Healthcare Administration Degree Overview

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A healthcare administration degree is more valuable today than ever before. With the retirement of the baby boomer generation and the median age of the US population rising, there is a growing need for qualified healthcare administration professionals. While you might be interested in caring directly for patients as an aide, a nurse, or even a doctor, opportunities exist for healthcare workers in other capacities as well. You might prefer being behind the scenes as a medical transcriptionist or a health services manager, or in the business department working with medical records or billing. Whatever your area of interest, a healthcare administration degree can help you land a meaningful and well–paying job in the ever–expanding healthcare field.

A healthcare administration degree will focus on building your knowledge of anatomy and physiology; public health policy and medical ethics; and administrative topics such as business management, strategic planning, computer skills, and organizational leadership. The specific health administration degree path you choose will determine your curriculum; there is obviously a difference between the programs for a home health aide and a billing manager, or a medical transcriptionist and an IT tech specializing in medical records. The good news is that this variety means that you can choose the niche that works best for you and your skills.

What can you do with a healthcare administration degree?

Healthcare administration degree holders can find jobs in hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, and laboratories, in both the public and private sectors. Not everyone with a health administration degree works directly with patients, either. If you prefer to work behind the scenes, organizing and compiling data, a healthcare administration degree can prepare you to work in areas like operations, finances, and human resources. Whether you see yourself working in the IT department for a midsize outpatient facility or you aspire to oversee operations for a multi–site corporate health system, your path begins with a degree in healthcare administration.

In addition to job security, a healthcare administration degree also gives you a chance to help others. Whether you’re in a hands–on position caring for patients, working with medical records and data, or helping to shape public health policy, you can feel proud of the work you do to keep people healthy.

Bear one thing in mind as you proceed. There are a lot of related degrees, as well as similar degrees that go by different names. The name of your degree program may be specific to your school or your area of specialization. Degrees in healthcare management, health information technology, health informatics, and even business administration can have overlapping subject matter and curriculum.

What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?

Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are evaluated and validated. Colleges and universities that have earned accreditation have met the standards set by accrediting organizations. These organizations are comprised of faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Legitimate regional and national accrediting organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the same institutions, although CHEA recognition isn’t mandatory. A college or university must be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order for its students to receive federal financial aid.

For a detailed look at the differences between regional and national accreditation, check out What Do I Need to Know About College Accreditation?

What is Regional Accreditation?
Regional accreditation is the signifier of quality education; this includes the currency of curriculum, credentials of educators, and credibility of degrees. Regional accrediting agencies only accredit institutions in their geographical area.
The Six Regional Accrediting Agencies

To find out if a college or university on your list is regionally accredited, check the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

What Is National Accreditation?
National accreditation is often perceived as a less rigorous standard than regional accreditation and is governed by educational accreditors agencies that are not restricted by region or geography. This means that one such agency can provide accreditation to any college or university in the U.S. that meets its criteria. National accreditation is commonplace among trade schools, religious schools, and for–profit colleges.
Most regionally–accredited colleges do not accept or recognize credits or degrees earned from colleges that lack regional accreditation. However, national accreditation may be a useful indicator of quality for students pursuing vocational training, competency-based education, or other education models that operate under a for-profit model.

To learn more about National Accreditation, check out Understanding National Accreditation.

For help safely navigating the For–Profit Sector, check out our Guide to For–Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know.

What is Programmatic Accreditation?
Programmatic accreditation certifies that an institution’s program, department, or college has met the standards of the programmatic accrediting agency. While programmatic accreditation agencies often have national jurisdiction, programmatic accreditation is not institutional national accreditation. In fact, programmatic accreditation often coexists with regional accreditation. In some disciplines, a degree with programmatic accreditation may even be required to earn a license or enter professional practice.
Healthcare administration is a broad discipline that allows for many different areas of specialization and varying avenues for professional opportunity. This variance means that there is no single preeminent programmatic accreditation agency for healthcare administration. There are a few reputable accreditation groups that can be a positive indication of quality and credibility. Top among them are:
While these accreditations are useful, they aren’t necessarily mandatory. Absence of one of these accreditations is not a deal–breaker if your healthcare administration program is housed within an institution that is accredited by one of the regional accreditation associations listed in the section above. To reiterate, one of these regional accreditations should be treated as mandatory.

The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice, or visit the website for any of the above accreditation agencies. Each provides a searchable database of accredited institutions and degree programs. You can also look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.

Or, to learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?

Now that you get the idea, let’s look at some of your degree options.

What Kinds of Healthcare Administration Degrees Are There?

Associate Degree in Healthcare Administration

This 60–credit program usually takes about two years to complete. For those seeking entry–level employment in the medical field, it’s well worth the investment. You’ll gain introductory–level education into the business operations, legal principles, and ethical parameters surrounding healthcare as well as some basic education in human pathology, health statistics, and computer skills. An associate degree in healthcare administration will qualify you right away for work in many hospital, mental health, or nursing home facilities. And if you ultimately plan to advance toward a leadership role in the field, you’ll have a leg up in your pursuit of a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

What Healthcare Administration Courses Will I Take in a Healthcare Administration Associate Program?

  • Business Administration
  • Health Records Management
  • Healthcare Management
  • Introduction to Anatomy
  • Medical Coding
  • Medical Law and Ethics
  • Medical Office Management
  • Medical Terminology

If you’re eager to enter the healthcare administration field, a certificate can also be a quick, cost–effective way to launch your career. A certificate in medical coding can open the way for you to work in medical records, billing, or alongside a doctor transcribing her notes. For a list of certificate programs, check out the Best Online Medical Coding Certificate Programs.

What’s the Difference Between an AA and an AS in Healthcare Administration?

An associate of arts (AA) degree in healthcare administration will typically combine discipline–specific courses with a course load of humanities and liberal arts requirements. By contrast, the associate of science (AS) in healthcare administration will focus more on math and science requirements.

Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration

A bachelor’s in healthcare administration will prepare you for employment in a demanding field. Advances in technology, constant shifts in policy, growing organizational complexity, and a host of other factors have created an array of new and mounting challenges in the healthcare sector. This 120–credit degree — which typically requires a minimum of four years to complete — will prepare you to face these challenges. In addition to introductory instruction in health management and business administration, you’ll have a chance to study advanced subjects like public health regulations, medical accounting, medical records management, and healthcare quality assurance. You’ll also have a chance to choose a concentration, whether your interest is in community health, emergency health systems, long–term care, home care, or any of the countless contexts where administrative skills are in demand. A bachelor’s in healthcare administration will qualify you for most entry–level administrative, support and resource roles, as well as many advanced technical, clerical, or departmental leadership positions.

What Healthcare Administration Courses Will I Take in a Healthcare Administration Bachelor’s Program?

  • Advanced Health Systems
  • Employment and Medical Law
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Healthcare Marketing and Communication
  • Human Resource Management
  • Medical Accounting
  • Medical Law and Ethics
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Principles of Healthcare Management
  • Record Keeping and Information Systems
  • U.S. Healthcare Systems

What’s the Difference Between a BA and a BS in Healthcare Administration?

As with an associate degree, a bachelor of arts (BA) in healthcare administration will typically include a parallel focus in the humanities and liberal arts. A bachelor of science (BS) in healthcare administration will include more math and science coursework. If you see yourself working in medical records, medical statistics, or health IT, you might be better suited by the latter of these degrees.

Now that you know a bit more, check out:

Master of Healthcare Administration

If you see yourself ultimately becoming a part of the executive management structure for your organization, you’ll want to consider pursuing a master’s degree in healthcare administration, or MHA. Though a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration can place you in the running for a wide number of roles in a fast–growing field, your master’s degree could unlock another tier of earning potential. Your program could range anywhere between 32 and 60 credits, which will typically take two years to complete. Some areas of specialization may extend the length of your studies up to four years. During your studies, you’ll gain an advanced understanding of health systems, technology, and information as well as high–level instruction in business leadership and administration. Your master’s degree in healthcare administration will qualify you to serve in top administrative roles in a wide range of healthcare settings, including emergency, acute, long–term, and mental health facilities. This is also a recommended course of study if you ultimately plan to pursue a Ph.D. and a career in healthcare research.

What Healthcare Administration Courses Will I Take in a Healthcare Administration Master’s Program?

  • Business Research Analysis
  • Financial Analysis and Management
  • Global Health and Diversity
  • Healthcare Governance
  • Healthcare Marketing and Communication
  • Healthcare Policy
  • Healthcare Process Management
  • Population Health
  • Strategic Human Resource Management
  • Strategic Planning

If you're interested in pursuing an online MHA, check out:

Ph.D. in Healthcare Administration

A Ph.D. in healthcare administration is largely reserved for those interested in either pursuing a professorship in healthcare management and leadership or those who will ultimately forge a career in research. This is the path for you if you would like to contribute directly to public policy and research discussions, either through work with a government–funded agency, a non–profit, a research institute, an insurance firm, a think tank, or the wide array of other participants who engage in advanced research. Your area of focus, the length of time to completion, and your thesis and on–the–job training responsibilities will vary depending upon your program and professional ambitions.

You have some options if you’re thinking about pursuing a doctorate in healthcare administration online. For some ideas, check out:

What Can You Do with a Healthcare Administration Degree?

Healthcare and healthcare administration are rapidly growing fields. Advances in technology, ever–changing public policies, and growing organizational complexity have created a wide range of job opportunities as well as a growing demand for skilled professionals to fill these roles.

Your healthcare administration degree could qualify you for a broad spectrum of Healthcare Careers. Here are a few of the top jobs in your field:

What Kind of Salary Can You Earn with a Healthcare Administration Degree?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the healthcare administration sector has a projected job growth outlook of 20% from 2016 through 2026, a pace which it identifies as much faster than the average field of employment. Though your earning potential will vary depending upon the level of degree you seek, the Bureau offers a largely positive salary outlook for healthcare administration professionals. The following data reflects median annual salaries as of 2018:

Career Median Salary
Nursing Assistants and Orderlies $28,530
Pharmacy Technicians $32,700
EMTs and Paramedics $34,320
Medical Transcriptionists $34,770
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians $40,350
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses $46,240
Radiologic and MRI Technologists $61,240
Registered Nurses $71,730
Administrative Service Managers $96,180
Medical and Health Services Managers $99,730
Top Executives $104,980
Physician Assistants $108,610
Financial Managers $127,990
Computer and Information Systems Managers $142,530

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Are There Professional Healthcare Administration Associations or Societies You Should Join?

Professional associations in healthcare administration are a fantastic way to make connections in your field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for healthcare administration associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration. Below are a few key associations. Check these out for key resources, literature and networking opportunities.

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