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Highlights for Health and Human Services Management

Healthcare is changing more rapidly than almost any other field. The field is changing in terms of how and where care is delivered, who is providing those services, and how that care is financed. These changes are being driven primarily by the growth of managed care. A number of other current trends are expected to continue, including:

  • Integration of healthcare delivery organizations to create accessible, appropriate, and comprehensive care pathways for all people
  • Continual advances in medical technology
  • Collaboration among provider organizations, physicians, businesses, insurers, and others to improve community health status
  • Increased emphasis on disease prevention and wellness promotion
  • An elderly population that will grow exponentially with the "Baby Boomer" generation
  • Better-informed patients demanding high-quality care
  • Pressure from business, government, insurers, and patients to control costs and demonstrate the value of the services delivered
  • Efforts to implement continuous quality improvement initiatives similar to those found in other fields

Career Opportunities for Healthcare Executives
This is an exciting time for healthcare management. The field requires talented people to help introduce and manage the changes taking place. In their roles, healthcare executives have an opportunity to make a significant contribution to improving the health of the communities their organizations serve. As a result of the transformation taking place in the healthcare system, career options for healthcare executives are becoming more diverse. Increasingly, positions for healthcare executives may be found in a wide variety of settings, such as:

  • Ambulatory care facilities
  • Consulting firms
  • Healthcare associations
  • Home health agencies
  • Hospices
  • Hospitals and hospital systems
  • Integrated delivery systems
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Managed care organizations (such as HMOs and PPOs)
  • Medical group practices
  • Mental health organizations
  • Public health departments
  • University or research institutions

Today, an estimated 100,000 people occupy health management positions at numerous organizational levels, from department head to chief executive officer. Requirements for senior-level positions in healthcare organizations are demanding, but these jobs also offer opportunities to improve the system of care giving.

With the growing diversity in the healthcare system, many executives are needed in settings other than the traditional hospital. However, competition is intense at all job levels, and many positions that previously required only a bachelorís degree now require a masterís degree. Each year, about 2,000 students receive graduate degrees in healthcare management. Salaries for beginning masterís degree graduates generally range from the high-30s to high-40s, depending on the type of organization and its location. If you choose a career in healthcare management, your first job might be an entry- to mid-level management position in a specialized area, such as:

Government relations
Human resources
Information systems
Marketing and public affairs
Materials management (purchasing of equipment and supplies)
Medical staff relations
Nursing administration
Patient care services
Planning and development
Do You Have What It Takes?
What do employers look for in their entry-level managers? Here are some of the criteria:
Academic training/previous work experience
A degree in health administration from a school accredited by the Accrediting Commission on Education for Health Services Administration or another degree that may qualify you
A commitment to professional development and continuing education
Previous positions, internships, and fellowships in healthcare organizations or other business settings
Communication skills
Strong written and oral communication skills
Ability to develop and present reports and proposals
Adaptability/organizational fit
Personal and career objectives that mesh with those of the organization
Ability to work well with others, including superiors, subordinates, and peers
Attitude and appearance that communicate confidence, maturity, and competence
Dependability, judgment, character
Maturity to make decisions and take responsibility for them
Honest and ethical business conduct
Willingness to make a commitment to the organization
General management skills
Leadership that inspires and motivates others
Ability to train, delegate, evaluate, coordinate, and negotiate
Where Do You Start?
Begin planning as early as possible for a career in healthcare management. A good scholastic record is importantóespecially if you want to attend a graduate program for a masterís degree or a doctorate. Many schools and colleges in the United States and Canada offer undergraduate degrees with a concentration in health services management.

In the past, most students chose the traditional route of a masterís degree in health administration or public health. Today, however, students are investigating other options, including graduate degrees in business and public administration, with course concentration in health services management. Some schools offer a joint degree-a masterís degree in both business administration and public health, or in both healthcare management and law, for example.

Graduate programs generally last two years and lead to a masterís degree. They include course work in healthcare policy and law, marketing, organizational behavior, healthcare financing, human resources, and other healthcare management topics. The program may also include a supervised internship, residency, or fellowship.