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How to Break Into Healthcare Management

Healthcare occupations are expected to experience much growth in coming years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which estimates 18% increase from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. An aging population means increased demand for healthcare and increased exits from professionals entering retirement age.

Healthcare is a diverse industry, offering opportunities to work in many capacities beyond the clinical side, supporting an array of healthcare practices ranging from general family practice to dental practices to niche specialties like audiologists or orthotists and prosthetists.

If you’re interested in joining the healthcare field but don’t want to work on the clinical side, here are some tips to get you started:

Know Which Entry-Level Jobs to Look For

Overall, healthcare management jobs can be classified into four groups: Policy Organizations, Insurance Organizations, Healthcare Suppliers and Healthcare Providers. This groups cover not only hospitals, private practices and clinics, but also long-term care facilities, health maintenance organizations, pharmaceutical firms, biotech companies, mental health centers, nursing homes, state public health agencies, and other health-related organizations. Within these groups, opportunities to kickstart a career often include smaller management and administrative opportunities first, according to an article on career site Monster. This can include:

  • Office manager
  • Program Reimbursement Specialist
  • Hospital Administrative Medical Assistant
  • Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Staff Auditor
  • Business Development Associate
  • Intake Coordinator
  • Medical Records Associate
  • Analyst
  • Project Coordinator
  • Healthcare Human Resources Manager
  • Health Information

You should expect to launch your career by starting at lower levels and working your way up, according to Michael Hoff, healthcare manager of business development at Chicago-based Addison Group, who says getting your foot in the door is the first necessary step.

Professionals with a degree in Healthcare Management often eventually take on roles as:

  • Healthcare Consultant
  • Group Practice Executive
  • Home Health Care Administrator
  • Hospital Executive
  • Nursing Administrator
  • Pharmaceutical Administrator
  • Public Health Planner
  • Health Informatics Professional
  • Group Practice Executive
  • Emergency Medical Service Administrator

Consider Doing An Internship

Experience is a key part of moving up in healthcare management, and an internship offers an excellent path to gaining experience. Although these are typically unpaid, internships can bolster your resume and offer valuable real-world experience. Internships also provide a way to explore different fields and roles to help refine your career goals. To find an internship, local healthcare organizations may provide some opportunities, as well as large national internships available through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, World Health Organization, Children’s Hospital Network and Mayo Clinic. Remember: you aren’t limited to just one internship. Embrace as many opportunities as you can to learn through experience.

Develop Your Soft Skills

Although each position has unique requirements, some core soft skills are critical for any professional in healthcare management, including:

  • Leadership Skills – To help drive change, healthcare professionals must be equipped to help and lead others, inspiring teams to adopt new practices and approaches.
  • Communication – Healthcare managers often communicate with a wide variety of people and positions, and must be able to communicate clearly and effectively.
  • Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving – Part of cultivating change is understanding and addressing the problems that inevitability arise. A healthcare manager must be adept at thinking critically about issues and proactively problem-solving issues.

Stay Current

Change has become the new normal for the healthcare industry, and healthcare managers are expected to stay on top of the policies and laws that govern healthcare. Several sweeping healthcare policy changes over the last decade have shifted responsibilities to make this a larger focus, as they dictate both how organizations should create their policies and how they administer care. As Baby Boomers increasingly flood the healthcare system and changes related to healthcare insurance requirements bring new consumers to the marketplace, healthcare managers will need to remain informed.

Network

Building relationships and asking for insight into the healthcare field is a good way to better understand the industry and learn about new opportunities. Visiting local offices and meeting with healthcare professionals provides experience and builds your network. Some prominent large organizations may also offer local offices you can connect with, including Peace Corps, Doctors Without Borders, the U.S. Department of Health, American Red Cross, PATH and the World Health Organization.

Earn Your Degree

Aspiring healthcare management professionals can earn an associate’s, bachelor’s or MBA in healthcare management depending on their career goals. Your individual level of experience and goals will determine what additional study or experience should be pursued, but a bachelor’s degree provides a solid foundation and may be a minimum requirement for many positions. Some healthcare management positions may require a master’s degree; for example, director and executive leadership jobs. This can also help make you more competitive when pursuing promotions and opportunities in the future.

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