What is a job as a health services manager like?

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The health care system today is made up of complex institutions governed by unique rules and demanding highly specialized skills from employees. The work done in this industry is some of the most important carried out anywhere, with the health of the population resting on care providers’ effectiveness.

A career path in health care can prove rewarding in terms of both performing highly consequential work and earning a competitive salary. If your background and training is not as a physician, nurse, or other hands-on caregiver, you can still gain a foothold in health care. Today’s hospitals, clinics, research facilities, and other care organizations require capable and effective administrative and management teams.

Becoming a health services manager can represent the culmination of hard work in medical administration. By gaining work experience and building your professional credentials, you can take on the responsibilities and rewards that come with this role.

If you understand the current state of health care, are adept at motivating and managing employees, and can design new professional programs from the ground up, you may be ready to succeed as a health services manager. Building knowledge and skill in these areas may involve entering a graduate-level program and earning a Master of Business Administration degree, especially if there is a health care concentration available.

A health services manager works at a laptop

What is health service management?

Health service management is, in many ways, a management position similar to those found in many industries. These managers are the team leaders responsible for evaluating talent, keeping people on task, and ensuring companies begin and complete their projects on schedule and up to quality standards. The differences between these leaders and similar roles come from the unique nature of health care as an industry.

Medical organizations are governed by strict rules regarding the personally identifiable information they store. The Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other pieces of field-specific legislation create a framework for the responsible use of this data. The way providers are funded is also unique, as companies have to work closely with health insurance organizations. Furthermore, care providers must be ready to meet stringent guidelines about the conditions within their facilities and patient outcomes.

Managers who comprehend those unique factors about the way health care is practiced today can come from within medical organizations through internal promotions, or rise through the managerial ranks at other types of companies. Care providers will inevitably be selective and demanding when interviewing new potential health services managers. In the high-stakes world of medicine, there is no room for applicants without impressive, in-depth resumes.

To begin along this career path, you should understand the day-to-day responsibilities of a health services manager. Due to the vast variety of companies in the medical field, there can be unique variations on these duties from one company to the next. Understanding these factors is important as well.

What does a health services manager do every day?

Health services managers are, first and foremost, tasked with overseeing the people on a care provider’s staff. These leaders should be prepared to create work schedules, lead hiring and disciplinary efforts, and brainstorm ideas for new projects to assign to their employees. As with any position of authority in a corporate office, health services managers should possess strong communication skills and know how to inspire and motivate others.

In addition to team leadership, there is a clerical side to the health services manager’s job. PayScale points out these professionals may be tasked with supervising accounting, setting organizational budgets, and drawing up reports. The exact nature of these duties will differ based on the company in question ― some will employ more people and enable greater delegation of bookkeeping responsibilities.

While the people management and clerical skills it takes to thrive as a member of a health care leadership team are similar to those for other industries, PayScale notes that health services managers’ policy direction duties rely on medical expertise. Creating new initiatives and business strategies is only feasible in an industry as unique and highly regulated as health care if managers understand systems such as reimbursement.

Medical and health services managers bear ultimate responsibility for managing their organizations’ databases. This introduces another set of must-have skills, as information must be kept secure and confidential. Not only do these databases have to be adequately protected against outside intrusions, they also require strong internal safeguards to ensure only authorized personnel can access data.

Health care leadership means understanding how to keep a fast-paced, high-tech company on track in terms of staff and budget oversight, with special attention paid to medical industry innovations. The challenges that come with this combination of duties are worth taking on if you value the resulting authority, as well as the salary and job security advantages that can come with the position.

What are some of the most prominent types of health services managers?

Depending on the type of care organization in question, the role of the health services manager can deviate significantly from the average managerial duties across the industry. If you are especially interested in serving in a particular part of the health care space, it can pay to familiarize yourself with these differences and direct your educational and work experience toward the relevant skills.

The following are three examples of specialized health services manager positions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each of these titles denotes a specific type of leadership and expertise, while remaining within the general umbrella of medical industry management.

1. Nursing Home Administrator

Specializing in management at a residential facility for the elderly is one way to enter one of the fastest-growing branches of health care. Due to medical breakthroughs and resulting gradual increase in average lifespan, you’ll find there are plenty of places to apply expertise taking care of aged patients on a long-term basis.

A nursing home is the same as any other care facility in that there are staff members to manage, budgets to set and policies to administer. When selecting, training, and overseeing personnel in an elderly care setting, managers need to focus on these individuals’ ability to provide conscientious, empathetic, and knowledgeable support that matches the unique needs of older people.

The BLS notes that because administration at nursing homes is such a specialized form of management, it requires a special license. While regulations vary by state, every region has standards professionals must meet before taking on the leadership of an elderly care facility. Nursing home administrators who earn licensure will be tasked with overseeing every element of their facilities, from maintaining a safe and comfortable environment to looking after residents’ unique health needs.

2. Clinical Manager

A clinical manager is a specialized medical and health services manager who is dedicated to a department within a larger care organization. Today’s medical field consists of numerous hospitals and other care providers that have complex organizational structures and many specific needs. Having clinical managers in place for each department is a way to keep these complex groups operating smoothly and effectively.

The BLS explains some of the departments requiring clinical managers may include nursing, surgery, and physical therapy. Medical and health services managers directing these specific groups can take a granular look at the work occurring within the sections, crafting detailed budgets, and overseeing staff performance in great detail.

Health outcomes depend on the ability of medical staff members to perform their specialized duties with a high level of precision. Clinical managers have to be adept at determining whether standards are being met and how to improve in cases when they are not. Furthermore, managers should be prepared to set goals and objectives for their sections and ensure their plans are sufficient to reach those targets.

3. Health Information Manager

Information technology, especially databases that contain privileged health information, are some of the highest-priority resources owned by any health care organization today. Companies that fail to take adequate care of their information may be in line for significant fines and other penalties, as well as loss of trust from their patient populations. This makes the health information manager one of the most essential specialized medical and health services managers.

Having someone specifically in charge of IT security is a must at hospitals and other major medical organizations, and the BLS notes that these professionals need to have a unique skill set. Due to the fact that technologies and the related laws are always evolving, health information managers must be aware of each new development. Letting an organization fall behind on compliance is unacceptable, and can be as harmful as never having adequate policies in the first palace.

The BLS adds that the amount of information stored by health care organizations today is growing, along with its complexity. Information managers should be aware of the status of all their organizations’ databases at all times despite this expansion, and ensure the content is complete, as well as safe and restricted to authorized users. The personnel management part of the role encompasses teams of medical records and health information technicians, professionals with their own unique practices and skill sets.

What is the salary and hiring outlook for health services managers?

One of the most compelling reasons to get involved with medical and health services management is the fact that companies need professionals to fill these roles. Considering the demand for good leadership in health care alongside the essential nature of the positions, it’s unsurprising that rising through the ranks to take on health services management work can come with job security and salary advantages.

The overall health care field in the U.S. is in a period of expansion and heightened demand. The aging baby boomer population represents a large group of people in need of more advanced care, and organizations of all specialties will likely add staff over the next few years to improve their offerings. This includes administrators such as health services managers alongside doctors, nurses, and clinical professionals.

Finding a specialty or niche in the medical field and increasing your administrative expertise by working in that role may help you prepare for health services management work. This could mean focusing on caring for elderly patients, handling the technological needs of a care provider, or one of any number of other granular focus areas. Discovering an especially in-demand kind of health care management in your job search area may help you maximize potential earnings.

How much does a health service manager make?

The BLS offers an impressive salary projection for medical and health services managers. According to the government agency’s most recent research, medical and health services managers earn a median of $99,730 a year. This high figure is even larger when only considering certain kinds of employers. Government jobs pay $110,460 a year and the median annual amount is $108,730 at state, local, and private hospitals.

There is another factor to consider when working in the health management profession. The highest-earning and most experienced leaders in this field can earn far more than the already high industry average. The BLS notes the top 10% of medical and health services managers earn more than $182,600 a year.

In the U.S. News & World Report job rankings, medical and health services manager positions are some of the most sought-after. The news organization places the health services management at No. 2 among business jobs, No. 7 among STEM positions, and No. 11 on the list of all jobs. This elevated position reflects both the high median salary and a low unemployment rate. Such a well-compensated, in-demand role is appealing for applicants who have put in the time and effort, both professionally and in their education.

PayScale notes other differences in salary can come from the region where a person is located. If you live in Nashville, for instance, your pay for health services management work may be 29% higher than the national figure. In New York, the amount is 19% above the norm. In Boston and Atlanta, the figure is 12% above nationwide numbers. Los Angeles and Dallas are also possible locations to receive high pay for your work.

On top of the potential for high earnings, health care management offers strong job security. Whatever conditions are shaping the economy at large or the health of the population, there will always be a need for competent managers of people and processes to take the lead at hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, private practices, and more.

What population health trends will affect health services manager careers?

When embarking on a new career path, it’s important to ask whether that role will still be in demand over the next few years. Fortunately, the overall direction of the medical sector in the U.S. is pointing toward a constant need for competent health services managers that will last for decades to come.

U.S. News & World Report indicates there are several factors leading to this trend, including but not limited to the rising baby boomer population. The years ahead will also see diversification and general expansion in medical practices. With more group medical practices opening, there will be new administrative jobs opening up. The combination of these new jobs with the expansion of nursing care and hospitals in general will bring new opportunities for medical and health services managers. These trends are not limited to any one region, and will take effect everywhere with an aging population and budget to spend on new health care priorities.

Once you have attained a health services manager role, you are likely to enjoy the perks of the position. U.S. News & World Report adds that this position rates “above average” in terms of job flexibility and stress management. This means despite the vital importance of management personnel in health organizations, there is still some ability to create a favorable work-life balance and keep the demands of the position from becoming too much to bear. Furthermore, the job rates as “above average” in upward mobility.

Due to the prestigious and in-demand nature of health care administration work, it’s clear you’ll have to put in significant time in related professional roles and education to become a top candidate for such a role. Despite the low unemployment rate for the profession, the owners and operators of health care organizations will not entrust administrative duties, whether departmental or for a whole facility, to anyone who cannot stand out with a strong work history and relevant diploma.

How do I become a medical and health services manager?

Becoming a health services manager is a years-long process that will likely involve long stints in related jobs. Joining a health care organization in an entry-level capacity is one way to begin on this career path, one that can help you pick some of the professional knowledge you need to take on managerial responsibilities.

You’ll likely have to combine your years in this work environment with additional education. Thanks to today’s online programs, you can acquire these two kinds of expertise simultaneously. Ensuring you have relevant certifications, an impressive professional history, and graduate-level education hiring managers will rate highly can help you ascend to a medical and health services manager role.

What level of work experience should a health services manager have?

Becoming a health services manager takes time as candidates acclimate to the medical sector’s norms and requirements. The BLS notes employers prefer individuals to have already worked in either clinical or administrative capacities in the health care sector before moving into management. If you are currently a care provider who seeks to lead a department in your area of expertise, this is a potential career path you can take. Furthermore, if you have spent years in clerical duties, you can work toward a move into leadership.

PayScale notes health services managers with differing levels of professional experience should have salary expectations based on their time spent in the industry. In the experienced portion of a career, for example, with between 10 and 19 years of relevant work history, you stand to make 10% more than peers of all experience levels. People late in their careers, with 20 or more years of related job history, may make 15% more than the standard salary for their respective roles.

While becoming a high-level leader in health care is time consuming and requires a great deal of resume building, there is room to earn your advanced degree, typically a master’s-level diploma, while serving full time in such positions. This allows you to gain expertise from multiple sources simultaneously and ensure you understand the medical field as it exists today.

What are the most important skills for health services managers?

If your career goal is to become a medical and health services manager, it can pay to focus on areas that will be relevant to departmental leadership in both the professional realm and higher education. These range from technical abilities around the latest technologies and clinical procedures to the soft skills to inspire employees and get the best out of them.

According to the BLS, analysis expertise and a detail-oriented nature are some of the most important abilities for management personnel to hone in health care. Having a keen analytical mind and being able to understand the changes coming to the sector will ensure a department or organization does not incur excessive risk of noncompliance or inefficiency. Being attuned to fine details will help with nearly all the duties associated with health services leadership, from scheduling to billing and everything in between.

The technical abilities that matter most for health services managers will differ by department or specialty, but the commonalities include vital medical systems such as electronic health record (EHR) systems. The BLS also named coding and classification software as an important tech area for health services managers to master. Managers tasked with overseeing the security and quality of databases need to understand the latest updates to the solutions they work with on a day-to-day basis, but all these leaders should comprehend the state of these tech tools for purchasing purposes.

Which licenses apply to health services managers?

There is not one overarching license for the health services manager profession, and many positions under this career umbrella don’t require specific licenses at all. According to The Balance, nursing care facility leadership is the primary exception, with the state-by-state requirements differing, but typically involving both an exam and a requirement that a candidate hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Keeping this certification over time means attending continuing education programs and receiving officially sanctioned training.

Departmental leadership can come with unique requirements, depending on the specialty of the team in question. For example, the BLS indicates some health services managers will need to be either registered nurses or social workers. Overseeing unique and demanding duties of nurses or social workers is a job for someone who has received training and education in those processes and responsibilities.

There are optional certifications available to health services managers to prove they have internalized the best practices of their position. The BLS specifies some of the bodies offering certificates include the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management, the American Health Information Management Association, and the American College of Health Care Administrators.

Hiring managers may take a close look at your efforts to continue your professional development when determining your readiness to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of health care administration. Seeking a demanding, high-level position may mean overcoming challenging competition, so there is potential value in setting yourself ahead of the pack with certifications.

In addition to professional experience and certificates from industry groups, you should think of continuing your education at the master’s level. By seeking out online programs, you can find course schedules that fit alongside the full-time work you’re already performing.

What level of education should a health services manager have?

While a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject may be enough to take the first steps on the health services manager career path, you may find much more success with a master’s degree, such as an MBA.

The Balance points out that while employers looking for health services managers will sometimes choose candidates who have bachelor’s degrees, it is common for them to favor applicants who have gone on to postgraduate studies. One of the most important factors when selecting your next steps in education is finding a degree program that will not only add a line to your resume but also deliver information you will use every day as a health services manager.

An MBA program with a concentration in Health Services can represent a valuable opportunity on the way to a management position at a care facility. The core courses of an MBA curriculum are designed to impart leadership skills, from budgeting to the direction of a team. Adding these universally used business concepts to specific health care concerns creates a degree program well-suited to the administrative side of medicine.

To receive this type of specialized education, you can enter the online MBA program from the Collat School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. A faculty made up of informed and connected business professionals will deliver lessons on all aspects of health care leadership, with the Health Services courses complementing the core curriculum to help you hone skills hiring managers seek.

Which graduate-level courses are most relevant to health services manager careers?

It’s worth breaking down which parts of the MBA curriculum are most useful to aspiring medical and health services managers. The following courses, taken from the Collat School of Business’s program, contain subject matter that can help you apply with confidence for leadership positions and thrive in those roles.

Health Care Marketing

Some of the best practices associated with health care leadership may be surprising. For instance, you may not think of the medical field as using marketing. This course demonstrates how marketing works in a health care context. Business-to-business selling comes with unique demands when the companies making the purchases are care providers, and business-to-consumer marketing is also unique when working with medical products and services.


Being a strong and decisive leader in health care or any other industry requires self-knowledge and the ability to improve your own performance based on feedback. This course is designed to impart the theories of high-level management and put those ideas to the test through group work and team projects. Throughout the semester, you will put together a self-improvement plan that reflects your unique strengths and helps you take your skills to the next level.

Health Economics

Budgeting and finance are unique in health care, with funding methods and regulations different from the rest of the corporate world. That singular nature makes it important to have access to a class such as this one, which focuses on how to apply economic theories and tools to the way care is delivered and paid for in the U.S. Health care policy questions in the years ahead will be heavily influenced by the kinds of financial factors discussed in this class, as will the day-to-day management of departments.

Health Care Innovation Directed Study

Students undertake a directed study course when earning an MBA with a concentration in Health Services. You will be asked to select a business topic related to the next generation of health care service delivery and study that area for an amount of time equal to a full course. Paying such close attention to a relevant part of the medical profession will help ensure your knowledge is up to date and you comprehend the way care delivery is practiced today.

How should you begin on the health services manager career path?

With medical and health services seeing baby boomers aging and requiring more frequent assistance, and new organizations springing up to cope with demand, it’s clear that the coming years will include many open positions for skilled health services managers. Whether your ideal work environment is an individual or group medical practice, a full-scale state or private hospital, or an alternative medical facility such as a nursing home, you can tailor your experience and knowledge to go after the role you really want.

As you may encounter fellow applicants with master’s degrees and professional certifications, pursuing these credentials is one way to prove your mettle in the eyes of health care hiring managers. An MBA with a Health Services concentration may represent the perfect degree for those hoping to enter the health services manager career path, as it combines vital leadership lessons with more targeted medical field information.

If you have the desire to take on a health administrator’s responsibilities and plan to stay in the medical sector long enough to reach such a role, enrolling in an online MBA program alongside your current full-time job can help you make progress toward your career goals. Large-scale events such as the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic have shown the importance of effective leadership in the health care space. If you envision yourself providing that type of management, it’s a good time to start on the path to such a position.

To find out more about the Collat School of Business online MBA and the Health Services concentration, visit the program page.

Recommended Readings:

Online MBA Career Spotlight: Medical Practice Administrator

Is An Online MBA Degree Worth It?


Bureau of Labor Statistics – Medical and Health Services Manager

PayScale – Average Medical and Health Services Manager Salary

The Balance – What Does a Health Services Manager Do?

Houston Chronicle – What is the Certification of a Health Services Manager?

U.S. News & World Report – Medical and Health Services Manager