What Is a Health Services Manager? A Look at the Pros Who Keep Healthcare Facilities Humming
By Carrie Mesrobian on 03/21/2022
It seems there are countless career paths in the healthcare sector, with new titles popping up every day. How do you sort through them all to find something that aligns with your skills and interests? You know you want to work in healthcare, but you don’t want a career spent dealing with blood, germs and other less-than-pleasant elements associated with direct patient care. So, what’s available to you?
If you’re looking to leverage your leadership skills and business acumen in this field, a career in health services management may be the answer. Health services managers are deep in the trenches of any healthcare setting. They are the professionals who track and manage the day-to-day functions of hospitals, nursing homes, clinics or other healthcare facilities.
This dynamic, fast-paced career is on the rise. Hospitals need qualified individuals who are up to date on healthcare regulations and can juggle all the responsibilities associated with managing a bustling healthcare facility.
But what does a health services manager do, exactly? We’ve got the answer to that question and more so you can determine whether your future lies in health services management.
The role of health services management
Sometimes called medical services managers, health services management professionals are vital to the overall organization and efficacy of a healthcare setting. They work primarily in hospitals with teams of doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel. They also often interact with insurance agents, patients and medical staff to ensure care is delivered accurately and promptly.
“The challenge for a manager in the healthcare field is that you have oversight and responsibility for everyone and everything in the organization,” says Peggy Martinez, CEO and President of Fire Starter Healthcare Consulting, LLC.
“Unlike a manager of a specific department where you are only responsible for that department, as a health services manager, you are responsible for and are accountable to the physicians, other leaders, staff, patients, vendors and regulatory organizations.”
A health services manager role is not only heavily focused on people skills, but it generally also requires technical operations management.
“Many health services managers in small and medium practices are responsible for the human resources, regulatory, billing, contracting, finance and facilities of the organization,” adds Martinez.
What does a health services manager do? Common job duties
Health services managers are responsible for many of the operational duties in a hospital or medical setting. Common duties include:
- Overseeing the training and recruitment of hospital staff
- Following and maintaining records of budgets
- Managing the day-to-day records of the facility, such as patient count
- Creating work schedules for healthcare providers
- Coordinating delivery of care and services by healthcare team
- Maintaining close communication with medical leadership and directors
To put it simply, health and medical services managers merge business and healthcare priorities to ensure hospitals function as smoothly as possible.
Health services manager work locations and job titles
As the nature of the work involves supervising teams of healthcare professionals, the most common employment setting for medical and health services managers is hospitals, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1 Other work environments include physicians’ offices, nursing homes, home health agencies and group medical practices.
In large healthcare facilities, managers may be in charge of running a specific department, such as emergency care, rather than the entire facility. These distinctions lead to some variation in job titles. Here’s a sampling of some of the job titles that fall under the umbrella of health services management:2
- Medical director
- Clinical manager
- Health director
- Practice manager
- Clinical supervisor
- Nursing home administrator
- Laboratory manager
- Director of surgical services
- Office manager
- Services coordinator
While each of these positions will come with niche duties related to the specifics of that particular facility or department, they all require the foundational skills and knowledge needed to oversee the business side of healthcare.
Benefits of working in health services management
Martinez says that many people in the health services management field are there for altruistic reasons.
“They want to be in a field where they are making a difference and helping people,” Martinez says, adding that this was the motivation for her choice to work in this capacity.
“I chose healthcare because I could actually see that what we did could have a strong impact on people and their lives,” Martinez explains. “Most of the time, the others in the healthcare organization that you work with have the same purpose, so you feel that you are working towards a common goal that is highly impactful.”
Health services management job outlook
If you’re intrigued by the responsibilities and job duties described above, you’re probably curious about the average health services management job outlook. Employment of medical and health services managers is projected to increase 32 percent from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS.1 This amounts to roughly 139,600 projected new jobs over that time period.1
This growth is largely due to the increasing demand for healthcare services as the baby boomer population ages. The BLS predicts an especially high demand for medical services managers in offices of health practitioners as they begin providing more services that traditionally took place strictly in hospitals.1
In-demand skills for health services managers
Health services managers are responsible for many moving parts in a healthcare facility. Because of this, they need to have a great deal of organizational and leadership skills. This role requires a strong balance of healthcare knowledge and business acumen in order to keep facilities safe, efficient and profitable.
To help you get a better idea of the types of skills needed, we used real-time job analysis software to examine more than 150,000 health services management jobs posted in the past year.2 This data helped us identify the top skills and traits employers are seeking.
Technical skills in demand:2
- Patient care
- Staff management
- Quality assurance and control
- Customer service
- Supervisory skills
- Case management
Transferable skills in demand:2
- Problem solving
- Microsoft Excel®
- Relationship building
Health services manager education and experience requirements
Before diving into a health services management career, you’ll need to be equipped with the proper skills and training. The BLS states that medical and health services managers typically need at least a Bachelor’s degree to enter the field, and Master’s degrees are commonly preferred.1 Common areas of study include healthcare management, health administration or business administration.
Any degree program that combines both management and healthcare curriculum is ideal. Here are a few important course topics you should look for:
- Healthcare operations management
- Healthcare information systems
- Regulation and compliance in healthcare
- Healthcare marketing
- Financial management in healthcare
- Risk management
According to our analysis, 66 percent of medical and health services manager job postings are seeking candidates with at least a Bachelor’s degree, with 12 percent asking for at least a Master’s degree.2 Even if you enter the field with a Bachelor’s degree, you may decide to advance your education down the road. For example, earning a Master of Healthcare Administration degree could help bolster your resume for management-level administration roles.
Martinez says that though she’s a proponent of higher education, many people become successful health services managers based on prior healthcare work and knowledge, and she advises recruiting accordingly.
“I suggest we post the position with a request for a Bachelor’s degree in an applicable field of study,” Martinez says. “However, we do not eliminate candidates that might have several years of practical experience in lieu of a degree.”
Do you have a future in health services management?
Becoming a health services manager is not an overnight process. You will need to plan ahead and invest the time in obtaining the proper training, as well as gaining experience in the healthcare field. However, once you are at the point where you feel confident and ready, a career as a health services manager can be extremely rewarding. Check out our article, "8 Reasons to Consider a Career in Health Services Management".
If you’re ready to take the next step, visit the Healthcare Management Bachelor’s Degree page to learn how this program can help set the stage for a career on the business side of healthcare. Better yet, if you know a Master of Healthcare Administration is likely to be in your future plans, the accelerated Master’s pathway provides you with the option to complete Master’s-level coursework during your Bachelor’s degree program—which can help you save time and money on your way to a graduate degree.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [information accessed January 2022]. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 528,039 health services management job postings, Jan. 01, 2021 – Dec 31, 2021).
Microsoft Excel is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2017. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2022.