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Online health care administration degrees

There isn't a clinical environment in the world that can run smoothly without well-trained administration personnel, and surging employment figures reflect the high workforce value of administrative training in the field. Whether you choose to focus on informatics, clinical management, administrative nursing or another specialty, the right health care administration degree can give you a strong foundation for upward mobility in a growing industry,

More and more colleges have begun offering fully online health care administration degree programs, which can help you give a boost to your job prospects without taking undue time away from your family responsibilities and your existing career. Here's a table that shows how many schools in each region of the U.S. have health care administration degrees available either online or on campus, according to data published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES):

Region No. of schools offering health care administration degrees No. of schools offering health care administration degrees online
Far West (CA. OR, WA, NV, AK, HI) 66 26
Rocky Mountains (ID, MT, UT, WY, CO) 44 23
Southwest (AZ, NM, TX, OK) 78 41
Plains (MO, KS, IA, NE, MN, ND, SD) 107 58
Southeast (AR, LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, TN, KY, VA, WV) 179 73
Great Lakes (IL, IN, OH, MI, WI) 135 68
Mideast (PA, NY, NJ, DE, MD, D.C.) 102 38
New England (CT, MA, RI, VT, NH, ME) 43 16
Total (all 50 states) 754 343

Entry-level health care administration degrees

You can start your health care administration education from just about any level in the academic system. Take a look at these details of undergraduate study plans that can help you get your start:

  • Associate degrees - Degrees at this level are typically designed to give students a sturdy foundation in the basics. Courses studied on the way to an associate degree in health care administration often include medical terminology, electronic recordkeeping, health care statistics and anatomy and physiology, among others. Health care is also one of the fields where an associate degree can lead to several entry-level jobs — employers of medical coders, health care information clerks, medical transcriptionists and more have been known to prefer candidates with associate degrees.
  • Bachelor's degrees - Coursework in health care administration bachelor's degrees tends to approach more complex concepts than those covered in associate degree programs, as well as introduce minor concentrations and specialized courses of study that can help you distinguish yourself from the crowd in the job search. Depending on the individual program, students may study organizational finance, data analysis, facilities management, health care marketing, quality control, risk management, human resources development and healthcare information systems.
  • Non-degree study - Non-degree certifications in health care administration tend to take the form of career training programs for medical coding, health care information systems, medical transcription and other professions that commonly require less than a bachelor's-level education. Certificate programs designed to train aspiring managers of health care facilities are typically reserved for those who have already earned a bachelor's degree.

Undergraduate degrees in health care administration are widely available in a distance learning format designed for prospective students who would otherwise find it difficult to continue their education. While some of the more clinical or technical entry-level degrees in the health care field may require hands-on training that can't be easily duplicated in the online education environment, the fundamentals of health care administration tend to translate to the virtual classroom relatively well.

Advanced-degree health care administration programs

If your career goals include an upper-tier job in administration or management at a hospital or other large clinical facility, your employers may expect you to have an advanced degree as well as extensive experience in the field. Here's some information about the academic steps you can take to earn health care administration degrees beyond the bachelor's:

  • Master's degree programs - Health care administration master's degrees come in many forms, although most contain training in leadership, health care law, organizational development and financial management, among other subjects. Programs at this level may lead to Master of Science (MS) degrees in health care administration, Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees specialized to the health care field or Master of Public Administration (MPA) degrees with a health care concentration. Students may also choose a subject focus within the health management field, such as health care ethics or informatics.
  • Doctorate programs - The master's degree is typically as much education as professional health care managers need, but what if you want to approach the discipline from a theoretical or research-based standpoint? Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree plans are designed to help students bring a national or global perspective to problems in public health and clinical administration while applying cutting-edge research and statistical modeling techniques to help develop new solutions. PhDs and other doctoral programs typically last anywhere from four to seven years and require a dissertation or other extensive research project during their last program year or so.
  • Graduate certificates - Health care administration is something of an interdisciplinary field, and the availability of graduate certificates can help aspiring health care managers transform a bachelor's in a related field into a education that qualifies for health care management jobs. Undergraduate degrees in nursing, health sciences, business administration, public health administration and management can each combine with a targeted graduate certificate to give you the training you need to shift into a health administration career.

Graduate degrees and certificates in health care administration are just as common in the virtual classroom as their undergraduate counterparts, which can help aspiring managers continue their education while remaining employed full-time. Some master's and PhD programs may include an internship or residency period of several days or more, which often must be attended in person, but online options for most assignments and other coursework are often available.

Q&A with an expert

We reached out to Heather M. Cunningham, an instructor in the medical office administration program at Concorde Career College - Kansas City, and asked her to share her instructor's expertise on health administration degrees:

Why would you encourage someone to consider a degree in health care administration?

People think healthcare consists of just doctors and nurses which are vital, but administration is what works to ensure a patient is actually seeing a doctor covered by their insurance provider. Medical Office Administrators (MOAs) are relied upon to be the liaison between the patient, the healthcare team and the insurance company.

What are the usual educational paths for those interested in health care administration?

There is no formal training required to become an MOA but, with the increased complexity of health care administration, employers prefer to hire people with training in areas such as medical vocabulary, customer service, coding and billing, record keeping and insurance coverage, to name a few. Such training programs typically require 9-12 months for a diploma or 15-21 months for an associate degree.

Are there major differences between associate, bachelors and master's degrees in health care administration? What are some popular careers for graduates at each level?

The major difference would be the depth of the various subjects in each program. The health care administration career path is highly popular at Concorde Career College.

Can you share something that people might not know about health care administration jobs?

People often think we are just secretaries or receptionists. They don't realize that we are the "fixers" or the "jack of all trades" that keep things going!

Types of health care administration careers

The right education can help you start a health care career at the entry level and beyond. Here are a few jobs that fall under the health care administration umbrella, along with some salary and job outlook statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Occupation title National mean annual salary
(2014)
Projected job growth
(2014-2024)
Total U.S. employment
(2014)
Entry-level education
Medical records technician $38,860 15 percent 188,600

Postsecondary non-degree award or associate degree

Medical transcriptionist $34,750 -3 percent 70,000 Postsecondary non-degree award or associate degree
Health information clerk $31,500 2 percent 188,500 Postsecondary non-degree award or associate degree
Medical and health services manager $103,680 17 percent 333,000 Bachelor's or master's degree
Human resources manager $114,140 9 percent 122,500 Bachelor's or master's degree
Health research scientist $90,160 8 percent 107,900

Doctoral or professional degree

Common misconceptions about health care administration degrees

Mainstream attention on health care administration degrees is a relatively new phenomenon, and there are still a few mistaken apprehensions out there about their prerequisites and career utility. Here are a few misconceptions to watch out for as you look into your own education at health care administration schools:

Misconception: You need very specific prior study to qualify for a health care administration degree program.

  • Fact: Health care administrators come into the field from many other walks of life, and their diverse educational and employment experiences help to enrich the profession. Some working health administrators come from a medical background, holding degrees in such disciplines as physical therapy, public health and nursing, while others studied marketing, business administration or another general operations subject while in school. Health administrators in specialized branches of the field may have other degrees as well, such as the manager of a pediatric wellness clinic having supplemented a bachelor's in early childhood education with health care work experience and some administrative graduate study.

Misconception: Health care information managers need an extensive technology education.

  • Fact: There is certainly some dedicated study of health informatics or health information technology (HIT) required before you can take on administrative responsibility for clinical IT policy, but several years of computer science training is rarely needed. Although some study computer programming or information systems at the college level might help you grasp the underlying concepts of HIT and database management, the understanding necessary to accomplish a clinic's information goals can typically be acquired without it.

Misconception: Health care administration degrees earned online aren't as valuable as traditional degrees.

  • Fact: Digital distance education programs have changed quite a bit over the last several years, and well-established universities have gotten into the game in a big way. Health care administration is one of many fields wherein the education delivered in the virtual classroom is functionally identical to that available on a brick-and-mortar campus. As long as your online program is accredited by a legitimate regional or national agency, you can be confident that its education is held to the same high standard as a traditional degree.

How can I enroll in an online health care administration degree program?

There are hundreds of health care administration degrees available, both online and on campuses around the country, and each of them takes their own approach to student enrollment, instruction and advancement. Page through the listings below and choose a few schools that look right for you, then reach out and speak with an admissions representative to find out more.

Sources:
1. College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 18, 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. School pages, accessed December 18, 2015: Online Associate Degree, Health Care Administration, Ashworth College, https://www.ashworthcollege.edu/associate-degrees/healthcare-administration/; Associate Degree, Health Care Management, Penn Foster College, http://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/medical-and-health-careers/health-care-management-associate-degree; Online Bachelor's Degree in Healthcare Administration and Management, Colorado State University, https://csuglobal.edu/undergraduate/programs/bachelors-degrees/healthcare-administration-and-management; Healthcare Management Bachelor's Degree, Rasmussen College, http://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/business/healthcare-management/bachelors/; Online Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Management, University of Maryland University College, http://www.umuc.edu/academic-programs/bachelors-degrees/health-services-management-major.cfm; Health Care Administration Certificate, Champlain College, http://www.champlain.edu/online/health-care-certificates/health-care-administration; Health Care Information Systems Certificate, Iona College, http://www.iona.edu/Academics/Hagan-School-of-Business/Certificate-Programs/Health-Care-Information-Systems-Certificate.aspx; Health Administration (MHA) Online Graduate Degree Program, Saint Joseph's University, http://online.sju.edu/programs/masters-health-administration-curriculum.asp; Master of Health Care Administration Degree Online, Kaplan University, http://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/health-sciences/health-care-administration-master-degree.aspx; Online Master's in Public Administration Concentrations, Marist College, http://www.marist.edu/admission/graduate/public-administration/mpa-concentrations.html; Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Health Care Management, University of Phoenix, http://www.phoenix.edu/programs/degree-programs/business-and-management/masters/mba-hcm.html; Health Policy and Administration, Doctoral (PhD) Degree, The Pennsylvania State University, http://hhd.psu.edu/hpa/graduate/phd; Doctor of Health Administration Degree Online, University of Phoenix, http://www.phoenix.edu/programs/degree-programs/nursing-and-health-care/doctoral/dha.html; Health Care Administration PhD, Northcentral University, http://www.ncu.edu/school-of-business-and-technology/doctor-of-philosophy-in-business-administration/health-care-administration; Graduate Certificate in Health Administration, The University of Arizona, https://publichealth.arizona.edu/academics/certificates/health-administration; Health Care Administration Certificate, Online MBA, Plymouth State University, https://www.plymouth.edu/graduate/academics/degrees/masters/mba/general-management/health-care-administration/; Certificate in Health Care Administration, University of Maryland University College, http://www.umuc.edu/academic-programs/legacy/health-care-administration-graduate-certificate.cfm
3. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed December 18, 2015: Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm; Medical Transcriptionists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-transcriptionists.htm; Information Clerks, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/information-clerks.htm; Medical and Health Services Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Management/Medical-and-health-services-managers.htm; Human Resources Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm; Medical Scientists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Life-Physical-and-Social-Science/Medical-scientists.htm
4, May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed December 18, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm;
5, Interview, Heather M. Cunningham, conducted December 28, 2015

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