You’re giving it the old college try, devoting yourself to your studies as you work toward a health care management degree (a term which, according to the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education—CAHME—encompasses health care administration, health policy, health services management, and more). No doubt you’re also wondering what will happen after you graduate. What skills will you need, and what might your first job look like? Will you ever need a graduate degree?
According to the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), your first job in health care management could be an “entry- to mid-level management position in a specialized area” ranging from medical staff relations to government relations, from planning and development to marketing and public affairs, and much more.
Specific job duties vary depending on factors like the size and function of a facility. Those employed in larger health facilities, for example, may help execute top-level decisions and have the luxury of a larger staff to which they may delegate tasks; if the manager has the required experience, he or she may oversee departments. Administrators at smaller entities (such as nursing homes) may have more and varied responsibilities, from human resources to finances, etc.
ACHE knows what your future employers look for in entry-level managers. Academically, it’s not just about having a Bachelor’s degree in health care administration, but obtaining such a degree from a school accredited by CAHME or possessing another degree that qualifies you for the position. Leadership, communication, and decision-making skills, as well as integrity and dependability, are also highly important traits.
Certainly there are many opportunities for undergraduates with a health administration degree, but it’s probable that you will need a master’s degree to take advantage of higher-level positions, such as executive roles. As a health care executive, you could find yourself working in many areas, just a few of which include long-term care facilities, hospitals, health care associations, or public health departments. Some managers are department heads, others are CEOs. One thing’s for certain: The opportunities in this industry are vast.
If you plan to attend graduate school, there is a variety of degrees that could contribute to your career success. The most common master’s degrees have been in health administration or public health, but other professionals have earned master’s degrees in business and concentrated in health services management. Joint degree programs – such as a master’s in both public health and business, or health care management and law – have proven to be great options as well.
 American College of Healthcare Executives, “Career Services,” http://www.ache.org/carsvcs/ycareer.cfm (Retrieved 28 Jan 2013).
 The Princeton Review, “Career: Health Care Administrator,” (2013).
 Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education.