The field of healthcare is growing by leaps and bounds, and the healthcare industry is estimated to contribute around six million new jobs to the workforce over the next decade. This represents a nearly 30 percent growth in jobs from the healthcare field alone. There are many different career paths that a student can take, whether your interest ultimately lies in healthcare administration jobs, healthcare management jobs, or some other facet of the medical and healthcare field. A great place to start can be earning a healthcare administration or healthcare management degree online or offline, which can prepare you to climb to the heights of your chosen career path, regardless of where you may choose to specialize or focus your efforts once you graduate.
However, because some terminology used in healthcare can sound surprisingly similar, including terms such as “administration” and “management,” it can be helpful as well to learn before you enroll in an advanced degree program what the differences are between these terms so you are sure you focus your education towards the correct area.
The Role of Education
Education is one of the major differences between the fields of healthcare management and healthcare administration. Healthcare management professionals are most likely to have an educational background that matches their career, whether that may be management of medical staff, informatics and information technology, oncology research studies, or another area. Healthcare administration professionals, on the other hand, are likely to start out in a more business-related field with an advanced degree to match, such as finance, business management, accounting, marketing, or operations. This also speaks directly to the difference in job description between healthcare managers and administrators.
Managers will specialize in one or more areas, managing staff or processes that relate to their skill set, and simply progressing up that career ladder throughout their career. Administrators, conversely, may come into a department where they know little about the specialized operations in that department, but much about how to ensure profitability, efficiency, and maximization of resources. A healthcare administrator will always be more focused on the basics of managing a business – regardless of what type of business it may be – successfully and profitably, while a healthcare manager will always be more focused on handling and refining issues and processes as relate to the manager’s specific department function itself.
The Varying Functions
Yet another key difference between a healthcare administrator and a healthcare manager is their daily work environment and duties. A manager is more likely to be employed in a smaller organization, business, clinic or facility, or a smaller department within a larger organization. The manager’s scope of responsibility will be limited to decisions as they may relate to the specific operations of the department itself. An administrator is more likely to be found in a larger organization, or a larger department within any size organization and in addition to the day to day responsibilities of running the business or a specific aspect of the business, the administrator is quite likely to facilitate and participate in issues relating to business growth, development, profitability analysis, long-term planning and forecasting and other aspects related to policy and operations.
And What About Human Resources?
In regards to human resource management, the roles of the healthcare administrator and healthcare manager once again will differ in most cases. Perhaps in the smallest organizations the two functions may merge when it comes to hiring, firing, recruitment, grievance resolution, training and employee evaluations, but in the larger organizations the administrator is likely to handle more of these functions for the organization itself or a large department as a whole, even if the manager is responsible for the same or similar functions within a specific subsection of the department or company. Administrators are also the professionals within an organization that will review and adjust policies individually or globally. While managers may give input and suggest changes, it will fall to the administrators to approve or deny requests, make changes to salaries, adjust work hours, work duties and other facets of operations that relate to how the company handles its human resources.
Developing a firm understanding of the differences between a career in healthcare management and a career in healthcare administration will put you on the right path to the career of your choosing and further aid you in selecting the best type of advanced degree program to make you a desirable candidate to employers upon graduation.
Kevin Hopkins just completed his summer internship and is headed for his last year of college. When he graduates, he hopes to land a job in a hospital or private medical practice.