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What is a Healthcare Administration Degree?
Degree programs in healthcare administration prepare students to manage the business aspects of medical facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and private practices. These programs provide training in basic medical and health knowledge and terminology, as well as in the clerical tasks of maintaining patient medical records, managing billing, and overseeing staff.
The typical healthcare administration curriculum includes classes in:
- Accounting for the Healthcare Sector
- Healthcare Economics
- Healthcare Law and Ethics
- Healthcare Policy
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Long-Term Care and Aging
- Epidemiology – the science concerned with the spread and control of diseases and viruses
- Human Resources Management
- Healthcare Management Information Systems
Associate Degree in Healthcare Administration
Holders of an Associate Degree in Healthcare Administration often go on to continue their studies at the bachelor’s level, as career options for associate graduates are generally limited to entry-level / junior roles.
Courses generally include:
- Introduction to Business Administration – finance, planning, management, technology, human resources, marketing, business communication
- Medical Terminology
- Medical Records, Coding, Claims, Billing, and Insurance Practices
- Medical Law and Ethics
- Patient Communication
- Basic Anatomy and Physiology
Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Administration
With a Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Administration, graduates typically qualify for administrative assistant positions with larger healthcare organizations or for more senior roles with smaller ones.
Classes at the bachelor’s level include:
- Healthcare Management – planning healthcare programs, quality control, change management
- Healthcare Ethics and Patient Rights
- Healthcare for Special Populations – seniors, mentally ill, persons with addictions
- Healthcare Management Information Systems – needs analysis, system design, implementation
- The Economics of Healthcare – government and community resources, financing, reimbursement
- Healthcare Trends and Marketing
- Legal Issues in Healthcare – example: malpractice
- Healthcare Administration Internship
Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration
The master’s degree is considered the accepted standard for management roles in healthcare administration. With this degree, graduates have the training needed to work as healthcare administrators of hospitals, clinics, and HMOs (health maintenance organizations). They may also find work as healthcare consultants, health policy analysts, and healthcare researchers.
The curriculum of a master’s program in healthcare administration involves research projects and takes a more in-depth and leadership-focused look at many of the subjects addressed in undergraduate programs:
- Health Management – for leaders of healthcare organizations
- Health Management Information Systems
- Economics for Healthcare Managers – budgeting, fundraising, public spending
- Gerontology – care of the elderly
- Policy Analysis – healthcare and the role of the government
- Health Law – balancing quality of care with regulations
Doctoral Degree in Healthcare Administration
It is most common for Ph.D. graduates in healthcare administration to work as educators in the field or as policy makers. During their doctoral studies, students conduct extensive research on a chosen topic to prepare for their thesis.
These are some possible concentrations:
- Healthcare Finance
- Healthcare Information Systems
- Public Health
- Long-term Care Management
- Global Health Administration
Degrees Similar to Healthcare Administration
Business administration includes overseeing finances, staffing, and contract negotiations. A business administration degree program, therefore, teaches students how to plan, organize, and direct all the activities of an organization. Coursework includes accounting, financial management, operations management, management information systems, marketing, and business ethics and law.
Public administration degree programs teach students how to make and direct policy at various levels of government. These policies can involve a wide spectrum of public concerns, from healthcare to social programs to the environment. Typical courses for public administration students include community analysis, economic development, grant writing, local politics and administration, organization theory, public budgeting and financial administration, public policy, structure of government, volunteerism and the non-profit sector.
Management Information Systems
This degree field is focused on information systems and how they are used by businesses and organizations to improve their operations. Classes cover computer databases, networks, computer security, and related project management.
Majors in this field study engineering and the life sciences to create new products – such as vaccines, medicines, growth hormones for plants, and food additives – for the agricultural, industrial, and environmental industries. Among typical classes are biochemistry, general biology, cell biology, chemistry, and genetics.
This field is, of course, closely aligned with healthcare and may therefore be another education option for students with an interest in the field. Pre-med programs, designed to prepare students for medical school, include courses in general biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and physics.
Skills You'll Learn
These core competencies gained by graduates of healthcare administration and related degree programs transcend these specific sectors and are transferrable to many professional fields.
- Work Ethic and Initiative
- Flexibility and Adaptability
- Assessment and Analysis
- Researching, Organizing, and Presenting Information
- Policy and Program Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation
- Partnering, Collaboration, and Advocacy
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Computer Literacy
- Report Writing
What Can You Do with a Healthcare Administration Degree?
Hospitals, Outpatient Care Centers, Clinics, Rehabilitation Centers, Physicians’ Private Practices, Mental Health Facilities
These, of course, are very common employers of graduates of healthcare administration programs. Responsibilities of administrators in these sectors may include hiring, training, and overseeing personnel; managing schedules and financial operations and reporting; implementing policies; dealing with human resource issues and legalities; and making decisions regarding medical equipment purchases and patient care procedures.
Assisted Living Facilities and Nursing Homes
These facilities are long-term care centers for seniors. They provide meals, bathing and dressing assistance, medication management, and transportation. In these environments, healthcare administrators maintain relationships with patients and families, direct staff, manage inventory, and uphold the standards required by government.
Hospice / Palliative Care
These programs for end-of-life care can be found in hospitals, nursing homes, and independent facilities. In these settings, healthcare administrators implement policies and procedures and manage overall operations.
In this fast-growing sector of the healthcare field, independent contractors work as consultants with various healthcare organizations. They may help streamline operations, train staff, or take on special projects.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
EMS administrators organize and manage emergency response communication and resources within a specific geographic region.
Government Agencies / Public Health
Roles for healthcare administrators with government agencies will vary between jurisdictions. The work may include conducting research, handling public health concerns, planning public health education programs, and managing government-sponsored home healthcare.
There are numerous healthcare associations and organizations that employ healthcare administration graduates to manage their operations and finances. Some examples are the Canadian Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, Parkinson Canada, and the International Aids Society.
Insurance / Managed Care Companies
In this sector, healthcare administrators ensure that plan benefits are properly applied and may help in developing new benefit plans.
The work of pharmaceutical companies involves meeting regulatory body requirements. Healthcare administrators help them accomplish this by managing projects, teams, budgets, timelines, and reports.
Healthcare administrators can apply their knowledge in studying trends in the field. Their work can result in better policies and improved industry operations.
Graduates with a doctoral degree in healthcare administration may pursue career opportunities as healthcare researchers or university professors.
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