What Can You Do with a Health Services Management Degree?
Healthcare spending costs more than $3 trillion a year in the United States and accounts for almost 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). While doctors need to see to patients, someone needs to steer the finances, personnel, policies, and increasingly complex day-to-day operations of the facilities in which they work. And that’s part of the reason why the need for health services managers is forecast to grow almost three times faster than the average for all jobs in the U.S.
Health services management has a lot of overlap with healthcare administration, dealing with the non-medical operations of a healthcare facility. Core undergraduate coursework focuses on providing a solid foundation of both business and healthcare knowledge. Typical classes include healthcare financing, human resources, healthcare policy, communications, healthcare informatics, long-term care, and introductory pharmacology. Further topics include subjects like medical technology and health systems delivery. Most programs can be completed within four years, and a bachelor’s in health services management is often enough to get started working in the industry.
Graduate-level education is becoming an increasingly popular choice for those with degrees in health services management. While many entry-level jobs in the industry only require a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in healthcare administration, public policy, or even business administration with a healthcare focus can provide the specialized skill set necessary to tackle the more complex and higher responsibility positions in the sector. In addition to learning about management, accounting, and personnel, students of graduate-level programs can go in-depth on healthcare informatics, gerontology, public policy, or compliance issues that are increasingly integrated with high-level health services management positions.
Health services management is an in-demand sector, and an undergraduate degree can open the doors to a variety of lucrative and fulfilling job opportunities. But the doors that open will depend on who you want to serve and how.
Read on to learn about ten careers that you can pursue with a degree in health services management.
Assisted Living Administrator
Similar to administrators of hospitals and private clinics, assisted living administrators are in charge of the day to day operations of their facility. This includes managing personnel, finances, compliance, and patient services. And just like nursing home administrators, they deal primarily with an older population, where knowledge around gerontology and end-of-life care can play a part. Assisted living facilities are often a living facility first and a medical facility second. As such, their administrators need to be shrewd managers of the community setting, seeking ways to empower residents and make their lives simpler. This requires a regular and ongoing dialogue with community members and constant advocacy for their needs.
A bachelor’s degree in health services management is typically sufficient to begin in this career, but the trend towards graduate-level education is increasing. Licensure requirements vary from state to state, but a separate, professional certification as a Certified Assisted Living Administrator (CALA) is available through the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA).
Clinical managers are responsible for the business side of clinical practice. They make staffing and scheduling decisions, design, and monitor a budget and develop and implement new practice-wide policies and directives. Whether the practice is part of a larger medical group or not, clinical managers often need to interface with social services, regulatory agencies, and the community at large.
Small practices may only require their clinical managers to have a bachelor’s degree, but graduate-level education is increasingly in demand. Professional certification is available as a Certified Medical Practice Executive (CMPE) through the American College of Medical Practice Executives (ACMPE) or in certified medical management (CMM) through the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM).
Health Information Manager
Enormous amounts of data flow through healthcare facilities and health information managers are primarily responsible for overseeing the proper collection, securitization, and application of that data. They manage the implementation of new health information systems, develop, and maintain a facility’s policy for the storage and safekeeping of the data, or train staff on data-related processes.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree, health information managers usually have some background in information technology. Professional certification for this role is increasingly in demand, and six different certifications are available for health information managers through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
Healthcare Compliance Manager
A healthcare compliance manager works on behalf of a healthcare facility to meet the contractual and legal expectations of a wide array of funding sources and regulatory agencies. They do this through monitoring updates to healthcare policies, laws, contracts, and regulations—and then implementing those updates into the healthcare facility through staff training sessions and process adjustments. Regular audits must also be performed to ensure compliance is maintained.
In addition to a bachelor’s or master’s degree in health services management, prospective healthcare compliance managers may pursue non-degree certificate programs, such as the one at Drexel University, which focus specifically on the legal aspects of healthcare compliance. As more employers demand it, healthcare compliance managers are increasingly seeking out professional certification. Five separate compliance certification programs are available through the Compliance Certification Board (CCB), a partner of the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA).
Healthcare consultants can be seen as freelancing healthcare administrators. Often working on short-term contracts or a part-time basis, they move from facility to facility, analyzing workflows and processes to propose ways of improving efficiencies to the more permanent administrative leaders. Healthcare consultants may conduct interviews, analyze data, run simulations, solicit new IT vendors, or guide a facility through an administrative transition or tech implementation processes.
A consultant’s specific purview will vary from facility to facility and contract to contract, but having a broad knowledge of the industry and landscape and sharp communications skills is a must. Many consultants pair their bachelor’s degree with a graduate degree that has a business or healthcare management focus. Professional certification as a healthcare business consultant (CHBC) is available through the National Society of Certified Healthcare Business Consultants (NSCHBC).
Healthcare Financial Manager
Healthcare financial managers are in charge of the financial operations for a healthcare facility. This can include financial reporting and analysis, budgeting and compensation evaluation, directing investment activities and cash management strategies, and upholding compliance related to both funding and taxation.
In addition to a bachelor’s or graduate level degree, healthcare financial managers need a strong background or specialization in finance and accounting. Larger healthcare facilities may ask that their financial managers have been licensed as a certified public accountant (CPA). The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) offers more healthcare-focused professional certifications relating to revenue cycle, revenue integrity, and compliance, while the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) has similarly healthcare-specific professional certifications for revenue cycle representatives and healthcare financial professionals.
Healthcare Management Researcher
Researchers in healthcare management push the field forward through advanced theory, empirical study, and publication in professional and academic journals. Researchers can work for think tanks, government agencies, universities, or consultancies. This is not necessarily a full-time or permanent position, however, and many researchers will also work in academia as professors or deans of healthcare-related programs. Healthcare management research tackles the biggest questions in healthcare, and the results can shape school curricula, credentialing requirements, corporate and governmental policies, and even population health.
Advanced doctoral programs in health services management and policy, like the one at Ohio State University, prepare students for positions as researchers and academics by focusing on a multifaceted approach that imparts expert-level knowledge across a vast array of disciplines.
Hospital administrators are at the top of the food chain for those with degrees in health services management. As head of a hospital’s daily and overall operations, they oversee personnel, finances, technology, compliance, and policy. They are also the face of the hospital, collaborating with the board, investors, patients, and the broader community. What separates hospital administrators from other facility managers is the sheer difference in scale of operations—hospitals employ and treat thousands of people. As such, the role of a hospital administrator can be seen almost as a mayor, in practice.
Although a bachelor’s degree is the bare minimum for this position, it is unlikely to be enough to interest hospitals outside of remote and rural locations. Hospitals are flagship medical facilities and those who lead them have advanced degrees, significant experience, and a vast professional network upon which to draw. Credentialing options are narrow, but hospital administrators can become board-certified as fellows of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
Nursing Home Administrator
Nursing home administrators take medical facility management to a more personal level, as nursing homes are as much living communities as they are healthcare dispensaries. In addition to managing a facility’s finances, personnel, compliance, and processes, nursing home administrators act as advocates for residents and function as a liaison between patients, families, and staff. This requires not only communication and management skills but a wealth of compassion and sensitivity to gerontology and end-of-life care.
A bachelor’s degree in health services management may satisfy employers of smaller nursing home facilities, but as the scale increases, so can the educational requirements. Nursing home administrators need to be licensed within their state through the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB) but may pursue additional professional certification through the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA) as a certified nursing home administrator (CNHA).
Social and Community Service Manager
Social and community service managers deal with health issues that exist outside of hospitals and care facilities. Through nonprofit and government organizations, they may work with at-risk populations within a community, such as those who are HIV-positive, recovering from substance abuse, or suffering from debilitating chronic illnesses. Or they may lead proactive missions that deal with promoting rural nutrition, safe sex, or even nationwide initiatives in the fight against cancer. This role requires not only tireless compassion, but also strong communication skills, as social and community service managers need to be able to secure funding, stakeholder buy-in, and community trust.
A bachelor’s degree in health services management may be more than sufficient to run some small-scale initiatives, though larger programs may demand graduate-level education in public health or policy. While they do not need to be certified or licensed to practice, social and community service managers may join the National Association of Nonprofit Professionals (NANPP) for networking, training, mentoring, and job placement opportunities.