How to Become a Healthcare Administrator?

Written By: Caitlin Goodwin DNP, CNM, RN

As healthcare costs grow wildly out of control, the United States needs leadership who care about patient outcomes instead of just the bottom line. Working from a strictly financial standpoint has not been working. The total spending for healthcare is 17.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP). Analytical minds that are interested in medical and financial operations thrive as a healthcare administrator (HCA). Healthcare administration is a rewarding field for those who feel called to a leadership role in medicine but do not want to work in direct patient care. If you feel called to be involved in the healthcare field, this article will answer your questions about becoming a healthcare administrator?

What Does a Healthcare Administrator Do?

Healthcare administrators do not work in a clinical role, like a nurse or a doctor does. However, they are trained in management skills and work in a field that makes medical care possible. Healthcare administrators are expert leaders. When understanding healthcare administrator duties, the role changes slightly depending on many factors like location and role. Ultimately, they oversee medical services’ business side, whether it be a department, entire facility, or private practice. These duties include:

● Human resources services such as managing staff, including recruiting, hiring, training, coaching, and supervising staff
● Financial planning such as implementing budgets and monitoring spending
● Appraising and developing plans to optimize healthcare costs for patient fees and billings
● Creating community partnerships and endowments through investor meetings or government boards
● Acting as a liaison between staff, patients, boards, and higher-level executives (or government officials)
● Creating a long-term strategy and short-term goals and objectives
● Ensuring compliance with health care laws and regulations from governing and accrediting bodies
● Encourage insurance reimbursement
● Creating policies and procedures to support best practices for patient services
● Streamline an operational plan to optimize the efficiency and quality of healthcare delivery
● Maintain knowledge of current healthcare technology in electronic health records, laboratory results reporting, and other software changes.
● Organize and maintain the facility’s health records
● Promoting open lines of communication for employee engagement and job retention
● Creating employee work schedules


Where do Healthcare Administrators Work?

If you want to become a healthcare administrator, you may work in a variety of environments. The largest number of HCAs work in offices. However, work settings include:

● Hospitals
● Medical offices
● Freestanding emergency rooms and birthing centers
● Long-term care facilities like nursing homes or assisted living
● Government services like public health departments or the veteran’s administration hospital
● Outpatient care centers from urgent cares to dialysis centers

Typical Working Hours

Healthcare works to save lives 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For those who become a healthcare administrator, the hours are typically a 9 to 5 type job. However, because of the around the clock nature of healthcare, many healthcare administrators have to be on call or work flexible hours like weekends or holidays. Some HCAs work at 7 AM when the nursing shift changes, while others may work a typical 9 to 5.

Why Become a Healthcare Administrator?

This article has covered how to become a healthcare administrator, but why you should consider becoming an HCA has more heart. The role of an HCA is integral to supporting those who perform critical medical and nursing services You make a difference in your community, the work is honorable, and the salary is decent.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Healthcare Administrator?

The path to becoming a healthcare administrator is long but well worth the trip. The total time depends on your current education and experience level. First, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration takes about four years if you do not have an existing degree and you attend school full time. However, it can range from three to five years depending on if you attend part-time, attend an accelerated program, or have credits from another program.

The length of time to attend a master’s degree in healthcare administration is about two to three years. This means that completing education takes between five to eight years. However, six years from start to finish is average.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Healthcare Administrator?

When you’re looking at becoming a healthcare administrator, the cost is often a critical factor. The cost for a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration ranges based on whether you are paying in-state or out of state tuition. The cost to get a master’s degree in healthcare administration is different for the bachelor’s degree and graduate degree.

For example, if you pursue your MHA at Walden University, you will pay the same for classes no matter where you live. While at Ohio University, the MHA from Ohio University costs $25,338 for Ohio residents and $26,022 for those who live out of state.

Following is a Step-by-Step Process to Become a Healthcare Administrator

While it may seem as if you will never arrive at the destination, this step-by-step guide will help you start your journey as smoothly as possible. Becoming a healthcare administrator requires the following:

1. Graduate from high school

with a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.5.

2. Earn a Bachelor’s of Healthcare Administration

with a curriculum focusing on medical terminology, business, marketing, healthcare policies, human resources, leadership, and financial management. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement to become an HCA.

3. Gain experience.

While some opt to jump right into graduate school, you are better served to obtain some healthcare experience and seek a leadership position within your facility. For administrators who cannot obtain employment in the field, they should consider getting involved with medical conferences or volunteer organizations.

4. Obtain a Master’s of Healthcare Administration (MHA).

Facilities prefer to hire candidates with a graduate degree because it is performed at a higher level. Coursework covers statistics, legal issues in healthcare management, healthcare ethics, and organizational leadership.

5. Earn credentials:

Any relevant qualifications, characteristics, or skills that you can add to your resume can boost your chances of becoming an executive. Some choose to join networking organizations to obtain references, others opt to publish academic work or assist with research, and others pursue leadership roles in community or educational organizations.

6. Pursue a professional certification

for HCAs to prove proficiency in the medical administration field, such as:

○ Certified Medical Manager (CMM):

The nationally recognized exam is created and maintained by the Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management (PAHCOM). It covers 18 areas of medical practice administration, including managing finances to human resources. Those who are certified hold a symbol of excellence in medical practice management nationwide.

○ Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional (cHAP):

The examination is created by the Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals (AHCAP) and must be renewed every three years. The exam covers clerical, grammar, health care governance, healthcare regulatory, and software.

○ Certified Professional in Healthcare Risk Management (CPHRM)

: This exam proves that you’ve mastered healthcare risk management fundamentals. The American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) gives the certification test and covers topics such as:

● Health Care Claims and Litigation Playbook
● Health Care Risk Financing Playbook
● Patient Safety Risk Management Playbook

○ Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP):

The CHFP is put on by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA). It is ideal for those financial professionals (both clinical and nonclinical) whose jobs deal with healthcare intricacies. The exam for this certification is awarded upon completion of the following:

● Module 1: Business of healthcare
● Module II: Operational Excellence

○ Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ):

The National Commission for Certifying Agencies fully accredits the CPHQ exam, according to the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ). Those who pass the exam are experts in the following:

● operational and strategic roles in leadership
● information management
● quality improvement and performance measurement
● strategic and operational patient safety tasks

○ Certified Healthcare Access Manager (CHAM):

The CHAM program is established by the National Association of Healthcare Access Management to ensure that those who are credentialed are held to the highest patient access services standards.

7. Join a professional organization like the:

○ American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)
○ Association of Healthcare Administrative Professionals (AHCAP)
○ Health Care Administrators Association (HCAA)

8. Achieve the benchmark for healthcare management certification

as a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE): FACHE is the benchmark for healthcare management certification. The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) has rigorous guidelines to obtain this certification, such as:

○ Membership in ACHE
○ A master’s degree or higher
○ A current healthcare executive position AND five years of experience
○ Two references: Two from a current fellow OR one from a current fellow and the second from a current fellow or a senior leader in your organization
○ 36 hours of continuing education in the last three years (12 hours as ACHE face-to-face education)
○ Four volunteer activities during the previous three years (two in community and two in healthcare)

How Much Does a Healthcare Administrator Make?

A healthcare administrator’s salary is impressive and an attractive benefit to the career. However, the pay differs drastically depending on the amount of experience you have. The starting salary is $28.28 per hour or $58,820 annually. For those who have twenty years of experience, the pay per hour is nearly ($91, and the salary is $189,000. This pay varies depending on location, work environment, and job description.

Level of Experience Per Hour Per Month Per Year
Starting (Entry-Level) $28.28 $4,900 $58,820
1-4 Years of Experience $36.91 $6,400 $76,770
5-9 Years of Experience $48.55 $8,420 $100,980
10-19 Years of Experience $64.19 $11,130 $133,520
20 Years or More Experience $90.87 $15,750 $189,000
Average Salary $54.68 $9,480 $113,730
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

How Many Job Openings Are There For Healthcare Administrators?

When evaluating how to become a healthcare administrator, you will want to know how many job openings are available. There are 47,000 total job openings for HCAs across the United States. While there are 13,320 new jobs, nearly two and a half times than those are replacement jobs. The number of replacement jobs is 33,680, and many are due to an aging population’s retirement.

The increase in new jobs is often due to job creation because of an explosion of healthcare jobs due to the aging U.S. population and expanded technological services. Just as hospitals need clinicians to care for these patients, they need HCAs to manage the clinicians.

New Jobs Replacement Jobs Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
13,320 33,680 47,000
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Future Demand For Healthcare Administrators

When becoming a healthcare administrator, it is critical to know whether you will be in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare administrators’ job outlook will grow faster than all other occupations. In 2019, there will be 422,300 HCAs. In 2029, there will be 555,500. The BLS projects that the demand for HCAs will increase by 31.54% over the next ten years.

Employment Employment Growth (2019-2029)
2019 2029 Number %
422,300 555,500 133,200 31.54%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Healthcare administrators may not wear scrubs, but they have a critical role in keeping healthcare systems running. Between crunching numbers and creating policy, HCAs accomplish major health care services. Between managing staff, finances, and health care policy, HCAs keep things running smoothly.

Are you still wondering how to become a healthcare administrator? It’s time to stop wondering and get started in following your dreams. Reach out to your dream school today.

Frequently Asked Questions Answered

What certifications do healthcare administrators need?

Healthcare administrators are not required to hold certifications. However, there are many certifications available in a variety of subspecialties of healthcare administration.

What job titles might a healthcare administrator hold?

HCAs also transform the quality of care by managing health services. However, the job title varies depending on their work environment. Job titles include:

● nursing home administrator
● clinical manager
● human resource manager
● assistant administrator
● outpatient care supervisor
● office manager

Do administrators need advanced health management training?

HCAs must develop decision-making ability, knowledge, and management skills through formal training. A degree that focuses on healthcare policy provides the resources to excel in this position.

Can healthcare administrators become fellows?

Yes, healthcare administrators can be fellows. In fact, the best emerging leadership talent becomes fellows after their master’s degree is complete. A fellowship is typically a full-time, post-graduate program that lasts from one to two years. Fellows experience operational, clinical, and strategic growth under a program director and other executives’ expert leadership.

Why is evidence-based medicine (EBM) critical to healthcare administrators?

Clinical staff like doctors and nurses have been creating and observing EBM for a long time. However, EBM is also critical to healthcare administrators because policy creation is intertwined with healthcare administration. When management and policymakers standardize the clinical process, health professionals are held accountable to the most current standards rooted in research. From a liability standpoint, this protects all parties.

Do healthcare administrators need continuing education?

Many healthcare administrators do not need formal continuing education unless they have a clinical role. However, administrators with specific certifications like a Certified Healthcare Access Manager (CHAM) require continuing education and different standards to renew their certification. Regardless, HCAs should never stop learning. Whether it is at the university or continuing education level, being away from the most current health management information ensures best practice.

Caitlin Goodwin DNP, CNM, RN
Caitlin Goodwin is a Certified Nurse-Midwife who has been a nurse for 12 years, primarily in women’s health. She is passionate about caring for children with developmental disabilities, as her son has Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is currently working as a freelance writer and consultant and is passionate about advocating for her patients, students, and profession.