Becoming a Medical and Health Services Manager

A health services manager at work.The U.S. healthcare sector is one of the country’s fastest-growing industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall healthcare employment is expected to grow 15% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average rate for all occupations.

The increasing demand for medical and health services managers — a broad BLS category of professionals whose work covers everything from public health to compliance with healthcare laws — is a key driver of this growth. Medical and health services managers may also be known as healthcare executives or healthcare administrators. They may also have more specific titles, like a nursing home administrator.

What do medical and health services managers do?

Health services managers have many possible responsibilities. Typically, they work within healthcare facilities like hospitals, physician’s offices, group medical practices, and nursing homes, performing duties such as:

  • Overseeing healthcare facility finances, including billing and fees for patients, and interacting with health insurance agents.
  • Drawing up the institution’s budget and then continuously measuring specific department-level spending against it.
  • Creating work schedules for doctors, nurses, clinical managers and medical staff.
  • Ensuring compliance with laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and staying up to date with guidance from regulatory health agencies.
  • Coordinating with other executive and administrative staff, for example during board meetings, and also via channels like email.
  • Maintaining compliant record-keeping practices and ensuring the presence of proper information systems such as modern electronic health record (EHR) solutions.
  • Establishing goals and objectives for their departments, with an eye toward improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of health service delivery.
  • Recruiting, training and managing other healthcare workers such as laboratory technologists, doctors, nurses and health information managers.

In executing these responsibilities, medical and health services managers draw upon their experience in health services administration, as well as their educational backgrounds in the healthcare field. While the vast variety of possible roles means there is no one-size-fits-all path toward becoming a health services manager, a few general requirements related to degree type and licensure still apply.

How do I become a medical and health services manager?

Aspiring medical and health services managers will need a combination of skills in people management, communication and leadership. They should also have some level of relevant technical knowledge of increasingly important technologies like EHR platforms and data analytics. Effective health services management requires expertise in a variety of areas, as medical and health services managers routinely perform many different types of tasks from day to day. They may have to carefully put together medical staff schedules, ensure new employees in a care facility know how to use its EHR and set up interviews with prospective hires, all in the same day.

What degree do medical and health services managers usually have?

In the context of these workplace demands, health services managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field before landing a position. The following fields are among the most common undergraduate majors for medical and health services managers:

  • Nursing
  • Public health administration
  • Health administration
  • Business administration
  • Health management

While a bachelor’s degree is necessary for most health services manager positions, it may not be sufficient in all instances. Many employers now prefer or even require a graduate degree as well. Earning a master’s degree such as the online Healthcare Master’s in Business Administration (HCMBA) from the George Washington University (GW) can be a vital step on the career path to becoming a medical and health services manager.

More specifically, master’s degrees like the GW HCMBA provide the advanced and varied expertise that healthcare administrators need to navigate their often complex set of job responsibilities. For example, the GW HCMBA features a core curriculum covering typical MBA topics related to finance, such as accounting and strategic management. These courses provide relevant knowledge and skills for managing the budgets and overall finances of healthcare facilities.

At the same time, the GW HCMBA degree path offers a wide range of specializations in healthcare-related topics, including patient safety systems, regulatory affairs and clinical research practice. Graduates of the program can emerge with well-rounded expertise in both management and healthcare, giving them the necessary skills for pursuing health services manager roles. The coursework in accounting, business ethics, operations management and similar areas is highly relevant to common medical and health services manager positions.

What are the common career paths to becoming a medical and health services manager?

Medical staff reviews a health services manager’s instructions.

In addition to a bachelor’s or master’s degree, healthcare administrators also typically need some amount of clinical experience in healthcare facilities. Accordingly, managers may begin their careers in other administrative roles, such as medical records technician or administrative assistant. In either capacity, they could become deeply familiar with how to use EHR solutions and collaborate with nursing staff and other medical personnel.

Working as a registered nurse is another possible stop on the journey toward a career as a medical and health services manager. The skills and knowledge developed during nursing education and practice translate well to the responsibilities of nursing home administrators and other residential care facility managers in particular.

Some graduate degree programs in healthcare may offer options for gaining the type of supervised experience that employers look for when hiring for managerial positions. Alternatively, a master’s degree program may itself require this type of real-world experience prior to admission.

Is licensure and/or certification required for medical and health services managers?

A specific license or certification is not required for most medical and health services manager jobs.

The notable exceptions are long-term care administrators such as nursing home administrators and residential living and assisted living administrators. The National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards maintains up-to-date information on the specific requirements for professional licensure by state, as these standards vary by jurisdiction. In general, becoming a licensed long-term care administrator will entail:

  • Earning a bachelor’s degree in a related discipline
  • Completing a state-designed and required training program
  • Passing one or more applicable national licensing exams

Optional certifications may be obtained to potentially improve career prospects. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), for instance, confers multiple certifications related to proficiency in medical coding and electronic records management. Requirements vary by certification type but may include completing AHIMA-approved academic programs, associate degree-level or higher coursework and passage of AHIMA’s administered exams.

What’s the average salary of a medical and health services manager?

Medical and health services managers’ salaries are high relative to national median pay. However, as with other occupations, total compensation varies considerably by location and industry. The BLS has estimated 2019 median pay of $100,980 per year for medical and health services managers. That compares to $91,300 for other management occupations and $39,810 for all occupations.

Health services manager salaries are highest in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing sector, with a mean of more than $200,000. Per the BLS, other industries with particularly high medical and health services manager salaries include:

  • Scientific research and development
  • Wholesale electronic markets
  • Medical and other instruments manufacturing
  • Chemical production

However, most health and services managers are employed by healthcare facilities and the organizations that operate them, rather than in those more specialized industries.

Salaries for major employers of medical and health services managers

The five sectors with the highest employment levels of health services managers are general medical and surgical hospitals, offices of physicians, outpatient care centers, skilled nursing facilities and home healthcare services.

At almost 3% of the total employment of health services managers, outpatient care centers have the highest concentration of this occupation. Other major employers of medical and health services managers include medical and diagnostic laboratories, specialty hospitals, ambulatory healthcare services and government health agencies.

For these common employer types, the BLS has provided the following median salary data as of May 2019:

  • Government: $111,520
  • State, local and private hospitals: $110,430
  • Outpatient care centers: $95,320
  • Offices of physicians: $91,600
  • Nursing and residential care facilities: $86,820

Finally, the District of Columbia had the highest average health services manager salary in 2019, at $150,040 annually. The next four highest-paying locations were New York, Hawaii, California and Massachusetts.

Begin your health services manager career with an online master’s degree

The GW HCMBA degree features a convenient online format that is ideal for working professionals. Whether you are a nurse or an accountant, the balanced curriculum of the GW HCMBA track, with coursework spanning topics in finance, management and modern healthcare, will prepare you for a career as a medical and health services manager. To get started, visit the main program overview page, where you can also answer a few questions to receive a detailed program brochure.

Recommended Readings:
How Hospital Management Affects Patient CareBecoming a Health Information Manager

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Medical and Health Services Managers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019 11-9111 Medical and Health Services Managers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Healthcare Occupations
American Health Information Management Association | Certifications and CareersNational Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards | Licensing Info