Health care encompasses far more than the doctors and nurses who work to provide patient care. Businesses, hospitals, clinics, and other facilities need strong managers and business-minded individuals to help see that services are offered efficiently and that the facility runs smoothly. Executive or business-type positions are quite varied, but some of the jobs available include hospital administrators, assistant administrators, department or division directors, chief financial officers, and company presidents, to name a few.
The work environments of people filling these roles are nearly as extensive as the careers available. Some hospital management staff are employed in private offices, while others work in clinics or major care facilities. Because medical facilities have long hours, administrators can expect to work a similarly lengthy schedule, or to be called in at random to handle a situation. Travel to attend meetings or inspect other facilities may be required.
If you are interested in a career in health-care management, the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) encourages students to remember that, as with trying to get into medical school, your academic record will be important to your management career. Competition for jobs is high because upper-level management positions at a facility often come with good pay and prestige, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook. The BLS reported that in May 2008, the average salary of medical and health services managers was just over $80,000. The middle 50 percent earned between $62,000 and $105,000, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $48,300.
Preparing for a Medical Business Career
Not only will good grades be important in securing the job you want at a good pay scale, but they will also factor heavily into any goals you have of earning a master’s or doctorate degree. While a bachelor’s degree is usually sufficient for some entry-level work in the business side of health care, many students earn graduate degrees in business and public administration, with course emphasis in health services management. Others take advantage of schools offering joint degrees like a master’s in business administration and public health, or in health-care management and law. If you wish to become the head of a clinical department, it may be that a degree in that field and relevant work experience is enough. Nursing service administrators, for instance, are often selected from a pool of supervisory registered nurses who have administrative abilities and upper-level degrees in nursing or health services administration.
These professional and academic requirements alone are considerable, but there are more than scholastic qualifications a person needs when thinking about health management or other administrative health care careers. Just as certain personal qualities make for good doctors or nurses, there are also personal characteristics that can indicate a person is suited to work in the business end of health care. For an entry-level position in management, the ACHE suggests a person be committed to professional development and continuing education, and have held internship or fellowship positions in health-care organizations or other business settings. Strong communication skills are essential, as are dependability, good judgment, an ethical character, and adaptability to the workplace.
You can take additional steps if you feel a career as a health-care executive is in your future. Learn more about how to work well with people, learn about financial strategies and accounting principles, and stay up-to-date on health-care trends and the types of health-care providers available. Know what your career goals are, do your research, and start taking the steps necessary to set off down the right career path.