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How to Prepare for a Career in Healthcare Administration

Published on: March 9, 2022

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As the healthcare sector evolves, the need for strong leaders becomes increasingly evident. Clinical employees have the power to provide dramatic improvements in both individual outcomes and public health, but only if they're supported by hardworking healthcare administration professionals who can minimize complications related to scheduling, billing and insurance. Healthcare administration is a thriving career that is just as vital to public health as the clinical side of the industry.

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What is a Healthcare Administration Degree?

Before you can truly understand what a healthcare administration degree is and whether it might be the right option for you, it helps to know what healthcare administration is and why it matters. While this term encompasses a variety of roles, it generally relates to management and leadership elements in the healthcare sector, rather than clinical care.

Effective healthcare administration improves day-to-day operations at the facility or system level to ensure patients consistently receive the quality of care they deserve. Through extensive oversight and efforts to maintain compliance, healthcare administrators can cut costs while boosting both health outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Effective healthcare administration calls for an extensive array of management skills plus a detailed understanding of the modern healthcare sector. Key competencies are best gained through a healthcare administration degree program, tailor-made to prepare aspiring professionals for success in a challenging but rewarding field.

Degree programs can vary significantly based on the level of schooling (associate versus bachelor's versus master's, for example) and the student's preferred concentration, but most healthcare administration degrees touch upon the following:

  • Medical terminology, including common insurance language
  • Community-wide disease prevention
  • Ethics as they relate to healthcare delivery
  • Economic concepts such as externalities, scarcity and marginal analysis
  • Applications of epidemiology to healthcare services

Additionally, many healthcare administration degrees emphasize practical skills such as database design and spreadsheet development. At the undergraduate level, general courses help students build soft skills in areas such as written and verbal communication, collaboration, creativity and empathy. Many employers not only value these skills, but also make a concerted effort to find job candidates that excel in both the technical and interpersonal components of the profession.

Healthcare Administration Degree Concentrations

The scope of healthcare administration is vast, so it stands to reason that degree concentrations will cover a wide spectrum as well. The following are among the most common:

Public Health

Public health is always a key topic within health administration programs, but a dedicated concentration elevates it by requiring students to take several courses exclusively dedicated to public health administration. Through this concentration, students gain an enhanced understanding of the challenges inherent in public health, as well as viable strategies for implementing and supporting both local and national community health programs.

Healthcare Management

Many healthcare administration graduate degrees emphasize management concepts, such as accounting, marketing and organizational change. Exposure to these topics prepares students to take on high-level health administration jobs.

Skills Gained with a Healthcare Administration Degree

As mentioned previously, healthcare administration programs encompass a blend of soft and technical skills. Both are critical in this demanding field. While we've touched briefly on some of the concepts covered in a typical healthcare administration program, we'll get into specifics by highlighting the most important skills below:

  • Critical thinking. Objective analysis is crucial in all areas of healthcare but can be particularly influential at the upper levels of healthcare administration. Professionals must be capable of problem solving on the go while integrating research-based practices they've gained through their academic training.
  • Understanding of Core Principles. Whether they're dealing directly with patients or developing far-reaching public health programs, those with healthcare administration jobs must draw on a deep-seated understanding of core ethical principles as they relate to this rapidly changing industry. Aspiring healthcare administrators should understand the moral justifications and challenges that underscore their work in public health.
  • Computing skills. From word processing to electronic health record solutions, healthcare administrators must be capable of navigating a variety of technological processes. Adaptability is just as important, as the tech systems relied on in public health today may look dramatically different in the near future.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration. From patients to clinical professionals and even insurance companies, healthcare administrators work with a variety of people and organizations on a day-to-day basis. Teamwork and collaboration are crucial, especially given the sheer scope of professionals that today's administrators must consult.

Are Healthcare Administration Majors in Demand?

The healthcare sector represents one of the fastest-growing fields, with impressive potential for sustained growth in the next decade and beyond. While it's no secret that professionals with clinical skills are in high demand, the same can also be said for administrative employees.

This job category most closely aligns with what the Bureau of Labor Statistics refers to as "medical and health services managers." Data from the BLS reveals that these professionals hold an impressive job outlook of 32 percent growth between 2020 and 2030. Meanwhile, the average rate of growth across all professions rests at a mere eight percent.

Due to the exceptionally high demand for skilled healthcare administrators, those with sufficient credentials and experience can achieve impressive earnings. According to the BLS, medical and health services managers earned median annual wages of $104,280 as of 2020 despite not always having a master's degree. After obtaining a graduate-level education, these earnings can see substantial increases, with the top ten percent within this BLS category earning over $195,630 per year.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Healthcare Administration Degree?

The field of healthcare administration is hot, so it should come as no surprise that aspiring professionals want to get in on this thriving workforce as quickly as possible. This can be accomplished, but it still takes time to develop the advanced skills employers demand.

The amount of time needed to secure a degree depends largely on the level of study. Some students are able to secure certifications or associate degrees within a year or two, while a bachelor's may require a commitment spanning several years.

In general, those seeking their Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration should expect to commit several years to their education. Many students are able to complete coursework online so that they can work full-time while they seek their degree.

The amount of time required for a master's degree may depend on whether it's integrated within the bachelor's program or pursued separately. Many students are able to streamline both degrees by enrolling in programs that encompass multiple levels of study. Under this optimized approach, it may be possible to complete both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in five years.

What Types of Jobs Can You Get with a Healthcare Administration Degree?

To the uninitiated, the scope of healthcare administration seems limited. As such, it may feel natural that these professionals will simply be referred to as healthcare administrators. While this is sometimes the case, targeted positions based on level of education or healthcare specialty are common.

To help you determine what your professional future might look like with various types of credentials, we've highlighted a few of the main jobs available to graduates with their associate, bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as those with specialized certifications.

Associate Degree in Health Administration

  • Administrative assistant. If you're interested in healthcare administration but prefer to work directly with patients, you could thrive as an administrative assistant. Within the healthcare industry, this position largely focuses on scheduling, insurance and receivable accounts.
  • Medical office assistant. Similar in many respects to working as a healthcare administrative assistant, this job focuses more on interactions with patients, often at a front desk.

Bachelor's Degree in Healthcare Administration

  • Healthcare administrator. The title for this position may seem simple, but it can encompass a variety of responsibilities depending on the department or facility served. The specific job title may be hospital administrator or clinic administrator. In general, this role involves supervising day-to-day operations and dealing with medical records. Those with senior healthcare administration jobs may oversee health administration assistants.
  • Health program administrator. Rather than serving a specific medical facility, health program administrators are typically responsible for government-funded initiatives aimed at improving public health. They are instrumental in organizing and directing these programs as well as gathering data so they can report on the impact of such initiatives.
  • Healthcare strategy consultant. If you desire more flexibility or autonomy than a 'typical' healthcare administration job can provide, you could be a better candidate for working as a consultant. Under this approach, you may advise a variety of healthcare organizations rather than working exclusively for a specific provider or facility.
  • Pharmaceutical product manager. Sometimes, professionals with training in healthcare administration end up in the pharmaceutical sector. In this role, they may work closely with marketing managers as well as key decision-makers within healthcare facilities.

Master's in Healthcare Administration

  • Population health director. A great option for an administrative professional with a background in clinical care, population health management aims to allocate resources more effectively to promote improved outcomes for specific populations. Directors oversee these initiatives and help determine both their direction and long-term impact.
  • Director of health information management. This enterprise role is ideal for professionals with extensive experience in the technological components of healthcare administration. Directors determine how digital healthcare data is acquired, analyzed and disseminated.
  • Senior consultant. Similar to the consulting opportunities highlighted above, this path can prove even more lucrative if undertaken after obtaining a master's degree. Senior consultants typically hold specialized training or experience with in-demand niches, such as mergers and acquisitions or electronic health records.
  • Strategy & analytics directors. Dealing with the proliferation of medical data, these professionals determine how a high volume of health information can be best obtained and analyzed to promote cost savings and desired patient outcomes.

Health Administration Certifications

While the degree programs highlighted above are appealing to students who choose their path in healthcare administration early on, it's still possible to move into this field after achieving advanced credentials in other areas. Depending on which degrees you've already obtained, you may be able to fill any existing gaps in your healthcare knowledge by seeking certification.

Applied to your master's degree, this will help you achieve competence in management essentials that are directly tied to the healthcare industry. This should prepare you for many of the graduate-level healthcare administration jobs highlighted above. An even greater variety of positions will be available if you obtain a certification and also have a clinical background.

Why Pursue a Career in Health Administration?

Health administration provides a world of potential for hardworking professionals who are determined to make a difference. As mentioned previously, this career path holds huge growth potential as well as the opportunity to earn an impressive income. There is ample room for advancement plus the undeniable sense of satisfaction that comes with promoting (and achieving) improvements in public health.

Ready to take the next step on an exciting career path in health administration? Check out Husson University's online Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration and Public Health. With an additional year of study, you could also earn a Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Management. Ready to move forward? Reach out today to learn more.

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