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Healthcare management vs. healthcare administration

At a glance

  • Healthcare administration and healthcare management both involve making decisions and supervising operations for a clinic, hospital or other medical facilities.
  • Patient advocate, quality assurance specialist and staff director are examples of healthcare administrative positions.
  • Hospital manager, facilities manager and compliance manager are examples of healthcare management positions.
  • Both types of positions will likely require at least a bachelor’s degree. University of Phoenix offers both a Bachelor of Science in Health Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Health Management degrees.

Most people are familiar with patient-facing medical staff, such as doctors, nurses and lab technicians, but those who oversee operations behind the scenes are also an integral part of healthcare facilities. 

Healthcare administration and healthcare management both involve making decisions and supervising operations for a clinic, hospital or other medical facilities. Many companies, even those outside of healthcare, hire both managers and administrators. It’s easy to get confused between the two.  

This distinction is especially important for people whose career plans involve obtaining decision-making positions as managers or administrators. Though these roles are similar in some ways, there are important differences, including specific master’s degree programs for the two specialties. 

Pursuing a degree in healthcare management or administration can prove beneficial because employers will value decision-makers and managers who have specialized knowledge of healthcare operations and business needs. 

Here’s a closer look at the distinctions between healthcare administration and healthcare management career paths. 

What is healthcare administration?

Healthcare administrators do not directly interact with patients, though some have backgrounds as healthcare providers. Instead, the duties of a health administrator involve managing day-to-day operations in a medical facility, such as a hospital or clinic. 

Administrators might work in a specific area, such as:

  • Overseeing staff and hiring
  • Managing informatics and IT systems
  • Working on the quality of care and patient experience. 

Administrators can also manage scheduling, review the performance of caregivers, and manage professional development opportunities. 

Despite the diverse range of job duties, every administrator focuses on the same priorities: ensuring that day-to-day operations are smooth and that the staff has the skills and tools necessary to treat patients effectively. 

Healthcare administration is similar to business administration in that it focuses on managing operations, overseeing human resources and assets, and ensuring quality. Like their healthcare counterparts, business administrators often focus on a specific area, such as sales, IT, HR or finances. Some people who earn a business administration degree can end up working in healthcare. 

At the same time, healthcare administrators typically do not concern themselves with the overall business aspects of a facility. That area is the realm of healthcare managers, who oversee the financial health and overall direction of the hospital or clinic. 

Career paths

Healthcare administrators can come from different backgrounds, but most have a healthcare administration degree. An undergraduate or master’s degree program can prepare students for senior roles. For example, a graduate could become a health, practice or program manager and oversee the business activities of a hospital. 

Other administrative positions include: 

  • A patient advocate, who helps coordinate care for patients
  • A quality assurance specialist, who assesses care quality and outcomes
  • A scheduling manager, who ensures the hospital or clinic is fully staffed with qualified workers 
  • A medical records and informatics director, who ensures proper record keeping and oversees information sharing systems
  • A community health administrator, who works on patient outreach and ensures access for community members

Healthcare administrators can work in a variety of settings: 

  • Hospitals have a full administrative staff, with each professional taking a specific role.
  • Healthcare clinic networks and large stand-alone clinics likewise have a full lineup of administrators.
  • Smaller clinics and community health centers might have healthcare administrators who work in a specific role or handle a diverse range of duties.
  • Some administrative specialists, such as database administrators and medical billing and coding directors might work off-site in an office setting

Healthcare administration is a diverse profession with plenty of roles focused on ensuring excellent patient care and smooth medical operations. 

Salary and outlook

Hospital administration jobs typically have higher salaries than the average for all jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical and health services managers earn between $59,980 and $195,630.

Demand for qualified healthcare administrators is expected to grow by 32% in the next decade. That is much higher than the average for all professions, forecast to grow by 8%. 

Related careers include medical records and health information specialists, who also focus on the systems and data that providers need to offer quality healthcare and achieve positive outcomes. 

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Required education

Healthcare administrators generally need at least a bachelor’s degree to be a successful candidate for employment. One of the most straightforward ways to enhance your knowledge with an eye toward entering this career is to earn a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration. Nurses and other professionals who work in patient-facing positions can also enhance their skill set as they seek to become administrators if they have extensive experience or obtain a master’s of science in nursing with a concentration in nurse administration degree.

Meanwhile, students who want the most flexibility when considering a career path can pursue a hybrid master’s degree in healthcare administration and business administration with a focus on healthcare management. 

What is healthcare management?

Healthcare management focuses on the “big picture” aspects of running a medical facility. For example, a healthcare manager may concentrate on the finances of a hospital and ensure that it has enough income to operate and remain profitable.

Managers can also make decisions about facilities, equipment purchases and upgrades, and the payment of employees. Though healthcare managers can make decisions about services, hiring and quality of care, they usually focus more on the overall financial health and strategic direction of the facility. They leave the day-to-day operations to administrative staff. 

Some healthcare managers have a lot in common with professionals who obtained a business management degree. Managers in business and healthcare both focus on strategy and the overall health of the enterprise. 

Healthcare managers focus more on the financial aspects of healthcare. Administrators are also concerned about budgets and salaries, but only as they relate to day-to-day operations. Managers also look at overall costs and profits.  

Career paths

Like other healthcare careers, employment as a manager in a hospital or clinic requires at least a bachelor’s degree. You can also pursue an MBA with a focus on healthcare management. 

Because managers are often more focused on business rather than operations, a general business or finance bachelor’s degree, combined with a master’s degree in healthcare management, can set you on this career path. 

Healthcare management positions include:

  • A hospital manager, who oversees the facilities, budgets and business operations for a hospital
  • A facilities manager, who oversees the facility budget, equipment and maintenance
  • A compliance manager, who ensures staff comply with regulations and creates policies and practices to ensure compliance
  • A finance manager, who handles the accounting, budgeting and financial planning for the facility
  • A practice manager, who oversees the business aspects of a private practice clinic, a surgery center or another healthcare facility 

Hospital managers can work in the same settings as administrators. However, in most cases, they will not have as much contact with care providers. 

  • Hospital managers will work in an office on-site or near their facility. 
  • Clinic and practice managers work on-site in an office setting. 
  • Management positions may require travel or meetings off-site. 

Because they handle the complex business aspects of healthcare organizations, qualified business management personnel often command a high salary. 

Salary and outlook

BLS categorizes medical and health services managers together, giving them the same pay range as healthcare administrators.

Because of the increased demand for healthcare as the population ages, healthcare managers are predicted to experience the same level of demand growth as their administrative peers. 

Because of their business backgrounds, people on this career path can also consider jobs as finance managers or executives. 

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Required education

Because overseeing healthcare operations requires specialized knowledge, the best way to prepare for this position is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Health Management

Those with ambitions to occupy senior roles in a large healthcare organization can consider an MBA with a specialization in healthcare management. Other business and finance degrees could also start you on this career path, though a specialized degree may prove beneficial when applying for competitive jobs. 

Healthcare administration vs. healthcare management: How to choose

Both healthcare administration and healthcare management have similar growth projections and salary averages. They are among the best healthcare jobs for those who want to focus on making operations successful behind the scenes. 

Healthcare administration Healthcare management
Description Healthcare administration Focuses on managing operations, overseeing human resources and assets, and ensuring quality Healthcare management Focuses on the overall financial health and strategic direction of the facility
Required education Healthcare administration At least a bachelor’s degree Healthcare management At least a bachelor’s degree
Career paths Healthcare administration Patient advocate, quality assurance specialist, staff director, scheduling manager, medical records and informatics director, community health administrator Healthcare management Hospital manager, facilities manager, compliance manager, finance manager, practice manager
Salary range Healthcare administration $59,980 to $195,630 Healthcare management $59,980 to $195,630
Where they work Healthcare administration Hospitals, healthcare clinics, community health centers Healthcare management Hospitals, healthcare facilities, private practice clinics, office settings

 

How can you decide which degree to choose? There are some general things to consider when selecting your major or master’s degree program:

  • Define your area of interest. Are you more interested in day-to-day operations or financial matters? The best strategy is to choose a subject that interests and excites you rather than one you think is better for you. 
  • Choose a flexible degree. You might change your mind or move into a related field, so you want to choose a degree that offers lots of options upon graduation. 
  • Take personality or skill-assessment tests. If you aren't sure of your direction, these tests can help you see where your skills and interests lie. 

You can also consider past experience and skills. If you are already in healthcare, you can decide if your current skill set will help you advance more in an administrative or management role.