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How to become a health care administrator

Interested in becoming a health care administrator? Learn about degree requirements, steps to obtaining a career in this field and salary and job outlook information.


There are many inspiring stories of doctors and nurses at the front lines of the pandemic, but there’s another side to health care that rarely makes the headlines. Across the United States, health services administration (HSA) professionals are working hard to keep facilities safe, bring technology up-to-date, and stay on top of new regulations.

So how do you become a health care administrator? The answer depends on what kind of role you want to play and how far you want to go. There is no single formula for success, but there are a few critical steps to succeed in this thriving industry.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

The basic requirement for entry-level jobs in health care administration is a bachelor’s degree from any accredited college or university. It’s helpful if your degree is related to health care administration (public health, human resources, accounting, business administration), but it’s possible to secure an entry-level position with any bachelor’s degree.

2. Find an entry-level position

Once you have a bachelor’s degree, the best way to start down the health care administration career path  is to apply for an entry-level job. Consider a role as a medical billing and coding specialist, patient account representative or patient/member advocate.

Dr. Regina Henry, Health Services Administration, Dean of Programs at Strayer University, stresses the importance of marketing your skills to find a way in.

“Most organizations can teach you what you need to learn,” she says. “They’re looking for potential, so take inventory of your skills. Leverage your work experience, and be realistic. If you can articulate your potential and highlight your transferrable skills, employers in the industry will take a good hard look at you. They’re interested in people who are willing to grow and learn.”

3. Choose a master’s program

If you’re serious about a career in HSA, earning a two-year master’s degree can set you apart from other candidates. Nearly all management- or executive-level HSA jobs require a master’s degree, according to Henry. It equips professionals with specific skills, as well as a broader understanding of the health care industry. As you search for a graduate school, you’ll notice the following degree types:

  • Master of Health Services (MSHS)
  • Master of Health Care Administration (MHA)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Public Health (MPH)

As mentioned, it’s a big advantage to hold a position in the health care industry during your master’s studies. This helps you visualize a career path, choose the right master’s program, and apply new skills as you go along. It also demonstrates your commitment and desire to learn, and people in the industry will notice.

4. Plan for professional certifications

Professional certifications are an important way to fully realize your career potential in health care administration. “Once you know what area you want to specialize in, make it a point to learn about certifications relevant to that area of expertise,” Henry says. “Be aware of the requirements to complete the certification you need, and build that into your career plan.”

The Fellow of American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) certification is one of the most widely recognized. It increases expertise across a wide range of areas in health care administration. Other certifications, such as Certified Professional Coder (CPC) or Certified Professional Biller (CPB) have a specialized focus.

There are certifications available from several professional organizations. It’s easier to zero in on the right certification as you gain experience and choose a master’s program.  

5. Never stop learning

Health care is a dynamic and changing industry. If you want to maximize your career potential, it’s important to stay on top of industry trends. Attend conferences and events. Become an affiliate of professional organizations like the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM), the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), or the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Subscribe to industry publications, and enroll in continued education courses. Staying up-to-date on industry trends keeps your professional knowledge sharp and current. The key to success is maintaining indispensable knowledge and skills that health care organizations need. 

Forge your path in a growing field

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, health services administration was one of the fastest-growing professional fields out there. By taking the steps described here, you’ll be in the best position to maximize your potential.   

Learn more about earning a master’s degree in health services.

Category: Value of a Degree

Published Date: November 25, 2020