While there are many similarities between health care administration and health care management, the two terms are not interchangeable. Are you seeking to have more control over the day-to-day operations of a healthcare facility, or do you want to make decisions that impact the organization as a whole?
The answers to those questions will help you determine which direction you want to take your career.
What Is Health Care Administration?
The word “administrator” may be used for specific roles, but health care administration is an umbrella term that encompasses several responsibilities in a health care setting. Whether it is a healthcare office, outpatient facility, or a hospital, health care administration involves overseeing operations, including staffing, scheduling, planning, and budgeting, among other responsibilities.
What Is Health Care Management?
In health care management,* you will be more involved with the business side of the organization, which can include a variety of jobs, including marketing, facility management, and capital improvement projects.
Health Care Administration vs. Management: Similarities and Differences
Health care administration and health care management are both leadership fields. You will be given a tremendous amount of responsibility and have numerous face-to-face conversations on a daily basis, though health care administration and management roles rarely involve patient interactions. Both fields are critical to the overall success of the organization, and they require a thorough understanding of complex industry rules and regulations.
In health care administration, your focus is on the health of the patients, while healthcare managers are dealing with the health of the organization. In a nutshell, you could say that administration involves the “day-to-day” while management oversees the “big picture.”
What Skills Do I Need for These Roles?
Every job requires a combination of soft skills and hard skills, but health care administration and management roles lean heavily on your ability to lead, empathize, and analyze. Through your education and daily interactions, you’ll want to possess and perfect your:
In a healthcare leadership or supervisory setting, you must be able to connect and establish common ground with co-workers, employees, and patients and their families, while learning to identify and overcome barriers to communication.
Developing chemistry and rapport within your department and organization will create a sense of unity and combined purpose while allowing everyone to showcase their individual strengths. As a healthcare administrator or manager, you must be able to craft that shared vision in order to move things forward.
Problem-solving requires a combination of analysis and level-headedness. This is critical in health care settings, where patient diagnoses are often in flux and you are dealing with a tremendous amount of incoming data.
Data Retrieval and Analysis Skills
That aforementioned data will need to be obtained and organized before you can make any decisions. As electronic health records are standard in today’s health care settings, you must be able to work within these systems to gather and report patient data.
Financial Planning Skills
At the administrative and managerial levels, you will have to understand financial reports, budgeting, cost classifications, and contractual allowances, among other concepts. Through education or experience, you must bring these skills to your role.
What Are the Educational Requirements for a Health Care Administrator or Manager Career?
Life and death decisions are made every day in the healthcare industry, and for that reason, employers will be looking to hire professionals with a comprehensive understanding of the big picture, including patient care techniques, policies, and regulations.
In the field of health care administration and management, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the agency responsible for analyzing the country’s employment data, predicts 32% growth through the end of the decade, adding that most medical and health services managers will have, “at least a bachelor’s degree before entering the field.”
At the bachelor’s degree level, your program should include courses that touch on critical elements of health care such as accounting, business, health care administration, health information management, and sociology. For example, in the Health Care Administration program at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC), essential courses include:
Your understanding of the ethical and legal implications of healthcare administration is paramount when it comes to life-or-death decisions. A course in ethics and medical law will broaden your knowledge of access, affordability, risk management, healthcare interventions, and human rights. This course presents the ethical and legal implications of healthcare administration. The unique legal aspects encountered in the provision of health services are analyzed. Concepts of risk management, continuous quality assurance, guardianship, Institutional Review Boards, and needs of special and diverse populations provide discussion points in the course. The overlapping domains of ethics and medical law are examined. Case studies and discussion of ethical and legal precedent-setting decisions are used to link theory with reality.
Whether it’s health care administration or management, your degree program must include courses that examine leadership, management theories, and organizational structure in health care settings. This course will help you integrate those core leadership skills with the rest of your knowledge. Students will get an overview of healthcare institutions’ organizational structure and management theories and explore human services, organizational design, managing finances, program evaluation, leadership theories, program planning, and implementing supervisory relations. Students will research clinical and administrative positions that contribute to the delivery of quality healthcare services. Prerequisite: HCA 205, HCA 305, or HPR 231.
Whether you are supervising a single department or an entire facility, you will need some exposure to human resources standards and practices. This course provides an introduction to the field of human resource management. Topics to be discussed include communication, motivation, and management of personnel. The course will include a review of current standards and practices as well as the legal environment as it pertains to the human resource field.
At the administrative level, you will need a fundamental understanding of accounting practices and procedures. This course is an applied managerial and financial accounting course, designed to provide healthcare decision-makers with fundamental concepts of healthcare accounting practices and procedures. Prerequisites: Successful completion of Quantitative Reasoning core competency and Digital Literacy competency.
As education is key to enhancing your career and increasing your opportunities, you may find that a master’s degree is required to move into administrative and executive leadership roles. At the master’s degree level, your degree curriculum should include courses in:
- Quality Improvement
- Risk Management
- Health Policy and Law
- Strategic Planning
- Information Systems
- Statistical Reasoning
- Human Resources
In a Health Care Management bachelor’s degree program, you will spend much of your time taking business courses. The BLS reports that “degrees that focus on both management and healthcare combine business-related courses with courses in medical terminology, hospital organization, and health information systems.”
Some of the courses you may take in a Health Care Management bachelor’s degree program include:
Project management is one of the fastest-growing fields across every industry, and courses in this area provide the skills needed to help you recognize the project management cycle as it applies to the healthcare industry. Courses typically cover topics such as how to oversee a project from concept to completion, and how to manage budgets, predict and avoid risk, and deal with multiple stakeholders.
Supply Chain Management
Supply chain management is a critical responsibility in the healthcare sector, involving several groups of people, including suppliers, producers, customers, and more. These courses aim to help you develop a framework for supply chain management within a healthcare organization, with a focus on performance optimization, cost management and adjustment, customer satisfaction, and product development and integration.
These courses typically focus on day-to-day healthcare business management tasks such as developing strategy and supervising operations – techniques and processes that you will need to run a business.
At the master’s degree level, a Health Care Management program will include courses such as:
- Operations Management
- Service Line Development
- Data-driven Decision Making
- Financial Management
What Is the Job Outlook for Health Care Administrators and Managers?
Your decision to pursue a health care-related education will position you for opportunity in a field that is growing rapidly every day, and that’s something to get excited about when applying for college. According to the BLS, the healthcare industry is in the midst of a surge that will lead to as many as 2.4 million new jobs through 2029. The increase is driven by an aging population of Baby Boomers and the implementation of new technologies for patient treatment, diagnosis, and record keeping.
With that in mind, you can use your bachelor’s degree in Health Care Administration to pursue roles that include:
- Healthcare office staff
- Medical administration
- Hospital operations
- Healthcare human resources
- Healthcare strategy
- Health service management
- Facilities management
- Medical information management
- Clinical research management
- Clinic administrator
- Health information manager
Further, if you choose to pursue a master’s degree in Health Care Administration, you will be prepared for a number of senior management roles that include:
- HMO administrator
- Contract negotiator
- Administrative services director
- Hospital administrator
- Clinical department manager
- Consultant healthcare administrator
- Healthcare program director
- Nursing home administrator
- Clinical manager
- Health information manager
These positions, and others, demand a combination of soft and hard skills, as they can involve a variety of responsibilities, including:
- Improving efficiency and quality in delivering healthcare services
- Developing departmental goals and objectives
- Ensuring that the facility is compliant with laws and regulations
- Recruiting, training, and supervising staff members
- Managing the finances of the facility, such as patient fees and billing
- Creating work schedules
- Preparing and monitoring budgets and spending to ensure departments operate within funding limits
- Representing the facility at investor meetings or on governing boards
- Keeping and organizing records of the facility’s services, such as the number of inpatient beds used
- Communicating with members of the medical staff and department heads
While your courses will prepare you for future success, it’s important to remember that healthcare is always evolving, and you should be prepared for changes to the laws, regulations, and technology.
If you’re looking to get a jump start on your job search while in school or want to continue researching careers that align with your professional and personal ambitions, the O*NET database is an excellent resource for occupational data. Simply search “health care administration” or “health care management” to see job outlooks, descriptions, and relevant information that will help you achieve success in your career.
What Are the Next Steps?
Education remains the key to career enhancement and knowing that the majority of today’s healthcare students will need a bachelor’s degree to pursue the jobs of tomorrow should help you determine your next step.
A Bachelor of Arts in Health Care Administration will serve as the foundation for your career, immersing you in the social, political, ethical, legal, and economic factors that impact the healthcare industry as a whole and the day-to-day decision making at the ground level. As a graduate, you will emerge career-ready with the ability to:
- Analyze the legal and ethical issues of healthcare systems
- Explore cultural and social demographic variables influencing the delivery of healthcare services
- Examine the provision of healthcare services within a regulatory environment
- Analyze the major financing systems of U.S. healthcare services
- Analyze the major forces driving change in the healthcare system
- Assess the major issues confronting community and public health services
Apply the theoretical dimensions of leadership within the health care environment
A master’s degree in Health Care Administration expands your knowledge of the healthcare field and is designed for those looking to find new opportunities within the health care administration field. Due to the comprehensive and advanced nature of this master’s program in healthcare, it can be highly desirable to both students and potential employers in the industry.
Upon completion of your MA in Health Care Administration, you will be able to:
- Apply health care financial and accounting concepts in organizational decision-making
- Apply principles of leadership in the development of strategic goals, achievement of organizational outcomes, and modeling of professional values
- Formulate health care decisions consistent with legal and ethical standards
- Utilize health care information technology and statistical reasoning in organizational planning and decision-making
- Demonstrate sensitivity to diversity in the health care setting
- Evaluate health care outcomes using quality improvement and risk standards
- Apply health care economic perspectives in the interpretation of health policy
- Apply problem-solving approaches in the resolution of health care issues
Communicate the responsibility of a healthcare professional remaining current in their professional knowledge. If you are interested in pursuing your degree in a flexible online environment that prioritizes your goals on your schedule, talk to a UAGC advisor today.
*UAGC does not offer a degree in healthcare management.
Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.