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Characteristics of An Effective Health Administrator

A health administrator is a person who manages a healthcare facility such as a clinic, doctor’s office or hospital. Health administrators may also work in hospice, mental health or physical rehabilitation facilities, among others. A health administrator’s job is to run the business side of the facility, such as finances, personnel, purchasing and patient administration. A health administrator should therefore be organized, skilled primarily in finance and computer technology, and have the ability to motivate and supervise employees. Past work experience in some segment of healthcare, such as nursing, is sometimes an additional requirement. Though administrators may work in small private practices, some high-level health administrators manage hospital departments, or even entire hospitals. At such a level, administrators should have a MHA degree — usually a masters in health administration. For those looking for a job in health administration, a masters in health administration will give job seekers an advantage over their competition.

Educational and License Requirements

A health administrator, who will be working at a doctor’s office, small healthcare facility, or at the departmental level in a hospital, may only need a four-year bachelor’s degree in business or health administration however a master of health administration is always preferable. People with a master of health administration are also likely to earn higher salaries. Job seekers with a bachelor’s degree may become department heads in smaller facilities, or assistant department heads in large hospitals. However, those who want to advance to a department head or CEO position at a large hospital are expected to have a masters of health administration to be promoted to this level. A masters of health administration can be obtained in a classroom, or one can pursue an online MHA degree. Nursing care facility administrators are required by all states to hold at least a bachelors degree, complete a training program, pass a licensing exam, and pursue continuing education according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS notes that some states also require administrators of assisted living facilities to obtain licenses, as well.

Personality Characteristics

An administrator must hire, promote and manage employees – hundreds of them, at senior levels – and must therefore have excellent management skills. It doesn’t hurt to be a “people person” in this role, because an effective health administrator must be a good communicator, negotiator, delegator and occasionally, diplomat. However, health administrators are expected to put business first, and must therefore be willing to make or uphold unpopular policy decisions when necessary. A senior health administrator, particularly one who works for a healthcare facility that never closes, must be willing and able to work long hours and to be on call around the clock. Occasional travel may also be required. And while they aren’t expected to be counselors, healthcare administrators who come into occasional contact with patients should also be patient and able to empathize with others, since they are meeting people who are often not feeling well, or under stress.

Technical Skills

An effective health administrator is expected to have advanced knowledge of healthcare, business management and computers, since most have degrees such as a bachelors or masters in health care administration. Career experience in some aspect of medicine is often an additional job requirement. An administrator should be highly organized, be able to juggle many responsibilities and be able to understand and interpret detailed business, technical and financial data, especially accounting reports. After all, it’s the administrator’s job to see that the office, department or hospital that they manage operates smoothly and doesn’t go bankrupt! Due to the fact that health administrators have so many responsibilities they take a wide range of courses when pursuing a masters in health administration.

Career Path

An aspiring health administrator may start out with a four-year bachelors degree in health administration and move on to acquire an MHA degree or an online MHA program. Other students may choose to take an entry-level administration job at a hospital to get experience in the field while pursuing online MHA programs. Those who choose to may specialize in a certain area or department, while generalists may rise to hold positions of broad responsibility, such as vice president, president, CFO or CEO of the facility where they work. The position of health administrator, especially of large facilities or departments, requires a strong work ethic and the willingness to give the job priority, since senior administrators may be called for help at any hour of the day or night. A masters in health care administration gives a person many different options for jobs within the field of healthcare. Masters of health administration degree holders can begin their careers in a number of different managerial roles.


The BLS states that the outlook for health administrators is expected to be good in the next decade (especially for those who hole a masters in health administration), though successful applicants must be willing to compete with a crowded field of rivals and be willing to obtain the needed experience and education. As of 2010, the median annual wage of medical and health services managers was $84,270, according to the BLS. Although most administrators work in hospitals, the highest-earning administrators were in private industry, though mean annual wage varied according to an individual’s experience, the nature of the company and the region in which it was located.