Healthcare Management vs. Healthcare Administration

From degree and training requirements to job responsibilities, salary potential, and growth rate, learn the differences between healthcare managers and healthcare administrators and pick your path to a career in healthcare.

There is an increasing demand for healthcare services in this country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that from 2018 to 2028, the healthcare industry will add almost two million new jobs to the economy. While there is plenty of emphasis placed on the need for more nurses, technicians, and assistants, there is also a strong need for people to manage those medical professionals and run the hospitals and facilities that deliver healthcare services.

Healthcare managers and healthcare administrators stand at the forefront of medical facility and personnel management. While the two careers may seem the same (or at least very similar), they differ when it comes to decision-making, job autonomy, coworker interaction, and other core responsibilities. Keep reading to dive deeper into these differences and learn about the educational paths, growth potential, and average salaries for each.

HCM vs. HCA: Education & Training Breakdown

The biggest differences between management and administration in healthcare are the educational requirements to qualify for these positions. The following chart breaks down the academic paths of each, where the largest disparities lie, and where potential students may see the most similarities.

Healthcare ManagementHealthcare Administration
Required degreeA bachelor’s degree in healthcare management is generally the bare minimum. A master’s degree in healthcare administration can be very helpful. Alternatively a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in healthcare management is also a popular option.The associate degree in healthcare administration will usually allow acceptance into an entry-level position. A bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration will open more doors. However, a master’s degree in healthcare administration will provide the best opportunities for growth and advancement.
How does this degree program prepare you for a career in this field?An MBA with a concentration in healthcare management offers a curriculum rooted in advanced business principles. Students will then take several specialization classes in healthcare management topics.A master’s degree in healthcare administration will shift the bulk of the curriculum from business and finance topics to those relating to personnel and healthcare.
What is the program like?In a master’s level business program, the business related courses may include finance, accounting, entrepreneurship, leadership, and economics. Healthcare management class can cover subjects like health informatics and healthcare organization. The program will conclude with a final a project or capstone.Typical classes in a master’s degree in healthcare administration include health policy, biostatistics, legal issues in healthcare, human resources, diversity, and healthcare program design. Students will frequently need to finish their program with a capstone or final project.
What skills are learned in this program?The primary goal will be to train students to analyze business information and make the best decisions possible for their organization. This requires not only understanding accounting and financial information, but being able to translate that information into actions that an organization can take to advance its business interests.Skills learned will include understanding healthcare finances, communicating effectively with healthcare personnel, critical thinking, and understanding how healthcare fits in the societal and cultural context. Students will also learn how to assess the performance of an individual or department.
What credentialing and licensing is required or available?Licensing is not commonly found in the healthcare management profession, except when working in a nursing home setting. Requirements will vary by state, but customarily require the earning of a bachelor’s degree, passing an exam, and completing a training program. A few optional certifications are available, including some offered by the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management or the American College of Healthcare Executives.Licensing is not generally required, except in the nursing home setting. In that case, the requirements will normally be similar to that of a nursing home administrator and will be state-specific. Certification is possible, such as the Certified Assisting Living Administrator or Certified Nursing Home Administrator certifications.
What further training is required?None, except in certain states when trying to meeting nursing home licensing requirements.Only necessary when becoming licensed to work in the nursing home setting.

Career Comparison: Core Responsibilities & Daily Tasks

Factors such as responsibilities, roles, and daily tasks are important differentiators for these two career paths. Let’s breakdown the details.

Healthcare Manger Job Responsibilities

The healthcare manager takes a more strategic approach to advancing the interests of a hospital or other healthcare organization. Therefore, many of their responsibilities delve into “big picture” issues, goals, and problems. Here’s what you can expect.

  • Develop long-term goals for the entire medical facility or system of healthcare providers.
  • Identify ways to improve the efficiency and quality of patient care.
  • Make hiring decisions concerning upper level management and executives.
  • Recruit management personnel.
  • Speak on behalf of a particular medical provider, organization, facility, or system.
  • Work with both internal personnel and external parties to improve operational activities.
  • Oversee the finances of a healthcare provider, including directing financial operations.
  • Prepare, modify, and implement operational budgets.
  • Communicate directly with upper-level government officials, the media, and C-level executives.
  • Address regulatory or legal concerns by directing others and implementing recommendations at an organization-wide level.
  • Make decisions concerning the recruitment, hiring, and firing of staff and medical professionals.
  • Facilitate communication among various departments, divisions, and facilities.
  • Coordinate the work of various departments and individuals to best meet a long-term goal or mission of the healthcare provider.

Healthcare Administrator Job Responsibilities

In contrast to the healthcare manager, the healthcare administrator tends to work on lower level matters and concerns. This can include dealing with day-to-day issues and responsibilities as well as focusing on a managing or supervisory role in a particular area or department. The administrator spends more time “on the ground” when it comes to healthcare operations. You can expect the following responsibilities.

  • Serve as a liaison between doctors, nurses and upper-level management.
  • Oversee the day-to-day operations of a department or healthcare facility.
  • Monitor patient care metrics.
  • Train and supervise staff members.
  • Create and convey work schedules to staff.
  • Handle employee discipline issues.
  • Manage and implement department budgets and spending plans.
  • Evaluate and review the performance of medical professionals and staff.
  • Update and ensure the integrity of organization and patient records and data.
  • Gather financial information and data for analysis by others, including healthcare managers.
  • Provide direction and instruction to staff and medical personnel to help them learn their position or improve their job performance.
  • Oversee the implementation of improvement plans within a department or entire facility.
  • Manage the work assignments and tasks of staff personnel.
  • Evaluate the condition and functioning of equipment, tools, or facilities.
  • Keep track of the use of organizational resources, including medical supplies, money, and personnel.
  • Order or formally request additional resources as necessary.
  • Process payroll.

Healthcare Manager vs. Healthcare Administrator: A Day in the Life

Healthcare ManagementHealthcare Administration
Decision MakingThe choices made by management are likely to affect the organization, system, or network as a whole. Decisions focus on long-term goals and issues.These decisions usually affect the daily operations of an organization or department as well as personnel, customers, and patients.
Job AutonomyA significant level of discretion, although healthcare managers will be accountable to highest levels of management, such as board of trustees or C-level executives.Extensive autonomy, but only within the healthcare manager’s area of practice, such as a departmental level of management.
Coworker InteractionGiven how healthcare management involves making higher level decisions, healthcare managers will more often work with other managers, administrators, and executives.Healthcare administrators will interact with fellow managers and administrators. However, they will also be likely to communicate directly with staff and medical personnel.
Workplace ChallengesThese tend to be long-term and more complex in that they involve outside forces and entities. The problems are also more likely to affect the manager’s entire organization, as opposed to a department or program.With an emphasis on managing a specific area or daily operations, the challenges faced by administrators will be more discrete and short-term; but they can still be just as difficult to solve as the long-term issues faced by managers.
Work SettingIn addition to working in an office, they may travel to other healthcare organizations or business entities that work with their organization. May attend plenty of meetings that involve fellow managers, administrators, or executives.Typically has an office but may spend significant time “on the ground” interacting and working with staff members and medical professionals. Likely to have plenty of meetings with individuals that deal directly with patients and business partners.
Required KnowledgeWith the need to understand the operations of a healthcare organization at the highest level, a strong understanding of financial and accounting concepts will be necessary, as well as strategic business planning.Basic financial and accounting knowledge will be useful. However, the bulk of a healthcare administrator’s knowledge will be in a specific area, such as human resources, information systems, marketing, or a medical specialty.
Interactions with Outside PartiesHealthcare managers often deal with individuals from another healthcare or business organization. These are likely going to be higher-level managers or decision-makers with significant influence in their respective organizations. The interactions can relate to strategic and significant plans and programs that can affect the entire organization.Healthcare administrators may be just as likely to communicate and work with outside parties as a healthcare manager, though they might be individuals with less authority. The outside parties are more likely to be fellow administrators or outside venders who do business with the healthcare organization.

Salary & Job Growth

One of the biggest features about the healthcare administration and management fields is the growing demand for these jobs, as well as the relatively lucrative pay. Trying to determine the salary and job outlook for healthcare administration and management isn’t the easiest task, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics combines the two professions with respect to compensation data. So let’s take a look at the general pay expected, as well as factors that might affect it.

Salary for Healthcare Managers & Administrators

The median salary for medical and health services managers was $100,980 in 2019. The lowest 10% earned $58,820, while the upper 10% earned $189,000. The wide range in pay can be explained by looking at several factors, including:

  • Education requirements: Like most other occupations, the higher level of education needed for a position, the higher the position will pay.
  • The need for licensure or certification: Certain positions that require a license or certification offer slightly higher pay to compensate for this requirement.
  • Experience required: The more years of experience someone has, the more compensation they can demand.
  • The specific industry: Not all employers will pay the same, such as state government, federal government, or the private sector. The latter is more likely to offer a higher salary, but state and federal government positions are known for offering better hours and benefits.
  • Employer location: Certain areas of the country are more expensive; employers will routinely provide higher pay to compensate for the increased cost of living.
  • Type of compensation: Some healthcare managers or administrators may have compensation tied to performance metrics.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that from 2018 to 2028, employment for healthcare managers and administrators will grow by about 18%. This is a tremendous level of growth; for comparison, the national average growth of all occupations is expected to be just 5%.

HCM or HCA? Questions to Ask Yourself

Your career in healthcare will be decided by a number of factors, and your educational path will form the foundation. Which path you choose will depend upon a wide variety of factors. Let’s look at questions that can help you decide which road is best for you.

Q. Do I feel a greater sense of accomplishment by seeing success at the organizational or individual level?

A. Healthcare managers will take on challenges that may have lasting effects on the entire organization, while healthcare administrators are more concerned with successes that affect the daily operation of the organization or an individual department.

Q. Will I be okay with focusing more on patient-driven results or financial success?

Q. Do I have an interest in the business of medical care?

Q. Will I prefer to work directly with people who make it possible to deliver healthcare services to patients and customers?

Q. Do I have a special interest in a particular area of knowledge, such as human resources, marketing, information technology, legal, or insurance?

Q. What kind of leadership responsibilities do I wish to take on?

Healthcare Management Career Resources

1

American College of Healthcare Executives: A professional organization consisting of healthcare executives, with a primary goal of helping those in management positions advance their careers.

2

American Hospital Association: As a national professional organization, the AHA strives to serve the needs to healthcare providers, especially hospitals, healthcare networks, and hospital systems.

3

American Society of Health Care Risk Management: As an inter-disciplinary professional organization, the ASHRM allows professionals to advance medical leadership through risk management strategies.

4

Healthcare Finance: For current or aspiring healthcare professionals seeking to learn the latest news and developments in the healthcare industry, this website is an excellent resource.

5

Healthcare Financial Management Association: Through the lens of healthcare finance, the HFMA’s mission involves helping management executives overcome financial challenges in healthcare organizations.

6

Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Inc: HIMSS works to improve the delivery of medical care through the advancement of technology and information improvement.

7

Medical Group Management Association: The MGMA mission is to help healthcare executives make the most of their professional career through various resources, including mentoring, support programs, and access to digital information resources.

8

National Center for Healthcare Leadership: NCHL works to improve healthcare leadership by tackling issues facing healthcare professionals.

9

ONET OnLine – Summary Report for Medical and Health Services Managers: ONET is a solid resource for learning about what the healthcare manager or administrator job entails, including job duties, skills needed, and educational requirements.

10

PayScale: This is an excellent online research tool for learning more about compensation you can expect in a given occupation, employer, or industry.

Healthcare Administration Career Resources

1

American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management: AAHAM is a professional organization that exists to advance patient data management and reimbursement.

2

American College of Health Care Administrators: A non-profit organization with the mission of providing learning and professional development opportunities to health care administrators.

3

American Health Information Management Association: AHIMA gives professionals in the health information area access to the most up-to-date information, standards, and best practices.

4

Association of University Programs in Health Administration: This organizations works to improve the delivery of medical care by addressing the concerns and challenges facing healthcare policy, management, and administration education.

5

CareerOneStop: For those curious about a particular career, this website offers a plethora of information, including learning about obtaining the necessary training or education for a particular job.

6

Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education: Through the accreditation process, CAHME ensures students receive high quality healthcare administration and management instruction.

7

Health Care Compliance Association: HCCA works to promote ethical practices and assist healthcare professionals in carrying out their duties in accordance with legal requirements.

8

National Association for Healthcare Quality: NAHQ is an organization for healthcare professionals; it focuses on meeting quality standards.

9

National Association of Healthcare Access Management: NAHAM is devoted to helping healthcare administrators access services, such as registration, admissions, guest relations, and scheduling.

10

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Occupational Outlook Handbook: Medical and Health Services Managers: The Department of Labor offers detailed outlines of specific careers, including job growth, earnings potential, and how to become one.