It should come as no surprise, but the logistics and behind-the-scenes operations of healthcare providers can get complicated. Between billing and payment, managing various facilities and departments and ensuring the quality of healthcare, there’s a lot to navigate and understand.
Enter the healthcare manager. These professionals are adept at planning, directing and coordinating medical and health services. They may manage an entire facility or simply preside over an individual department.
You’ve always been interested in working in the booming healthcare field, but have found that your skill set lies more with business and administrative duties. This is precisely why you’ve determined healthcare management is the perfect blend of both worlds.
If you’ve ever been interested in working in a medical field but have found that your skill set lies more with business and administrative duties, this could be the perfect blend of both worlds for you.
So what’s the recipe for success? What does the roadmap look like to arrive in a healthcare management position? We did the research for you, gathered the details and put together a high-level step by step guide on how to become a healthcare manager.
5 important steps to becoming a healthcare manager
Every career starts with a plan with steps to take along the way. Not every step will cover the same distance, but it’s important to know what lies ahead. Aspiring managers in healthcare will need to take the following steps:
1. Determine your educational path
Different schools have different types of programs, and you want to figure out which college will prepare you the best for the future you want. While most hiring managers prefer at least a Bachelor’s degree for healthcare managers, it’s becoming more common to get a Master’s degree in the field as well, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, some employers may actually favor a more advanced degree.
“In today’s healthcare environment, a degree is critical to not only obtaining a position but being considered for promotion,” says Dr. Laura De La Cruz, instructor at Rasmussen College. “A broad degree, such as an MBA with a specialty, would provide more opportunities.”
Once you decide what type of degree you want, you can start vetting programs and decide if you’d prefer to be in class with a professor and classmates or learn from a distance and connect through an online program. You may even want to consider a blended program that will allow you to participate through a combination of the two.
Another factor to consider, especially if you’re leaning toward earning a Master’s degree, is whether you’d like to complete all of your schooling up front. Management positions will likely require experience no matter your education level, so it may benefit you to first earn a Bachelor’s degree and then earn experience before pursuing a Master’s degree.
2. Earn your degree
While this is certainly easier said than done, completing college and earning a degree is an absolutely essential step. The hours you’ll spend studying will be a big help in navigating a complex industry.
A Healthcare Management degree, for instance, combines business-related courses with healthcare-related courses that will give you a strong foundational knowledge of medical terminology, hospital organization and health-information services. Combine this with courses covering risk management, statistics, healthcare regulations and financial management, and you will cover much of the know-how you’ll need to succeed in a healthcare management role.
While it may seem overwhelming to attend four or more years of college, know that you are securing your future, gaining confidence in a field of interest and ensuring your career prospects for later in life. Keep your chin up and work hard—you won’t regret the time you spent preparing yourself for what lies ahead, and you’ll have the opportunity to connect with passionate instructors and learn about best practices in the healthcare industry.
3. Build work experience
“A healthcare management career requires some experience in healthcare, whether it is as a paid paraprofessional, such as a CNA, or as an intern in administration,” De La Cruz says. “Attempting to find a position with just a degree is difficult given that healthcare is such a specialized area.”
Experience is important no matter what job you’re hoping to get. Healthcare management positions are no different—while you may have to get an education to be qualified for a management role, you’ll need to work your way up. You may get your start in a hospital or clinic’s billing department, or by working in an administrative role for a medical device or pharmaceutical company—there’s a ton of potential entry points into the “business” side of healthcare.
Landing your first healthcare job after college can be a little tricky if you don’t have much work experience, so it is important to take advantage of any experience-building opportunity available to you. If the college program you’re a part of offers internships or opportunities to shadow professionals in the field, take advantage of it! You’ll be able to ask questions, learn from your mistakes, and gain crucial experience.
4. Consider licensure or certifications
While a license is not typically required in most areas of medical and healthcare management, all states require licensure for nursing home administrators. If you’re headed in this direction, the American College of Health Care Administrators provides the Certified Nursing Home Administrator and Certified Assisted Living Administrator distinctions.
“Licensure in management or administration is not as critical as it is in other areas of healthcare,” De La Cruz says. “However, certification is becoming increasingly important as administrators are being expected to take on more responsibilities and duties in different areas.”
Even if licensure isn’t considered necessary for the position you’re applying for, certifications can help you stand out as a candidate. For example, the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management offers certification in medical management, and the American Health Information Management Association offers a health information management certification.
Not sure which certifications could benefit you? One helpful trick is to take some time to browse the LinkedIn profiles of professionals working in healthcare management roles to get an idea of which, if any, certifications they’ve pursued.
5. Start seeking out new positions
Healthcare management requires excellent leadership, communication and analytical skills. Not only are you working with people, but you’re applying technical knowledge to necessary and important administrative duties. Combining your interpersonal skills with detail-oriented abilities takes practice and time. But if you master these skills and feel as though it comes naturally, advancing your career may be an important next step for you.
“The healthcare field is very different from the traditional business field,” De La Cruz says. “Finding a position or getting promoted requires a strategic plan.”
Depending how large the organization you work for is, there’s generally room to advance your position and climb the healthcare management ladder. For instance, if you’re currently managing a department’s healthcare information system, you might aspire to manage the entire hospital’s healthcare information system in the future. You may even want to pursue a high-level executive position that incorporates strategic planning and takes part in overseeing a variety of clinics and hospitals.
It’s not always a simple process working your way up the career ladder, so it may help to seek out advice or some informal mentorship from established colleagues. Remember, career advancement can be a bit of a grind, so you’ll need to stay determined and not get discouraged if you face setbacks along the way.
Take your first step
There’s plenty of good reasons to be interested in a healthcare management position. The BLS projects a faster-than-average 17 percent growth in employment, and the 2016 median annual salary of $96,540 for medical and health services managers is certainly appealing.* That said, becoming a healthcare manager is a process that will require time and effort.
Now that you know the steps ahead of you, it’s time to get started. If you’re ready to take the first step, learn more about how the Rasmussen College Healthcare Management degree program can help you.
*Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.