at school or you’re looking to change your career to healthcare then it’s worth getting acquainted with what, exactly, a career in healthcare administration involves. In a nutshell, healthcare administration, also often called health administration and medical administration, involves making daily and long-term decisions that are in line with the healthcare system’s business strategies.

What do healthcare administrators do? 

This means that healthcare administration professionals are responsible for administering, leading and managing healthcare systems, such as hospitals, hospital networks or large healthcare systems.

As a healthcare administrator you can expect to work closely with physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, and other healthcare workers, or even with patients or insurance agents to ensure patients get the best possible quality of care.  You might also be responsible for administering programs that teach healthy lifestyle habits and/or the prevention of disease to help the wider community thrive.

It’s worth noting though, that due to the fast-paced nature of the healthcare industry, most hospital administrators don’t always work 9 to 5. So, you can expect to work long and irregular work hours to keep up with the 24/7 operations of the hospital or medical center you work for and to be called in at any hour. You will also be expected to stay on top of recent advances in medicine, diagnostic equipment, data-processing technology, governmental regulations, changes in health insurance, and multiple financing options for patients.

I love my job. I think working with the families and veterans is a very rewarding experience.” – anonymous employer review at Veterans Administration Medical Center 

Where do healthcare administrators work? 

Most healthcare administrators work in offices in non-patient facing roles. Healthcare administration is great, then, if you’re looking for a job in healthcare that doesn’t involve contact with patients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 406,100 jobs in 2018 with the largest employers being: 

Hospitals state, local, and private – 33%

Offices of physicians – 11%

Nursing and residential care facilities – 10%

Government – 8% 

Outpatient care centers – 7%

How much can I expect to earn in healthcare administration? 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Healthcare Administrators had an average salary of $99,000, and that the lowest 10 percent earned less than $58,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $182,600. So, you can expect to earn a salary within this range. 

It has amazing clients and staff. I get paid vacation, sick and holiday pay.” – anonymous employer review at Healthcare Management

How can I land a job in healthcare administration? 

Starting a career in healthcare administration does require a few years of hard work and study, but the investment of time and money will be worthwhile later on. As we already said, now is the perfect time to get started on a healthcare administration career path by first getting a college degree in a related field, getting a few years of experience with entry-level jobs in healthcare administration, and then eventually getting an MHA, Masters of Health Administration, Masters in Health Management, or Masters of Science in Healthcare Administration. Here’s how to get started. 


1. Get familiar with the different types of jobs in healthcare administration


Although they all fall under the umbrella term of healthcare administration, jobs in this sector are as varied as the people who work in them. When deciding on the right healthcare administration career path for you, and the type of degree you need to study for you should consider what your motivations are, what kind of environment you want to work in, how much contact you want to have with patients, your skillset and your personality traits. If you can, try to talk to people you know who work in different roles to get a feel for what they’re like.

You could also take a look at these roles, which also happen to be in high demand right now, and see what the requirements are for each: 

  • Human Resource Manager
  • Social and Community Service Manager 
  • Training and Development Manager
  • Administrative Services Manager
  • Practice Manager 
  • Health Insurance Specialist 



2. Graduate from high school (4 years)

The first step in your journey towards a career in hospital administration is to complete four years of high school and receive your diploma. This will give you a strong foundation for college especially if you study hard in science, math, computer science, and statistics. It’s also helpful to take AP courses in these core areas if offered. Essentials you most definitely need, are excellent written and oral communication skills. If available, courses in business administration will help as well. 


3. Apply for and study on a Bachelor’s degree program (4 years)


A bachelor’s degree in health administration or closely related field is often a minimum requirement for entry level positions. However, just holding a bachelor’s degree might not be enough to qualify you for higher positions, so you should think about taking complementary Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees to boost your chances. Before enrolling in a healthcare administration program,  you should think about these three things: Program length, because it can be completed in four years. Cost, because it can jump up to 31k$ per year and the delivery method, because some courses can also be completed online.


4. Get a Master’s Degree (2 years)


If your goal is to reach upper management, and take on positions with much more responsibility, then it’s worth thinking about enrolling on a Master’s degree program. And, if you enjoy studying you could even go on to study for a doctorate in a management-related field to reach for even higher levels of employment in the healthcare system. 


5. Hone your management skills


To cement yourself in a career in healthcare administration you will need to hone your skills in the following areas: Analytical skills, communication skills, detail orientation, interpersonal skills, leadership skills and technical skills. 


6. Get as much experience as possible


Healthcare administration is very competitive, so the more hands-on experience you have, the more chance you have of landing a job and progressing into higher positions. The best way to get some first-hand experience in healthcare administration is to apply for internships, fellowships and residencies. The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) provides an online directory of fellowships which can be found here otherwise you should consider volunteering/working for free for any one of these institutions: 



7. Check licensing laws

Once you’re ready to apply for your first job, you will need to check the licensing situation in your state. For example, all states require licensure for nursing home administrators but these requirements vary by state. Some states also require licensure for administrators in assisted-living facilities. A license is not normally required in other areas of healthcare administration. However, some positions may require applicants to have a registered nurse or social worker license, so you will need to check this. In most states, healthcare administrators must have a bachelor’s degree, complete a state-approved training program, and pass a national licensing exam. Some states also require applicants to pass a state-specific exam and others may require applicants to have previous work experience in a healthcare environment. 

For information on specific state-by-state licensure requirements, visit the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards.

If you choose to make 2020 the year you get into healthcare administration, you’ve got this! Good luck on your journey!


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