Healthcare Management vs. Healthcare Administration: Understanding the Differences

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Healthcare management and healthcare administration are two crucial pillars of our healthcare system’s infrastructure, with each area involved in supporting medical staff and nurses as they work to treat patients and save lives.

While healthcare managers and healthcare administrators share some intersecting interests and focuses, each also is responsible for distinct duties and professional roles. Though they sometimes are confused for one another, the titles aren’t meant to be interchangeable.

Both jobs focus on ensuring that healthcare facilities run smoothly, but how that plays out in the day-to-day responsibilities can look different.

If you’re interested in a career helping ensure effective and efficient operations throughout our healthcare system, you may be interested in pursuing one of these roles. In both cases, earning graduate-level education, such as an online Healthcare MBA, can help you prepare to thrive as you meet the challenges of overseeing operations in a healthcare setting.

Check out the similarities and differences, and see which role best fits your professional interests.

What are the Similarities Between Healthcare Management and Healthcare Administration?

Healthcare management and healthcare administration share several similarities as they both have the shared goal of supporting the efficient and effective delivery of quality healthcare services.

Both fields involve overseeing the operational aspects of healthcare facilities, including staffing, budgeting and regulatory compliance. They also require strong leadership, communication and organizational skills to navigate complex healthcare systems successfully.

While there may be slight differences in emphasis, healthcare management and healthcare administration ultimately converge in their overarching goal of facilitating the smooth functioning of healthcare organizations to serve patients and communities effectively.

What Are the Differences Between Healthcare Management and Healthcare Administration?

The key distinguishing factor between healthcare managers and healthcare administrators is their focus. The two roles share considerable overlap in their goals and efforts, but according to online career resource Zippia, administrators tend to be more focused on the daily operations and logistics, such as staffing coordination and budgeting, whereas managers tend to work more closely with staff and medical professionals to help ensure positive patient outcomes.

Healthcare management is focused on the more strategic operations of a healthcare facility. This includes overseeing the staff and medical professionals who do the day-to-day work and treat patients. Managers also are concerned with ensuring the members of their teams have the resources to do their jobs effectively.

Healthcare administration, on the other hand, is focused on the processes and logistics within the organization, with responsibilities supporting facility goals and operations more directly.

Healthcare Administration and Healthcare Management Careers in Practical Terms

When you conduct your job search, you’re likely to find plenty of roles with similar but adjacent titles, rather than “healthcare administrator” and “healthcare manager.”

Because of this, roles with “manager” in the title may, in practical terms, align more closely with the duties and areas of emphasis of administration as outlined above, and vice-versa. For example, a role with the title “operations manager” or “office manager” may focus less on managing personnel or patient care and more on logistics and other typically administrative duties.

Administrator roles tend to align more closely with the above-outlined duties and expectations, but roles like “clinical administrator” or “ambulatory administrator” may require more direct contact with and oversight of medical and nursing staff in addition to the emphasis on facility operations.

What Is Healthcare Management?

Healthcare management professionals aren't just concerned with hiring and overseeing staff.

They handle the financial side of operations as well, making sure supplies are stocked and keeping the facility running smoothly. Their role is crucial in keeping the healthcare facility financially stable.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Healthcare Manager

  • Financial management. Healthcare managers oversee budgeting, financial planning and expenditure control to ensure the organization operates within its financial constraints.
  • Staff management. Healthcare managers recruit, hire, train and supervise staff members, ensuring adequate staffing levels to meet patient needs while adhering to budgetary constraints. They also handle performance evaluations and staff scheduling, and they address any staffing-related issues or conflicts that may arise.
  • Operations management. Healthcare managers are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the healthcare facility, including overseeing certain administrative tasks and facility maintenance. They coordinate with various departments to streamline workflows, optimize processes and enhance operational efficiency.
  • Strategic planning. Strategy is a major consideration for healthcare managers, as they develop and implement plans to achieve organizational goals and align with the desired profit margins. They also analyze market trends, identify opportunities for growth and make informed decisions to drive organization improvement.
  • Quality improvement. Healthcare managers lead quality improvement initiatives to enhance patient care outcomes and ensure the delivery of high-quality services. They monitor performance metrics, analyze data and implement evidence-based practices to continually improve patient safety, satisfaction and clinical outcomes.
  • Stakeholder relations. Internal and external relationships are crucial for healthcare facility operations, and healthcare managers maintain positive relationships with all types of stakeholders, including patients, medical staff, regulatory agencies, insurers and community organizations.
  • Emergency preparedness. Healthcare managers develop and implement emergency protocols and procedures to ensure the organization is prepared to respond effectively to emergencies and disasters. This may involve conducting drills, training staff and coordinating with local emergency response agencies.

What Is Healthcare Administration?

Healthcare administrators (HAs) are deeply involved in the micro-level operations of running a healthcare facility efficiently and effectively. By coordinating the facility's operations in an organized and efficient way, their day-to-day responsibilities are hyper-focused helping to ensure medical professionals have the resources and support to provide high-quality patient care.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Healthcare Administrator

  • Operational efficiency. Healthcare administrators are responsible for optimizing the day-to-day operations of the facility to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. This includes overseeing administrative processes like patient admissions, discharge procedures and scheduling of appointments, as well as managing the flow of patients and resources throughout the facility.
  • Financial management. HAs play a key role in managing the facility's financial resources to ensure sustainability and profitability. They develop and oversee budgets, monitor financial performance and identify opportunities for cost savings or revenue generation. They also work closely with billing and coding staff to ensure accurate and timely reimbursement for services provided.
  • Regulatory compliance. Health administrators ensure that the facility complies with all relevant healthcare regulations and accreditation standards. They must be knowledgeable of changes in regulations, and they work to implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance. This includes overseeing documentation, reporting and quality assurance processes to maintain accreditation and licensure.
  • Facility maintenance. HAs oversee the maintenance and upkeep of the physical facility to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for patients, staff and visitors. This includes managing repairs and renovations, ensuring compliance with safety regulations and coordinating with external vendors and contractors as needed for equipment and supplies.
  • Stakeholder relations. Like healthcare managers, healthcare administrators sometimes serve as a liaison between different departments within the facility and work to address concerns or issues raised by stakeholders in a timely and effective manner.
  • Staff management. Another responsibility with some overlap is staffing. Healthcare administrators may sometimes oversee staffing requirements, including recruitment, hiring, training and scheduling of personnel either serving as or in conjunction with HR. They work with a more strategic lens to ensure adequate staffing levels to maintain smooth facility operations and quality patient care.
  • Administrative tasks. Healthcare administrators handle a variety of administrative duties, such as managing patient records, maintaining compliance with regulatory standards (such as HIPAA) and overseeing billing and coding processes.
  • Quality improvement. Healthcare administrators lead efforts to improve the quality of patient care and overall organizational performance. This includes implementing quality improvement initiatives, monitoring outcomes and addressing any personnel issues that may arise.
  • Policy development. Healthcare administrators help develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance with regulations and promote best practices in healthcare delivery. They stay updated on changes in healthcare laws and regulations and ensure that the organization remains in compliance.

Educational Requirements

While educational requirements for these positions may differ depending on factors like the particular role, employer or area of operation, there’s a correlation between education and successful career outcomes.

The typical minimum requirement for healthcare management and related careers is a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Likewise, data compiled by Zippia shows entry-level healthcare administration positions also tend to require a bachelor’s degree.

However, if you hope to stand out among applicants and move into higher-level leadership roles, earning at least a graduate-level education in a related field can enhance your skills and improve your prospects of landing a job or advancing in your career. Typical areas of study include business administration, public health, health administration, health management and related fields.

Obtaining a Healthcare MBA can be beneficial for both healthcare managers and healthcare administrators, since this specialized degree combines the two primary functions of those roles: business and healthcare. Other degrees, such as a master’s in health administration, also offer viable paths toward healthcare leadership, though they may not be as flexible or open as many potential career pathways. These are among the reasons for choosing a Healthcare MBA.

Salary and Career Outlook for Healthcare Administration and Healthcare Management

Healthcare administration and healthcare management comprise an array of potential roles, from entry-level administrative positions and mid-level manager jobs to leadership positions in the C-Suite of a healthcare organization.

Because of that, there’s no specific salary associated with either position. However, data suggests that annual or hourly pay for both career paths is comparable.

According to the BLS, medical and health services managers, a category that includes healthcare managers, earned a median salary of about $104,000 in 2022, roughly $5,000 more than the average for management positions across all fields and well over double the average nationwide full-time salary for all jobs. Median pay was highest for hospitals and government (about $125,000 and $119,000, respectively), and the top 10% of earners reported more than $209,000 in annual pay.

With more entry-level positions in the mix, healthcare administration careers have a slightly lower average salary of about $94,000 nationwide, according to data compiled by ZipRecruiter.

However, higher-level positions like health services administrator and patient services administrator have median salaries comfortably above $100,000, with some positions like nursing home administrator exceeding $120,000.

If you plan on pursuing higher-level, higher-paying positions in either field, your chances of success are likely to be greater if you have at least a graduate-level education and several years of relevant experience.

Career Paths and Opportunities

Both healthcare management and healthcare administration offer a variety of career paths. However, there are differences in career opportunities and advancement potential.

As discussed above, role titles and exact wording may differ depending on the employer and other factors, and the words “manager” and “administrator” may be used more loosely to define certain roles.

While competencies are similar for both types of roles, it’s always important to read the job description thoroughly to ensure that the role’s duties and expectations align with your skill set, interests and desired responsibilities.

Some specific healthcare management job titles include:

  • Clinic manager
  • Clinical operations manager
  • Health information manager
  • Healthcare project manager
  • Home health clinical manager
  • Hospital manager
  • Nursing home manager
  • Operations manager
  • Patient care supervisor/manager
  • Physical therapist manager
  • Practice manager

Some specific healthcare administration job titles include:

  • Healthcare Administrator
  • Healthcare Executive
  • Health Information Manager
  • Health Services Manager
  • Healthcare Operations Manager
  • Healthcare Policy Analyst
  • Hospital Administrator
  • Hospital Chief Administrative Officer
  • Hospital Chief Financial Officer
  • Medical Practice Manager
  • Quality Improvement Manager

Individuals may choose to pursue advanced degrees or certifications to further their careers in either field. A Healthcare MBA can help individuals achieve their career aspirations by providing them with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the healthcare industry.

Healthcare Management vs. Healthcare Administration: Which One Is Right for You?

Healthcare management and healthcare administration are two distinct professions with different roles and responsibilities that also share some common ground, and choosing between them depends on individual strengths and interests.

By understanding the differences between the two, you can make an informed decision about which career path is right for you.

A Healthcare MBA can help both healthcare managers and healthcare administrators succeed in their careers. It provides individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the healthcare industry and can help administrators advance to higher-level positions.

If you’re ready to explore education options to advance your healthcare career or pursue a new specialization, learn more about how the GW online Healthcare MBA can help you achieve your goals and pursue your interests.


Recommended Readings

7 Careers in Healthcare That Leverage Strategic Leadership
Benefits of an MBA in Healthcare
Partnership: School of Business and School of Medicine and Health Sciences


Payscale, “Average Hospital Chief Executive Officer Salary”
Indeed, “What are health care manager responsibilities? (Plus FAQs)”
Indeed, “What Does a Health Administrator Do? (With Salary Info)”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Medical and Health Services Managers”
Zippia, “What is a health care administrator and how to become one”
Zippia, “What is a health care manager and how to become one”
ZipRecruiter, “Health Care Administrator Salary”