How to Become a Healthcare Administrator

Updated August 29, 2022

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Are you considering a new career in or transition to healthcare leadership? Keep reading to find out how to become a healthcare administrator and enter this lucrative and fast-growing field.

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How to Become a Healthcare Administrator
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With a median annual salary of more than $100,000 and a high projected rate of employment growth, healthcare administration offers benefits and opportunities for nursing and health professionals. Job titles include healthcare executives and healthcare administrators, and duties involve directing, managing, and coordinating medical services in a clinic, department, facility, or practice.

This guide covers healthcare administrator education requirements, typical work environments and responsibilities, and certification options to help you decide if healthcare administration is right for you. Read on for details about how to become a healthcare administrator.

Healthcare Administrator Overview

Healthcare administrators find employment in hospitals, physicians' offices, residential care facilities, outpatient care centers, and other medical settings. Their jobs center on improving the efficiency and quality of healthcare services delivery.

Specifically, healthcare executives develop goals and objectives for their departments or facilities, ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and manage finances. Daily tasks may include supervising staff and creating work schedules, formulating budgets and updating records, and communicating with department heads.

Steps to Becoming a Healthcare Administrator

While employer requirements may vary, the minimum education required for healthcare administrator roles is typically a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration or a related healthcare field such as nursing. Optional healthcare management certification can lead to increased job prospects and higher salaries.

  • 1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a Related Field

In addition to a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), other common undergraduate degrees earned by healthcare executives include healthcare administration, public health, and business management. Students, including those in nursing programs, should look for curriculums covering general management, finance, and healthcare topics like long-term or ambulatory care. Bachelor's degrees usually take four years to complete.

  • 2. Gain Experience in Healthcare Administration

A bachelor's degree opens doors to entry-level healthcare management positions, along with graduate degree programs. The type of work experience needed can depend on career goals. For example, long-term care facility managers often log time as registered nurses (RNs), but other employers may require clinical experience in a hospital setting.

  • 3. Earn a Graduate Degree

While not a requirement to work as a healthcare administrator, a graduate degree carries significant benefits in terms of career advancement and salary potential. Master's programs typically span two years, and options include healthcare administration, public health, and dual degrees in business administration and public health.

  • 4. Consider Becoming a Certified Healthcare Administrator

Healthcare administration certificate options include those offered by the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management and the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management. Eligible applicants may be required to join the certifying organization and often must have 2-4 years of experience in healthcare (education may substitute for a portion of the experience requirements).

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Healthcare Administrator Education

Educational paths for healthcare administrators can depend on desired career directions. A BSN with finance and business coursework serves as a solid foundation for nursing home administrators and clinical managers. Healthcare information managers might consider health informatics or healthcare administration degrees with a technology focus. Those with an interest in public health might major in public policy and social services.

Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor's degrees provide launching pads into entry-level healthcare administrative positions for those who want to spend a maximum of four years in school and gain experience in the workforce.

  • Admission Requirements:
    • High school diploma or GED certificate
    • 2.0-2.5 GPAs
    • ACT or SAT scores
  • Program Curriculum:
    • Financial management and budgeting
    • Healthcare leadership
    • Health law, ethics, and professionalism
    • Health sciences
    • Information systems
  • Time to Complete: 1-4 years
  • Skills Learned: Analysis, communication, leadership, and interpersonal and technical skills

Master’s Degree

Master's degree-holders typically enter healthcare administration careers in leadership and management roles with higher starting salaries.

  • Admission Requirements:
    • Bachelor's degree
    • 3.0 GPA
    • GRE scores
    • Healthcare industry work experience
  • Program Curriculum:
    • Healthcare economics
    • Healthcare policy
    • Health informatics
    • Human resources
    • Strategic planning
  • Time to Complete: 1-2 years
  • Skills Learned: Advanced leadership, data analysis and management, healthcare challenges response, and organizational decision-making

Dual Master’s Degree Program

Master's degrees in healthcare administration or nursing combined with business administration (MHA/MBA or MSN/MBA) appeal to those interested in positions as healthcare CEOs, executive directors, hospital administrators, and other fast-track leadership roles. A dual degree can lead to jobs in clinical or administrative settings.

  • Admission Requirements:
    • Bachelor's degree
    • 2.75-3.0 GPA
    • GRE or GMAT scores
    • Current RN license
    • Prerequisite coursework
    • Professional experience
  • Program Curriculum:
    • Advanced health assessment
    • Evidence-based practice
    • Healthcare financing
    • Healthcare quality management
    • Health informatics
    • Health policy
  • Time to Complete: Two years
  • Skills Learned: Advanced practice nursing, finance, healthcare acquisitions and mergers, organizational leadership, and strategic planning

Working as a Healthcare Administrator

Job-seekers in the fast-growing field of healthcare administration can look forward to a projected 51,800 openings between 2020 and 2030. While more than a third of these positions will likely be available in hospitals, an aging population points to opportunities in long-term care facilities. Healthcare certifications can provide a competitive edge in the job market.

Healthcare administration professionals can also expect high-earning opportunities. Salaries range from $59,980 per year for the lowest 10% of earners to $195,630 for the highest 10%. The District of Columbia, New York, and Hawaii top the list of highest-paying states in this profession.

Common work settings for healthcare administrators include:


Hospitals

Healthcare administrators may oversee the entire hospital or manage a department. Their responsibilities include formulating and implementing policies and procedures, evaluating the quality of healthcare delivery, and preparing budgets and reports.

Nursing Homes

State-licensed nursing home administrators manage staff, facility admissions, finances, and building maintenance.

Health Information Management Departments

These managers maintain and secure patient records and ensure compliance with health information systems laws and regulations. They may also supervise medical records and health information staff.


Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Healthcare Administrator


What is the best degree for a career in healthcare administration?

Students interested in minimal years in school should consider a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration or nursing with a leadership focus. But for those who want to start in high-level management, a dual MHA/MBA or MSN/MBA provides comprehensive training in both the business and clinical sides of the profession.

What opportunities for advancement are available for healthcare administrators?

For bachelor's degree-holders starting out in entry-level healthcare administration, work experience leads to more responsibilities and higher salaries. Higher education and certification can pave the way to top-level positions in administration and leadership in hospitals, public health policy, and nursing education.

Can you become a healthcare administrator online?

Programs at all degree levels are offered online. Students should make sure that the nursing school, health administration, or other degree program holds accreditation, which signifies that the online curriculum meets the same standards as traditional programs and prepares graduates for healthcare management careers.

How can registered nurses (RNs) transition to a career in healthcare administration?

RNs who hold BSNs can transition in just a couple of years into healthcare administration roles by logging experience in entry-level leadership or earning a graduate degree in healthcare administration or a dual MHA/MBA or MSN/MBA degree. Clinical experience gained through nursing provides valuable knowledge and skills applicable to their new careers.



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Portrait of Shrilekha Deshaies, MSN, CCRN, RN

Shrilekha Deshaies, MSN, CCRN, RN

Shri Deshaies, MSN, CCRN, RN, is a nurse educator with over 20 years of teaching experience. She is a certified critical care nurse and has worked in various surgical intensive care units, including cardiovascular, trauma, and neurosurgery. She is a founding member of Nurses Serving our Neighbors which advocates for the homeless population.

Shri Deshaies is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network. Learn more about our review partners.

NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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