Health services managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. However, master’s degrees in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration also are common.
Undergraduate degree programs in health administration prepare students for higher level management jobs than programs that graduate students with other degrees. Courses needed for a degree in health administration often include hospital organization and management, accounting and budgeting, human resources administration, strategic planning, law and ethics, health economics, and health information systems.
Some programs allow students to specialize in a particular type of facility, such as a hospital, a nursing care home, a mental health facility, or a group medical practice. Graduate programs often last between two and three years and may include up to one year of supervised administrative experience.
Although bachelor’s and master’s degrees are the most common educational pathways to work in this field, some facilities may hire those with on-the-job experience instead of formal education. For example, managers of physical therapy may be experienced physical therapists who have administrative experience.
Most jurisdictions require nursing care facility administrators to be licensed; requirements vary by location. In most situations, these administrators must have a bachelor's degree, pass a licensing exam, and complete an approved training program. Some jurisdictions also require administrators in assisted-living facilities to be licensed. A license is not required in other areas of medical and health services management.
Medical and health services managers advance by moving into more responsible and higher paying positions. In large hospitals, graduates of health administration programs usually begin as administrative assistants or assistant department heads. In small hospitals or nursing care facilities, they may begin as department heads or assistant administrators. Some experienced managers also may become consultants or professors of healthcare management. The level of the starting position varies with the experience of the applicant and the size of the organization.
For those already in a different healthcare occupation, a master's degree in health services administration or a related field might be required to advance. For example, nursing service administrators usually are supervisory registered nurses with administrative experience and graduate degrees in nursing or health administration.