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The Role of a Healthcare Manager

October 21, 2021

Health care is one of the largest employment sectors in the United States, meaning the need for effective management is essential. Healthcare managers oversee the administration of healthcare systems. For people who are passionate about health and medicine but prefer the business side of healthcare organizations, healthcare management could be a fascinating career path.

Healthcare managers understand the health sector’s intricacies, working alongside clinicians and providers to oversee organizational functions, including the following:

  • Strategic planning
  • Budgeting
  • Policymaking and agenda setting
  • Administrative personnel training and professional development

For those drawn to this kind of work, a good first step might be learning more about the healthcare management job description, its scope of responsibilities, and the education and qualifications to become one.

What Is Healthcare Management

Healthcare management is concerned with the practical administration of a hospital, practice, or clinic. It entails day-to-day operations, as well as big-picture business concerns and financial planning. The purpose of healthcare management is to ensure that facilities are running smoothly while adhering to budgetary parameters and generating sufficient income to offer quality care.

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What Does a Healthcare Manager Do? 

Health care is a business. As such, it needs business leaders to helm its institutions. Managers steer healthcare organizations in profitable directions — making healthcare services more accessible, efficient, and equitable.

What Is the Healthcare Management Job Description?

The duties and responsibilities associated with the healthcare management or role can vary, but a typical job description might look like this:

  • Developing and implementing goals associated with the efficiency and quality of care
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance for the facility
  • Preparing and monitoring budgets
  • Recruiting, hiring, and scheduling employees
  • Serving as a spokesperson for the facility

Where Do Healthcare Managers Work? 

Healthcare management is an umbrella term that encompasses many different types of jobs in healthcare administration:

  • Medical office administration (e.g., medical office director, practice manager, front desk supervisor)
  • Medical billing and coding (e.g., medical billing supervisor)
  • Medical office accounting and finance (e.g., accounting manager, payroll manager)
  • Medical information management (e.g., medical information manager)
  • Healthcare law and compliance (e.g., regulatory finance reporting manager, regulatory compliance manager)

Additionally, healthcare managers may work in general roles, such as managing a rural health clinic. Other managers choose to specialize. One can work as a departmental manager of the nurses at a radiology lab, for example, or as an administrator who oversees a pharmacy.

Experts at Collaboration 

Managers in healthcare need to prepare for navigating competing demands and priorities from within an organization. Broadly speaking, healthcare managers work closely with other healthcare administrators, providers, financial managers, marketing specialists, and many other players from healthcare’s business side. They synthesize expert advice from representatives of different departments.

For example, a manager in healthcare will seek budgetary expertise from financial administrators; staffing expertise from department leaders; and feedback about workers’ experiences from nurses, front desk staff, and employees throughout the organization.

Professional Developers 

At their best, healthcare managers do not just supervise employees under their watch. These managers identify and cultivate leadership qualities in their staff members, empowering them to reach their full professional potential.

Managers also create opportunities for employees. They delegate tasks (such as project management, recordkeeping, and data analysis), allowing healthcare administrators to gain new skills and step into different roles.

By developing and promoting employees from within an organization, forward-thinking healthcare managers:

  • Preserve institutional knowledge (information about how an organization works and why)
  • Improve employee morale by recognizing employee achievements
  • Promote a culture of innovation and improvement
  • Foster business relationships
  • Adapt to emerging challenges quickly
  • Earn their staff’s trust and respect

For example, imagine a lower-level healthcare administrator who identifies opportunities to make their health clinic more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ patients. A great manager could recognize the value in making their clinic more equitable and also see this as an opportunity to support an employee’s professional development. The manager might support the administrator by allocating time for them to research inclusive practices, organize meetings among organizational stakeholders to discuss equity efforts for transgender patients, and implement new protocols as needed.

Executive Healthcare Managers: Shapers of Healthcare Culture 

In their influential role at the executive level, healthcare managers shape their organization’s culture from the top down. For example, executive-level managers who set gender and racial equity as an internal priority in their organizations can take concrete steps toward greater equity.

To shape their organization’s culture, a manager might:

  • Set organizational goals for hiring and retaining women and people of color from underrepresented groups in healthcare administration
  • Offer ongoing cultural competency training for staff
  • Hire medical translators to ensure services reach vulnerable groups
  • Create outreach programs to educate the general public about the services provided
  • Solicit feedback through surveys or town hall meetings to learn more about potential gaps in healthcare service provisions

When healthcare managers step into their power as movers and shapers of healthcare organizations, the entire culture can shift for the better. The benefits? Higher employee retention, more efficient service, and greater profits.

The Skills of a Healthcare Manager 

Leaders in managerial roles must develop a broad set of business skills to guide their organizations to success. Here are a few essential skills. 


The best managers are expert communicators. Individuals in this role must have:

  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Strong presentation skills
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • The ability to lead and thrive in a dynamic environment, juggling multiple priorities
  • Excellent listening skills — to understand, analyze, and synthesize information from healthcare leaders

Business Savvy 

The core competencies associated with healthcare management include the following:

  • The ability to notice and respond quickly to business trends in health care
  • Interest in emerging healthcare technologies that improve service quality and efficiency
  • Strategic planning skills
  • The ability to navigate ethically challenging situations
  • Skills in empowering other health administrators and staff to do their best work
  • Compassionate, inspiring leadership capabilities
  • The ability to build relationships and collaborate with staff and community partners

Ethical Decision-Making 

Healthcare managers lead their organizations according to their moral compasses. Managers in healthcare make policy decisions that affect everyone in health care, from other administrators to patients. Therefore, healthcare managers need to make decisions ethically.

Ethical managers must have:

  • An understanding of the social determinants of health (including housing insecurity, nutrition, racism, and other forms of oppression)
  • The ability to apply an equity lens
  • The ability to exercise independent judgment and decision-making
  • The foresight to anticipate how their policy decisions will affect multiple stakeholders, especially the most vulnerable
  • An understanding of harm reduction principles and trauma-informed care

Healthcare Leadership 

Leadership skills are also paramount. As leaders, healthcare managers:

  • Lead with care. They recognize a team’s needs and behaviors and help teams mutually support each other.
  • Inspire a shared vision. They communicate with credibility and present a clear direction for pursuing long-term goals.
  • Engage teams. They trust in the team and support collaborative participation.
  • Evaluate information. They source information from experts and synthesize results to develop new plans.
  • Inspire a shared purpose. They embody the values they want to see in their staff and realign teams with their values as needed.
  • Connect services. They understand an organization’s internal politics and adopt outside approaches that can address challenges and overcome roadblocks.
  • Develop capabilities. They provide opportunities for individuals and teams to develop, enabling improved long-term capabilities.
  • Hold others accountable. They have clear expectations, challenge teams for continuous improvement, and create an environment that fosters innovative change.

The bottom line is that healthcare managers are leaders. They need to perform many different tasks well  — analyze data, communicate with diverse groups, work well with others, delegate tasks, manage their time — and thrive in a fast-paced healthcare environment.

How to Become a Healthcare Manager 

Many managers get their start in other business organizations before transitioning to health care. Some start in entry-level clerical roles, whereas others work as managers and directors before making the move to senior- and executive-level roles in health care.

Education for Prospective Managers 

In general, professionals in healthcare management may have undergraduate or graduate degrees. Undergraduate healthcare management degrees focus primarily on entry-level management and strategic communication. Common undergraduate degrees include the following:

  • Business
  • Business administration
  • Communication
  • Economics
  • Finance

Individuals with undergraduate degrees will need to supplement their education with courses and experience that reflect their expertise in health care. These might include the following:

  • Additional coursework in healthcare leadership, healthcare organization, medical ethics, business ethics, or healthcare law and compliance
  • Internships or work experience at a hospital, care clinic, health industry regulatory organization, or similar organization

Job candidates need to learn about the leadership issues unique to healthcare employers and departments; these issues typically are not covered in a four-year degree program.

Candidates with advanced degrees, such as a Master of Health Administration (MHA), often have additional training and exposure to healthcare leadership principles, healthcare business trends, and best practices.

Most successful candidates have graduate degrees plus at least two years of experience in leadership roles at healthcare organizations.

Healthcare Experience Matters 

Few professionals transition from clinical practice to healthcare management, as most come from business backgrounds. To thrive in healthcare management, business professionals need to gain experience working in a healthcare setting.

Examples of ways to gain professional experience working in health care on the administrative side are as follows:

  • Working in data entry or data quality oversight, especially with social service client tracking
  • Working in healthcare policy for a government agency, legislative team, or healthcare-related nonprofit
  • Working in financial billing or compliance for a healthcare organization

School Accreditation and Resources 

Individuals considering careers in healthcare management should choose their graduate schools carefully.

Employers look for regionally accredited programs. Well-respected program-specific accreditations for healthcare management are provided by:

  • Commission on Accreditation Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
  • Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

Additionally, different schools offer different opportunities and resources for students that can help them secure experience. Some programs have dedicated internship opportunities for students, and some offer classes online; this can make it possible for working students to earn their degrees without leaving their places of employment.

Where Healthcare Managers Work 

Nearly every healthcare organization needs managers — not just hospitals. Managers can enjoy long careers in:

  • Public health
  • Private practice
  • Pharmacies
  • Community health
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Policy analysis
  • Accounting
  • Telehealth services

Most healthcare employers seek healthcare managers with experience managing in business settings. The role of a healthcare manager must constantly adapt to changes in healthcare organization structures, Hence, the need for flexible managers who can keep up with new technologies and demands in health care.

Healthcare Manager Salary 

Healthcare management is experiencing rapid growth and offers excellent salaries. As of May 2023, medical and health services managers had a median annual salary of $110,680, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Salaries vary by type of organization (e.g., hospital or private practice), location, and experience.

These jobs also offer professional perks, including high rates of job satisfaction; personal autonomy (the ability to take ownership of one’s work); and transferable skills, including leadership, data analysis, management, and strategic planning.

The BLS projects that the demand for healthcare services will grow by 28 percent from 2022 to 2032 to keep pace with aging baby boomers; this growth rate is faster than the average for all occupations.

Salaries Based on Job Title 

A healthcare manager’s salary can vary based on the role. Here are some salaries based on job title. 

Chief Compliance Officer

The chief compliance officer (CCO) of a hospital or clinic ensures that all operations comply with the healthcare industry’s laws and regulations. Healthcare CCOs work with other managers and executives to ensure compliance with federal and local guidelines. According to a report from Payscale in March 2024, the median annual salary for a chief compliance officer was approximately $131,600.

Chief Operating Officer

The chief operating officer (COO) reports directly to the CEO of a hospital or clinic. As second in command, the COO oversees all operations and facilitates communication among various units and departments. According to a report from Payscale in August 2023, the median annual salary for a hospital COO was approximately $181,220.

Hospital or Clinic Administrator

Healthcare facilities need administrators in order to function. They oversee operations and manage staff in a healthcare organization’s various departments. According to a report from Payscale in March 2024, the median annual salary for a hospital administrator was approximately $95,100. 

Chief Nursing Officer

Chief nursing officers (CNOs) oversee nursing units throughout organizations. They typically need a healthcare management degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). According to a report from Payscale in August 2023, the median annual salary for a hospital CNO is approximately $181,220. 

Launch a Career in Healthcare Management 

Healthcare managers have the leadership to drive healthcare organizations toward sustainable growth. With their business acumen and professional experience in healthcare organizations or other professional industries, they can usher in equitable and profitable changes by introducing technologies, communication tools, leadership styles, and organizational processes.

Excellent healthcare management starts with competent, compassionate healthcare leaders. Are you already working in a management role and interested in making the leap to healthcare management?

The Online MHA program at Tulane University can help you take that next step in your career. Health care needs leaders. Be the change you want to see in health care, and learn more about how this advanced degree program can propel you to a better career in healthcare management.

Advance Your Public Health Career with an MHA Program

Pursue Your Degree Online From Tulane University
Find Out More

Recommended Readings

Patient-Centered Care: Definition and Examples

An Organizational Chart in Health Care Explained

What Is Quality Improvement in Healthcare?


Indeed, What Is Health Care Management?

Payscale, Average Chief Operating Officer (COO) / Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Salary

Payscale, Average Compliance Officer Salary

Payscale, Average Hospital Administrator Salary

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