Training, Certifications, Skills, Advancement: Medical and Health Services Managers

Medical and health services managers must be familiar with management principles and practices. A masterís 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 bachelorís degree is adequate for some entry-level positions in smaller facilities and at the departmental level within healthcare organizations. Physiciansí offices and some other facilities may substitute on-the-job experience for formal education.

For clinical department heads, a degree in the appropriate field and work experience may be sufficient for entry. However, a masterís 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.

Bachelorís, masterís, 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 masterís degree in health services administration, according to the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education.

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 2 and 3 years. They may include up to 1 year of supervised administrative experience, and course work 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 facilityóhospitals, nursing care facilities, mental health facilities, or medical groups. Other programs encourage a generalist approach to health administration education.

New graduates with masterís 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 masterís degree programs also take jobs in large group medical practices, clinics, mental health facilities, nursing care corporations, and consulting firms.

Graduates with bachelorís 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.

All States and the District of Columbia require nursing care facility administrators to have a bachelorís degree, pass a licensing examination, complete a State-approved training program, and pursue continuing education. A license is not required in other areas of medical and health services management.

Medical and health services managers often are responsible for millions of dollarsí worth of facilities and equipment and hundreds of employees. To make effective decisions, they need to be open to different opinions and good at analyzing contradictory information. They must understand finance and information systems, and be able to interpret data. Motivating others to implement their decisions requires strong leadership abilities. Tact, diplomacy, flexibility, and communication skills are essential because medical and health services managers spend most of their time interacting with others.

Medical and health services managers advance by moving into more responsible and higher paying positions, such as assistant or associate administrator, or by moving to larger facilities.