Health Systems Management Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in health systems management? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and health systems management training programs.
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Studying Health Systems Management: Degrees at a Glance

Healthcare facilities offer an invaluable service and they require professionals skilled in business administration and information technology. Professionals in the health systems management field use their knowledge of information systems and the medical industry to manage data that contributes to the planning, resource allocation and decision-making processes in healthcare facilities. Health systems personnel work in long-term care facilities, imaging centers or consulting firms. Careers in the industry require a strong foundation in business administration, technology and medical billing procedures.

Colleges and universities offer programs that combine general business operations and the systems used in industry. The associate's degree will prepare you for entry-level technician or opportunities. The bachelor's degree provides the foundation to pursue a career in management. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects slower than average (six percent) through faster-than-average (22%) job growth from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov).

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this Degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level administrative, technician or transcription careers in a medical setting People who want a career in health systems management
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Medical transcriptionist ($34,000)*
- Medical records and health information technician ($36,000)*
Medical and health services manager ($96,000)*
Time to Completion Two years full time Four years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credits in general education, subject matter and elective courses
- Internship or field experience
- Capstone project
- Negative criminal background check
- Roughly 120 credits in general education, core and upper-division courses
- Professional internship or field experience
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

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

Associate's in Healthcare Information Technology

The associate's degree offers basic training in the maintenance, analysis and reporting of information in accordance with federal regulation and healthcare law. You will learn to compile statistics, perform medical coding and protect the confidentiality of patient records. Programs offer a strong foundation in general education and medical concepts. Employers prefer to hire candidates who possess the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification. The Commission on Certification for Health Informatics and Information Management (CCHIIM) confers the RHIT credential and requires that certification candidates possess and associate's degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The BLS projects faster-than-average (21%) job growth for medical records and health information technicians*
  • Program curricula offer a foundation in various technologies and make opportunities in multiple settings attainable
  • Most programs offer the foundation required to achieve industry-standard certification

Cons

  • Annual mean salaries were relatively low for medical transcriptionists ($34,000) and information technicians ($36,000) when compared to management careers ($96,000)**
  • Advancement to management positions may require a bachelor's degree and the appropriate certification
  • Continuing your education and maintaining your credentials requires additional costs over the lifetime of your career

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

Associate's degree programs provide the training required to adhere to federal and state healthcare regulations, develop and maintain records systems and manage coding operations. Programs offer roughly 60 credits in a combination of laboratory and classroom courses that help you develop your skills in technology and medical terminology. Some colleges require a negative background check prior to program admission. Following are some common courses offered by the program:

  • Health records structure
  • Healthcare and law
  • Coding and classification
  • Health information technologies
  • Medical statistics
  • Anatomy and physiology (with laboratory)
  • Pharmacotherapy

Online Degree Info

Several colleges offer the associate's degree through a distance-education program. You can take all of your classes online and programs provide coursework similar or equal to traditional classes. Keep in mind that your selected program should possess current accreditation from CAHIIM; the CCHIIM requires specific accreditation for access to the RHIT examination.

Stand out With This Degree

Certification provides the most tangible method to increase employment prospects. The RHIT certification validates your skills in the verification of medical records quality and management. In addition to RHIT certification, employers prefer medical transcriptionists who possess the Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) or the Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) conferred by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity. In order to qualify for the CMT, you must possess a minimum of two years' experience in transcription and possess an RMT credential. Consequently, participating in field experiences or internships during your studies will boost your experience.

Bachelor's in Healthcare Information Technology

The bachelor's degree program will take your education further and prepare you for a career in healthcare systems management. Programs emphasize technology management and healthcare services through coursework in insurance, finance, legal concerns and ethics. You learn skills, theories and practices in several domains, including systems, healthcare values and self-awareness. In addition to RHIT certification, many programs prepare graduates for additional healthcare information management and technology credentials. Similar to the associate's degree, enrolling in an accredited program offers the best return on investment.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Faster-than-average (22%) job growth was expected for medical and health services managers from 2010-2020*
  • Access to a competitive salary increases with higher education and the appropriate experience (bachelor's degree holders earned more than 2.5 times more than associate's degree graduates)**
  • You can obtain higher-level certification credentials with a bachelor's degree, which could boost your marketability and earning potential

Cons

  • Competition against graduates of a master's degree program may present a challenge
  • Seeking the appropriate certifications will extend your training and increase your education investment
  • Specializing can make access to job opportunities in other industries less accessible

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

A bachelor's degree program provides training in fiscal management, healthcare needs assessment, quality management and healthcare marketing. The strong business foundation and focus-driven coursework offer training that you can transfer to multiple sectors. Programs require roughly 120 credits in general education, career development and medical concepts courses. You learn to manage healthcare facilities through courses in organizational theory, healthcare financing, medical insurance, management principles, healthcare technologies, accounting and healthcare diversity.

Online Degree Info

Several schools offer online bachelor's degree programs that you can complete entirely online. Programs offer coursework similar to traditional environments and require roughly 120 credits. You may find a degree that provides additional technology courses, including healthcare informatics, Web design and database technology. As with a campus-based program, checking a program's accreditation leads to the best opportunity for certification.

Stand out With This Degree

In addition to RHIT certification, the bachelor's degree program prepares you for health information management and information technology credentials. The Certified Professionals in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS), conferred by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems (HIMSS), validates your skills and experience in systems management. You must have a minimum of five years' experience (three years in healthcare) to qualify for the examination. Building your experience through internships or field experiences during your studies provides a jump-start to achieving certification.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Healthcare Management
      • Associate: Health Information Management
      • Associate of Science - Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Health Services Admin
      • Associate of Science - Medical Administrative Billing and Coding
  • Cedar Rapids, IA

    Kirkwood Community College

  • Jackson, MI

    Jackson College

  • Dearborn, MI

    Henry Ford Community College

  • Neosho, MO

    Crowder College

  • Plantation, FL

    Allied Health Institute

  • Perrysburg, OH

    Owens Community College

  • Greeley, CO

    Aims Community College

Featured Schools

Herzing University

  • Associate: Healthcare Management
  • Associate: Health Information Management
  • Associate of Science - Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • Associate of Arts - Health Services Admin
  • Associate of Science - Medical Administrative Billing and Coding

What is your highest level of education?

Kirkwood Community College

Jackson College

Henry Ford Community College

Crowder College

Allied Health Institute

Owens Community College