This article explores the important role of the health care professional when graduating with a baccalaureate degree and examines current and future career opportunities. It focuses on students with little or no employment history in health administration.
The important role of the health care professional
after earning a bachelor’s in health administration
In a time of rapid change in the health care industry, health care organizations are examining and exploring new approaches to delivering health care services. Baccalaureate health care professionals bring a fresh approach to an ever-changing health care environment. They impact the entire continuum of health care services, from acute care to home health care. Baccalaureate health care professionals combine an understanding of health care principles to improve patient outcomes, with an understanding of business principles to increase both efficiency and effectiveness of the provision of health care services. In many instances, baccalaureate health care professionals plan, direct and coordinate the business activities of health care providers.
People often think of health care organizations strictly in terms of the practitioners — doctors, nurses, therapists, lab technicians, etc., who all work together to help people maintain or regain their health. But health care organizations are integrated living organisms that need careful management to continue achieving their mission and goals: Does the patient receive the right care, at the right time, at the right price, in the right place, by the right health care professional, in the right environment, with the right resources? As a living breathing organism, health care organizations must change and adjust to changing times. Baccalaureate health care professionals have the skills to make this change and adjustment.
Career Opportunities – Now and in the Future
The health care system is booming, and health administration careers are keeping pace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those in health care administration can expect a job growth of 18% from 2018 to 2028, which is much higher than the average for all occupations. Much of this growth is expected to stem from a health care system that will see increased demand from an aging baby boomer population, as well as technology that allows patients to live longer lives. This demand will mean more hospitals, clinics, ambulatory services, etc. — and therefore, more health care professionals will be called upon to make sure everything runs smoothly.
It is clear that health care professionals, whether they are early careerists, middle managers and/or administrators, play a vital role in the success of any health care organization — from providing home health care services within the community to providing intensive care in a large medical center.
A graduate with a baccalaureate degree in health administration is qualified to work in a variety of health care settings. Some health care careers involve working directly with patients, others do not. An example of the latter is a health professional who was responsible for payments and billing or the health care manager who is tasked with making sure the office runs smoothly by overseeing administrative duties, such as data management, staffing, billing, scheduling and supply management. Not only are health care professionals found in physician’s offices and hospitals, they also work in such other environments as nursing homes, hospice organizations, labs, pharmacies, imaging and diagnostic centers, and insurance companies.
Earning a baccalaureate degree in health administration can prepare you to handle a diverse range of responsibilities and make meaningful contributions to your workplace and community. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that a bachelor’s degree is the typical entry-level education requirement for those aspiring to work as managers in the medical and health services field. Health care administration is one of the fastest-growing employment sectors in the U.S. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), management careers in medical and health services are expected to grow by 32% between 2019 and 2029.
There is a need for current data that informs prospective and current health administration students about the work experiences of baccalaureate health administration students. Unfortunately, very few studies have been done that provide up-to-date information regarding the work experience of baccalaureate health administration students.
One such study published in 2014 in the Journal of Health Education does answer this question and sheds light on the ability of graduates to obtain quality employment with a baccalaureate degree in health administration. This study consisted of a cross-sectional survey to describe the employment and career progression of 153 graduates of an undergraduate health administration program during the period of 2004-2012.
The results of the study indicate that 88% of the alumni were working in health care management positions, with the largest percentage (34%) working in hospitals and health systems. Graduates held an average of 2.3 positions, with 69% having held more than one position, during the study period.
The study also showed that graduates had increased their job responsibilities and compensation in three ways: progression within the same setting (56%), progression within the same sector (9%), and progression across sectors (35%). These findings suggested that baccalaureate health care administration graduates have been successful in securing entry-level positions and advancing their careers, supporting the view that health care administration has been a robust source of job opportunities.
Though the study indicated that most jobs during that period were found in hospitals, this is rapidly shifting in light of the current change in the health care environment, namely the rapid shift to providing services in a non-hospital environment and the emergence of telehealth as a viable alternative for acute care services. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the largest employers of medical and health services managers are as follows: 33% (hospitals); 12% (physician’s offices;) 10% (nursing and residential care facilities); 9% (government) and (7% outpatient care centers).
Career paths for graduates with health administration degrees
- Clinical supervisor: Clinical supervisors manage the daily operations of medical clinics by maintaining schedules for employees, delegating tasks, handling clinical records and patient reports, managing inventory and enforcing quality standards.
- Records and information technician: As a medical record and health information technician, you might oversee office records, maintain patient files, keep computer systems updated and create organizational processes for record-keeping.
- Medical billing manager: Medical billing managers handle the paperwork for health care organizations. Their responsibilities might include negotiating insurance contracts, hiring and training new employees in the billing department and tracking insurance and patient payments.
- Medical office manager: A medical office manager heads up administrative duties for health care centers. They review expenses and accounts, handle scheduling concerns and organize paperwork and files.
- Human resources manager: As a human resources manager at a medical facility, you may select candidates to fill a position and advise management about employee pay and benefits. These managers often address conflicts between staff and help identify solutions.
- Community Health Educator: With more of a focus on public health, this position requires a bachelor’s degree, with some employers preferring additional certification. Health educators plan events designed around a specific community’s needs, to teach community members about various health topics and provide them with the necessary local health care services contact information.
- Community Service Manager: This is another great career for those with a bachelor’s in public health. As a community service manager, you will collaborate with other health care officials to establish areas of improvement within a community and implement various on-going programs and one-time events. At these events, you are responsible for managing those providing health care services to the clients.
- Insurance Underwriter: Excellent financial skills and a business-centered bachelor’s degree are standard qualifications of an employee in this career. Responsibilities as an insurance underwriter include reviewing insurance applications and evaluating the coverage possibilities, analyze applicants and determine the proper coverage plan, and contacting stakeholders for further information about claims and applications.
Dr. Lauren Pete, J.D., Ph.D., is an associate professor and chair of the Health Administration Department at the Brooklyn Campus of St. Joseph’s University, New York.
 Temple, A., & Thompson, J. M. (2014). Employment and career progression of baccalaureate healthcare management graduates. The Journal of Health Administration Education, 31(1), 59-74. Retrieved from http://proxy.library.nyu.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fscholarly-journals%2Femployment-career-progression-baccalaureate%2Fdocview%2F1539193886%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D12768