Skip to main content

What Can You Do with an MHA? 5 Healthcare Administration Careers

March 16, 2021

As the U.S. population expands, the medical field has a growing need for more qualified medical professionals. Also of note, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing projects that the country will experience a shortage of registered nurses that will “intensify” as baby boomers age and require more health care.

The medical professional shortage not only includes nurses, nurse practitioners, and doctors, it extends to healthcare managers and administrators as well.

Hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient facilities, residential centers, and other medical facilities seek:

  • Healthcare administrators
  • Healthcare operations managers
  • Directors of patient safety
  • Hospital chief financial officers
  • Healthcare consultants

The need for capable healthcare administrators is increasing alongside the demand for healthcare providers. Individuals looking to pursue these administrative careers in health care can consider earning an advanced degree, such as Tulane University’s online master’s in health administration.

Learn more about five in-demand healthcare administration careers and how you can prepare for each one.

Career #1: Healthcare Administrator

A job in healthcare administration can be exciting, with different situations and challenges arising every day. Healthcare administrators are experts in business as well as health care. The business of health care involves meeting with investors, establishing a budget, and overseeing the hiring process. The job is different from administrative positions in other fields, though, due to the sensitive nature of working with patients.

Healthcare administrators play an important role, focusing on small details, such as creating schedules and implementing new staff protocols, as well as establishing a long-term vision for their organization. As leaders, they are responsible for overseeing their medical facility as well as its specific departments.

Job Description

Healthcare administrators’ main responsibility is ensuring their facility runs effectively and provides quality patient care.

Some of a healthcare administrator’s day-to-day responsibilities include:

  • Hiring and training staff members, such as administrative assistants
  • Creating and managing budgets for individual units and departments
  • Overseeing the main systems for scheduling staff, billing patients, and keeping health records
  • Securing and protecting patient information and data through electronic health records
  • Ensuring the facility complies with legal policies, standards, and regulations
  • Making sure the facility has enough beds for patients, personal protection equipment, supplies, tools, and devices

Additionally, healthcare administrators make executive decisions for their facilities. Some important responsibilities include:

  • Developing short-term and long-term goals for each department and the facility as a whole
  • Establishing strategies with board members and other executives
  • Meeting regularly with investors and providing quarterly or annual reports
  • Representing the facility at press conferences, fundraisers, or other events

Role in a Healthcare Organization

Healthcare administrators can be in charge of either an entire facility or one or more departments, depending on the size of their work environments. Hospital healthcare administrators need to stay focused at all times, as they oversee many functions of the facility.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • About 33 percent of medical and health services managers, including healthcare administrators, work in hospitals.
  • Approximately 12 percent work in physicians’ offices.
  • Ten percent work in nursing homes or residential care facilities.
  • About 8 percent work in government organizations or agencies.
  • Seven percent work in outpatient care centers.

Even though healthcare administrators work in many different settings, they have an important role in both small and large organizations.

Steps to Becoming a Healthcare Administrator

The first step in becoming a healthcare administrator is earning a bachelor’s degree, typically in one of the following fields of study:

  • Healthcare administration
  • Business administration
  • Public health administration
  • Nursing
  • Health management

Some aspiring healthcare administrators have gained experience in insurance or finance, while others are registered nurses.

The next step is to earn a master’s degree in one of the fields listed above or a similar field. Additionally, a foundation in business principles, as well as clinical knowledge, can benefit prospective healthcare administrators.

Individuals may need to earn licensure and certification to qualify for jobs in medical facilities. Requirements can vary across states and specific organizations. People who want to become healthcare administrators can earn the medical management certification from the Professional Association of HealthCare Office Management, or the health information management certification from the American Health Information Management Association, among other options.

Job Outlook and Salary

Healthcare administrator salaries vary based on experience, education level, geographic location, job organization, and other factors. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical health and services managers, including healthcare administrators, have an annual median salary of $100,980.

Those with salaries in the lowest 10 percent of the range earn less than $58,820, while those in the highest 10 percent earn more than $189,000. Professionals working for government organizations typically have the highest annual salaries.

According to the BLS, the number of healthcare administrator jobs is projected to grow by 32 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the growth projected for all jobs in the U.S. between 2019 and 2029.

Career #2: Healthcare Operations Manager

People pursuing a healthcare administration career can consider becoming a healthcare operations manager. This role is similar to the healthcare administrator role, but an operations manager is mostly concerned with acting as the bridge between patients and staff, while also overseeing their facility’s daily operations.

Recognizing trends in data, such as an influx of patients due to an epidemic or pandemic, as well as identifying logistical concerns, such the need for more personal protective equipment, are essential aspects of the job. Managing the facility’s finances by budgeting and strategically planning for the future are also important responsibilities associated with the role.

Healthcare operations managers should be proficient in health information systems as well as information technology.

Job Description

A healthcare operations manager’s job duties include:

  • Managing staff by conducting performance reviews and identifying areas that need training and development
  • Protecting patient data and information through ensuring the security of digital and hard-copy record-keeping systems
  • Making financial decisions about the facility and overseeing the patient billing process
  • Staying updated on healthcare policies and enforcing them in every department
  • Keeping track of and buying necessary supplies and equipment
  • Collecting data and information in order to make processes more efficient and provide higher levels of care
  • Solving problems that arise and addressing conflicts between staff members
  • Communicating with other healthcare administrators, doctors, nurses, patients, and patients’ families

Role in a Healthcare Organization

Healthcare operations managers can work in large or small healthcare environments. In facilities such as private practices or physicians’ offices, they may be able to work more closely with patients and staff members and devote time to relationship-building. Professionals in this role should emphasize the importance of collaboration.

In fast-paced environments, such as hospitals in large cities, healthcare operations managers have a great deal of responsibility but also more opportunities for career growth. Professionals in this setting should be comfortable delegating tasks to other healthcare administrators or managers.

Healthcare operations managers have an impact on their environment, and they can cultivate a positive work culture through effective communication.

Steps to Becoming a Healthcare Operations Manager

People interested in the healthcare administration career role of operations manager can begin by earning a bachelor’s degree in:

  • Healthcare administration
  • Business administration
  • Public health administration
  • Nursing
  • Health management

Prospective healthcare operations managers often begin gaining experience in the field through internships or entry-level administrative jobs. Individuals typically seek employment in healthcare settings at the outset; hands-on experience in business is also beneficial.

Individuals aiming to become healthcare operations managers should earn a master’s degree in health administration or a related field. They can work as healthcare directors or multidepartment managers as they prepare for the career.

Job Outlook and Salary

Operations managers have an annual median salary of $100,780, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 25th percentile salary is $65,660, while the 75th percentile salary is $157,430.

Operations manager salaries vary based on experience, education level, geographic location, job organization, and other factors.

The number of jobs for medical and health services managers, including healthcare operations managers, is projected to grow by 32 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is eight times faster than the projected average growth of all jobs in the U.S., according to the BLS.

Career #3: Director of Patient Safety

The director of patient safety role is a healthcare administration career option that focuses on quality assurance. Directors of patient safety help minimize patient deaths inadvertently caused by medical treatments or by diseases caused by exams in a healthcare setting.

According to an article published by StatPearls, “A medical error is a preventable adverse effect of medical care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient,” and about “210,000 to 440,000 deaths per year” are caused by side effects from exams or treatments that lead to diseases or illnesses.

Many fatalities caused by medical error could have been prevented. Medical facilities need to have a director of patient safety who can target and address patient safety issues, protect patients, and avoid adverse medical events, such as illness or side effects, caused by medical treatments.

Job Description

In a medical facility, a director of patient safety is responsible for the following job duties:

  • Creating, directing, and managing a patient safety program
  • Making sure all clinical services comply with federal and state safety regulations
  • Enhancing clinical outcomes by communicating with physicians, nurses, and administrators
  • Implementing safety initiatives to help minimize patient harm
  • Meeting with executives to make important decisions about healthcare incidents and how to prevent similar ones in the future
  • Leading a patient safety committee
  • Collecting data and regularly writing incident reports

Role in a Healthcare Organization

Directors of patient safety have an important role that can potentially lower patient mortality rates. Most directors work in:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Medical group practices
  • Nursing homes

It is essential for directors of patient safety to be detail oriented. They should be able to implement strategic plans for identifying and solving issues that negatively impact patients’ health.

Demonstrating effective verbal and written communication skills is an important attribute of directors of patient safety, who are the liaisons between clinical staff and executives. They must address situations where safety standards are not being followed and enforce those standards.

Steps to Becoming a Director of Patient Safety

As with other healthcare administration careers, people interested in becoming directors of patient care typically begin by earning a bachelor’s degree in:

  • Healthcare administration
  • Public health administration
  • Health management
  • Business administration

Most employers require a director of patient safety to also have earned a master’s degree in one of those fields, particularly health administration. Essential courses can cover topics such as:

  • Risk management
  • Infection control
  • Quality assurance/clinical improvement
  • Patient safety
  • Organizational change

Many individuals begin by working in entry-level clinical or administrative positions. They should gain several years of experience in higher-level healthcare administration positions.

Aspiring directors of patient safety may choose to earn the National Patient Safety Foundation’s Certified Professional in Patient Safety (CPPS) credential. Some employers may require certification, while others may simply recommend it.

Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS places directors of patient safety within the category of medical health and services managers. These professionals have an annual median salary of $100,980.

Salaries of directors of patient safety vary based on the medical facility’s size, as well as on the individual’s experience, education level, geographic location, and other factors.

The BLS projects the number of jobs in this profession will grow by 32 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the growth projected for all jobs in the U.S. between 2019 and 2029.

Career #4: Hospital CFO

Hospital chief financial officers (CFOs) are responsible for ensuring the financial integrity of their healthcare organization. They are in charge of making the executive financial decisions for their hospital or system of hospitals.

Hospital CFOs work with other top-level executives, such as CEOs, to create long-term goals for their organization and establish a direction.

Professionals in other healthcare administration careers often create budgets for their departments or entire facilities; hospital CFOs oversee and approve those budgets.

Job Description

A hospital CFO’s job duties are similar to those of a CFO in any other industry. Some specific responsibilities of hospital CFOs include:

  • Meeting with other top-level executives to discuss plans for operations, organizational goals, and policies
  • Hiring department heads, healthcare administrators, and medical managers
  • Analyzing areas that need to cut costs and areas, such as new safety programs, that need more funding
  • Negotiating contracts with insurance companies, vendors, and employees
  • Reviewing budgets, salaries, and financial reports

Role in a Healthcare Organization

Like any other top-level executive, the hospital CFO has an essential role. CFOs work directly with board members, investors, and shareholders to ensure the hospital is properly funded and functions as efficiently as possible.

The hospital CFO’s decisions can have a big impact, positive or negative, on the lives of medical personnel and patients. Top-level executives must have current and future patients’ interests in mind as well as their organization’s fiscal well-being.

Steps to Becoming a Hospital CFO

Hospital CFOs should have a background in finance. They often begin their careers by earning a bachelor’s degree, earning the certified public accountant (CPA) credential, and working as accountants. After gaining experience, they usually go back to school and earn a master’s degree.

Individuals can also begin by earning a bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s degree in business administration, health administration, law, or public administration. Jobs for top-level executives can be competitive. The most qualified potential CFOs have several years of experience as managers and executives in finance, business, or health care.

Job Outlook and Salary

The median annual salary for chief executives in health care, including hospital CFOs, is $166,410, according to the BLS. While top executives earn some of the highest salaries in the U.S., salaries can range based on experience, education level, state, size of the hospital or hospital network, and other factors.

The number of jobs for top executives is projected to grow by 4 percent between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS, which is the same as the projected average growth rate for all jobs during that time frame. While hospitals need qualified CFOs, the job market is very competitive.

Career #5: Healthcare Consultant

The role of healthcare consultant is another important healthcare administration career option. These professionals often work as management analysts, monitoring their facility’s efficiency and productivity.

Typically, healthcare consultants help facilities address specific issues regarding infrastructure or profits. Creating general plans for improvement is a crucial part of a healthcare consultant’s job description.

Job Description

The following are healthcare consultants’ typical job duties:

  • Meeting with healthcare administrators, leaders, or health managers to discuss specific problems
  • Conducting interviews with medical personnel and making observations of the medical facility, equipment, and supplies
  • Collecting information about issues or procedures by analyzing data and information
  • Devising and creating a written report on potential solutions or alternative methods for systems and procedures
  • Sharing the findings and report with leaders and managers, and making plans to implement the proposed changes

Role in a Healthcare Organization

Healthcare consultants typically work full time in hospitals and other medical facilities. They help their organization constantly seek new ways to improve health standards, procedures, and medical practices.

Working for a consulting firm and getting hired to analyze a medical facility on a part-time basis is another option.

Larger medical facilities, such as city hospitals, are often more likely to hire full-time healthcare consultants than smaller ones, such as private practices.

Steps to Becoming a Healthcare Consultant

Earning a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business administration is typically the starting point for individuals interested in healthcare consulting. With a strong foundation in business, healthcare consultants analyze issues pertaining to economics, finance, and psychology, among others.

Prospective healthcare consultants should have several years of experience as consultants or analysts in business, health care, or finance. Having a financial background, such as having work experience as an accountant, can also help prepare individuals for the job.

Professionals can earn the certified management consultant credential through the Institute of Management Consultants USA.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the BLS, management analysts —including healthcare consultants —have an annual median salary of $85,260. This salary can vary based on a consultant’s education level, experience, and job location. Whether a healthcare consultant works for a medical facility full time or part time also can be a contributing factor to pay level. Salaries range from less than $49,700 to more than $154,310.

The number of jobs in this profession is projected to grow by 11 percent between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS.

Earn Your MHA Degree from Tulane

Pursuing a healthcare administration career can be rewarding in many ways. Leaders, top-level executives, managers, administrators, and consultants have the potential to make a meaningful impact on healthcare organizations, medical personnel, and patients.

If you are drawn to a healthcare administration career, explore how Tulane University’s Online Master of Health Administration program can help you achieve your professional goals.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “Nursing Shortage”

The Balance Careers, “What Does a Health Care/Hospital Administrator Do?”

HFMA, “The Healthcare CFO of the Future: How Finance Leaders Are Adapting to Relentless Change”

PolicyAdvice, “The State of Healthcare Industry 2021”

StatPearls, “Medical Error”

Surf Search, Director Quality and Patient Safety

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, General and Operations Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Top Executives