Career guide: Health care manager

  • Health care managers oversee a health care practice in its entirety.
    Health care managers oversee a health care practice in its entirety.

    Career guide: Health care manager

    Advanced degree programs, particularly those focused on business – notably the master's in business administration – can prepare you well for an exciting career in upper management. While one tends to associate MBA graduates or administration program graduates with lucrative careers in the private sector, this is by no means the only career path open to you. Indeed, if you're a graduate with a passion for management and making a positive difference in other people's lives, a career in the health care sector could be a rewarding move. 

    But how is it possible to work in health care without medical training? The answer is through a behind-the-scenes role in health care administration. Such professionals are known as health care managers or health care administrators. While specific duties vary, these professionals oversee the daily operations of health care practices, and can be found in a number of settings, from small independent clinics to entire hospital departments.

    Eager to learn more? Read our career guide for health care management:

    What do health care managers do?
    Health care managers are tasked with ensuring that a clinic or health care department functions well in terms of the services it provides and meets goals in terms of providing impeccable patient care, New England College explained. As such, the role is multi-faceted, with a number of duties and expectations that can vary, contingent on the institution in which a professional is employed. Some of the most common responsibilities, according to Villanova University, are as follows:

    • Working with health care providers, such as doctors, surgeons and nurses, to ensure that practice mandates are followed and patient care remains at a satisfactory level.
    • Interviewing and hiring new health care providers.
    • Managing administrative staff.
    • Overseeing the schedules of health care providers and administrative staff.
    • Meeting with health care providers and heads of departments to gauge a sense of their needs and offer guidance when necessary.
    • Reporting to board members of the practice, explaining the business side of the operation. Also serving as a liaison between medical staff and board members.
    • Developing practice policy and ensuring that it is closely followed.
    • Meeting with pharmaceutical representatives.
    • Making purchasing decisions.
    • Ensuring that the practice complies with government mandates, at both the state and federal level.
    • Overseeing the financial infrastructure of the organization. 

    The list above is by no means exhaustive, nor will all health care managers perform every duty. As detailed in an article from the Houston Chronicle, health care managers in smaller practices will likely have a different kind of workload when compared with those working in large hospitals. In a smaller clinical context, for example, a health care manager may take on more administrative daily tasks such as processing insurance claims and managing electronic health records, the source elaborated. In larger organizations, such tasks will likely be delegated to less experienced professionals. 

    Furthermore, the Chronicle explained that health care manager roles can sometimes be even more tailored to specific duties. For example, it is possible to work as a health care manager and focus specifically on health information technology. The settings in which health care managers are found can also determine the nature of their role. A clinical manager in a pediatrics clinic will no doubt perform different duties than administrators working in care homes. In any case, however, certain objectives overlap – namely to ensure that the practice functions well and facilitates a high level of patient care.

    How to succeed as a health care manager
    As detailed by Utica College, to excel as a health care manager, first and foremost, you will need an aptitude for both organization and communication. The role entails meeting with professionals from differing backgrounds to solve often complex and challenging problems, so the ability to move between various projects in different areas with ease – from finance, to administration, health care law and IT – is a must. Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to manage teams of individuals is also essential.

    Necessary qualifications
    While it is possible to work your way up to the role of health care manager with a bachelor's degree and extensive experience, employers are increasingly looking for candidates with advanced degrees, Villanova University reported. Examples of degrees that are impressive to employers include a master's of public administration or a master's of business administration. Master's programs oriented to health care, such as a master's in public health, are also marketable. Employers also tend to prefer candidates with some previous administrative experience in the health care sector, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. In some cases, health care managers, particularly in higher roles, may have worked as health care providers. 

    Typical compensation
    Salaries in this role are typically generous. A recent 2017 article from U.S. News & World Report noted that the median nationwide salary for this position currently stands at $94,500. As detailed by Villanova University, however, it is possible to earn even more than this figure, with six-figure salaries common. Conversely, professionals working in smaller practices, perhaps with less experience, will likely earn less than the median figure. Citing statistics from the BLS, the source explained that, at the bottom end of the salary spectrum, health care managers take home a little over $56,000 a year.

    Job outlook
    Growth in employment is forecast in this sector, the BLS detailed. By the year 2024, employment is expected to have increased by some 17 percent from 2014 levels. The demand can likely be chalked up to the growing need for health care professionals in general, most probably on account of an aging population. 

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