Practice Manager vs. Office Manager: Which Aligns Best with Your Healthcare Career Goals?

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A healthcare practice manager works in an office.

Managing a healthcare practice can be challenging. A 2021 American Medical Association white paper, for example, cited the burden of administrative responsibilities as one of the most significant challenges for physician-owned private practices.

But the job titles and responsibilities of the skilled professionals who oversee managerial and administrative functions — such as practice manager and healthcare office manager — can vary across healthcare organizations.

When comparing practice manager vs. office manager roles, it’s important to note that both are key positions, and their responsibilities sometimes overlap. Both may have responsibilities in areas such as supplies and inventory control. But the positions are significantly different. In general, a practice manager will have more high-level responsibilities and a higher level of education than an office manager.

In common usage (and throughout this article), a practice manager is an individual who oversees the management and administrative functions for a healthcare organization. An office manager is an individual who can work in any industry and performs general administrative duties, including entry-level duties that require minimal training. Those considering a Healthcare MBA program can benefit from understanding these differences.

Practice Manager vs. Office Manager — Job Role and Responsibilities

Examining the roles and responsibilities of practice managers and office managers can help distinguish between the two positions.

Practice Manager Role and Responsibilities

As employment website Indeed explains, a practice manager’s role is to oversee all of a healthcare organization’s business, office and staffing functions. This can include:

  • Developing office policies and procedures
  • Ensuring compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Hiring, training and disciplining staff
  • Managing disputes and conflicts involving patients and staff
  • Managing finances, medical billing and insurance reimbursement
  • Negotiating with service providers, suppliers and medical sales representatives

With responsibility for multiple functions, practice managers need to have strong skills in areas such as communication, leadership, organization, time management and conflict resolution.

Their skills enable practice managers to work in settings such as:

  • Private or group healthcare practices
  • Dental offices
  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient centers
  • Urgent care clinics

Practice manager positions also have varying degrees of seniority. For example, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) notes that practice manager positions can include:

  • Entry-level positions in which individuals lead operations for relatively small practices
  • More advanced positions in which individuals oversee personnel and certain operational functions for larger practices
  • Senior-level positions in which individuals are responsible for all operations and functions of the largest practices

Office Manager Role and Responsibilities

Unlike practice managers, office managers can work in any industry (including healthcare). According to Indeed, office managers oversee an office’s daily operations, which can entail:

  • Answering calls and emails and directing people to relevant staff
  • Hiring maintenance firms to clean offices and maintain appliances
  • Interviewing prospective employees and training new employees
  • Monitoring and ordering office supplies and furniture
  • Reporting to senior management on office operations

If they work in a medical practice, office managers can have duties such as:

Regardless of where they work, office managers benefit from having skills in areas such as interpersonal communication, organization and multitasking.

As employment website CareerExplorer notes, because office managers can work in almost any industry, they have many potential employers. For example, they can work for:

  • Charities
  • Financial institutions
  • Government agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Major corporations
  • Manufacturers
  • Media firms
  • Retailers
  • Small businesses
  • Universities

Similar to practice manager positions, office manager positions can vary by seniority. For example, office software firm Eden Workplaces categorizes office manager positions in the following levels:

  • Entry-level positions that focus on areas such as correspondence, staff support or basic office needs
  • Midlevel positions responsible for performing certain payroll duties or certain duties in human resources
  • Positions for experienced office managers who are responsible for an entire function, such as managing payroll

Practice Manager vs. Office Manager — Education and Certification Requirements

The differences between practice managers and office managers become clear when comparing their requirements for education and relevant certifications.

Comparing Educational Requirements

According to Indeed, practice managers:

  • Must have at least a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration, public health or health information management
  • May need to have a Master of Business Administration degree or a master’s degree in public health or health information management

In contrast, office managers:

  • Must have at least a high school diploma or a GED diploma
  • May need to have an associate or bachelor’s degree in general business or business administration

Certifications to Strengthen Credentials

Both practice managers and office managers can enhance their qualifications by earning certifications. Examples of practice manager certifications include:

  • Certified electronic health records specialist (CEHRS) from the National Healthcareer Association
  • Certified medical manager (CMM) from the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management
  • Certified medical practice executive (CMPE) from the American College of Medical Practice Executives
  • Certified physician practice manager (CPPM) from the AAPC (formerly known as the American Academy of Professional Coders)

Office managers can earn certifications such as:

  • Certified administrative professional (CAP) from the International Association of Administrative Professionals
  • Microsoft Office specialist (MOS) or Microsoft 365 certified from Microsoft
  • Professional administrative certification of excellence (PACE) from the American Society of Administrative Professionals

Practice Manager vs. Office Manager — Salary and Job Outlook

Salaries for practice managers and office managers reflect the differences in their responsibilities. According to Payscale, as of June 2022:

  • Medical practice managers had a median annual salary of about $63,100. Those in the bottom 10% of the salary range had a median salary of about $47,000; those in the top 10% had a median salary of about $88,000.
  • Office managers had a median annual salary of about $38,800. Those in the bottom 10% of the salary range had a median salary of about $28,200; those in the top 10% had a median salary of about $55,000.

Job growth expectations for both positions are promising. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of administrative services and facilities managers will grow 9% between 2020 and 2030, which is slightly higher than the BLS’s projection of 8% job growth across all occupations.

Find a Career Where Business and Healthcare Intersect

When they put their unique skills and expertise to use, both practice managers and office managers play vital roles. Practice managers, in particular, can use their talents to help address many of the challenges that healthcare organizations face. If you are interested in working in healthcare administration or management, explore George Washington University’s online Healthcare Master of Business Administration program. Offering coursework that prepares students for roles in healthcare leadership, the program could be a springboard toward fulfilling your career ambitions. Start expanding your business and healthcare management expertise today.

Recommended Reading:

Benefits of an MBA in Healthcare

General MBA vs. Specialized MBA: Which Should You Pursue?

What Can You Do with an MBA in Healthcare?

Sources:

AAPC, Certified Physician Practice Manager (CPPM) — Certification Exam

American Medical Association, “Supporting and Promoting High-Performing Physician-Owned Private Practices: Voices from the Front Lines”

American Society of Administrative Professionals, Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence (PACE)

CareerExplorer, “What Does an Office Manager Do?”

Indeed, Learn About Being a Practice Manager

Indeed, Medical Office Manager Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Indeed, Office Manager Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Indeed, Practice Manager Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

International Association of Administrative Professionals, How to Get CAP Certified

Medical Group Management Association, Certification

Medical Group Management Association, Office Management Job Descriptions

Microsoft, Browse Certifications and Exams

National Healthcareer Association, Your Path to Electronic Health Records Specialist Certification

Payscale, Average Medical Practice Manager Salary

Payscale, Average Office Manager Hourly Pay

Professional Association of Health Care Office Management, Certified Medical Manager

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Administrative Services and Facilities Managers

Zippia, “What Is the Difference Between an Office Manager and a Practice Manager?”