Studying Healthcare Administration: Degrees at a Glance
An associate's or bachelor's degree in healthcare administration can prepare you for a career working in hospitals, rehabilitation centers and physician's offices. Career options include medical secretary, health services manager and practice administrator. Individuals working in healthcare administration may be responsible for billing, hiring or supervising office staff. Graduates of an associate's or bachelor's degree program can expect excellent job prospects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for qualified medical and health services managers was expected to increase by 22% between 2010 and 2020. The aging population contributed to this estimated growth because the field will require more medical services and workers in medical facilities.
|Who is this degree for?||Individuals seeking entry-level positions or wishing to advance their education||Associate's degree holders or individuals seeking supervisory positions in healthcare|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary)||- First-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers ($52,000)*|
- Medical secretaries ($32,000)*
- Medical records and health information technicians ($36,000)*
|- Medical and health services managers ($96,000)*|
- Nursing home administrator ($49,000-$102,000)**
- Patient care coordinator ($29,000-$69,000)**
- Practice administrator ($41,000-$98,000)**
|Time to Completion||Roughly 1-2 years full-time||About 2-3 years full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements||None||Externship|
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or GED||High school diploma or GED|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **PayScale.com (June 2012 10th to 90th percentile ranges).
Associate's in Healthcare Administration
Programs leading to an associate's degree in healthcare administration can prepare you for a career as a medical secretary or medical records specialist. The curriculum ranges from basic health information to healthcare law and on to different healthcare management topics. Most courses taken in an associate's degree program are transferable to a bachelor's degree program; however, many programs require students to maintain a 'C' grade average or better. Many students choose to advance their education after completing an associate's degree program.
Pros and Cons
- An associate's degree in healthcare administration can lead to many careers with rising job projections. For example, the need for medical records and health information technicians was expected to grow by 21% between 2010 and 2020.*
- Many healthcare administration-related career options had an average income of approximately $30,000.*
- An associate's degree can meet the requirements needed to enter a bachelor's degree program.
- Your employment options may be limited to careers with primarily clerical duties.
- Students seeking mid or upper level management positions in healthcare administration will need to continue their education beyond an associate's degree.
- Some associate's degree programs have prerequisite courses which must be completed prior to entering the program.
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Common Courses and Requirements
Some schools may require students to complete prerequisites, including composition, psychology and medical terminology before entering a program. Students in an associate's degree program can expect to take general education, business management and healthcare administration classes. Certain programs may want students to complete an externship to gain hands on experience. Students enrolled in an externship may need anywhere from 180 to 360 work hours depending on previous experiences. Courses you might expect to take at the associate's level include:
- Medical office management
- Healthcare accounting
- Legal aspects of health service management
- Nursing home operations
Online Degree Options
Online programs leading to an associate's degree in healthcare administration are common. Many schools offer programs that can be completed entirely online. Hybrid programs, which allow students to complete some classes online and others in the classroom may be available, but aren't as common as programs offered entirely online. The flexible schedule of online programs can benefit parents, returning students and individuals working full-time. Most online degree programs have the same requirements and learning objectives as those offered on campus.
Stand Out with This Degree
Students enrolled in an associate's degree program can distinguish themselves from the crowd by gaining additional hands-on experience. This could be done by volunteering or working part-time in a medical facility. Depending on the program, students could also elect to concentrate in an area of healthcare such as medical billing and coding. Having a diverse background in healthcare-related topics could help you stand out against others with a general healthcare administration degree.
Bachelor's in Healthcare Administration
A bachelor's degree program in healthcare administration can prepare students for entry-level administrative and management positions in places like long-term care facilities, hospitals or doctor's offices. The program content examines topics such as healthcare ethics, managed care and the technology used in healthcare systems. There may also be a variety of math, nursing and medical office administration courses. To expand your knowledge of the field, some programs have areas of concentration, like acute or long-term care.
Pros and Cons
- Students who complete a bachelor's degree program can enter the workforce before considering graduate study.
- A bachelor's degree program in healthcare administration can prepare students for entering a master's degree program.
- Most bachelor's degree programs only require a high school diploma or equivalent for entry and admission is usually not competitive.
- Many mid to upper level management positions in healthcare administration require a master's degree.
- You may be competing with individuals who have been trained on the job and don't have formal education.
- Students typically need to have a current CPR card, current immunizations and a physical before beginning the externship portion of the program.
- Considering the sensitivity of information in healthcare administration, employees may have to pass a criminal background test and be fingerprinted before beginning work.
Courses and Requirements
The bachelor's degree program combines general education topics like psychology, speech and critical thinking with core health subjects. Students enrolled in a bachelor's degree program can expect to take courses in healthcare law, ethics and supervision. Before graduating, students may need to complete a capstone project that requires the creation of a culminating portfolio. Although not required, some schools recommend completing an externship.
Common courses taken in a bachelor's degree program include:
- Healthcare marketing
- Community crisis management
- Health information systems
- Professional medical coding
Online Degree Options
A number of accredited, private schools offer online programs leading to a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration. These programs are typically available for full online study; however, some offer on campus and online combinations for those with full-time employment or other obligations. Some online programs may require students to complete an externship at a healthcare facility.
Stand Out with This Degree
Schools may encourage students to join professional organizations while enrolled in a bachelor's degree program. Enrollment may demonstrate to employers that you take your career seriously. The Healthcare Financial Management Association, the Medical Group Management Association and the American College of Healthcare Executives are some of the organizations available to students. The Upsilon Phi Delta is the healthcare management national honor society. Another way to stand out is to complete an externship to gain practical experience. Employers may look for experience and having documented fieldwork may attract more career opportunities.