Health Care Management vs. Healthcare Administration

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A nurse pushes a hospital bed down a hallway while a health administrator and doctor walk in the background

Despite their similar sounding titles, health care managers and health care administrators each have a range of unique professional responsibilities and priorities. Most notably, health care managers typically have visible, high-level roles in steering the business operations of their organizations. On the other hand, health care administrators often have more narrowly focused, yet equally important duties involving a greater degree of personal interaction with department leaders and other employees.

Learning about the similarities and differences between health care management vs. health care administration can be the first step toward a career in one of these high-growth professions. With this knowledge in hand, aspiring professionals can identify which field best suits their career interests and consider earning their Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree.

Health Care Management Career Overview

Management is usually described as any work process related to coordinating people or things to achieve company objectives. In the health care industry, management typically involves coordinating the business-related aspects of running a health care organization. This means handling executive tasks, such as setting performance goals and planning operations at the macro or micro level, with consideration for optimizing an organization’s revenue. All of these health care management responsibilities coalesce under the overall objective of ensuring that an organization is operating efficiently on a day-to-day basis.

Health Care Administration Career Overview

Health care administrators usually have a more “behind the scenes” type of role in comparison to health care managers. Administrators focus more on ensuring employers have the resources they need to flourish. This includes recruiting and managing company staff, as well as using business acumen to plan an organization’s finances. In health care institutions that frequently need to adapt to changing regulations, health care administrators may also need to contribute to the development and implementation of policies or programs that can help achieve compliance.

Similarities Between Health Care Management and Health Care Administration

Before delving into the differences between health care management vs. health care administration, it is important to understand the following similarities between the two career paths.

Educational Requirements

One similarity revolves around educational requirements. Organizations that hire health care managers and health care administrators require applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many employers prefer candidates who have a graduate degree, such as a Master of Health Administration (MHA). Professionals who are looking to enter either field typically study subjects related to both business and health care. Also, previous work experience in either of those sectors is valuable for future job prospects.

Leadership Responsibilities

Managers and administrators are leaders within their organizations, meaning they must be strong decision makers and communicators. They both typically play a role in ensuring their organizations are compliant with continually changing regulations. Analytical and technical skills are now essential at all levels of health care leadership as providers increasingly incorporate technology and data science into their operations.

Job Duties

Both positions are ideal for professionals who have a dual interest in health and business, as these each require excellent management skills. Health care managers and health care administrators must also be conversant with fundamental medical concepts and terminology. They should be able to discuss what goes on in the health care facilities they work for, whether they are talking with physicians or contacts at external organizations. It is also imperative that those in management and those in administration have a deep understanding of how health care facilities operate, including the details of how they treat patients, organize data, and handle financial matters.

Career Paths

The employment outlook for health care managers and administrators is favorable. Professionals in both positions are benefiting from high employer demand, the potential for higher pay, and opportunities for career advancement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the number of jobs in both of these occupations to grow 32% from 2019 to 2029, compared with a 4% growth rate for all other jobs. The annual median salary for professionals in these fields is $100,980, as of May 2019.

Differences Between Health Care Management and Health Care Administration

When considering the differences in health care management vs. health care administration, the biggest differentiator is the principal mission of each role. Though there are many overlapping duties, managers focus on the broader business functions of health services organizations, while administrators focus on supporting the needs of the employees. This distinction means these roles involve different approaches to carrying out the following responsibilities.

Maximizing Employee Performance

Health care managers view employee performance from a business perspective. They analyze the efficiency of departments’ daily activities and look for opportunities to make improvements that maximize profits. On the other hand, administrators work more directly with the employees and coach them to maximize their performance. This shifts the focus from the needs of the health care facility as a whole, to the more personalized needs of the staff. Administrators’ duties can include working out everyday issues and solving human resource problems as they arise.

Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining Staff

Managers and administrators also take different approaches to recruiting and retaining employees. Health care managers generally focus on the financial impacts of personnel turnover, overall job satisfaction, and training program costs. Meanwhile, administrators tend to work more directly with individual employees to create and coordinate training and retention initiatives based on the unique needs of each department.

Managing Finances

When it comes to health care management vs. health care administration, health care administrators and managers oversee different aspects of their organizations’ finances. Managers evaluate big-picture budgetary issues, such as analyzing the financial statements of an entire hospital, while administrators often take a more granular approach in reviewing individual department and office budgets.

Coordinating Work Activities

In keeping with their broader organization-wide responsibilities, health care managers oversee the highest-level aspects of how their facilities operate. For example, they may be involved in creating and updating policies that apply to all employees at the organization. Health care administrators shape the finer details of workplace logistics within the parameters laid out by management. For instance, they might be responsible for coordinating employee shift schedules to maximize efficiency in each department they oversee.

Health Care Management and Health Care Administration Skill Requirements

The core skills to thrive in health care administration and health care management jobs are similar, but the way each group applies these skills in practice may diverge in the following ways.

  • Leadership: In health care management, leadership skills are a valuable tool that can be used to create plans that help a company reach broader, organizational goals. Administrators typically need to focus their leadership skills on providing direct guidance to individual staff members.
  • Communication: Working in health care institutions usually requires that professionals interact with people who may have different personal and professional backgrounds. Therefore, health care administration and health care management degree programs both include coursework that is designed to help students strengthen their ability to communicate effectively with co-workers and other stakeholders.
  • Organization: In health care management or administrative roles, being poorly organized can cost the organization money or even cause harm to patients. MHA students usually take classes on organizational techniques that are geared specifically to health care environments. This experience prepares them for jobs that require simultaneously managing large volumes of work and employees.

Earn Your Degree: Health Care Management vs. Health Care Administration

Those who are interested in building their career in health care administration should consider pursuing a graduate degree program such as the Master of Health Administration, which is available online from Regis College. Explore the MHA degree offering and curriculum online and start on the path to a possible career in health care administration.

 

Graduates of Regis College’s online Master of Health Administration program are equipped with the skills to become successful leaders in a variety of health professions and settings. If you are considering health care management vs. health care administration, explore how earning an online Master of Health Administration degree at Regis College can help you begin your health care career today.

Recommended Readings

Career Paths Within Health Care Administration

Online MHA vs. Online MBA: What’s the Difference?

Leadership Strategies for Health Administrators

Sources:

American College of Healthcare Executives

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

Entrepreneurship in a Box, “Top 7 Skills Needed to Become A Healthcare Manager”

Explore Health Careers, “Health Administrator”

Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives