How to Get Into Healthcare Administration: What It Takes to Get Started
By Will Erstad on 07/13/2023
You’ve heard about healthcare staff shortages, and you see a great opportunity for a meaningful career in the medical industry. You’re not that interested in dealing with blood or the hands-on side, but a career in healthcare administration sounds like a great option. People aren’t going to stop getting sick or hurt any time soon, and healthcare providers need well-trained administrative staff to keep their facilities running.
The only problem is you’re not quite sure how to get into a healthcare administration role. What jobs should you look for when starting out? What qualifications, skills or credentials do you need?
In this article, we’re breaking down answers to all of these questions. Keep reading for key advice on starting in healthcare administration.
How to get into healthcare administration
Breaking into a field can be the hardest part. Once you’ve got your foot into the door, so many more opportunities are open, or you may find out about opportunities you didn’t even know existed.
Luckily, you may have more options to start in healthcare administration than you think. Working in the healthcare field—even if that first job isn’t your dream position—you can make key connections and build your career.
So how do you land that first position in healthcare administration? What entry-level roles should you look for? Let’s dive right in.
Common entry-level healthcare administration jobs
If you have your heart set on a career in healthcare administration, it helps to understand some of the common entry points into the field. While there’s no universal set-in-stone path healthcare administrators follow, there are several solid starting points that can help you round out your knowledge of the industry and build critical experience. Here are a few common options:
Patient registrars are often the people you meet at the front desk for the clinic, hospital or specialized hospital units. They gather some information from you based on general questions and input it into the hospital’s records for your medical charts or an ID bracelet. They may even direct you where to go in the hospital and schedule follow-ups or handle the release of medical records.
Medical billers are similar to patient registrars, but they focus more on the business side. Their job is to submit claims to insurance companies (or the government) and handle the hospital or medical facility’s side of these claims. As part of their job, medical billers need to handle and understand the complex system of medical codes used for uniform classification of treatments and health issues.
Insurance claims specialist
While medical billers work on the hospital side of insurance claims, insurance claims specialists work for the insurance companies. They help process and determine how much the insurance company pays out for each claim as well as manage claim forms and other important documentation.
Medical office assistant or administrator
Behind any well-run medical clinic is an excellent medical office administrator. They schedule appointments, process invoices, work with medical and office supply vendors, and generally handle many of the day-to-day operations in a healthcare clinic.
What skills do you need to start in healthcare administration?
This may seem obvious, but having some knowledge of the medical side of healthcare administration can be a huge asset. Even though administrators are not handling patient care or performing medical procedures, they still work beside doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. Understanding some technical terminology or what the processes are at a hospital means you have insight into how the medical aspects of the hospital operate.
Medical codes are five-figure numbers given to different medical procedures. These are used on the administrative side of the healthcare industry to easily standardize information for medical records. With four different categories, these codes have their own system, so it’s worth being at least generally familiar with.
While money isn’t the only focus of a healthcare administrator, it is still critically important to understand how healthcare providers “keep the lights on” with incoming payments. Working in roles like that of a medical billing and coding specialist, knowing how to operate billing systems and how the billing and payment cycle works is critical for many administration roles.
This process can get fairly complex, as providers must work with patients, insurance companies and government entities to ensure payment for services—and the organization’s overall financial stability.
Interpersonal and communication skills
“Administrators of hospitals serve as point people for several departments within their workplace,” says Michael Dadashi, CEO of Infinite Recovery®.
He explains that hospital administrators interact with “physicians, members of the governing board of the hospital and members of the hospital’s financial team.” And depending on your role within healthcare administration, you may even be working with patients, like as a patient registrar.
According to Dadashi, administrators need to be good at “building solid relationships and effectively communicating.”
With all this interaction and coordination, healthcare administrators need to have solid interpersonal skills to deal with even the trickiest situations. Whether it’s communicating with a frustrated patient or a strong-willed physician, tactful communication is key.
Flexibility and adaptability
The healthcare world is full of surprise situations that need to be quickly and calmly dealt with, and the administrative side is no exception.
Being able to adapt to new situations, clearly analyze the issue and find the best possible outcome and solution are key skills for getting into healthcare administration. Whether it’s managing confusion between different departments or sorting through chaotic administrative work, the best healthcare administrators will find solutions to problems as they appear.
What education will I need to work in healthcare administration?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Some administrative roles may be attainable with a high school diploma or completion of a comparatively short postsecondary certification program. Others will likely be looking for candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
While that wide range may be a little annoying if you’re looking for a direct answer, the good news is that this means you have some options based on where you’d like to take your career.
For example, the Rasmussen University Health Information Management suite of programs offers programs at the certificate, associate’s and bachelor’s degree levels, providing a pathway for education advancement that can align with where you’re at in your career. Another viable option for prospective healthcare administrators is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management, which blends general business degree fundamentals with a focus on healthcare operations, healthcare ethics and law, and policy-making.
If you have your sights set on one day moving into a senior leadership role, a master’s degree in healthcare administration can help position you for navigating the complexities of leadership-level decision-making in a healthcare setting.
Ready to launch into healthcare administration?
You now know more about how to get into healthcare administration and the potential educational paths you can take. This career is a unique intersection of the healthcare and business worlds, and the skills and education for this field are a mix of these two industries. If this sounds like the perfect combination for you, then a job in healthcare administration may be in your future.
Ready to learn more about what this career could look like? Read our article “What I Wish I Had Known Before Starting a Healthcare Administration Career” to get the inside details on this career path.
Infinite Recovery is a registered trademark of Infinite Recovery, LLC.