What is the Difference Between Healthcare Management and Healthcare Administration?

Guest author: Kevin Hopkins

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.


13 comments on “What is the Difference Between Healthcare Management and Healthcare Administration?”

  1. Teri Reply


  2. Laura Pham Reply

    can you explain to me what is difference between environmental health, health care administration, and health information management. also the salary they make each year and which is the best degree are hire more.

    thank you

  3. Mandy Reply

    Interesting article. Education definitely plays a role in the differences between “administrator” and “manager”.

  4. Enid Reply

    The functions that come with this job are highly varied, that’s for sure. When I started working on a hospital administrative staff several years ago, I didn’t think I would have to do half of the things I’ve done.

  5. Adele Reply

    What’s most interesting to me is the backgrounds of people, in regards to healthcare management and healthcare administration.

  6. Nikki Reply

    The whole human resources facet was something I never considered before. Hmm, good point. And also- to reply to the first commenter- administrator can be a misleading title, good point.

  7. Nurse4Life Reply

    As someone who works with both healthcare managers and administrators, all I can advise is know the difference before you get too deeply involved.

  8. Maria Reply

    Thanks for clarifying the differences that exist. I clearly had no inkling of what separated the two until reading this article.

  9. health care consulting Reply

    When I first started working for one of Canada’s top
    health care consulting firms I have to be honest I wasn’t familiar with the “administrator” position ~in fact, I assumed that it was something like a secretarial position. In Canada, however, health care institutions like long term care homes use the title “administrator” for the top role in the organization, so really it is more like a CEO position than a secretary. I would argue that most such health care organizations do look for administrators to have experience in nursing, and in fact by law, long term care administrators must be registered nurses ~where as in the retirement home sector the top role must be filled with someone who has a minimum RPN status. Thank you for the article, it was very informative.

    • crystal Reply

      I’m wanting to become a health care consultant! I was woundering is that what you do and if it is if you could tell me what the importance is. Is it fun? I mean as a job. Im 24 and have 2 kids and i get alone with everybody. I wanted to be a rn (labor and delivery) That didn’t work out. if you could please email me at Mississippicrystal[at]yahoo[dot]com. so i really know what im getting into befor i get into deep and its not what i wanted. I want something ing the health field.

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