If you’re interested in the business side of healthcare and are weighing the pros and cons of healthcare management vs. healthcare administration, you might be struggling to determine whether they are different at all. After all, you’ve probably noticed that in everyday speech both terms often mean the same thing. And as you’ve been doing your research, you also may have noticed that even the Bureau of Labor Statistics groups them together under the umbrella term “medical and health services managers,” noting that healthcare managers may also be known as healthcare administrators.* As it turns out, however, there are some differences between the two, and these differences might impact your career and educational goals. Let’s start our healthcare management vs. healthcare administration comparison by defining what these individual terms mean. We’ll then provide an overview of important healthcare management and healthcare administration skills as well as different degree program options designed to help you prepare to seek potential opportunities in the field.
Let’s start our healthcare management vs. healthcare administration comparison by defining what these individual terms mean. We’ll then provide an overview of important healthcare management and healthcare administration skills as well as different degree program options designed to help you prepare to seek potential opportunities in the field.
What is Healthcare Management?
Depending on the type of medical facility and its needs, healthcare management job titles and responsibilities can vary widely, although they do have one common feature—healthcare managers do not directly administer patient care. Rather, they are responsible for developing and implementing facility- or department-wide healthcare administrative services and initiatives, including those that drive efficiency or improve quality of care. This might mean directing the administrative functions for an entire organization or practice (as in the case of a hospital administrator or medical practice administrator). Or it could mean handling a more specialized department or area of expertise, such as technology or patient records (as in the case of a health information manager or medical records manager, who is tasked with maintaining the accuracy, integrity and security of patient records and is also typically responsible for staying on top of the latest developments in health informatics and supervising a group of medical records technicians).*
What is Healthcare Administration?
Now that we have a better understanding of what healthcare management is, we’re ready to tackle the next question—What is healthcare administration?
Like the field of healthcare management, healthcare administration does not involve providing direct patient care. The services provided by those in healthcare administration are the kind that help keep a healthcare facility running (i.e., general office duties or administrative services). These workers operate in all the same facilities where healthcare managers can be found, but their responsibilities aren’t geared toward driving organizational improvements in efficiency or security; they are subject to the rules and initiatives put into effect by healthcare managers. (That said, these individuals—e.g., medical records and health information technicians, administrative assistants or financial clerks within a healthcare facility—may eventually advance into management roles.*)
Now, it might seem counterintuitive that a hospital administrator’s role aligns better with healthcare management than with healthcare administration, given that “administrator” is in the title, but remember what we said in the introduction—even the BLS acknowledges the interchangeability of healthcare management/healthcare administration job titles!
Healthcare Management and Healthcare Administration Skills
Medical and health services managers need to employ a mixture of hard and soft skills to carry out their job responsibilities. Strong analytical, communication, interpersonal, leadership and technical skills (e.g., healthcare technology and data analytics), as well as an eye for detail, are just some of the qualities possessed by effective healthcare managers.* As for healthcare administrators, who are more focused on day-to-day business activities that keep a medical facility running, knowledge of patient privacy rules, medical terminology, software programs and insurance/medical reimbursements are all conceivably important skills to have depending upon the particular role.
Although some of these healthcare administration/healthcare management skills might be developed through hands-on professional experience, they can also be introduced and/or honed through the tailored coursework and class instruction of a healthcare management degree program.
Is There Demand for Healthcare Management?
The need for healthcare services in the United States appears poised to grow. The BLS projects that employment of medical and health services managers will increase 28 percent from 2021 to 2031, driven in large part by an aging U.S. population. As medical group practices expand and become more complex, more medical practice managers will be needed to help run them. And as electronic health records become more and more prevalent, demand for healthcare managers with health informatics and IT knowledge are projected to increase accordingly.*
Types of Healthcare Management Degree Programs
Most entry-level medical and health services managers possess at least bachelor’s degree, although master’s degrees are common and sometimes favored by potential employers.* So, if you’re committed to pursuing a career path in healthcare management or administration, choosing a degree program designed to cover a range of healthcare administration skills and other fundamentals could help you meet your educational goals.
When it comes to choosing a degree program in healthcare management, you may find that you have different options depending upon the college or university. Some offer Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Healthcare Management or Administration programs. Others offer Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs with a specialization in healthcare management. And still others offer all the above (such as American InterContinental University). Reviewing each program’s core curriculum and electives assortment can help you determine which program is best suited to building the healthcare management skills you want to focus on.
Healthcare Management vs. Healthcare Administration: What Will Your Next Step Be?
With such a wide range of opportunities to pursue within the health services field, it can be hard to narrow down your options and find your path. But if you continue to do your research and ask yourself questions about where your strengths and passions lie, you’ll be better prepared to choose a degree program and pursue a potential career path that suits you.
Ready to learn more? Start exploring AIU's healthcare management degrees at AIU today.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Medical and Health Services Managers,” http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm (last visited 9/19/2022). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
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