A Guide To Becoming a Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers discuss recent research

Healthcare is a growing field that needs many more qualified professionals. If you feel passionate about pursuing a career in healthcare, but you aren’t interested in providing direct patient care, then a career in healthcare management might be the right fit for you. What is a medical and health services manager and what’s the process for how to become a medical and health services manager? This career guide explains. 

What Is a Medical and Health Services Manager?

A medical and health services manager is responsible for planning, directing and overseeing the healthcare services that a healthcare organization offers. Some managers are in charge of a department, while others may oversee a specific clinical area (e.g. oncology). Other healthcare managers are in charge of an entire hospital or clinic.

The overall goal of healthcare managers is to ensure that the facility provides high-quality care and a positive patient experience. They are also responsible for making sure the organization is profitable and follows all applicable laws and regulations. A medical and health services manager is likely to deal with a wide range of tasks throughout any given day, such as the following:

  • Identify indicators of healthcare quality and efficiency that could be improved upon, and develop plans for implementing those improvements
  • Shape the mission, objectives and goals of the hospital, clinical area or department
  • Stay on top of frequently changing healthcare regulations and ensure that the facility remains in full compliance
  • Develop hospital/departmental budgets, track expenditures and ensure the facility operates within budget
  • Handle human resources responsibilities within a department, such as recruiting, training and supervising staff members, as well as administering work schedules
  • Ensure accurate and up-to-date recordkeeping

Some health and medical services managers choose to specialize. For instance, some might specialize in overseeing nursing home or other long-term care facility operations (please note that state licensing laws apply to nursing home administration).

Others are clinical managers. They are responsible for overseeing a particular clinical area or department, such as the physical therapy unit. Health information managers are professionals who specialize in healthcare IT, such as patient records and healthcare IT data systems.

A Look at Emerging Trends in Healthcare Management

If you’re curious about pursuing a career in healthcare management, it can be helpful to stay on top of the latest trends in the field. Some of the emerging trends to keep an eye on include the following:

  • The increasing application of technological innovations in healthcare, including big data analytics, artificial intelligence, digital therapeutics and the Internet of Things (IoT) related to medical devices
  • The renovation of health systems, such as developing responsive plans and preparations for the next pandemic
  • The pressure on healthcare managers to reduce costs while continually improving the quality of care
  • The pressing need to keep hospital readmissions low in order to reduce patient waiting times and manage bed availability

How To Become a Medical and Health Services Manager

Are you still in high school, but already know that you’d like to work in healthcare management? If so, it’s time to have a discussion with your guidance counselor about your career aspirations. You may be able to take more courses that will be helpful for you; these may include classes in business law, economics and accounting, as well as health classes.

It’s also a good idea to look for internship and part-time job opportunities at healthcare organizations. You’ll get an inside look at the inner workings of healthcare companies, which will help you determine whether this is indeed the right career path for you.

After high school, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject. A healthcare administration degree is ideal, but you could also opt for a degree in health information technology.

It may be possible to land a job as a healthcare manager at a small clinic if you only have a bachelor’s degree. However, it’s far more common for these professionals to have graduate degrees. After earning your bachelor’s degree, you should plan on earning a relevant master’s degree, followed by a doctoral degree. Your academic qualifications plus entry-level work experience will help you become a competitive job candidate.

Earn Your Undergraduate Healthcare Administration Degree

After high school, the first step in the process of becoming a medical and health services manager is to earn your bachelor’s degree. There is no universal requirement regarding the type of degree you should earn. However, it’s ideal to earn a healthcare administration degree

A healthcare administration degree will cover a range of competencies that future healthcare managers need, such as the following:

  • Public, private and social factors that influence healthcare organizations
  • Modern regulatory compliance
  • Organizational structures and dynamics of healthcare companies
  • Financial challenges and solutions in the healthcare field
  • Operations and risk management in healthcare
  • Healthcare information technology

Another option is to choose an undergraduate degree that focuses on health information management. This would be ideal if you’ve already decided to become a healthcare manager who specializes in health IT. A health information management degree would explore the following competencies:

  • Health information protection/confidentiality
  • Health information governance
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Health informatics, analytics and data applications
  • Healthcare leadership and organizational structures

No matter which degree you choose, you may be expected to complete a capstone course during your senior year. A senior capstone course will allow you to demonstrate everything you’ve learned up to that point. It’s typically a research-intensive project that explores a particular area of interest within your field.

Earn Your Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration

After graduating with your undergraduate degree, you may decide to gain some entry-level work experience in the field. Alternatively, you might decide to go straight into a master’s degree program. Since it’s typical of healthcare employers to require or prefer that their healthcare managers have a master’s degree, it may be in your best interests to pursue graduate education shortly after earning your undergraduate degree.

It may take two to three years to complete your master’s degree, depending on the specific program you choose and your schedule. You may be able to take all or most of your classes online. A Master of Science in Health Administration degree will typically cover the following areas:

  • Contemporary healthcare delivery models, with a look at the financial, quality, access and disparity factors involved
  • Healthcare economics, including financial analysis and managerial decision-making, as well as healthcare policies and reforms that affect healthcare organizational practices
  • Ethical dilemmas and legal issues involved with healthcare administration, such as workplace safety
  • Healthcare research methods, analysis and application, with a look at driving the quality of healthcare forward
  • Healthcare business operations and performance, including operational process analysis, quality of service evaluations and analysis of financial performance

Master’s degree students may or may not be required to write a master’s thesis. This is a lengthy research paper; compared to a doctoral dissertation, however, a master’s thesis is shorter and does not require students to conduct original research.

Alternatively, your school may instead require a capstone course and possibly a practicum experience. A practicum experience will involve being paired with a healthcare administrative mentor, such as during an internship experience. This experience can prove invaluable for building your professional network, developing hands-on skills and getting a real-world look at healthcare management challenges and solutions.

Gain Professional Work Experience

If you decide to earn a master’s degree immediately after graduating with your bachelor’s degree, then you’ll want to enter the workforce next. Although you should plan on returning to school for your doctorate, it’s customary for terminal degree programs to require applicants to demonstrate at least a few years of professional work experience.

At this point in your career pathway, you may qualify to pursue a role as an executive assistant to a healthcare manager, a home health administrative assistant or a patient services advocate. After you’ve gained a few years of work experience, it’s time to start thinking about going back to school to earn your doctorate.

Earn Your Doctoral Degree in Healthcare Administration

There is no specific requirement regarding the type of healthcare administration degree you should earn. Some aspiring healthcare managers might work toward a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, while others prefer to earn a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree. The main difference between these two programs lies in their focus and intent.

A PhD is ideal for learners who want to focus primarily on research, such as investigating theories of healthcare management. An EdD is ideal for learners who primarily want to focus on putting research into practice. Although it’s certainly possible to land a job as a healthcare manager with a PhD, an EdD tends to be a better fit because it emphasizes real-world applications.

You may be able to complete all or most of your doctoral courses online. Depending on the school you choose, you might need to travel to the campus a few times for residencies. These provide invaluable opportunities to connect with your instructors and peers, present your ideas and shape your focus for your research.

It’s customary for doctoral programs to require learners to complete all of the coursework first, pass the exams and then achieve ABD (all but dissertation) status. At that point, they devote themselves to conducting original research and writing their doctoral dissertation. At other schools, however, the dissertation process is integrated directly into the coursework; this allows learners to get a jumpstart on their research and writing. 

Whichever model your school follows, you can expect the coursework to include topic areas such as the following:

  • Ethical frameworks, principles and theories regarding the practice of leadership and the furtherance of corporate social responsibility
  • The various levels of regulation in the healthcare space, with a look at state boards, medical boards, professional boards and the federal government, as well as organizational and self-regulatory approaches
  • The promotion of a culture of collaboration within the healthcare workplace
  • Principles and components of quantitative research design, including validity of instrumentation and reliability of sources of data
  • The promotion of change and innovation within healthcare organizations as a means of sustainability

Healthcare administration dissertations vary significantly in length. Some might be as short as 100 pages, while others can be as long as 300 pages. Before you get started, be sure to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the dissertation requirements of your school, program and advisor.

When choosing a topic for your dissertation, you’ll want to make sure it’s an area that will support a lengthy research and writing project. It should be a topic that you are passionate about, as you’ll be immersed in the subject for several years. It should also be a topic that is aligned with your professional interests. For instance, if you’re excited about healthcare IT, choose an information technology topic.

Once you’ve successfully finished and defended your dissertation and received your degree, you’ll be ready to pursue your dream job as a medical and health services manager. Do note, however, that if you plan on working in nursing home management, you’ll also need to meet your state’s requirement for licensure. All states require licensure for nursing home administrators, but the specific requirements vary from one location to the next.

Essential Skills and Traits of a Medical and Health Services Manager

Along your academic journey toward pursuing your dream career, you’ll want to work on cultivating some of the most important skills and characteristics for healthcare management professionals. These include the following:

  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Servant leadership
  • Technical skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Healthcare regulation research competencies

Are Medical and Health Services Managers in High Demand?

There is a significant demand for qualified medical and health services managers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates the job growth rate for these professionals to increase by about 32% from 2019 to 2029, faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 113,200 jobs in the field.1

The high demand for healthcare managers is reflective of the larger trend of significant, long-term growth for all healthcare professionals — providers and administrators alike. Just as the aging population needs more nurses and doctors to provide care, hospitals and other care centers will need more managerial professionals to oversee the daily operations of their facilities. There is expected to be a particularly robust demand for medical and health services managers who are adept at using health information technology, as electronic health records (EHRs) have become commonplace in healthcare settings nationwide.

If you’re passionate about pursuing a career in health services management, it’s time to take a closer look at the degree programs available at Grand Canyon University. In addition to our bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in healthcare administration, GCU is pleased to offer the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration (Quantitative Research) degree for future healthcare leaders. 


1COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on 2019, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical and Health Services Managers.

Approved by the Dean of the College of Doctoral Studies on Dec. 16, 2022.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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