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In all businesses managers are needed to plan, direct, coordinate, and supervise the delivery of goods and/or services. For health service managers, healthcare is the service. Health service managers integrate health delivery systems, incorporate technological innovations, and make improvements in facilities' efficiency, healthcare quality, and preventive care opportunities.
Healthcare managers fall into one of two categories: specialist or generalist. Specialists are mostly employed by larger facilities, such as hospitals, and oversee particular clinical departments or services. These include cardiology departments or intensive care units. In such facilities, multi-level administrators are employed to complete managing duties. Generalists, who often work in smaller facilities, manage an entire facility or system. Smaller facilities often hire one top administrator who must complete most tasks.
Healthcare managers must be comfortable making decisions based on very large amounts of money. Singular pieces of medical equipment, for which health services managers are often responsible, can be worth millions of dollars. A sound understanding of finance and money management, therefore, is required. Other skills required include strong leadership, tact, and diplomacy. Healthcare managers must also understand different information systems and possess strong communication skills in order to interpret data effectively and to communicate this data with others.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), health services managers earned a median annual salary of $80,240 in 2008. The lowest 10 percent earned $48,300 a year, while the highest 10 percent earned $137,800. The highest salaries were paid to those who worked in the field of navigational, measuring, electro-medical, and control instruments manufacturing, whose mean salaries were just under $136,000 in 2008. The 2008 mean salaries of health services managers working the largest employers in the field were:
- $94,090 - hospitals
- $86,190 - doctors' offices
- $77,050 - nursing care facilities
- $82,170 - home health care services
- $82,270 - outpatient care centers
Education and Training
A bachelor's degree is required to enter the field, although most employers require their health services managers to have a master's degree in one of the following fields:
- Health services administration
- Business administration
- Long-term care administration
- Health sciences
- Public health
- Public administration
According to the BLS, in 2007 there were 72 accredited programs leading to a master's degree in health services administration and 42 accredited bachelor's programs. Colleges and universities who offer these programs should include all coursework needed to train to become a health care manager. Competition for a spot in a graduate program is stiff, so it is important for undergraduate students to maintain high GPAs.
Those with bachelor's degrees usually begin their careers as administrative assistants or assistant department managers, while master's degree holders often begin as department heads or staff employees. Except for nurse administrators, other health care managers do not need to be licensed.
While hospitals should remain the largest employer of health care managers, employment will grow fastest in doctors' offices and in home health care agencies, according to the BLS. Other employers include health care management companies, who provide management services to medical organizations, such as hospitals and doctor's offices; federal government healthcare facilities; ambulatory facilities; outpatient care providers; insurance carriers; and elder care facilities.
The BLS anticipates faster than average job growth, a 16 percent growth from 2006 and 2016, for health services managers. If the prediction is accurate, there will be 305,000 health care managers in 2016, compared with 262,000 in 2006. The BLS notes that best job opportunities will be for those with the highest levels of education in the field, and for those with experience in a specialized area, such as hospitals, nursing homes, mental health facilities, or medical groups, or in a specialized department, such as cardiac care.
About the Author
Candice Mancini is a freelance writer and a teacher of AP English literature and college writing. She has an M.A. in Education and a B.A. in English and history.