The healthcare industry has long fueled the US economy, a trend that should continue—and even expand—as the Boomer generation ages, life expectancies increase, insurance coverage broadens, and medical technology advances. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of healthcare jobs in the US should grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030, adding about 2.6 million new jobs—more than any other occupation.
Healthcare offers a vast range of work opportunities, some clinical in nature. However, many of the fastest-growing careers center around healthcare administration. The impending expansion of healthcare services will require a greater number of healthcare administrators to keep facilities running efficiently. These professionals will help ensure quality care, secure private data, manage healthcare finances, and maintain regulatory compliance, among other critical responsibilities.
As of 2020, health services managers held 429,800 jobs in the US, ranging from department head to chief executive officer (CEO). It's easy to understand why so many find this profession appealing. Employment in this field stands to grow by over 139,000 jobs in the next ten years, with workers earning a median annual wage of $104,280.
Not all jobs in the healthcare administration world require ample work experience and demanding qualifications. At the outset of your career, you'll likely find entry-level healthcare administration jobs attainable with little professional experience. Each role provides an opportunity to grow your understanding of the field—and with a few additional credentials, landing better-paying, higher-prestige full-time positions later.
Our guide to entry-level healthcare administration jobs answers these questions:
When it comes to entry-level positions in health administration, your job search is sure to turn up work across a range of settings and industries within the US health system. These positions include full- and part-time roles with healthcare providers like hospitals, nursing homes, public and private medical practices, and home health centers—as well as healthcare organizations with a more specific focus on the business administration side of the healthcare field, such as health insurance companies and government agencies regulating public health policy.
You may find this job listed as medical administrative assistant, medical office assistant, or medical secretary. No matter the title, these professionals usually handle various administrative duties requiring a balance of organizational and communication skills, as well as flexibility and patience. Depending on the healthcare facility's day-to-day demands, general responsibilities may include checking in patients, answering phones, scheduling appointments, performing general accounting and billing services, and maintaining the front desk and reception areas.
In large healthcare settings, such as hospitals, an administrative assistant’s role can be quite specialized. For example, one administrative assistant may be responsible for accounting and record-keeping. Another may function within an executive assistant role, performing administrative work to support the hospital president or CEO. In smaller settings, such as physician practices, administrative assistants are less likely to have clearly defined roles and may handle any number of administrative tasks throughout the day.
Entry-level human resource (HR) assistants generally deal with a wide range of administrative tasks that support HR functions and programs within a healthcare organization. Often working under the HR director, manager, and specialists, HR assistants help keep track of employees' names, addresses, job titles, compensation, tax withholding information, and benefits.
HR assistants also may help with documentation regarding employee grievances, terminations, absences, and performance reports. They may help handle job postings, verify candidates' prior employment, and contact references. Many of their duties also have a general administrative focus, such as scheduling appointments, arranging meetings, maintaining calendars, and tracking payments or other financial information.
Health insurance underwriters typically work for major insurance companies or organizations that manage multiple customer accounts, or in hospitals, specialist offices, and clinics. They work closely with insurance agents who, in turn, work with applicants and actuaries. Much of their work focuses on evaluating an application for health insurance coverage by examining the applicant's medical history, demographic profile, lifestyle, and other factors related to their current and future medical needs and risks.
While health insurance underwriting hasn't been allowed to determine the price of major medical plans since 2014, the practice is still used on some policies, including short-term plans, fixed-indemnity plans, limited benefit plans, and other types of coverage that aren't regulated by the Affordable Care Act. The practice is also used by Medicare supplement plans for applicants who enroll after their initial enrollment window passes.
Medical assistants provide various services that can generally be broken down into two categories: administrative and clinical work. Like administrative assistants, they often act as the first point of contact for patients and complete duties ranging from compiling reports and bookkeeping to scheduling appointments and managing financial transactions.
However, it's this role's clinical responsibilities that help set it apart. They include tasks designed to support medical staff—such as checking patients' vital signs, recording their medical histories, collecting medical samples and specimens for lab testing—and preparing patients for testing, treatment, or procedures that a doctor or other clinician may perform.
Medical records technicians—sometimes referred to as health information technicians (HITs)—help transfer data from a clinician's notes into a patient's medical record and ensure the quality of the medical record is complete and accurate. Where paper charts are still utilized, those in this role may be involved in scanning and filing the paper documentation to be displayed correctly in electronic form. When there are discrepancies or deficiencies, they work with medical staff to fix them and ensure the documentation is consistent with the medical, administrative, ethical, legal, and regulatory requirements. They're also responsible for making sure that patients' records remain confidential and secure.
Patient service representatives may be called patient advocates, patient access specialists, or service coordinators. Generally, they're responsible for ensuring that patients are informed, updated, and supported through the patient intake and care processes.
Day-to-day, their primary tasks may include assisting patients in obtaining health services, understanding policies, and making healthcare decisions, which requires a knowledge of the policies and procedures at their facilities, the medical and community resources available, and medical regulations. They must have excellent interpersonal skills, as they may be responsible for facilitating and coordinating communication among patients, family members, and medical staff.
Many of the jobs listed above—including administrative assistant, HR assistant, patient services representative—require a minimum of a high school diploma or GED equivalency. However, some employers in the healthcare field prefer candidates who hold an associate's or bachelor's degree. Candidates may seek out additional credentials to boost their employment opportunities through vocational schools or online training programs that specialize in teaching their intended occupation's essentials.
Other entry-level healthcare jobs are more strict about qualifications, requiring candidates to complete a degree program to begin work in the field. Aspiring medical assistants, for instance, generally need an accredited associate's degree in medical assistance or a similar discipline. Many employers also prefer to hire certified medical assistants, which requires candidates to complete a medical assistant certificate program and pass a certification exam. One of the most widely recognized national certifications for this role is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) through the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
Medical records technicians also need an associate degree in medical technology, health information technology, health information management (HIM), or a related field. While certification isn't required for employment, graduates of accredited associate programs are qualified to take a certification exam administered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) to earn the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) designation.
Entry-level health insurance underwriters need the most significant education of all the jobs listed above, typically a bachelor's degree in business administration, law, finance, economics, accounting, or a related field. Certification options also are available for beginners in this field, including the Associate in Commercial Underwriting (AU) or the Associate in Personal Insurance (API) designation from the Insurance Institute of America (IIA).
Advanced healthcare administration jobs require strong business and healthcare management skills, in-depth knowledge of medicine and health policy, and years of experience in the administrative or clinical side of healthcare, which may include supervised training, internships, and/or fellowships.
Many leadership and management positions also require graduate degrees in a healthcare-related discipline, such as a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a healthcare focus.
Master's programs in healthcare administration typically combine foundational business courses with industry-specific subjects within healthcare, such as healthcare management, health policy, healthcare law and ethics, healthcare economics, managerial accounting, and human resources. Many programs also require students to complete a culminating or capstone project towards the end of their coursework, during which they gain hands-on experience in a healthcare setting.
The online MHA program at New York University, for instance, provides students with the opportunity to participate in a two-and-a-half-day residential immersion in New York City during their second term. The experience allows students to access NYU's facilities and resources, attend professional and social events with faculty and classmates and put concepts from their online courses into real-world practice.
Many professionals with a master's degree in health administration or related field pursue work in medical and health services management. These professionals plan, direct, and coordinate medical and healthcare services at facilities, specific clinical areas or departments within healthcare organizations, and medical practices. Their work may encompass a variety of responsibilities, such as policymaking, personnel management, and facility administration.
Common job titles include:
These types of supervisory positions oversee the planning, direction and evaluation of business operations in healthcare facilities. They lead teams of people in specific divisions with the goal of maintaining efficiency while providing top-quality patient care and services. (Average salary: $66,335.)
Health insurance and reimbursement managers are responsible for verifying, processing, recording, and sending payment for medical claims for a healthcare organization or insurance company. They must be able to easily read and interpret medical and financial documents, and both communicate and protect sensitive information. (Average salary: $80,440.)
Health services managers work in clinical and hospital settings and oversee the clerical tasks of part or all of the medical care facility. They may manage medical staff, but also create and manage budgets, produce financial and performance reports, and stay up-to-date on medical practices and equipment innovation. (Average salary: $69,204.)
Healthcare consultants are typically hired by large hospitals to investigate and research problems and conflicts, and help design answers and solutions for them. They work with clients by conducting interviews and meetings with staff, researching and reporting on projects. (Average salary: $79,015.)
Hospice administrators typically work as the support structure for the medical staff who attend to client needs. Their responsibilities include hiring and firing of staff, organizing and reporting on finances, and meeting with managers to make sure that medical care is kept at a high standard, and clients' and their families' needs are met. (Average salary: $86,433.)
Hospital administrators oversee the policies and operations of hospitals. Their duties include managing the budget, overseeing many aspects of human resources like performance reviews and new hires, and maintaining standards of care. (Average salary: $87,247.)
The CEO is in charge of the day to day operations of the hospital, such as staffing and patient care, but is also responsible for future planning and fundraising. This position oversees the big and small, current and future challenges for the hospital, and needs to have strong business skills, as well as deep medical knowledge. (Average salary: $153,796,but that rate can be double or triple or more depending on the size of the hospital.)
Medical records managers are responsible for accurate and detailed record keeping for medical establishments. This involves managing, storing, and communicating sensitive and confidential information, and following regulatory guidelines. (Average salary: $95,490.)
Nursing home administrators oversee the day-to-day activities in care facilities and are responsible for ensuring care adheres to all state and federal guidelines. They may make recommendations for changes and improvements and help design and oversee the facility's programs and policies. (Average salary: $120,281.)
Operations managers take care of a number of moving parts, including the management of medical billing, claims, and reimbursement, as well as monitoring patient quality of care. (Average salary: $65,000.)
Program directors work to coordinate the efforts of the many departments within the hospital system, allowing better collaboration and communication to support the larger effort. They may act as the liaison between department heads in order to coordinate operations. (Average salary: $82,302.)
Rehabilitation facility administrators focus their work on providing quality care to patients, and work with in-house staff as well as external social services to provide comprehensive care. They may work as a healthcare representative communicating with patients and their families and provide links to appropriate services and resources. (Average salary: $53,340.)
(This article was updated on 11/23/2021.)
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