How to Become a Medical or Health Services Manager
Large healthcare facilities usually have several assistant administrators who aid the top administrator and handle daily decisions.
Most medical and health services managers have at least a bachelor’s degree before entering the field; however, master’s degrees also are common. Requirements vary by facility.
Medical and health services managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. However, master’s degrees in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration also are common.
Prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration. These programs prepare students for higher level management jobs than programs that graduate students with other degrees. Courses needed for a degree in health administration often include hospital organization and management, accounting and budgeting, human resources administration, strategic planning, law and ethics, health economics, and health information systems. Some programs allow students to specialize in a particular type of facility, such as a hospital, a nursing care home, a mental health facility, or a group medical practice. Graduate programs often last between 2 and 3 years and may include up to 1 year of supervised administrative experience.
Although bachelor’s and master’s degrees are the most common educational pathways to work in this field, some facilities may hire those with on-the-job experience instead of formal education. For example, managers of physical therapy may be experienced physical therapists who have administrative experience. For more information, see the profile on physical therapists.
Analytical skills. Medical and health services managers must be able to understand and follow current regulations and be able to adapt to new laws.
Communication skills. These managers must be able to communicate effectively with other health professionals.
Detail oriented. Medical and health services managers must pay attention to detail. They might be required to organize and maintain scheduling and billing information for very large facilities, such as hospitals.
Interpersonal skills. Medical and health services managers need to be able to discuss staffing problems and patient information with other professionals, such as physicians and health insurance representatives. They must be able to motivate and lead staff.
Problem-solving skills. These managers are often responsible for finding creative solutions to staffing or other administrative problems.
Technical skills. Medical and health services managers must be able to follow advances in health care technology. For example, they may need to use coding and classification software and electronic health record (EHR) systems as their facility adopts these technologies.
Medical and health services managers advance by moving into more responsible and higher paying positions. In large hospitals, graduates of health administration programs usually begin as administrative assistants or assistant department heads. In small hospitals or nursing care facilities, they may begin as department heads or assistant administrators. Some experienced managers also may become consultants or professors of healthcare management. The level of the starting position varies with the experience of the applicant and the size of the organization.
For those already in a different healthcare occupation, a master's degree in health services administration or a related field might be required to advance. For example, nursing service administrators usually are supervisory registered nurses with administrative experience and graduate degrees in nursing or health administration. For more information, see the profile on registered nurses.
All states require nursing care facility administrators to be licensed; requirements vary by state. In most states, these administrators must have a bachelor's degree, pass a licensing exam, and complete a state-approved training program. Some states also require administrators in assisted-living facilities to be licensed. A license is not required in other areas of medical and health services management.