Pros and Cons of a Health Administrator Career
Health administrators work in hospitals, physician offices, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and ambulatory care centers. Here are a few pros and cons of working as a health administrator.
|Pros of Working as a Health Administrator|
|High pay (around $93,000 median salary as of 2014)*|
|Excellent expected job growth (around 23% from 2012-2022)*|
|Good job prospects in private healthcare offices*|
|Much faster growth than other management professions*|
|Cons of Working as a Health Administrator|
|Could require long hours*|
|Could require work on weekends or nights*|
|Pressure to meet business goals*|
|Some jobs require a graduate degree*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Essential Career Info
If you work as a health administrator, you are likely to be in charge of managing and directing the operations of a healthcare organization. You might be in charge of one or more departments or manage a whole facility, and you may manage people as well as finances. You could supervise staff recruitment, negotiate with vendors and ensure your facility is operating according to government healthcare standards. Some of your daily job duties might include planning budgets, looking over accounting records, supervising work activities, recruiting new personnel or establishing work schedules.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2014, health administrators earned a median annual salary of about $93,000 (www.bls.gov). Top-paid health administrators earned $161,000 or more, while the lowest-paid made $56,000 a year or less. The industries that paid the most in this field included pharmaceutical manufacturing, mail and electronic shopping firms, and scientific research services.
The BLS reported that growth for health administrators is expected to increase 23% between 2012 and 2022. The healthcare industry in general is expected to grow as the aging U.S. population needs more medical care, with the most growth expected in private physician offices. In May 2014, the industries with the highest levels of employment of health administrators are surgical hospitals, physician offices, nursing care facilities, home healthcare services and outpatient care facilities.
Education and Professional Requirements
The minimum educational requirement for many health administrator positions is a bachelor's degree. A Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) with a concentration in healthcare administration could be a good choice, teaching you the specific skills needed for the healthcare milieu. General courses might include demand analysis, accounting, corporate financial planning, operation strategy and decision making, while healthcare-specific topics may cover healthcare law, long term care systems, healthcare ethics and patient care. Another choice is a bachelor's degree in finance or human resources.
If you're already a healthcare professional, earning a master's degree in health administration could provide a way to advance your career. For instance, if you're a registered nurse and would like to become a nursing administrator, you might specialize in patient care quality improvement.
To be successful in health administration, you must be able to communicate effectively to both management and employees and be able to clearly define organizational goals. You'd also want to be an adept decision maker and active listener. Other skills that could improve your chances of success include social perceptiveness, writing and fluency in healthcare technology, such as medical coding and electronic health record (EHR) systems.
A license is not required for most health administrators. However, nursing home administrators must be licensed in all states and, in some states, a license is also required for assisted living facility administrators. To get a license, candidates must have a bachelor's degree, complete a training program approved by the state and pass an exam.
Most employers seek employees with a few years of experience in a healthcare organization. You might get work with a bachelor's degree, but sometimes a master's degree is required. To get a feel for what it takes to get a job in this field, take a look at these job ads placed by real employers in May 2012.
- A nursing home administrator was needed at a Houston, TX facility. Requirements included a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration or a medical specialty, along with at least three years of experience. Job duties covered goal development, HIPAA compliance, operations and staff development.
- A Maryland healthcare facility sought an executive director to provide overall leadership and manage healthcare staff. To be eligible for this position, candidates needed a bachelor's degree and two years of experience.
- A long term care hospital in Denver, CO looked for a CEO to be in charge of facility operations and administration. Duties included preparation for regulatory review and inspection, goal-setting, budgeting and communication with medical staff. A 4-year degree was required, as well as at least five years of leadership experience.
How to Beat the Competition
One way to boost your resume is to join a professional organization, such as the Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management. This group offers 18 certifications in health administration and sponsors professional conferences.
If you want to work in a healthcare-related profession but don't want the stress of working in management, consider working as an insurance underwriter. Professionals in this field evaluate insurance applications to determine eligibility for coverage. You'd need a bachelor's degree for this job, which pays about $61,000 per year. The BLS predicts that during the 2010-2020 decade, growth for insurance underwriters as a whole may be slower than average at six percent. However, those in the health insurance industry are likely to experience faster growth due in part to greater demand for long term care insurance.
Social Service Manager
If you like the idea of working as a manager and helping people but don't want to work in a hospital, you might choose a career as a social service manager. In this position, you could be responsible for coordinating social service programs for community organizations. The minimum educational requirement for this position is typically a bachelor's degree, and the median salary is about $59,000 per year. Although this manager salary is substantially less than for a health administrator, the BLS projects growth in this profession to be faster than average at 27%, with especially good opportunities in the individual and family services sector.