What is health administration? What you need to know in 2023
Written by Coursera •
What does a health administrator do (and how to become one)?
When you go to a doctor’s office or hospital, you are likely to interact with a receptionist, a nurse, a doctor, and perhaps a radiologist or other specialist. But behind the scenes, there is a health manager who makes sure the center runs smoothly.
Health administration is at the crossroads of business and medicine. It’s a field where you can apply your leadership and organizational skills to make a real difference in people’s lives.
Let’s take a closer look at what healthcare administrators do, why you might want to consider working in healthcare administration, and how you can begin this rewarding career.
What does a health administrator do?
A healthcare administrator (also sometimes known as a healthcare manager) is responsible for overseeing the operations of healthcare providers. Whether in a doctor’s office, hospital, senior care facility, or outpatient clinic, the health manager coordinates the business activities of the center or department.
Did you know…?
Health administrators do not only work in hospitals. They may also work at a pharmaceutical company, mental health clinic, government organization, health insurance provider, non-profit organization, or consulting firm.
Tasks and responsibilities
Although the exact tasks of healthcare administrators vary depending on the size and function of the organization, the role shares similarities with other leadership positions. As a healthcare manager, your day-to-day responsibilities may include:
- Ensure compliance with health laws and regulations
- manage finances
- Hire, train and supervise staff members
- Manage a detailed record of office and medical supplies
- Coordinate the work schedules of care providers and other employees
- Maintain patient medical records
- Process claims from insurance companies
- Improve the quality and efficiency of patient care
Working in a smaller practice or facility often means taking on most (if not all) of these roles. By contrast, if you’re a manager at a large hospital, you may be supervising or working alongside a team of managers, each with a different specialization.
Essential skills for health administration
As a successful healthcare administrator, you’ll use your business skills and knowledge of healthcare policy to make a big impact on your facility (and on the patients who come for care). In addition to several universal skills (empathy, communication, organization, leadership, critical thinking), you can set yourself up for a prosperous career by understanding:
- Budgets: Deliver quality healthcare while meeting financial goals.
- Patient Care: Understand best practices to help improve the patient experience.
- Law and health policy: Keep up to date with the latest legal changes to ensure that your center operates legally.
- Software: Use billing and coding software, as well as electronic record keeping systems, to keep records and accounting organized.
Why pursue a career in health administration
Working as a healthcare administrator gives you the power to change lives by ensuring the best possible patient experience. A doctor or nurse can only see a dozen patients a day. Through your work as a healthcare administrator, you have the opportunity to positively influence hundreds, if not thousands, of people. You can make an impact behind the scenes, without requiring a medical degree or direct patient care experience.
Salary and employment growth in health administration
The global healthcare market is projected to grow by almost nine percent annually through 2022 [ 1 ]. This demand can make health administration a well-paid career option, as well as a rewarding one. The average annual salary of healthcare administrators in Mexico in 2022 was 180,000 MXN, according to Talent.com [ 2 ].
Health Administration Specialization
While most healthcare administrators enter the workforce with at least a bachelor’s degree, the exact educational requirements vary by company and role. Let’s see the different types of degrees in health administration, their advantages and alternatives.
Types of Health Administration Degrees
Many colleges and universities offer health administration degrees at all levels. Choosing one or the other will depend on your specific career goals.
|title type||completion time||Your best option if…||Examples of professions|
|associate degree||Two years||You are looking for an entry-level position or planning to transfer from a community college to a degree program.||Billing or coding specialist, administrative assistant, medical transcriptionist|
|Graduation||Four years||You want to enter the workforce in a management position at a smaller facility.||Office manager, HR manager, healthcare consultant|
|master’s degree||two to three years||You have work experience and want to move up to a higher paying position or larger facility.||Hospital administrator, practice administrator, clinical director|
|Doctorate||three to five years||You want to do research in the field of health, direct politics or pursue a career in executive leadership.||University professor, policy director, hospital CEO|
Online degrees vs. face-to-face
Regardless of the degree level you choose, you can choose to complete your studies in person or online. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Studying in person allows you to take advantage of the community and facilities available on most college campuses. Class schedules are often rigid. This can make it difficult to manage your career, family, or other obligations at the same time. If you have a specific health management program in mind, you may also need to relocate to get the degree you want.
Studying online allows you to continue to gain valuable work experience in the healthcare sector while taking home a salary. You can earn a degree from the best universities without having to move, all while learning from the same professors as your in-person classmates.
Explore Coursera’s online degree options.
Health Administration Curriculum
Although the specific courses vary by program and university, you can take classes in topics such as:
- Systems of health
- Financial management
- Health care planning
- Law and health policy
- Compliance and risk management
- global health
Some health administration programs give you the opportunity to specialize in a specific field of study. Depending on your interests, you can choose to specialize in healthcare informatics, management, law and politics, or patient advocacy, among others.