Healthcare Administration

How to Become a Health Services Manager—and How Much $$$ You’ll Earn Doing It.

How to Become a Health Services Manager—and How Much $$$ You’ll Earn Doing It.
Tackling the organizational, legal, regulatory, and financial issues related to health care delivery is not an easy job. Image from Unsplash
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Christa Terry March 22, 2023

On average, health services managers earn over $100,00 per year. The job market for these professionals should grow by 28 percent by 2031. Health services manager is an in-demand role.

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Health service managers enhance the quality of care at just about every hospital, nursing home, doctor’s office, and clinic. Their impact allows doctors and nurses to do what they do best: attend to patients. Most patients aren’t even aware of their work, but they’d sure notice if the work wasn’t done.

Tackling the organizational, legal, regulatory, and financial issues related to health care delivery is not an easy job. With new policies, updates to laws, and changes to complex medical billing and health insurance processes, the healthcare landscape is complex and constantly changing

Are you detail-oriented? Process-obsessed? Looking for a career in health care? For someone who is all three, opportunities in this recession-proof career abound. How do you become a health services manager? We’ll answer that in this article. We’ll also cover:

  • What do health service managers do?
  • Kinds of health service manager careers
  • The educational commitment to become a health services manager
  • The licensure requirements for becoming a health services manager
  • Why you should consider a career as a health services manager

What do health service managers do?

The quick answer: A LOT. A health services manager—also referred to as a healthcare executive or healthcare administrator—coordinates the day-to-day operations of busy health care centers. They also help facilities stay up-to-date and compliant when it comes to regulations and insurance.

Health services managers work in a variety of settings for a variety of employers, including:

  • Group medical practices
  • Health care networks
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Physician’s offices

Most health service managers work with providers. Some work for insurance companies.

Medical and health services managers typically handle:

  • Compliance: Health services managers help facilities keep up-to-date on new laws and regulations. They also train staff on compliance, an area in which some health services managers specialize. All health service managers must be familiar with laws and regulations to ensure compliance.
  • Quality of care: Health services managers improve the efficiency and overall quality of care in facilities. This may be driven by patient feedback or analysis of outcomes. In larger facilities, the health services manager supervises assistant administrators and work closely with physicians, nurses, specialists, lab techs, surgeons, and others to develop strategies to improve care.
  • Health insurance: Some health services managers specialize in insurance. They work with billing on issues related to everything from reimbursement negotiation and contract renewals to documentation compliance and patient access.
  • Organization: Health services managers are responsible for creating work schedules for providers, monitoring facilities capacity, and overseeing the use of available resources to ensure that patient needs are met effectively. They may also be responsible for keeping and organizing facility records.
  • Finance: Health service managers may create and manage budgets, handle budgetary issues, track a facility’s finances, ensure that departments are working within budgetary constraints, and monitor billing.

As noted, some medical and health services managers specialize in administrative areas. This is especially true at larger facilities; those who work in smaller facilities are more likely to be called upon to do a little bit of everything.


“I’m Interested in Healthcare Administration!”

Health administration undergraduates sometimes start out in admissions, marketing, risk management, managed-care analysis, or other non-clinical staff positions and work their way into higher-level administrative roles. While it’s possible to work in healthcare administration without an MHA, it can take a lot longer to climb the managerial ladder without a master’s degree. (source)

According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018, the median wage for health service managers was $99,730 per year, with the highest 10 percent in the field earning over $182,600 in base pay. Employment opportunities for health services managers is expected to grow by 20 percent by 2026. This growth is much faster than growth for other occupations. (source)

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Kinds of health services manager careers

Medical and health services managers have different titles depending on the facility where they work and their area of specialization (if they have one). Job titles include:

  • Clinical health service managers specialize in meeting the needs of a single department. They work in departments like surgery, nursing, or physical therapy. Their specialized knowledge enables them to oversee staff, develop budgets, create goals, and map out operating procedures.
  • Nursing home managers oversee staff, finances, quality of care, and admissions at nursing homes. This job requires state licensure.
  • Ambulatory care facility managers oversee the operations at diagnostic, treatment, or surgical facilities where patients are seen and discharged in a single day. Because of the volume and variety of patients seen, working in this setting can be fast-paced.
  • Health information managers handle the maintenance and security of patient records. They need to be well-versed in both information technology and patient privacy laws.
  • Emergency medical services managers work in emergency care facilities and hospitals to synchronize emergency response communication.

Typical advancement path for health services managers

Nearly all employers require health services managers to have a master’s degree in health services, healthcare administration, or business administration. Some programs allow degree candidates to specialize by facility-type.

In some instances, health services managers begin their careers as patient providers and make the switch to administration. Nursing service managers typically begin their careers as registered nurses, with degrees in nursing or health administration.

There are entry-level jobs that can help aspiring health services managers land a job with only a bachelor’s degree. Some of the roles that may transition to a career as a health services manager include:

  • Community service manager at a social service organization
  • Health care human resources associate
  • Health information officer
  • Medical executive assistant
  • Medical office administrator

In large hospitals, it’s not uncommon for graduates of health administration programs to start out as administrative assistants and advance to management positions.

Educational commitment to become a health services manager

Health services managers should have at least a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field. Health care administration is the most common major. Other options include:

To work in a specialized setting like a nursing home, or to become a nursing service administrator, consider pursuing a degree in nursing or pharmaceutical sciences. If you’re unsure of the area of medicine in which you’d like to work, think about earning a bachelor of science in health services management.

Programs for future medical and health services managers are available at:

When choosing a program, look for courses in:

  • Ethical and legal issues in the health care industry
  • Financial management in a health care setting
  • Health care research
  • Health data analysis
  • Health information systems

These classes prepare graduates for careers in health services management.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, consider earning a two-year or accelerated master’s degree. Do you need a master’s degree to become a health services manager? Strictly speaking, no. The majority of health services managers only possess a bachelor’s degree.

However, an advanced degree can differentiate you from the crowd when you’re job hunting or trying to advance in your career. People pursue various master’s degrees before becoming medical and health services managers. Public health, health services, long-term care administration, and business administration degrees are among the most popular choices.

Choosing a master’s degree program can be especially for prospective health services managers. Getting a Master of Health Administration from a university with a good on-campus MHA program or online MHA program is one option.

Another is a program designed just for this profession.Vanderbilt University offers a Master of Management in Health Care (MMHC) degree, and the University of Michigan and the University of Kansas both have a Master of Health Services Administration (MHSA) program.

Coursework in master’s degree programs geared toward future health services managers typically includes classes in the following areas:

  • Business management
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Healthcare analytics
  • Healthcare systems
  • Legal and regulatory concerns
  • Medicine
  • Public health policy

Graduate programs may also include a year of supervised administrative experience.

Licensure becoming a health services manager

Health services managers typically do not need licenses or certifications. Nursing care facility administrators and assisted-living facilities managers are exceptions; states require both to hold licenses and complete state-approved training programs.

However, even though you don’t need to be certified to become a medical or health services manager, many people in the field choose to pursue certifications. These credentials almost always make you a more attractive hire (especially for entry-level positions) and usually require nothing more than showing the relevant professional experience and passing an exam.

Depending on what type of medical facility you plan to work in, you could become a Certified Nursing Home Administrator or Certified Assisted Living Administrator (certifications offered by the American College of Health Care Administrators), a Certified Medical Manager, or a Certified Health Information Manager.

The pros of becoming a health services manager

Health services management has its upsides. We’ve identified four good reasons to consider this career:

  1. Health services managers meet a very real need. The demand for healthcare is increasing. Providers and practices face more paperwork and organizational challenges than ever before. Distracted doctors can’t deliver top-notch care. The work you do as a manager allows those providers and practices to focus on patients instead of administrative work. In that way, your contribution can have a positive impact on patient outcomes.
  2. The average salary is strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical and health services managers earn about $101,340 per year. Chances are, you’ll have access to great benefits, too—like medical and dental insurance, life insurance, retirement options, and possibly also stock.
  3. The job market for health services managers is growing, and this is a career—unlike so many others— that’s not going to get automated any time soon. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs for health services managers will increase much faster than average, by 28 percent by 2031. Even with just a bachelor’s degree, you should find opportunities in medical administration.
  4. There are plenty of women in leadership positions. Women occupy roughly 74 percent of health services manager positions. There are professions where the “old boy network” still predominates, unfortunately. This is not one of them.

There will always be a need for smart, driven people to keep health services running smoothly. If you want to work in medicine and you want job security, becoming a health services manager is a great career choice.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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Categorized as: Healthcare AdministrationNursing & Healthcare