A healthcare administration degree can put you on the fast track to an exciting career in the healthcare industry. Due in part to an aging population, the healthcare sector has become one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 18% increase in healthcare jobs between 2016 and 2026. A healthcare administration degree can position you to obtain one of the more than two million new jobs that will become available in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, private practices, and nursing homes.
The demand for skilled healthcare administrators and managers will only continue to grow with the healthcare industry as a whole. Every healthcare organization needs employees who can manage daily operations, organize patient records, and make important decisions. If you are ready for a crucial role in a rapidly growing industry, you should strongly consider earning your healthcare administration degree.
Should I Get an Associate in Healthcare Administration?
Students interested in many different careers can benefit from earning an associate degree in healthcare administration. This degree serves as a perfect entry point for students who are passionate about healthcare, but would rather not work in a clinical position. The degree also benefits students who enjoy administrative jobs, especially in a fast-paced and exciting industry. High school students who know they want to pursue a career in healthcare might choose an on-campus program, while working professionals interested in switching careers may prefer to study online.
Healthcare administration degree programs teach students the skills necessary to support and supervise the daily operations of a healthcare organization or system. Healthcare administration programs include courses in bookkeeping, personnel management, and other fundamental administrative skills. Students also improve their organizational, communication, and critical thinking abilities.
Healthcare administration schools also prepare students for the workforce through networking opportunities and career counseling. Many colleges host job fairs where students can familiarize themselves with employers, careers, and available positions. University career centers can help students narrow down their job search and land summer internships. After graduation, a degree can help you stand out from job candidates with no formal college education.
What Can I Do With an Associate in Healthcare Administration?
Graduates of healthcare administration programs often pursue careers in hospitals, healthcare systems, and medical facilities. However, the skills gained in a healthcare administration program -- including problem solving, clerical competencies, and management -- can apply to many other industries. Skilled healthcare administrators can find work in offices that prize solid organizational skills and a strong attention to detail.
- Medical and Health Services Managers
These professionals oversee and coordinate the day-to-day operations of healthcare organizations. Medical and health services managers ensure that medical facilities operate efficiently and follow the latest regulations. An associate degree teaches students the communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills necessary to succeed in this position.
Median Annual Salary: $98,350
Projected Growth Rate: 20%
- Administrative Services Managers
Administrative services managers supervise tasks such as record keeping, office management, and mail distribution. Depending on the organization, these managers may specialize in one area or oversee operations across all departments. A health administration degree prepares students for the administrative demands of businesses and organizations.
Median Annual Salary: $94,020
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Medical Records and Health Information Technician
Health information technicians use the latest technology and databases to ensure that all patient records stay organized, secure, and up-to-date. These professionals make sure that only authorized employees can access sensitive data. Many health administration programs emphasize the importance of good record keeping and information management.
Median Annual Salary: $39,180
Projected Growth Rate: 13%
How to Choose an Associate in Healthcare Administration Program
When researching healthcare administration degree programs, students should consider several factors, including length, cost, location, format, curriculum, and delivery format.
While most associate programs take two years to complete, some schools offer accelerated programs that take less than a year to complete. These programs benefit students eager to graduate and start working. Moreover, some schools allow students to enroll on a part-time basis, while others only accept full-time students. Working professionals and individuals with young children might consider applying only to online programs. Online options generally offer a great deal of flexibility and allow students to work on their own schedules.
Students should also carefully evaluate each school's curriculum. Some programs focus on a particular area of healthcare administration such as management or technology, while others provide a more broad education. A few programs allow students to choose a concentration in an area of interest. Students who value hands-on learning may prefer programs that include practicums or other direct experience.
Students must also consider location when deciding between schools. On-campus students should recognize that living expenses cost substantially more in places like New York or Los Angeles than elsewhere in the country. Additionally, some areas provide more lucrative and desirable job opportunities after graduation. Online students should make sure they can access campus for any required residencies or in-person labs.
Programmatic Accreditation for Associate in Healthcare Administration Programs
Students looking to earn a healthcare administration degree should make sure that they only apply to accredited programs. Accreditation indicates that a school meets standards of academic quality. Schools and programs receive accreditation only after passing a lengthy and thorough review process.
Colleges can receive either national or regional accreditation. Regional accreditation requires higher standards; consequently, many employers prefer regionally accredited degrees. Vocational schools usually receive national accreditation, while traditional four-year universities typically receive regional accreditation. Above all, prospective healthcare administration students should make sure that their school has received accreditation from an organization approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the Department of Education.
Certain programs and departments may also receive specialized accreditation. Students should prioritize schools that hold accreditation from the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education. These institutions maintain a high standard of healthcare education.
Associate in Healthcare Administration Program Admissions
Applying to college can be a lengthy process, so students must understand what they need to do ahead of time. Prospective college students should gather all the necessary materials far in advance of the application deadline. Colleges generally require students to submit official high school transcripts and SAT or ACT test scores. However, an increasing number of schools have adopted more relaxed testing policies in recent years. Students should carefully look over specific admission requirements before applying. Many schools also require students to submit an essay explaining their academic and career goals.
Students should apply to 3-6 schools. This allows students to choose to a few safety schools, a few target schools, and a few reach schools.
- Application: All schools require students to submit an application with personal information. This form usually asks for an essay or a few short answer questions. Many schools accept the Common App, a single form that students can submit to many colleges.
- Transcripts: Students can obtain a copy of their official transcript from their high school. Some high schools charge a small fee. Many allow students to request the document online.
- Application Fee: Students must pay an application fee at most schools. Fees generally fall between $25 and $50, and low-income students can obtain fee waivers.
Educational Paths for Online Healthcare Administration Associate Programs
Many students choose to continue their education after earning an associate degree. An associate degree is a relatively quick and affordable option for those looking to earn some education and obtain an entry-level job. However, a bachelor's degree allows healthcare administrators to advance into more specialized and higher paying roles. For example, most states require licensed nursing home administrators to earn at least a bachelor's degree. Mid-career nursing home administrators earn over $85,000.
- Bachelor's in Healthcare Administration
A bachelor's in healthcare administration builds on the topics introduced in an associate program. These programs cover the healthcare business and the inner workings of healthcare organizations.
- Bachelor's in Healthcare Leadership
This degree emphasizes leadership skills, personnel management, financial decision-making, and legal issues. Graduates often pursue high-level management roles.
- Bachelor's in Health Information Management
Bachelor's programs in health information management prepare students to store, protect, and organize patient records and data. These programs train students in the latest health information tools, resources, and technologies.
What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Healthcare Administration Program?
This section provides an overview of what students should expect from a healthcare administration program in terms of courses, cost, and duration. No program is the same, and details vary depending on which school and program a student chooses. However, certain aspects remain relatively constant across most programs.
Courses in an Associate in Healthcare Administration Program
Each healthcare administration program teaches students similar fundamental skills and principles. While some curricula may emphasize a particular skill or topic, all programs ready students for successful careers in healthcare administration. Below, you can find a list of some common healthcare administration courses.
- Finance for Healthcare
This course familiarizes students with the financial objectives and operations of a healthcare facility. Students learn about budgeting and financial decision making in healthcare organizations. Students also gain an understanding of key accounting terms and principles. The course prepares students for accounting and bookkeeping roles.
- Marketing in Healthcare
This course introduces students to the importance of marketing in a successful healthcare facility. Students learn how to identify a business's strengths and weaknesses and construct an effective marketing campaign. This course can benefit students interested in marketing or external relations for a health-oriented business.
- Healthcare Industry Trends
This course covers the state of the healthcare industry and recent developments in healthcare technology and services. Students discuss the societal and economic factors that drive change in the healthcare industry. Healthcare administrators in any setting must have a general understanding of the healthcare industry.
- Problem Solving and Decision Making
In this course, students gain an understanding of the critical thinking and problem solving techniques that help healthcare administrators make tough decisions. The course recommends tools for mitigating risk, evaluating available information, and overcoming obstacles. This class prepares students to effectively manage departments and organizations.
Students enrolled in this course learn about the techniques and challenges associated with leading employees in a healthcare setting. The course outlines healthcare leadership responsibilities, including team building, conflict resolution, and productivity management. The course also teaches students to work and lead within common organizational structures.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Healthcare Administration?
Students can expect to earn an associate in healthcare administration in around two years of full-time study. Part-time students often take at least a semester or year longer.
Some programs allow students to double up on credits to finish their degree at an accelerated pace. For instance, self-paced online programs allow students to complete coursework at whatever speed they choose. Many programs allow students to take fewer credits each semester and move through the curriculum at a more relaxed pace. Students who work full time and do not mind taking more than two years to complete their degree may choose a low-credit part-time option.
Tuition costs generally depend on the number of credits required for a degree, and not on the length of time a student takes to finish the curriculum. On average, associate in healthcare administration programs require around 60 credits.
How Much Is an Associate in Healthcare Administration?
The cost for a healthcare administration degree varies from school to school. In general, students can expect to pay between $10,000 and $30,000 for their associate degree. Whether you choose to attend a public or private institution can have a huge effect on overall tuition costs. Public schools generally cost less than private schools. In-state community colleges usually provide the most affordable option.
Students should make sure to consider the number of credits each program requires and the total cost per credit. While a college's cost per credit may be low, the total number of credits required for graduation may be high. In addition, some colleges charge different rates for full-time, part-time, and online students. Prospective healthcare administration students should determine which option best fits their budget and lifestyle.
Apart from tuition, students should also take into account the many other costs associated with earning a degree. On-campus students often have to pay for housing, transportation, and a meal plan. Online learners may choose to buy a new computer or upgrade their internet. All students should factor in the substantial cost of textbooks and other course materials.
Professional Organizations in Healthcare Administration
Professional organizations offer valuable resources to healthcare administration students and recent graduates. Professional associations can help students find scholarships, learn about career paths, and connect with professionals. The American Health Information Management Association, for example, hosts career preparation webinars on salary expectations and career outlook. Healthcare administration organizations also help recent graduates with their job search through networking events, job boards, and mentorship programs. Some associations provide opportunities for additional certifications and credentials.
Founded in 1968, this organization educates and advocates for current and aspiring healthcare administrators. The association stresses professional development through publications, conferences, certification programs, and networking opportunities.
This association supports the advancement of health information management through advocacy and professional development opportunities. The organization helps professionals keep up with this rapidly changing field through webinars, certifications, and newsletters.
This international professional organization supports leaders in hospitals and other healthcare settings. The association promotes excellence in healthcare management by publishing research, hosting an annual conference, and posting opportunities to its job center.