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Career Guide: Medical and Health Services Managers

Career Guide: Medical and Health Services Managers

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook

Some managers work in comfortable, private offices; others share space with other managers or staff. They may spend considerable time walking, to consult with coworkers.


Medical and health services managers held about 244,000 jobs in 2002. About 37 percent worked in hospitals, and another 17 percent worked in offices of physicians or nursing care facilities. The remainder worked mostly in home healthcare services, Federal government healthcare facilities, ambulatory facilities run by state and local governments, outpatient care centers, insurance carriers, and community care facilities for the elderly.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement

Medical and health services managers must be familiar with management principles and practices. A master’s degree in health services administration, long-term care administration, health sciences, public health, public administration or business administration is the standard credential for most generalist positions in this field. However, a bachelor’s degree is adequate for some entry-level positions in smaller facilities and at the departmental level within healthcare organizations. Physicians’ offices and some other facilities may substitute on-the-job experience for formal education.

Healthcare Administration: Is it The Job for Me?

1. Do you enjoy methodical work?


For clinical department heads, a degree in the appropriate field and work experience may be sufficient for entry. However, a master’s degree in health services administration or a related field may be required to advance. For example, nursing service administrators usually are chosen from among supervisory registered nurses with administrative abilities and a graduate degree in nursing or health services administration.

Bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs in health administration are offered by colleges, universities and schools of public health, medicine, allied health, public administration and business administration. In 2003, 67 schools had accredited programs leading to the master’s degree in health services administration, according to the Accrediting Commission on Education for Health Services Administration.

Some graduate programs seek students with undergraduate degrees in business or health administration; however, many graduate programs prefer students with a liberal arts or health profession background. Candidates with previous work experience in healthcare also may have an advantage. Competition for entry to these programs is keen, and applicants need above-average grades to gain admission. Graduate programs usually last between two and three years. They may include up to one year of supervised administrative experience, and coursework in areas such as hospital organization and management, marketing, accounting and budgeting, human resources administration, strategic planning, health economics, and health information systems. Some programs allow students to specialize in one type of facility — hospitals, nursing care facilities, mental health facilities or medical groups. Other programs encourage a generalist approach to health administration education.

New graduates with master’s degrees in health services administration may start as department managers or as staff employees. The level of the starting position varies with the experience of the applicant and the size of the organization. Hospitals and other health facilities offer postgraduate residencies and fellowships, which usually are staff positions. Graduates from master’s degree programs also take jobs in large group medical practices, clinics, mental health facilities, nursing care corporations and consulting firms.

Graduates with bachelor’s degrees in health administration usually begin as administrative assistants or assistant department heads in larger hospitals. They also may begin as department heads or assistant administrators in small hospitals or nursing care facilities.

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