Public Health Administrator: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for public health administrators. Get the facts about job duties, educational requirements, salary and career outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Health Services Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Public Health Administrator?

Healthcare administrators in general work to improve the efficiency and quality of healthcare services. They manage finances for facilities or departments and train staff. Public health administrators are a type of healthcare administrator who deals specifically with the public health sector. This includes improving community health and health education through the institutions that deal with public health. They may manage medical facilities such as medical departments, clinics or hospitals.

These professionals may raise funds for public health institutions, train staff, identify and set goals to deal with public health issues, create budgets, and develop public health initiatives. They may manage one department or an entire staff. Communication skills, knowledge of finance, management skills, and an education in health administration are key. The below table includes key details for becoming a public health administrator.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree at minimum; master's degree required to run major facilities
Education Field of Study Health services administration, public health, public administration
Key Responsibilities Manage healthcare facilities, staff and resources
Job Growth (2014-2024) 17% for all medical and health services managers*
Average Salary (2015) $106,070 for all medical and health services managers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Public Health Administrator Do?

As a public health administrator, or healthcare executive, you will manage health care facilities, equipment and entire staffs. You can either specialize in running specific departments such as a clinic or a nursing department, or be a generalist who runs a whole system like a hospital. If you run a large facility you may have several assistant administrators below you to help manage medical records, health information activities, nursing, surgery and therapy. If you choose to be the administrator for a smaller organization or department you will likely handle the day-to-day operations yourself. Either way you will be expected to improve healthcare efficiency and quality regardless of changes in laws, technology and delivery systems.

Day-to-day activities include budget planning, authorizing expenses, fundraising and setting up service rates. You may also communicate with your board, staff and department heads; recruit and train personnel, schedule staff; and keep up with advances in medicine, technological diagnostic and treatment equipment and government regulations. You will also supervise medical, nursing, technical, clerical, service and maintenance staff, as well as monitor inpatient bed availability and set healthcare standards. In some positions you may also need to assess the needs of your community and create health education and prevention programs accordingly.

What Level of Education Do I Need?

To run a major facility you will need a master's degree in health sciences, health services administration, long-term care administration, public health, public administration or business administration. Some entry-level positions that oversee smaller facilities or specific departments may only require a bachelor's degree. Doctor's offices and some other facilities may hire you if you only have healthcare experience, like if you are a doctor or nurse, as opposed to requiring an administration-specific degree. It is common for healthcare administrators to start their careers as nurses or doctors and then switch to administration. Having healthcare experience will also give you an advantage if you apply to a health services master's program.

In addition to traditional college or university programs, some branches of the military will train you in a 12-week program (depending on your specialty) to be a healthcare administrator. A bachelor's degree is required for these programs.

How Much Can I Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical and health services managers, including public health administrators, earned an average annual income of $106,070 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Jobs in this field were anticipated to increase 17% during the 2014-2024 decade, which is much faster than average. More opportunities could be expected in private offices of healthcare practitioners.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Social and community service managers also manage staff, raise funds, and create budgets and initiatives that relate to the public and community. This position requires many similar skills to public health administration, though these managers work for social service organizations rather than healthcare facilities. The job requires at least a bachelor's degree, though a master's may be preferred in many cases. This field is not growing as rapidly as that of public health administrators, with 10% growth projected for 2014-2024.

Human resource managers work between top executives as they manage an organization's staff and growth. They are responsible for hiring new staff, strategic planning, and coordinating the administration of a company or organization. This position also requires a bachelor's degree at minimum; some positions may require a master's. This field is projected to see 9% growth in the 2014-2024 decade, per the BLS.

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