“As an online student, you have a lot of flexibility in terms of when you complete your work. I have learned to manage my time very carefully so that I stay on schedule.”Read the Full Interview
I’m interested in studying healthcare management. What can you tell me?Healthcare management is a good field for people who enjoy leading groups and helping others. When most people envision healthcare organizations, they think of doctors, nurses and other medical staff. But there are many other professionals who work to keep healthcare organizations running smoothly. These professionals are called healthcare administrators or healthcare managers. If you choose a career in healthcare management, you will have excellent growth and earning potential. Healthcare is the second largest employer in the United States, and healthcare administrators can find work in all kinds of communities. You can also look forward to very good wages, a comfortable working environment and the satisfaction of doing work that improves peoples’ lives. However, the hours can be long, and many healthcare administrators routinely work more than 50 hours a week. The educational route to a career in healthcare management can be long as well. Many jobs require a masters degree, so you will likely spend 6 to 7 years in college. Some healthcare administrators hold masters degrees in healthcare administration, but others hold masters degrees in related subjects such as business administration or public health.
Let's hear some other perspectives
“My nursing electives showed me how the healthcare industry is advancing and how significant the impact of technology is on patient care.”Read the Full Interview
“I believe that this field has countless opportunities for people who know about business and economics.”Read the Full Interview
What exactly is a healthcare administrator?Healthcare administrators manage how healthcare is delivered. They handle personnel, billing, facility operations and patient admissions. At the highest level of healthcare management, hospital executives oversee all of the departments in a hospital. Individual hospital departments are run by clinical managers. Healthcare managers also work with group practices of doctors.
Let's hear some other perspectives
“If you are interested in becoming a medical biller, you should know that it is easy to feel stagnant or become lazy once you have been on the job for a while. But things are constantly changing in the medical field, and you have to stay alert and be ready to adjust your practices as the field adjusts and innovates.”Read the Full Interview
“I have control over my hours, so I don’t have to stay in the office and miss family events.”Read the Full Interview
How do I know if healthcare management would be a good fit for me?
Here is a quick quiz to help you decide if you have the personality it takes to succeed as a healthcare administrator. Rate, on a scale from 1 to 5, how well each of the following statements describes you.
I am helpful and enjoy supporting others.
Healthcare administrators are engaged in work that improves the quality and length of people’s lives. Caring about people’s wellbeing will motivate you as a professional in the healthcare field.
I am a problem solver and seek out the best solutions.
Healthcare managers often have to solve staffing and other administrative problems. If you enjoy finding creative solutions to problems, healthcare management may be a good fit for you.
I am organized.
Healthcare managers have to keep track of schedules, regulations and financial information. Being organized will help you deal with the variety of responsibilities that are required of professionals in this field.
I am a people person and like to spend time with others.
Healthcare administrators motivate, direct and provide feedback to personnel. Being sociable is a sign that you will enjoy managing staff.
I am detail oriented and notice small things.
The financial and medical records that are kept by healthcare administrators are very detailed. You will need to be attentive to details in order to maintain scheduling and billing information.
I am a team player and enjoy working on group projects.
Healthcare managers often work as part of a team. If you are part of a large healthcare facility, you will have to cooperate with other administrators.
I know how to speak and write clearly.
Effective communication is essential in managing employees. If you can express yourself well, it will help you provide clear instructions to staff.
I am decisive and comfortable making tough decisions.
Healthcare managers make decisions that affect both the staff and the patients at healthcare facilities. If you do not like to make decisions, healthcare management may not be a good choice for you.
I like to learn new things.
Regulations and technology often change in healthcare administration. You must be able to stay up to date on new laws and uses of electronic information.
I enjoy working with numbers.
Healthcare administration often involves working with numerical information for medical billing and finance. To succeed as a healthcare manager, you must be able to understand and interpret numbers.
*Note that this is not a scientific quiz. The result is simply my rough estimate of how well I believe your personality matches that of a successful healthcare administrator.
By my assessment, a career in healthcare management is probably not a good fit for your personality. Please go to the Admissions Advisor homepage for a listing of other careers you may want to consider.
By my assessment, although a career in healthcare management may not be an ideal fit for your personality, if you are willing to adapt in a few areas, you can still find success in the field. Please see the list to the right for information on the areas that you may need to work on.
By my assessment, your personality is a good fit for a career in healthcare management. Scroll through our site to gain valuable insight into what it will take you to earn the necessary credentials.
Is there anything else I should consider in deciding if healthcare management is the right choice for me?
In deciding whether healthcare management is the right choice for you, consider your interest in obtaining a masters degree. Although a bachelors degree will open some entry-level positions to you, a masters degree will qualify you for nearly all jobs in healthcare management. This means that you must be prepared to spend 6 to 7 years in post-secondary education.
What healthcare management professions can I choose from?
Bachelors (4 years) or masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school)
Doctors’ offices, medical clinics
Practice administrators, also known as practice managers and clinic managers, manage the finances and day-to-day operations of medical clinics or group medical practices. One practice administrator may manage a few clinics. They prepare budgets and develop strategies to grow the business. They hire, supervise and schedule non-clinical staff. Practice administrators also ensure that billing practices are correct and up to date and that the practices are in compliance with regulations.
Bachelors (4 years), masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) or doctorate (4 – 7 years of graduate school) plus professional experience (3 – 5 years)
Hospitals, medical clinics, residential treatment facilities
Clinical directors are experienced healthcare providers who supervise other healthcare providers and manage the administrative operations of a facility. Different clinical director jobs require different types of healthcare providers. For example, clinical directors of physical therapy are promoted from physical therapist positions. In mental health centers, clinical directors are practicing psychologists.
Bachelors (4 years) or masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) plus professional experience (3 –5 years)
Local, state and federal government
Health and social services managers supervise staff and manage programs such as vaccinations for children, food stamps and home care for the elderly. They work in government social service agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Health and Welfare, Community Health Services Department and Department of Social and Health Services.
Bachelors (4 years) or masters in social work (2 – 3 years of graduate school) plus professional experience (3 – 5 years)
Nursing homes, hospitals, rehabilitation centers
Directors of social services work in nursing homes, hospitals and rehabilitation centers. They manage a team of social workers, case managers and social service assistants. The social services team assists residents or patients and their families in adjusting to their medical conditions, the plan for their healthcare and life in the facility. Directors of social services are typically licensed social workers.
Bachelors (4 years)
Hospitals, nursing homes, medical clinics
Health information managers, also known as medical records managers, work with health information systems to maintain patients’ records. They ensure that medical records databases are complete, accurate and accessible only to authorized personnel. Health information managers follow regulations that govern medical records and reports.
Bachelors (4 years)
Hospitals, nursing homes
Nutrition services managers are registered dietitians who manage food services in hospitals and nursing homes. The services that they oversee include food preparation, cafeteria services, catering, delivery to patients’ rooms and special meals for patients. Nutrition services managers plan menus and ensure that food service operations are in compliance with hospital standards and government regulations. They prepare budget estimates and plan the ordering, receiving and accounting of all food and supplies.
Masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) plus professional experience (10 – 15 years)
Hospital executives are in charge of hospitals. At the top of the hospital administration, the Chief Executive Officer is responsible for the hospital’s operation, quality of care, financial health and compliance with regulations. Other top executives are the Chief Financial Officer, who oversees all of the financial operations for the hospital and the Chief Medical Officer, who is in charge of all medical departments. Under the chief executives are vice presidents who lead departments such as patient care, nursing, human resources, quality improvement, outpatient services and managed care.
Masters (2 – 3 years of graduate school) plus professional experience (7 – 10 years)
Private practice, consulting firms, human services organizations, financial services organizations
Healthcare consultants offer specialized expertise to healthcare providers and administrators. Some examples of consultants’ areas of expertise are practice management, business strategy, health information, construction management and laboratory management. A medical facility might hire a consultant to set up a new health information management system. Or a group medical practice might hire a consultant to help plan a new clinic.
Bachelors (4 years)
Health insurance companies
Medical underwriters work for health insurance companies. They review the medical information of new applicants to assess the risk of future medical issues. They determine whether to accept or deny applicants, what insurance plan pricing is necessary for the risk level and what medical conditions are covered or excluded from coverage. Medical underwriters review medical insurance applications, claims history and medical records to make their decisions.
What is the job outlook for healthcare administrators?The job outlook for healthcare administrators is very good. Employment is expected to grow by 22% from 2010 to 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections for healthcare managers. In 2010 there were 303,000 jobs for healthcare administrators. By 2020 an additional 68,000 jobs are projected. As medical services shift from hospitals to doctors’ offices, more healthcare managers will be needed. Group medical practices will need administrators as they expand. Nursing home administrators will be needed as the large baby boomer generation ages. Overall, the aging population is causing expansion in many areas within the healthcare industry.
Average Salary Growth 2006 - 2011
Salary By Percentile
How long would it take me to become a healthcare administrator?
In order to qualify for most positions in healthcare administration, it takes 6 to 7 years. In this time you would earn a bachelors degree and a masters degree. Only 1 of these degrees needs to be in healthcare administration. Some healthcare administrators earn a bachelors degree in health administration and a masters degree in business administration. Other administrators earn a bachelors degree in an area of health science and a masters degree in health administration or public administration.
You can also enter the field of healthcare administration with a bachelors degree and some healthcare experience. You might become an assistant administrator in a large group practice and work your way up. The shortest route to becoming a healthcare administrator is to obtain a bachelors degree in health information management and become a health information manager.
What can I expect to learn while pursuing healthcare management?
While pursuing an education in healthcare management, you can expect to grow in both knowledge and skills.
Healthcare Operations Management
Healthcare operations management is the applied field that deals with the daily activities different healthcare facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. Hospital operations management is concerned with topics such as hospital governance, organization of medical and nursing staff, administrators’ functions, labor unions and government regulations. Nursing home operations management focuses on many of these topics in addition to reimbursement policies, nutrition care and geriatric medicine. Operations management for medical clinics is concerned with managed care systems, health insurance payments, scheduling and marketing strategies.
The study of healthcare systems examines who provides healthcare, how it is paid for and how patients obtain it. Healthcare systems vary in how medical practitioners are licensed, what medical services and facilities are paid for using taxes and the role of private enterprise such as health insurance companies. This field seeks to discover the advantages and disadvantages of the healthcare system in the United States and other countries.
Healthcare Law and Policy
Healthcare law and policy examines the legal and regulatory considerations in the healthcare industry. This field includes government regulation, malpractice law, employment law and fraud. Government regulations in healthcare include licensing of medical practitioners and testing of new drugs. In malpractice law, both the liability of a medical institution such as a hospital or clinic and the liability of an individual medical practitioner are considered. The many hospital workers who are members of labor unions are an important consideration in healthcare employment law. Fraud includes practices such as billing for medical procedures that haven’t been performed and making recommendations for unnecessary procedures.
Human Resources Management
Human resources management is the applied field that relates to the employees who make up an organization. Areas of human resources management include hiring, training, retention, evaluation and compensation. In hiring, human resources seeks to recruit qualified job candidates and select the best-suited candidate for the job. Compensation is concerned with setting and administering salaries and benefits. This is related to retention, which addresses employee satisfaction, but compensation is not the only factor in retention. Collective bargaining with labor unions is also an important part of human resources management in healthcare.
Medical ethics is the application of moral values to medical practice. Some common issues in medical ethics are privacy, care for terminal illness and informed consent. Medical ethics seeks to balance a patient’s right to privacy with the need to inform caregivers so that they can provide effective medical care. This field also investigates how much medical intervention is appropriate for patients with terminal illness. Informed consent refers to the requirement that patients agree to their treatment and understand what the risks are.
Healthcare Information Systems
While studying healthcare management, you will learn about healthcare information systems. Healthcare information systems store electronic health records, which contain information about patients. Healthcare administrators may enter information into healthcare information systems or use healthcare information systems to generate reports. Administrators also make decisions about what healthcare information system to use and what the budget will be to purchase and maintain these systems.
Your education in healthcare management will teach you medical terminology. The field of healthcare uses specialized terminology that relates to parts of the body, various diseases and forms of measurement. In addition to hearing medical terminology used by medical staff, you may use medical terminology yourself in preparing medical billing and insurance information.
Your curriculum in healthcare management will teach you how to generate and organize bills for medical procedures. You will learn how to establish systems for medical billing and payment processing as well as how to work with a medical billing service. Most large healthcare facilities work with a medical billing service, which handles the paperwork of healthcare reimbursement. In healthcare reimbursement systems, the healthcare provider or billing service bills the patient’s health insurance company, who is also called a third-party payer, and the health insurance company pays the healthcare provider.
Healthcare Financial Management
You will learn financial management skills as you progress through your education in healthcare management. Your courses will teach you how to prepare a budget, control costs and manage capital. You will also learn how to create and interpret a financial statement and assess the financial health of a healthcare organization.
As you take courses in healthcare management and administration, you will gain skills in marketing healthcare services. You will learn about formulating a marketing strategy, behavior of healthcare consumers and marketing techniques. As more health services shift to clinics and group medical practices, marketing is becoming an increasingly important part of a healthcare administrator’s job.
What academic levels are available in the field of healthcare management?
The academic levels available in healthcare management are bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Education at the masters degree level is the most common requirement for jobs in healthcare management. Bachelors degrees also offer preparation for some entry-level jobs. Doctoral degrees are uncommon among healthcare administrators and are common only among professors of healthcare management. Graduate certificates prepare working professionals to start a new career in the healthcare field.
Select the degree level you are interested in:
Certificates in healthcare management are available at the graduate level and prepare students for career advancement or transition into the healthcare industry. They are a good option for obtaining skills and credentials without interrupting your career.
What are the different types of certificates that I can earn in healthcare management?
You can earn a graduate certificate in healthcare management. This type of certificate is intended for students who are already working professionals. Some students work in healthcare and pursue a certificate in healthcare management in order to transition from caring for patients to holding a management position. Other students who opt to earn a certificate in healthcare management hold administrative positions in other industries and want to pursue a career as a healthcare administrator.
How long will I have to study to earn my certificate in healthcare management?
Certificate programs can be completed in 1 year and require from 12 to 24 credit hours.
What types of courses will I take while studying for my certificate in healthcare management?
While studying for your certificate in healthcare management, you will take courses in management skills, ethics, healthcare policy, finances and accounting. Some programs also offer courses in health information systems.
What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a certificate in healthcare management?
If you are a medical practitioner such as a nurse or physical therapist, a certificate in healthcare management will qualify you for advancement to a management position such as nurse manager or physical therapy manager. If you are an administrator in another field, you can become a healthcare administrator by obtaining a healthcare management certificate. For example, a human resources manager in another industry could become a human resources manager in a healthcare organization.
What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my certificate in healthcare management?
When deciding on a school to earn your certificate in healthcare management, consider the reputation of the school among healthcare administrators in the organization where you work or where you wish to work. Make sure that any certificate program that you are considering is perceived as valuable, especially by the people who will be your managers. Accreditation is not a concern for certificate programs, since the 2 organizations that accredit undergraduate and graduate programs in healthcare management do not offer accreditation to certificate programs.
What are the requirements for admission to a certificate program in healthcare management?
A bachelors degree is required for admission to a graduate certificate program in healthcare management. However, the bachelors degree does not have to be in healthcare. Some certificate programs also require that applicants have at least 2 years of full-time work experience in healthcare.
What about getting an online certificate in healthcare management?
Obtaining your healthcare management certificate online is a fine choice. Since many students in these programs are working full time and some may be engaged in shift work, many schools offer online healthcare management certificates. Some programs have a hybrid format in which courses are offered through an online healthcare management school and other courses are held at a traditional healthcare management school. Make sure that any online healthcare management program you choose is well-regarded by healthcare administrators in the organization where you wish to work.
A bachelors degree will qualify you for some entry-level jobs in healthcare administration. There are several types of bachelors degrees available in healthcare management, but the type of degree does not matter as much as the focus of the degree program. If you know that you are interested in working in public health, for example, you should earn a bachelors degree in public health.
What are the different types of bachelors degrees that I can earn in healthcare management?
Bachelor of Arts BA
The BA degree is oriented toward social services and public policy. BAs are offered in health administration and public health policy.
Bachelor of Health Administration BHA
The BHA degree focuses on the administration and management of healthcare services. This option is a good choice for students who want to work in healthcare management.
Bachelor of Health Sciences BHS
The BHS, also known as a Bachelor of Science in Health Science, is a general degree program that covers both health science and health administration. This option is a good choice for students who are interested in healthcare administration, sales or social services.
Bachelor of Public Health BPH
The BPH, also known as a Bachelor of Science in Public Health, prepares students for careers in public health and related fields such as environmental health, epidemiology or health policy.
Bachelor of Science BS
The BS degree has a scientific and mathematical orientation. Programs in health information management are offered as BS degrees.
How long will I have to study to earn my bachelors degree in healthcare management?
It typically takes 4 years and 120 credit hours to complete a bachelors degree in healthcare management.
What types of courses will I take while studying for my bachelors degree in healthcare management?
If you pursue a bachelors degree in health administration, you can expect to take courses in healthcare organization and health information systems, as well as general administrative subjects such as human resources, accounting and financial management.
Some bachelors degree programs in public health emphasize the science of public health and others emphasize policy. Public health science programs require courses in general public health, epidemiology, environmental health and infectious diseases. Bachelors degree programs in public health policy include courses in policy, law and political science. Most public health programs, whether they emphasize science or policy, include a practicum at a public health agency or nonprofit organization.
A BHS or general degree in health science will require courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology and microbiology. Courses in psychology, medical ethics and global health issues will also be required. Some bachelors degree programs offer tracks or recommended groups of electives to prepare you for graduate school in fields such as medicine, nursing or public health. Some health science bachelors degree programs include an internship during the final year at a healthcare facility.
What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a bachelors degree in healthcare management?
A bachelors degree in health administration will qualify you for jobs as a practice administrator, medical underwriter or hospital administrator. With a bachelors degree in public health, you can work as an administrator in public health departments and nonprofit organizations. A bachelors degree in general health science will allow you to work as a practice administrator, clinical research coordinator, medical underwriter or in pharmaceutical sales. With a bachelors degree in health information management, you can work as a health information manager.
You can also continue your education with a graduate or professional degree program in a related field such as medicine, business or law.
What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my bachelors degree in healthcare management?
If you are considering a bachelors degree in health administration, make sure that the school you choose is accredited by the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA). AUPHA-accredited programs meet commonly accepted standards for undergraduate education in the health administration profession.
If you are considering a bachelors degree in health information management, look for a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). Graduation from a program accredited by CAHIIM tells prospective employers that your degree meets commonly accepted standards for health information management.
What about getting an online bachelors degree in healthcare management?
For most types of healthcare administration, an online healthcare management degree is not a good choice. Interpersonal skills such as motivating and giving feedback to employees are critical for careers in administration. If you pursue a healthcare management bachelors degree online, you will not have the same opportunity to learn interpersonal skills as you would in a traditional degree program. Professional relationships are also very important in management, and an online healthcare management program will not give you the chance to get to know your classmates as well as you could in a traditional program.
However, for health information management, obtaining a healthcare management bachelors degree online is an acceptable choice. Since the focus of this type of healthcare management is on computer-based information rather than managing people, there are no serious drawbacks to pursuing a health information management degree online.
A masters degree in healthcare management will give you the education required for the majority of healthcare administrator jobs. Typically, students earn a masters degree in health administration or public health. However, many students get business degrees with a concentration in healthcare. Several schools offer dual degrees such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA).
What are the different types of masters degrees that I can earn in healthcare management?
Master of Business Administration MBA
The MBA is a professional degree that prepares students for careers as managers and executives. MBAs are available with a concentration in healthcare.
Master of Science MS
The MS degree provides advanced education in science, with an emphasis on research. MS degrees are available in health policy, public health and healthcare management.
Master of Health Administration MHA
The MHA degree is similar to the MBA but is focused solely on the administration and management of healthcare services. This option is a good choice for students seeking employment or advancement in healthcare administration.
Master of Health Services Administration MHSA
The MHSA degree is similar to the MHA degree but tends to be oriented more toward public health than toward private healthcare. This option is a good choice for students who want to work in healthcare management, policy or consulting.
Master of Public Administration MPA
The MPA degree prepares students for careers as managers and leaders in government agencies and nonprofit organizations.
Master of Public Health MPH
The MPH degree has a broad focus on the many factors that influence population health. This option is a good choice for students who want to manage health programs that deliver public health services or to work in public health policy and advocacy.
How long will I have to study to earn my masters degree in healthcare management?
It takes 2 to 3 years to complete a masters degree in healthcare management. Masters degree programs in healthcare management vary greatly in the number of credit hours required. Most MS, MBA and MHA programs require 30 to 45 credit hours, but some can take as many as 80 credit hours. MHA programs require 45 credit hours. MHSA degrees require 50 credit hours. A dual MHA/MBA program requires 60 to 90 credit hours and can be completed in 3 years.
What types of courses will I take while studying for my masters degree in healthcare management?
While studying for your masters degree in healthcare management, you can expect to take advanced coursework in the specialty that you have chosen. In an MHA or MHSA program, you will take courses in healthcare policy, management, finance and accounting. If you pursue an MPH, you can expect to take courses in biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology, behavioral science and healthcare systems.
In addition to coursework, MPH, MHA and MHSA programs require a supervised experience working in the field of study. This experience may be called a residency, practicum, internship or field experience, depending on the program. MPH, MHA and MHSA programs do not generally require a thesis. MPA programs may require either a thesis or an internship.
MS programs will require courses in research design, research methods and statistical analysis. A thesis based on original research will be required.
If you pursue an MBA, your studies will involve business courses in operations management, leadership, financial management, managerial accounting and managerial economics. If your MBA program includes healthcare administration as an area of concentration, you will take a few courses in healthcare management. Most MBA programs include an internship in the second year.
What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a masters degree in healthcare management?
With a masters degree in healthcare management and little or no professional experience, you can become a practice administrator, healthcare policy analyst, public health administrator or manager in a health insurance company. As you gain professional experience, you will qualify for jobs as a manager in a social service agency, a nonclinical director, a hospital executive or a healthcare consultant.
What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my masters degree in healthcare management?
If you are considering a masters degree in health administration, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). Programs accredited by CAHME meet commonly accepted standards for graduate education in the health administration profession.
If you are considering an MBA, look for a school that is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). AACSB-accredited schools meet commonly accepted standards for the field of business and may allow you to transfer credits if you continue your education with a doctoral degree.
If you are considering a masters degree in health information management, make sure that you choose a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). CAHIIM-accredited programs meet commonly accepted standards for health information management.
What are the requirements for admission to a masters degree program in healthcare management?
A bachelors degree is required for admission to masters degree programs in healthcare management. The bachelors degree may be in any subject. However, students whose bachelors degrees are in very different fields may be required to take additional courses in subjects such as public administration, politics, statistics, accounting and economics.
For admission to an MBA program, you will have to submit test scores from the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Some MBA programs will accept test results from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test as a substitute for the GMAT.
A few years of work experience is required for most MBA programs. MPH programs may require a doctoral degree or 2 years of professional experience in public health.
What about getting an online masters degree in healthcare management?
Obtaining your healthcare management masters degree online has some significant drawbacks. In an online healthcare management program you will not have the opportunity to practice interpersonal skills or form professional relationships that you would in a traditional school. In addition, the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) does not accredit any degree programs offered entirely online.
If your circumstances require an entirely online degree program, you may wish to pursue an MBA, since the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accredits some online MBA programs.
An online healthcare management masters degree may also be a good choice for students pursuing a degree in health information systems. Since this subject focuses more on computers and technology and less on developing interpersonal skills, there is no significant drawback to an online program. The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) accredits a few online healthcare management masters degree programs.
Doctoral degrees are not common among healthcare administrators. They are useful for careers in research and teaching, but can actually make a job candidate less attractive to employers in the healthcare industry. Before you decide to pursue a doctorate in healthcare management, the American College of Healthcare Executives suggests that you consider the perception of doctoral research as far removed from the concerns of practicing healthcare executives.
What are the different types of doctorates that I can earn in healthcare management?
Doctor of Philosophy PhD
The PhD is a research degree. It focuses on the generation of new knowledge in the student’s area of interest. This option is a good choice for students who are pursuing careers as researchers or professors.
Doctor of Health Administration DHA
The DHA is a professional degree oriented toward solving problems in the practice of healthcare administration. DHA programs are designed for senior level managers in healthcare organizations.
Doctor of Public Health DrPH
The DrPH is a professional degree oriented toward advanced public health practice. Its focus is different from the PhD in public health, which is oriented toward research. The DrPH is intended for experienced public health professionals who are seeking high-level positions in public health policy and administration.
Doctor of Business Administration DBA
The DBA is focused on 1 business subject and oriented toward the application of business theory. This degree is a good choice for students who plan to pursue careers as professors or senior policy makers.
Doctor of Science ScD
The ScD is a research degree that is offered by only a few schools in the United States. Although in Europe this degree option is considered more advanced than the PhD, in the U.S. it is equivalent to a PhD.
How long will I have to study to earn my doctorate in healthcare management?
Doctorate programs in healthcare management vary in their requirements. DHA programs take 3 years and require 60 credit hours. DBA, PhD, DrPH and ScD programs take from 4 to 7 years and require from 60 to 90 credit hours.
What types of courses will I take while studying for my doctorate in healthcare management?
In a PhD or ScD program, you will take substantial coursework in research methodology and statistics. Additional courses will cover scientific subjects related to the student’s research interests and dissertation. PhD and ScD students are required to complete a dissertation, which is a book-length paper based on original research.
A DrPH program requires courses in public health law and ethics, leadership, financial management, program development and research. Both a practicum and a dissertation are required. Some dissertations are based on independent research. Others may be based on case studies, policy analyses, program evaluations or design of public health programs.
In a DBA program, you will take core courses in economic theory, statistics and research methods. You can also expect to take courses in health policy, healthcare markets and epidemiology. DBA students are also expected to complete a dissertation.
What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a doctorate in healthcare management?
With a doctoral degree in healthcare management, you can teach college and university classes and conduct independent research. You can also work in government as a high-level policy analyst or advisor. With a DrPH, you can work in public health as a manager, director, advisor, researcher or educator.
What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my doctorate in healthcare management?
If you are considering a DrPH or a PhD in public health, make sure that the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredits the school or program that you choose. Some jobs and fellowships require a degree from a CEPH-accredited school or program.
If you are considering a DBA or DHA from a business school, consider whether the schools are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Schools accredited by AACSB meet a set of standards for their faculty, curricula, resources and other criteria.
What are the requirements for admission to a doctorate program in healthcare management?
DBA and DHA programs require applicants to submit test scores from the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test.
DBA, PhD and ScD programs require applicants to have a bachelors degree. For most programs a masters degree is not required for admission, although having 1 may exempt you from taking some required doctoral courses.
DHA programs often require applicants to have an MBA or a masters degree related to healthcare administration. Some DrPH programs require candidates to have an MPH degree from a school accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) and at least 2 years of professional experience.
What about getting an online doctorate in healthcare management?
For most types of doctoral degrees in healthcare management, it is not a good idea to pursue an online healthcare management PhD or other doctoral degree. If your goal in pursuing a doctorate is to become a professor, then earning an online healthcare management degree will not give you the opportunity to learn the hands-on skills that you will need in teaching and research. An online degree program will also not give you an opportunity to form a close relationship with your faculty advisor, which will be crucial for a career in academia.
As of 2012, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has not accredited any online healthcare management PhD programs, DBA programs or DHA programs offered by business schools.
However, if you plan to obtain a DrPH, an online healthcare management degree is an acceptable option. As of 2012, the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) has accredited 2 schools offering the DrPH degree online. Students who pursue a DrPH are not typically planning to become professors, since the degree is oriented toward professional practice.
What else should I keep in mind when considering studying healthcare management?
Licensing or professional certification is required for some healthcare administrator jobs.
Nursing Home Administrator Licensing
Administrators in nursing homes are required to be licensed in all states and in the District of Columbia. In order to obtain a state license, nursing home administrators must hold a bachelors degree, pass a licensing examination and complete a state-approved training program. In order to maintain their license, administrators will be required to pursue continuing education.
Health Information Professional Certification
Professional certification is not required for health information managers. However, employers often prefer to hire candidates with Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) or Registered Health Information Administration (RHIA) credentials.
Dietitian Licensing and Professional Certification
Most states require that dietitians and nutritionists be licensed. In states that require licensing, the requirements are the same as those to obtain the Registered Dietitian (RD) certification.
Even when licensing is not required by the state, many nutrition and food service jobs require that applicants hold the RD certification. In order to earn the RD certification, a candidate must hold at least a bachelors degree accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Candidates must also complete an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program and pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
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