The medical field needs more than nurses and doctors. Our health care system relies on a team of administrative professionals who oversee office procedures, schedule appointments and maintain patient records. Health administration training programs can help workers gain the knowledge and skills needed for leadership roles that involve the following tasks:
- Recruiting and training staff members.
- Creating work schedules to ensure staffing needs are met.
- Managing communication between various staff members.
- Developing office policies that promote efficient patient care.
- Writing budgets and overseeing office finances.
Health Care Administration Specializations
Health care administration training programs can prepare students to work in a variety of settings. In addition to working in a general medical practice, graduates may go on to fill these specialized roles:
- Clinical managers are responsible for all aspects of a specific department within a medical practice. For example, they may oversee nursing, surgery or another specialty.
- Nursing home administrators must be licensed by their state, and they manage staffing, admissions and care in nursing home facilities.
- Health information managers oversee patient records and data. They ensure medical databases are complete, accurate and secure.
How to Become a Health Care Administrator
Consider the following steps to becoming a health care administrator:
- Earn a high school diploma or equivalent.
- Complete postsecondary training by earning a degree at the certificate, associate, bachelor's or master's degree level.
- Stay up to date and competitive in the workforce with licensure and certification that may be required, as detailed below.
Keep in mind that to work in this field, you'll need to have both administrative and medical knowledge. Employers are often looking for workers who are familiar with the following topics:
- Health services management
- Human resources
- Strategic planning
- Health information systems
- Accounting and budgeting
Health care administration schools offer degree programs at several levels. Entry-level positions may be available to those with a certificate or associate degree while larger practices may prefer to hire those with a bachelor's degree. Executive positions, such as that of a chief health officer, may be reserved for those with a graduate education.
- Certificate: Health care administration certificate programs can often be completed in one year or less. They are designed to offer a broad introduction to administrative topics and management practices. A certificate may be ideal for those want to familiarize themselves with the field before committing to a longer degree program.
- Associate Degree: Another quick way to enter the field is to earn a health care administration associate degree. Completed in two years, these degrees typically include instruction in medical terminology, records management, medical coding and similar topics.
- Bachelor's Degree: A four-year degree is considered the standard education for a medical or health services manager, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, employers may also require their managers to have some work experience so it might make sense to earn a health care administration associate degree first and obtain work experience before pursuing a bachelor's degree.
- Graduate Programs: The highest administrative positions within a health care organization may be reserved for those with an advanced education. Fortunately, many graduate certificates and master's degrees in health care administration can be conveniently earned online.
Health care and administration schools
Both two-year and four-year schools offer health care administration programs. There are also many health care administration programs online. Many of these allow students to receive their certificate or degree without ever setting foot on campus. Online health care administration schools may use a variety of resources, such as online libraries, multi-media presentations and discussion forums, to teach material and encourage interaction between students.
Licensure and certification for health care administrators
States require nursing home administrators be licensed, but there typically aren't government requirements for other health care administrators.
However, employers may seek out job applicants who have earned a voluntary certification. These programs are offered by industry organizations to designate individuals who have achieved a certain level of proficiency. The following are a few of the credentials available to health care administrators.
- Certified Medical Manager (CMM) from the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management
- Health Information Technology Certified Manager for Physician Practice (HITCM-PP) from the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management
- Certified Nursing Home Administrator (CNHA) from the American College of Health Care Administrators
- Certified Assisted Living Administrator (CALA) from the American College of Health Care Administrators
- Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) from The American Health Information Management Association
- Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) from The American Health Information Management Association
Each certification has different eligibility requirements. However, they typically look for applicants to have a minimum level of education and/or experience and pass a certification examination.
Health care administration career advancement
Some health care administrators start their careers as medical coders, administrative assistants or health information technicians. Then, as they gain more experience, they may move into management positions. Others advance their careers by going back to school and earning a bachelor's or master's degree. With so many health care administration programs online, it can be convenient for workers to keep their current job while studying in the evenings or on the weekends.
Top Health Care Administration Programs
Affordability, accessibility and student success are all hallmarks of a good college. We analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education and National Center for Education Statistics to find schools that excel in these area as well as provide top-notch health care administration programs. The following schools were the standout institutions according to our methodology.
GateWay Community College was the first technical school in Arizona, and it continues to be a pioneer in innovative education. The college has three campuses and two extension sites that house more than 150 degree, certificate and training programs. Local high school students can enroll in the Early College High School to earn both their diploma and an associate degree in five or fewer years.
Health care administration programs at GateWay: For future health care administration professionals, GateWay offers two options in health services management. The certificate of completion is intended to prepare students to fill leadership and supervisory roles. Meanwhile, those who are current supervisors and managers can enroll in the school's associate degree in health services management to gain additional skills and expertise.
Noted for being a military-friendly school, Quinebaug Valley Community College may be a good choice for anyone who wants to avoid going into debt for their education. The school says 70 percent of its students qualify for financial aid and none of them graduate with federal student loan debt. What's more, the college has an average class size of 16, ensuring a more personalized learning environment.
Health care administration programs at QVCC: Students can choose to earn either a certificate or associate degree from QVCC. The administrative medical office skills certificate provides an introduction to the field. It can be completed in two semesters and may lead to entry-level positions. There is also an associate degree in business administration: healthcare management for those who are interested in working as managers.
Des Moines Area Community College offers students both flexibility and affordability. The school says it has the lowest tuition in Iowa, and there are six campuses and seven other learning centers to make it convenient to get to class. Some degrees are available primarily online as well. With 200 education choices, Des Moines Area Community College says 95 percent of graduates would recommend their program.
Health care administration programs at DMACC: You can earn either a diploma or an associate degree through the medical office specialist program at DMACC. The diploma takes one year to complete and does not include an internship. The associate degree has an internship and general education classes and take two years to finish. Both are offered at the school's Ankeny campus.
At Iowa Central Community College, you'll find winning athletic teams, one of the state's more affordable tuition rates and even residence halls. The college has more than 100 education programs covering both academic and career-technical fields. The vast majority of classes have fewer than 30 students in them, and the college has a 19:1 student-faculty ratio.
Health care administration programs at Iowa Central: Students can earn an online Associate in Professional Studies in health care administration in two years at Iowa Central. The program has start dates every four weeks and uses an 8-week course schedule. This is an online-only program. High school students may be able to begin taking classes early thanks to partnership programs such as Senior Year Plus and Project Earlybird.
Minnesota West Community and Technical College says its students are learning with purpose. In other words, they are gaining the skills and knowledge needed to move into meaningful careers. Small classes and hands-on training are part of the experience at the college, which offers diplomas, certificates and associate degrees in more than 60 disciplines.
Health care administration programs at Minnesota West: Students can study on-campus or online at Minnesota West, and the school offers both a diploma and an associate degree in health care administration. The healthcare administrative assistant diploma is a one-year program that teaches the skills needed for entry level jobs. The healthcare administrative assistant associate degree takes two years to finish and includes additional classes such supervisory management and developmental psychology.
Skills and Qualities for Health Care Administrators
You'll need excellent communication and leadership skills to excel as a health care administrator. Specifically, professionals in the field should have the following qualities.
- Speaking: Like anyone working in a management position, medical and health services managers need to be comfortable speaking to employees, clients and colleagues in a variety of settings.
- Judgement and decision making: It falls to administrators to make decisions related to a health care practice's policies, budgets and staffing. A good manager will be able to carefully consider all options to select the best one.
- Writing: Managers may make their recommendations in writing or be required to submit reports, making good writing skills essential to the job.
- Oral expression: When talking to colleagues and staff, health care administrators must be able to clearly convey information and instructions.
- Problem sensitivity: A manager must have the ability to identify when a problem could potentially occur. This is known as having problem sensitivity.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Health Care Administrators
Before enrolling in any degree program, it makes sense to first understand your job and income prospects after graduation. Below is nationwide health care administration salary information, but actual income can vary significantly depending on a person's specific role within a health care organization as well as their education and years of experience.
The numbers below represent average nationwide career growth for health care administrators, but jobs opportunities may be best in areas with large hospitals or medical systems.
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||372,670||$113,730||19.8%|
Professional Resources for Health Care Administrators
There are several professional organizations dedicated to supporting the work of health care administrators. They include the following three industry groups:
- Association for health care Administrative Professionals - Known as AHCAP, this association provides resources and advocacy for those working in administrative positions that support health care executives.
- American Association of health care Administrative Management - Founded in 1968, this group serves the needs of administrators working on the finance side of health care.
- American College of Health Care Administrators - Formerly known as the American College of Nursing Home Administrators, this non-profit represents those working at facilities serving post-acute or aging populations.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard, we generated a list of schools that met the following criteria:
- Institution type is less than 2 years, greater than 2 & less than 4 years
- Accredited by at least 1 agency (institutional accreditation)
- The school falls under one of the following classifications: (Carnegie Classification 2015: Undergraduate Instructional Program)
- Associate's Colleges: Mixed Transfer/Vocational & Technical
- These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with 30-49% of awards (degrees and certificates) in career & technical programs.
- Associate's Colleges: Mixed Transfer/Vocational & Technical
Associate's Colleges: High Vocational & Technical
- These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with more than 50% of awards (degrees and certificates) in career & technical programs.
Special Focus: Two-Year Institution
- These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with typically more than 75% of awards in a single career & technical program
- The school must offer at least 1 program for the subject in question
We ranked the resulting colleges on the following variables:
- Cost of attendance, based on the average net price for students receiving scholarship and grant aid, and the total cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- No. of Associate degree and undergraduate Certificate programs offered for the subject (relevant CIP codes), National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- No. of Associate degree and undergraduate Certificates conferred for the subject (relevant CIP codes), National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of undergraduate students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Full-time student retention rate & part-time retention rate (if full-time retention rate is not available, then use part-time retention rate), National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
- The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2014-15
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical and Health Services Managers, Accessed January 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
Types of Certifications, The American Health Information Management Association, Accessed January 2019, http://www.ahima.org/certification/exams?tabid=him
Certification, American College of Health Care Administrators, Accessed January 2019, https://www.achca.org/certification
Certification, Professional Association of Health Care Office Management, Accessed January 2019, https://cert.pahcom.com/
Undergraduate Certificate in health care Management, Liberty University, Accessed January 2019, https://www.liberty.edu/online/business/bachelors/certificate/health care-management/
Associate Degree health care Administration, Ashworth College, Accessed January 2019, https://www.ashworthcollege.edu/associate-degrees/health care-administration/
Medical and Health Services Managers, O*Net Online, Accessed January 2019, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9111.00
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- About GateWay, GateWay Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.gatewaycc.edu/about
- GateWay Early College High School, GateWay Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.gatewaycc.edu/gwechs
- Quinebaug Valley Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://qvcc.edu/#
- About DMACC, Des Moines Area Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.dmacc.edu/about/Pages/welcome.aspx
- Iowa Central Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.iowacentral.edu/#
- Why Minnesota West?, Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.mnwest.edu/about