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5 reasons to be a health care administrator

Health care administration

When you’re sick, doctors are your heroes. But they wouldn’t be able to do their jobs without the people who keep hospitals, clinics and private practices running smoothly: health care administrators.

These roles will be even more important in the remainder of this decade, according to Susan Fahrney, campus college chair for the University of Phoenix College of Natural Sciences and an instructor in the health administration program at the Southern California Campus. A June 2012 report from Georgetown University says that health care costs are expected to be $6 trillion by 2020 — 20 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

It will fall to administrators to find ways to manage budgets, organize records, allocate staff and ensure quality care in the wake of rising patient populations, a shortage of doctors and the Affordable Care Act, which will give millions of previously uninsured Americans access to hospital care by 2014.

Fahrney offers five reasons to pursue a career in this in-demand field:


Jobs are growing fast.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for health care administrators are expected to grow 22 percent between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. “As people with pre-existing conditions get insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act,” Fahrney says, “they’ll come into clinics needing a higher level of care. Hospitals will need to hire more administrators to deal with increased demand for care.”

Doctor shortages are expected.

The American Association of Medical Colleges predicts that U.S. care facilities will be short 90,000 doctors in the next seven years. Administrators will have to fill the gaps with other medical staff.

Fahrney explains that many hospitals hire nurse practitioners and physician assistants who can perform physical examinations and run basic tests so doctors can concentrate on patients that require a higher level of care, such as those with serious diseases and chronic illnesses.

Care facilities will need generalists.

In the past, an administrator specialized in one area, like medical records, Fahrney says, but now employers prefer someone with broad knowledge. The more administrative skills you have to offer clinics, private practices, nonprofits, government agencies and hospitals, she emphasizes, the more desirable you’ll be — especially in entry-level positions.

Career options are plentiful.

Job opportunities exist for health care managers in nonclinical roles, too. Fahrney points to her own experience working for nonprofit organizations. “I worked for Latino Health Access in Orange County, [California] and educated residents about how they can prevent diabetes,” she says. “There’s a strong need for administrators to work in health promotion” in both the private and public sectors.

Aging patients need more care.

As patient populations increase, facilities will need more administrators to process patient records and make sure enough staffers are available to provide care. Fahrney notes, “A large number of baby boomers are now entering hospitals seeking treatment for serious … diseases like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.”