Health Administration Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with a graduate degree in health administration? Find out degree requirements, online options and info on health administration degrees.
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Studying Health Administration: Master's and Doctoral Degrees at a Glance

Health administration, or health care administration, is the application of business principles to the health care industry. Within health care services, you can specialize in human resources, marketing and public relations, accounting or information technology. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of health services managers was expected to grow 22% from 2010-2020. While many of these positions only require a bachelor's degree, the BLS indicates that a master's degree is common for professionals in health services management.

A doctoral degree in health administration generally prepares you for academic or research careers focused on health care. While the BLS reports that many top executives have a bachelor's or master's degree, some schools indicate that a doctoral degree can also prepare you for top executive positions in health care organizations. However, slower-than-average growth was expected for top executives in all fields from 2010-2020, according to the BLS.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? - Health professionals seeking middle or senior management positions
- Health care professionals who want to move into policy administration
- Individuals with business degrees seeking to move into the health administration field
- Individuals who want to work in academia as professors and researchers
-Individuals who want to become top executives at health care organizations
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Nursing Home Administrator ($91,000)**
- Clinical Director ($86,000)*
- Social and Community Service Manager($59,000)*
- Health Information Services Director ($99,000)**
- University professor ($75,000)*
-Top executives ($167,000)*
Time to Completion 1-3 years full-time 3-5 years after the master's
Common Graduation Requirements Thesis or cumulative research project - PhD qualifier exams
- Dissertation
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Bachelor's or master's degree
Online Availability Yes No

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **Salary.com (June 2012 figures).

Master's in Health Administration

The master's degree in health care administration or health services administration is generally for individuals who desire management positions in health care or want to change careers. Individuals with undergraduate degrees in business areas may seek to pursue a degree in health care administration to advance in that field. If you have a technical undergraduate degree (i.e. nursing, science, information technology), you may pursue a health care administration degree to learn the business aspects of health care. Your program may be affiliated with the business school or the public health school. In some cases you can earn a joint degree with business administration or gerontology. You can also choose from a concentration in such areas as finance, human resources, risk management, information systems or marketing.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • As the baby-boomer generation ages, we will see a rise in need for health care services as that population seeks to stay active and healthy. In addition, there will also be an increased demand for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
  • The nation's high obesity rate will result in a segment of the population requiring services due to obesity-related complications.
  • A career in health care administration can provide opportunities in a variety of work environments, including hospitals, nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies or government agencies.

Cons

  • Health care policy is often in flux, and you will have to stay abreast of and constantly adjust to changes.
  • You will be challenged to accommodate a variety of stakeholders -- boards of public hospitals, government agencies, patients, grassroots organizations and medical practitioners.
  • Because health care never stops, you can expect to work irregular hours or be on-call for emergencies during unorthodox work hours.

Courses and Requirements

Your coursework will provide the tools to apply business principles to the unique field of health care. You will take courses in

  • Marketing for health services
  • Financial management
  • Cost management
  • Health law and policy

Your program will provide instruction on managed care organizations, health care staff management, government regulation and health policy analysis. Programs may include leadership studies and organizational behavior. You can expect an internship or administrative residency. Programs could also have prerequisites that include statistics courses.

Online Degree & Course Info

You can find online programs that offer master's degrees in health care administration. In addition, some schools offer programs that provide evening and weekend courses for working professionals. In fact, your program may be targeted towards mid-level managers seeking to improve their management skills. Your coursework will be similar to the coursework of an on-campus program. In lieu of face-to-face interaction, your program should provide you access to faculty and students electronically.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

  • Take coursework in special populations. For example, as the population ages, there will be an explosion of opportunities in gerontology. Understanding cultural and community nuances will help you effectively relate to the populations you are serving.
  • Get certified. Some organizations offer certification which may improve your chances of being hired. The Professional Association of Health Care Office Management, American Health Information Management Association and the American College Of Health Care Administrators all offer certifications.
  • Hone your communication skills. As a health care administrator, you may have to interact with legislators to assist with health care policy, insurance representatives, nurses, health care workers and patients, all at varying levels of education. Learn to communicate effectively with people from all walks of life.

Doctorate in Health Administration

You can find traditional doctoral degree programs that are steeped in research and designed for professionals generally interested in teaching. However, the role of research on public health care policy has created the need for programs that allow students to approach research from a public health point of view. Your research can help shape health care policies in hospitals, as well as on a government level. You can also find programs that focus on leadership training that can prepare students for teaching as well as corporate leadership and positions as health care executives. Both Ph.D. and Doctor of Health Administration programs are available.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can choose from non-traditional programs targeted for careers outside of academia.
  • More postsecondary teachers will be needed to accommodate non-traditional students and working professionals who return to school.*
  • Opportunities to specialize in specific areas of health administration, including information management, inter-professional practice or leadership.

Cons

  • Tenure track positions are highly competitive and are less common than they have been in the past.*
  • Since top executives can manage hundreds of people, the growth rate for employment executives is slower than the rate of the employees they oversee.
  • The employment pool for top-level executives is highly competitive.*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

Many doctorate programs are customizable, so your coursework will vary based on the program you develop with your advisor. Common courses include research techniques and health care law. Courses may cover leadership, health policy or management of change. If you choose a concentration, you will also have to take electives in your chosen focus area. Areas of concentration include health policy, special populations or health care organizations. You'll also be expected to complete a dissertation or a project analyzing health care management or policy issues.

Online Degree Options

Although it is unlikely that you will find accredited online doctoral programs, you can find programs designed for working professionals. Executives seeking high level advancement can find doctoral degree programs that offer weekend study. Your program will be similar to weekday programs giving you an opportunity to interact with your cohorts and professors. More traditional research-based programs are less likely to have part-time or online options.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

  • Choose research in a relevant topic. To influence policy, you want to choose research related to current challenges faced in the area of public health. Organizations such as the Health Care Administrators Association provide resources to keep individuals aware of legislation relating to health care administrators.
  • Conduct informal interviews. Although it will be challenging to interview a top level health administrator, you can find some who will speak with you. Organizations such as the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management provide student memberships where you can gain access to professionals in the industry.
  • Learn technology. As a health care administrator cutting costs could be part of your job. Technology is regularly used to make health care more efficient. Health care publications provide information on cutting-edge technology and applications available to health care professionals and administrators.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Health Care Admin
      • PhD in Business Admin - Health Care Admin
  • Knoxville, TN

    The University of Tennessee

  • Chapel Hill, NC

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Newark, NJ

    University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

  • Birmingham, AL

    University of Alabama at Birmingham

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership

Are you a US citizen?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Health Care Admin
  • PhD in Business Admin - Health Care Admin

What is your highest level of education?

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

University of Alabama at Birmingham