Be a Public Health Administrator: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a public health administrator. Learn about the job duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in public health administration. View article »

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  • 0:52 Career Requirements
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Video Transcript

Public Health Administrator

Public health administrators may also be referred to as medical or health services managers. These administrators typically manage the business operations of public healthcare, including the accounting, fundraising, public relations, and human resources. While medically trained technicians manage the patients, public health administrators work to ensure that the healthcare program or facility operates efficiently.

These professionals can work for hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, managed health organizations, or government agencies. They often maintain full-time schedules. Since hospitals and other healthcare service organizations are usually open 24 hours a day, workers may need to take overnight and weekend shifts.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's or master's degree
Degree Field Public health administration, business administration, or related field
Licensure Administrators at nursing care or assisted-living facilities may need licensure
Key Skills Interpersonal skills; communication, analytical and problem-solving skills; attention to detail
Salary (2016)* $62,246 (median for public health administrators)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online, *PayScale.com.

Now, let's check out the career steps for public health administrators.

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Career Steps

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Many public healthcare administrators earn a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration or public health. The degree will combine the unique aspects of healthcare and business. Students will take courses in ethics, statistics, medical terminology, and general science courses. The coursework will also help students understand the intricacies of the American healthcare system, as well as techniques in implementing healthcare policies in organizations and communities. Students can pursue a generalist degree, or they can choose a specialized track or concentration.

To really shine, complete an internship. Students can gain hands-on experience learning the implementation of business practices in healthcare by completing an internship prior to earning their degree. Internships may be available in human resources, fundraising, or community relations.

It is also helpful to research licensure requirements. In some cases, specifically at nursing, assisted-living, and long-term care facilities, individuals may be required to obtain a license issued by the state. Requirements for licensure vary by state.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Individuals with bachelor's degrees in public health can earn entry-level administrative positions. Depending on the size of the organization, some graduates can start out as department administrators. Several years of experience can help public health administrators apply coursework to various public health environments and gain skills for roles with additional responsibility.

To really stand out among the crowd, build managerial skills. Individuals can improve management skills by taking courses and workshops designed to help aspiring managers build skills. Training participants can find instruction in hiring, performance management, and coaching. Some companies may pay for employees to attend professional development leadership training.

Step 3: Earn a Graduate Degree

With a bachelor's degree and experience, some individuals may choose to pursue graduate studies in public health administration to advance their career opportunities. The graduate degree may also be a suitable choice for someone who already has an undergraduate degree in another field and would like to move into the healthcare administration area. For example, nurses and allied health technicians may choose to pursue a graduate degree in public health administration, as well as individuals with bachelor's degrees in a business area like accounting or public relations. Students can expect to take courses in health behavior, healthcare finance, and public health law.

To recap, with a bachelor's or master's degree and experience, a public health administrator can earn about $62,000 a year to manage the business operations of public healthcare.

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