March 30, 2023

What Exactly Is A Healthcare Management Degree?

bachelors of science in healthcare management

When you think of healthcare, you probably picture nurses, doctors and other medical providers, not an administrator with a Healthcare Management Degree. However, medical professionals wouldn’t be able to concentrate on patients without expert support ensuring that hospitals and clinics have the equipment, funds and personnel necessary for top-notch care. Whether you’re looking to earn your first bachelor’s degree in healthcare management or want to complement your undergraduate training with a master’s in healthcare administration, this field may be a great fit for you if you’re a compassionate person ready to serve your community.

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The Right Education for a Healthcare Manager

Degree programs are available at both a Bachelor and Master’s Level in both a traditional classroom environment or through online universities. Courses for this program include healthcare planning, healthcare operations, financial management, compliance and risk management and healthcare systems. You will learn to handle real life healthcare delivery situations.

Bachelor’s of Healthcare Administration

Bachelor’s degrees in healthcare management may include courses in public health care regulations, medical ethics, marketing and information technology as well as operations management. With a bachelor’s degree most positions are at an entry level. You may want to earn your bachelor’s degree, try your hand at a few jobs in healthcare management, then apply for an online or executive master’s program so you can earn your degree while working. Some hospitals and other large employers will even pay for your degree, letting you graduate without any student loan debt if you agree to continue working for the company for several years after finishing your education.

Master’s of Healthcare Administration

Because a graduate degree in healthcare management is designed to get you out of the classroom and into the boardroom as soon as possible, many programs offer accelerated timelines and weekend-only classes. You can even apply credits you earned as an undergraduate towards your degree, especially if you attend an accelerated BHA-MHA program. A master’s degree in Healthcare Management may include course work in healthcare policy and law, marketing, organizational behavior, healthcare financing, human resources, and other healthcare topics and prepares the student for top levels of management.

Doctor of Healthcare Administration or PhD in Health Administration?

If you want to earn the highest degree in healthcare administration, you’ll have to choose between a doctorate and a PhD. Both degrees will require you to take several years of graduate-level coursework and likely also require a dissertation or capstone project, but they lead to different career paths. With a Doctor of Healthcare Administration degree, you’ll be an expert-level leader, ready to tackle challenging administrative roles, lead a non-profit organization towards excellence or direct a hospital. You’ll learn executive management skills and take advanced coursework in business, health informatics and communications. However, if you’re interested in a career in healthcare education or research, the PhD in Health Administration is a better choice. This program requires coursework in research methodology, statistics and healthcare policy and can lead to a job as a professor or social scientist. You’ll almost certainly need to complete an in-depth research project and write a thesis about your results.

Is an MHA the Best Graduate Degree in Healthcare?

If you’re considering a career in healthcare administration, you’re probably wondering exactly which degree you should pursue. What’s the difference between an MPH versus an MSN versus an MHA? The best option depends on your educational background and long-term career goals.

Master’s of Public Health (MPH) versus Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)

A public health professional focuses on community-level health initiatives and may be found working for a county health department, a non-profit focused on health education or a hospital. With a master’s in public health degree, you’d take courses in many different subjects, including biostatistics and epidemiology. Most MPH programs take two years of full-time study to complete and require you to spend your first year of classes surveying courses from different areas of public health.

By contrast, a master’s in healthcare administration curriculum concentrates on running an efficient healthcare organization. You’ll study management techniques from your first semester, and most schools offer multi-semester courses that build your knowledge over an entire academic year. Although you can earn an MPH with a concentration in healthcare management, most high-level jobs administrative jobs prefer applicants with the specialized training you get from an MHA.

Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) versus MHA

Like an MPH, the master’s of business administration (MBA) degree gives you a broad level of knowledge. This degree will prepare you to lead businesses in many fields, but an MBA doesn’t offer the healthcare-specific education than an MHA does. If you know you want a career in healthcare management, an MHA is a better choice.

Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) versus (MHA)

A master’s of science in nursing degree program offers many concentration options. If you have a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), you can pursue a clinical MSN to hone your nursing skills. However, a practice-focused MSN won’t help you climb the healthcare administration career ladder. To move into an executive role, you’ll want a master’s degree that teaches management and business skills. In some cases, an MSN could be a better option than an MHA, but it will limit your choices to nursing-related jobs. You could move into a role as a Director of Nursing, Nurse Educator or Nurse Management with an MSN, but an MHA will let you move into a variety of leadership positions. Plus, while MHA programs accept applicants from many undergraduate backgrounds, MSN programs strongly prefer applicants with a bachelor’s in nursing. To make a career change into healthcare administration, an MHA is a better option.

Joint Degree MHA Programs

If you can’t decide between an MHA and another career path, consider a dual degree program. You can combine two graduate programs to broaden your education while saving time. Common MHA joint programs offer a JD, MPH or MBA in addition to an MHA degree. Earning two degrees at once costs less than earning each individually and deepens your understanding of the subject matter. With two graduate degrees, you’ll qualify for a wider range of healthcare administration jobs. As a downside, joint programs offer less flexibility; you’ll need to use most of your elective credits on classes that fulfill requirements for both programs.

Career Options with an MHA

A degree in health care management can lead to exciting future opportunities. Many people think of healthcare as primarily medical staff including doctors and nurses. However, there are many professionals who keep healthcare organizations running efficiently. Healthcare managers are talented individuals that make positive changes within the healthcare environment they serve. Those with a healthcare management degree are the men and women who manage hospital and healthcare organizations. They are equipped to understand changes in healthcare laws, regulations and technology and are responsible for overseeing all operations including human resources, finance and marketing within the healthcare system.

The US Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics identifies that 39 percent of healthcare managers work in hospitals while 26 percent work in ambulatory health care positions. Another 11 percent work in nursing and residential care facilities and 8 percent work for the government.

As a healthcare manager at a hospital, you’ll have many career options. You may supervise quality initiatives to improve patient outcomes, oversee the billing department or work directly with nurses and doctors. You’ll have many options to move between departments or programs, and you’ll likely focus on high-level strategic and management decisions. Hospitals tend to offer the most flexibility in your career due to the many different healthcare management jobs available.

At an outpatient, or ambulatory care, clinic, healthcare administrators often work closely with doctors and nurses. You may be responsible for administrative tasks like ordering supplies, scheduling surgeries and hiring or firing clerical staff. If you’re more interested in higher-level administrative tasks like increasing community engagement or opening new clinics, you can work for a large practice with multiple locations.

If you manage a long-term care facility, you’ll wear many different hats. You may be the highest-ranked on-site employee, so you could be asked to talk to upset patients, settle Medicare disputes or hire new staff. Many nursing home administrators love their jobs because of the frequent opportunity to interact with patients and providers. Career advancement as a nursing home administrator may mean moving to a bigger facility or a different employer.

Job Outlook with a Healthcare Management Degree

Information from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates there were over 315,500 jobs in Healthcare Management in May 2012. These positions were predominantly in hospitals, nursing care facilities, medical practices and healthcare facilities. The median annual salary for those with at least a Bachelor’s Degree in 2012 was $88,500. The master’s level salary increases to $150,560 at the top end of the pay scale. By 2020 employment is expected to grow at above average rate of 16 percent. It has been ranked as one of the top 20 fastest growing occupations.

It makes sense that this field is growing so rapidly. The aging population has created more healthcare jobs in areas such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, physician practices, insurance and pharmaceutical companies and healthcare administrators for private companies. As the medical field changes, the demand for healthcare managers will continue to expand. For example, the recent legal push for healthcare facilities to adapt electronics record management created a need for health information managers. Many healthcare administrators with a background in computer science or information management were able to move into new positions as hospitals found themselves scrambling for qualified leaders to ensure compliance with legal recordkeeping requirements.

Healthcare managers plan, direct and implement quality healthcare while working to provide effectiveness and profitability. Hospitals are always looking to cut costs while improving patient care. Even non-profit hospitals need to maximize revenues to be able to treat everyone in the community.

Both rural and urban areas have a high need for healthcare managers. Rural hospitals and nursing homes often struggle to attract talented employees, so you may be able to earn a hiring bonus or negotiate special perks like extra paid time off or help with your student loans in exchange for agreeing to work in a less-desirable location. With the high salary of a healthcare administrator, though, you may find that the “less-desirable” rural location provides an exceptionally high standard of living. In urban areas, the high density of hospitals and clinics means a constant need for educated healthcare administrators.

Employment Benefits for Healthcare Managers

As white-collar professionals, healthcare administrators enjoy many benefits in addition to their high salaries. Paid sick leave, vacation leave and even parental leave is standard for high-level management jobs, as is affordable health insurance. Some hospitals even offer free medical care for employees who seek treatment at the hospital. Because healthcare constantly evolves, some employers offer tuition reimbursement programs so administrators can learn about advances in the medical field.

Typical Work Day as a Healthcare Administrator

In exchange for ample paid time off and a generous salary, healthcare administrators should be prepared to work long hours. A typical day might start with reading emails at home to prepare for the day or even an early morning conference call. After a few minutes to change into a professional wardrobe, it’s time to head into the office for a long day of meetings, site visits and computer work. Healthcare managers might devote hours to scouring a grant proposal, reviewing a departmental budget or auditing patient satisfaction surveys. While no two days are the same, it’s typical for most work to be performed in a standard office setting, even for administrators at clinical sites. Evenings may be filled with board meetings, attending community events or working late to finalize a report for a federal agency. Some positions may require you to take work home, but unlike medical providers, you probably won’t be on-call during the evenings or weekends.

Most administration jobs require full-time hours of 40 to 50 hours per week. Of course, it’s possible to find a part-time job as a healthcare administrator, but a less-hectic schedule will also come with a smaller overall salary. Some managers look for part-time work while raising children or caring for sick relatives then move into higher-paying roles with more responsibilities.

There are nearly 300,000 people currently now employed within the health administration system from middle managers to CEOs of companies, and that number is expected to grow over the next decade. The expanding need for administration positions creates a continuing need to find caring individuals who wish to serve the community in the healthcare management field. With company sizes ranging from a few staff members to thousands of employees, degree holders can choose the best healthcare administration jobs for their needs. Finding the right Healthcare Management Degree can be the start of a new and exciting career.

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