Health Services Management Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a health services management degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and PhD and potential careers.
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Studying Health Services Management: Degrees at a Glance

Health services managers, otherwise known as 'healthcare administrators', may manage healthcare facilities, medical practices or specific departments within healthcare facilities. These managers are responsible for planning and directing healthcare services, improving the quality and efficiency of these services and ensuring that facilities comply with all laws and regulations. Master's and PhD programs in health services management commonly focus on policy or research in addition to management. Although a bachelor's degree is typically the minimum education required to become a health services manager, many managers have master's degrees. A PhD program may suit your needs if you're interested in teaching health services management at the university level or if you want to conduct research in the field.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of medical and health services managers would increase 22% between 2010 and 2020. The BLS also reported that, in May 2011, medical and health services managers throughout the nation earned an average annual wage of approximately $96,000.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want to work as health services managers Individuals interested in conducting research or teaching health services management to university students
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Medical or health services manager ($96,000)* - Postsecondary teacher ($74,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 5 years after the master's, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Coursework - Focus-area courses
- Qualifying exam
- Comprehensive exam
- Dissertation
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Bachelor's or master's degree
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's Degree in Health Services Management

Master's degree programs in health services management are available as a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Health Services Administration (MHSA) or Master of Science (M.S.). All of these programs prepare you to become a leader in health management or policy. In an MBA program, you take general core business courses in addition to concentration courses in health services management. In contrast, MHSA and M.S. programs solely focus on business concepts such as management, finance and organization.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Master's degree programs can be completed in only two years
  • Many health services managers have master's degrees, so earning one could make you more competitive in the job market
  • The BLS expected employment of medical and health services managers to increase at a faster-than-average rate (22%) between 2010 and 2020*, making it likely that you will find a job after graduation

Cons

  • You may be competing for the same jobs as those with bachelor's degrees and work experience
  • Health services managers may be needed during emergencies, possibly requiring you to work evening, weekend and overnight hours
  • If you want to manage a nursing care facility, you need to become licensed; this involves completing a state-approved training program and passing an exam in addition to fulfilling degree requirements

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Generally, master's degree programs in health services management include core business courses in addition to health services courses. In these programs, you also take elective courses based on your individual interests and career goals. In some MBA programs, you may be required to complete extra prerequisite courses if your bachelor's degree is in a field other than business. Courses you may take include:

  • Managerial economics
  • Organizational behavior and management
  • Quantitative methods
  • Managerial accounting
  • Epidemiology
  • The U.S. healthcare system
  • Healthcare finance

Online Degree Options

Fully online master's degree programs in health services management are available. Some programs offer flexible course options, allowing you to take online, weekend, evening or accelerated courses as fits your schedule. Like their on-campus counterparts, online courses cover healthcare administration topics and general business topics. Online programs can usually be completed in two years or less.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

As a health services manager, you need to be familiar with the latest healthcare technology. Special software is often used for administrative tasks in the healthcare field. While pursuing your master's degree, you may want to spend some time becoming proficient in the latest coding, classification and electronic health record programs. Consider taking elective courses that allow you to work with these software programs, if offered by your school.

PhD in Health Services Management

When searching for PhD programs in health services management, you may find that health services management curricula are frequently offered as concentrations under a broader subject, such as public health or public affairs. PhD programs are heavily research-oriented, and, in them, you are required to complete a dissertation based on original research. Although many PhD programs require that you have a master's degree for admission, some only require a bachelor's degree. However, if you don't have a master's degree, you may be required to complete additional credits of study.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A PhD program prepares you to work in academia as a professor or researcher; therefore, you may be eligible for career options in addition to working as a health services manager after graduation
  • If you become a post-secondary teacher, you may not need to work during the summers
  • As a post-secondary teacher, you may be able to work part time (in 2010, approximately 29% of post-secondary teachers worked part time)*

Cons

  • A PhD is not necessary to work as a health services manager, so you may compete against master's degree holders for those positions
  • Earning a PhD requires several years of study; by the time you graduate, you could have spent 11 years completing your post-secondary education
  • Many colleges and universities are moving away from tenure-track positions, so you may face high amounts of competition to gain tenure

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

After completing a certain number of courses in your PhD program, you are usually required to pass a qualifying exam to prove that you are fit to continue your studies. Before you start working on your dissertation, you also need to pass a comprehensive exam. The final two years of your program may be devoted to your dissertation research. You are usually also required to defend your dissertation to earn your degree. Courses these programs include:

  • Epidemiology
  • Health policy
  • Health services research methods
  • Biostatistics

Online Degree Options

If you want to earn your PhD in health services management or healthcare administration from home, fully online options are available. In these programs, as with on-campus programs, you must write a dissertation. Courses in an online program are similar to those in an on-campus program, and might cover topics like health policy, health economics, the U.S. healthcare system, healthcare finance and quantitative analysis.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

If your goal is to have a career as a post-secondary teacher, consider working as a graduate teaching assistant while earning your degree. Many post-secondary institutions prefer to hire professors who have previous teaching experience.

Your research accomplishments may also be a factor in whether you are hired as a professor. For this reason, you may want to take advantage of research opportunities while you pursue your PhD. You might also want to strive to get your work published so that your research capabilities can be demonstrated to your employers.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Health Care Management
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Management/Health Care Mgmt
      • Master of Health Informatics
      • Master of Health Information Management
      • MS in Nursing
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Health Care Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgt. & Healthcare Mgt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Mgt. & Human Resources
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting & Healthcare Mgmt.
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Arts in Government - Healthcare Policy and Ethics
      • Master of Public Administration - Healthcare Policy and Ethics
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS in Clinical Research Administration
      • MSHS in Clinical and Translational Research
      • MSHS in Regulatory Affairs
      • MSHS Clinical Operations & Healthcare Management
      • MSHS in Biomedical Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Admin
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Brenau University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership-Healthcare Management
      • Masters in Business Administration - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • MBA: Health Care Management
  • Master of Healthcare Admin
  • Master: Management/Health Care Mgmt

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Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management

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Grand Canyon University

  • MBA: Health Systems Management
  • MS in Health Care Administration

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Herzing University

  • MBA: Health Care Management
  • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgt. & Healthcare Mgt.
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Mgt. & Human Resources

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Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Arts in Government - Healthcare Policy and Ethics

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Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Health Administration

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The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Clinical Research Administration
  • MSHS in Clinical and Translational Research
  • MSHS in Regulatory Affairs

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Northcentral University

  • MBA - Health Care Admin
  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration

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