Hospital Administration: History and Career Opportunities

Healthcare workers and administrators having a meeting while looking at a laptop in a conference room.Healthcare is a business. Just as hospitals, physician practices, health systems and home health agencies need doctors and nurses to directly oversee the patient care side, healthcare organizations also need accomplished and skilled professionals to carry out duties on the operations end.

Indeed, there are increasing opportunities for professionals interested in such roles as the healthcare industry grows. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 32% job growth for medical and health services managers between 2020 and 2030, which is much higher than the average growth projected for all occupations. These opportunities can be lucrative: The BLS reports a 2020 median annual salary of $104,280 for medical and health services managers.

These factors and others make hospital administration an attractive career option. Yet prospective administrators should know these high-level positions require skills and knowledge usually acquired through a graduate degree — and there are multiple degree options available. Understanding whether a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) or an online Healthcare Master of Business Administration is right for you starts with considering which route can offer you the most gain.

What Is Hospital Administration?

So, what is hospital administration? Simply put, hospital administration is where healthcare and business intersect. Hospital administrators are responsible for overseeing the operational aspects of a healthcare facility in order to keep it functioning at an optimal level. These aspects can include a facility’s finances, labor, management and information technology (IT) systems. Hospital administrators may also be responsible for keeping entities like the hospital’s board of directors informed about a facility’s operations.

Hospital administrators play a valuable role in the healthcare industry. They ensure that a hospital remains in good operational health with minimal inefficiencies or impediments to proper functionality. By helping a facility run smoothly, they allow healthcare workers to focus on patient care. This can have a direct positive effect on care delivery and patients’ health outcomes.

The History of Hospitals

The concepts of hospital management and administration seem obvious and necessary in modern medical practice. This wasn’t always the case. Although early institutions aiming to provide cures for health maladies have been around since the time of the ancient Greeks, the history of hospitals as we know them only spans about a century and a half.

The modern concept of hospital administration traces back to the fall of 1899, when the Association of Hospital Superintendents was formed in Cleveland to bring hospital administrators together to establish medical practice guidelines. In 1906, the organization adopted a new name, The American Hospital Association (AHA), and made it easier for other hospital executives to join albeit without voting privileges.

The newly branded organization’s goal was “the promotion of economy and efficiency in hospital management,” which demonstrates that the struggle to keep healthcare costs affordable has been a long, ongoing one. Over the course of the 20th century’s first half, the AHA’s mission statement was altered to account for concepts like education, scientific research, public welfare and better hospital care.

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century until the present day, healthcare administrators have had to meet myriad challenges related to patient care, rising costs, advances in technology and politics. This has included integrating Medicare and Medicaid into their operational systems, greater involvement in national health policy and shifting cultural changes that transformed hospitals into centers for community health.

Today, healthcare management through the American Hospital Association remains an important element of the healthcare industry. Thanks to the evolving nature of tech-driven care delivery innovation and government regulations, healthcare administration will remain a viable component of quality care for decades to come.

Healthcare Administration Careers

While a bachelor’s degree is technically required to enter the field of healthcare administration, advanced degrees are common and employers may prefer or require them.

An advanced degree can prepare individuals to pursue healthcare administration careers in a wide range of settings, such as hospitals, hospital systems, home health agencies, nursing homes, independent clinics and medical groups.

Careers graduates can pursue include:

  • Healthcare administration
  • Hospital administration
  • Nursing home administration
  • Health services management


Students can prepare for these dynamic careers through advanced degrees such as a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA). This degree can equip students to become healthcare administrators by helping them build competency and capacity in a number of different disciplines and skillsets. Such varied expertise is highly prized among healthcare employers. Some of the subjects students may delve into include:

  • Healthcare spending and organizational finances
  • Care delivery and quality improvement
  • Revenue cycle management and patient responsibility awareness
  • Healthcare marketing and information systems

Another advanced degree option for prospective hospital administrators is the Healthcare Master of Business Administration (HCMBA).

An HCMBA program is specifically geared toward healthcare administration. It not only orients curriculum to focus on healthcare specifically, but also is able to impart all the benefits of a traditional MBA by giving students insight into the intersection of business and healthcare.

Some topics covered in an HCMBA program, such as care quality, finances and information systems, may be similar to MHA program topics. However, HCMBA program coursework typically delves deeper into more business-specific topics, like entrepreneurism in healthcare and practical business leadership. Other areas of an HCMBA curriculum may include:

  • Business ethics, public policy and global regulatory affairs
  • Decision-making and data analysis
  • Healthcare as an enterprise and medicines development

How Can I Decide Which Is Right for Me?

Students trying to decide between a Master of Healthcare Administration and a Healthcare Master of Business Administration face a big decision — and finding the right degree for you begins with considering your professional goals and aspirations and how either an MHA or HCMBA aligns with those objectives.

For instance, an MHA might prepare students for the day-to-day tasks of healthcare administration and sufficiently boost their qualifications. However, the specified curriculum of an HCMBA may help students take it one step further. Whether that means a student is a clinician who wants to expand their knowledge base to start a business of their own, or a manager who has dreams of being an executive, an HCMBA can empower students to push the boundaries of their careers.

Consider Earning an HCMBA

The George Washington University offers an accredited, 100% online Healthcare Master of Business Administration to interested students who want to take their medical careers to the next level. Students can build a personalized curriculum from schools in business, public health, health sciences, and more for an in-depth education in hospital administration. Explore how this program can help you grow your business and healthcare knowledge into robust expertise to advance your career in healthcare administration.

Recommended Readings

Becoming a Medical and Health Services Manager

A Look at MBA Healthcare Management Jobs

3 Things That Make a Healthcare MBA Unique


American College of Healthcare Executives, Your Career as a Healthcare Executive

American Hospital Association, About the AHA

American Hospital Association, History

Society for Human Resources Management, Hospital Administrator

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers