Healthcare Administration: Skills, Responsibilities, Certifications and More

Published on: January 2, 2024

Hospitals, senior care centers and physicians’ offices all rely on the hard work of healthcare administrators to keep things running smoothly. If you’re interested in a healthcare leadership role that empowers you to improve operations and patient care—and if you don’t mind putting in the work to earn an advanced degree—then a career in healthcare management or administration may be right for you.

With a better understanding of what the work of a healthcare administrator entails, as well as the required skills and educational path required to enter this profession, you can decide whether this career path may be worth pursuing.

The Role of a Healthcare Administrator

What exactly does the job of a healthcare administrator entail? Ultimately, job duties and responsibilities vary based on the facility and the scope of the position. However, healthcare administrators are generally leaders who are tasked with making large-scale decisions with the best interests of a healthcare facility front of mind.

Healthcare administrators may work for hospitals, long-term care facilities, doctors’ offices or just about any other type of medical facility to streamline operations and ensure that providers are delivering the best possible care.

The work of healthcare administrators is vital, allowing physicians, nurses and other providers to focus on providing quality care without having to worry as much about nonclinical functions and everyday business operations. The work of a great healthcare administrator often goes unnoticed—but this type of position can be extremely rewarding for those who enjoy working behind-the-scenes to make a real impact on both patient care and overall healthcare policy.

Day-to-Day Responsibilities

The day-to-day job responsibilities and duties of a healthcare administrator will depend on many factors, including the size of the facility, the type of facility and the scope of the job itself. Typically, healthcare administrators are responsible for both administrative and clinical tasks, such as:

  • Scheduling staff to ensure the practice runs smoothly.
  • Recruiting new staff and providing training.
  • Managing the finances and budget.
  • Ensuring that the facility operates in compliance with all laws and regulations.
  • Keeping detailed records of services and equipment.
  • Communicating expectations and objectives to staff.
  • Improving and optimizing the quality of patient care.

It is also worth noting that the responsibilities of a healthcare administrator can depend on whether the administrator oversees the entire facility or a specific department within the facility. In larger healthcare settings (such as hospitals), a healthcare administrator may preside over a single department (like the neonatal unit) rather than the entire building. In that case, there may be multiple hospital administrators—and they will probably be in regular communication to improve the operation of the facility.

In some cases, healthcare administrators may take on additional responsibilities. For example, an administrator may be responsible for writing grant proposals to secure research funding or meet with investors and legislative groups to seek funding.

Required Skills and Qualities

Working in healthcare administration or health services management requires both hard and soft healthcare administration skills. Because this is a leadership position, candidates for these roles should have strong backgrounds in leadership or management. Knowing how to effectively lead and motivate a team is crucial to this role, so past experience in a leadership position (ideally in healthcare) is a bonus.

Strong communication skills are also a must for any healthcare administrator. While these professionals rarely meet directly with patients or their families, they must still maintain strong interpersonal and written communication skills. Being able to effectively communicate expectations and goals with providers and other staff members can help keep everyone on the same page and working toward the same objective.

Healthcare administrators must also be critical thinkers and excellent problem solvers. Whether dealing with a scheduling conflict or working around a new policy, the most successful healthcare administrators can think on their feet and brainstorm solutions with confidence.

In addition to these soft skills, healthcare administrators need to possess several more technical skills to do their jobs effectively. Some examples of critical hard skills for this role include:

  • Knowledge of computer programs used in healthcare offices.
  • Understanding of common healthcare terminology and industry jargon.
  • Strong grasp of current regulatory policies and compliance laws (such as HIPAA).
  • Familiarity with budgeting software and business operations.

Perhaps above all else, healthcare administrators must be committed to a lifetime of learning and professional development. The healthcare field is constantly evolving, with new advancements and innovations around every corner. To perform their jobs well, healthcare administrators must constantly adapt and learn as the industry inevitably shifts around them.

Educational Path and Certifications

To qualify for most leadership roles in healthcare, almost all employers will require candidates to hold a formal degree in healthcare, business administration or a related field. However, the exact level of education required can vary from one employer and role to the next.

At a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in a related field is typically required as a stepping stone to a healthcare administration job or similar role. In some cases, employers may give preference to applicants with a more advanced degree, such as a master’s degree in health administration or public health.

Other factors may also come into play aside from level of education, however. Additional certifications or specialized training can go a long way toward building the foundational skills a candidate needs for leadership roles in healthcare. Likewise, previous experience working in a healthcare setting may also make a candidate more appealing for an operations management role because employers tend to prefer applicants with experience on the front lines of healthcare.

In addition to a degree, certifications and some level of related work experience, employers may also request additional materials for an applicant to be considered for this type of role. Requirements may include a resume or CV, letters of recommendation and even a personal statement.

Challenges Faced by Healthcare Administrators

The demand for healthcare administrators is high, as more healthcare facilities will need experienced and skilled leaders to guide them. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of medical and health services managers is projected to grow a whopping 28 percent between 2022 and 2032. This rate is much faster than the national average for all occupations (3 percent).

At the same time, healthcare administrators continue to face some major challenges in their everyday work. For starters healthcare administrators are having an increasingly hard time recruiting and retaining top nursing talent due to shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Healthcare administrators must also grapple with the issue of rising healthcare costs. Administrators and leaders are responsible for combatting these increasing costs while managing their facilities’ budgets and expenses.

Combine all of this with a significant increase in cyberattacks against healthcare facilities, and it’s easy to see why the job of a healthcare administrator can be so challenging. Administrators must ensure that their facilities have the strongest lines of defense against DDoS attacks, ransomware attacks, malware and data breaches that can create serious problems for healthcare facilities.

The Role of Technology in Healthcare Administration

Healthcare administrators are facing a digital transformation in healthcare requiring them to stay on top of the latest healthcare technology. More than ever, electronic health records, healthcare information systems and other innovations are being used to streamline operations. At the same time, these technologies change the role and scope of the administrator’s job—emphasizing the need for these professionals to be as adaptable as they are versatile.

Career Paths and Advancement

Even within the field of healthcare administration, there are many possibilities for different career paths and advancement opportunities. Some examples of potential jobs for healthcare administrators include:

  • Healthcare consultant
  • Clinical manager
  • Health information manager
  • Medical billing manager
  • Human resource manager

The key to professional growth in healthcare administration is to pursue ongoing education and career development opportunities. Likewise, never underestimate the power of a strong network and professional associations. Take time to build your connections now through platforms like LinkedIn and by attending industry events.

Ready to Begin Your Healthcare Journey?

Whether you’re already working in the healthcare industry or have zero healthcare experience, getting into a health administration career typically requires an advanced degree in a relevant field, such as health administration, public health or business administration.

Ready to take the next step toward rewarding and fulfilling leadership roles in the healthcare field? Park University offers several programs to help you get started. Specifically, you may want to explore our Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in healthcare. Through this program, you’ll have the opportunity to learn the essentials of business and management as well as the foundations of healthcare operations management and patient care coordination.

Request more information about any of the programs offered at Park University or get started with your online application today.

Park University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Park University is a private, non-profit, institution of higher learning since 1875.