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September 14, 2020

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A doctoral degree in healthcare administration prepares students for leadership positions in hospitals, medical research laboratories, and specialty clinics. Earning a doctorate also allows graduates to apply for tenure-track teaching positions at colleges and universities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that healthcare occupations will grow by 14% between 2018 and 2028.

This guide provides an overview of healthcare administration degrees, covering topics like admission requirements and common courses, concentrations, and career opportunities.

What Is Healthcare Administration?

Healthcare administrators provide the clerical, management, and analytical skills health facilities need to deliver patient services. These professionals order equipment, oversee the daily tasks of departmental staff, maintain confidential information, and ensure their organizations comply with industry standards and government regulations.

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Should I Get a Doctoral Degree in Healthcare Administration?

Due to changing laws, evolving technologies, and the medical needs of baby boomers, healthcare has become one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. For example, the BLS projects that careers like physician assistant (31% growth) will grow rapidly between 2018 and 2028.

Mid-level professionals can advance their careers by earning an on-campus or online doctoral degree in healthcare administration. Throughout a research-intensive curriculum, students learn about the healthcare industry's varying forms of governance and how these structures affect state and federal regulations. Students also develop the ethical and evidence-based management skills needed to promote a productive organizational culture.

Doctoral graduates are prepared for careers as high-level medical and health services managers. The BLS projects 18% job growth between 2018 and 2028 for these professionals.

What Will I Learn in a Healthcare Administration Doctoral Program?

Most doctoral degrees in healthcare administration require about 60 credits. For the first two years, students take classes like health informatics and organizational theory. They also develop a research proposal with the guidance of a faculty mentor.

While completion times vary, most doctoral programs require students to graduate within seven years.


Healthcare Leadership Strategies

In this foundational course, students learn how to improve healthcare organizations by understanding and influencing health policy. Learners delve into current leadership theories and research.

Population Health

With an emphasis on applied entomology, this course explores how public health professionals use marketing and information technologies to monitor the health behaviors of target groups. Students examine the social determinants of health and learn how to foster health equity among underserved communities.

Healthcare Regulation

Students explore the various levels of regulation in the healthcare industry, including state, medical, and professional boards. They analyze the effects of obligatory and voluntary regulations on organizational governance and patient care.

Strategic Planning and Change

This course focuses on the importance of leadership when formulating and executing programs within a healthcare organization.

Research Design and Data Analysis

Students in this class prepare for their dissertation research by learning about best practices for quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method data collection. Participants learn how to write a research proposal that aligns thesis questions with appropriate data analysis and presentation techniques.


Health Informatics

This concentration examines the intersection between technology and healthcare administration. Students learn how to use data management software to secure sensitive clinical information and improve patient and provider outcomes.

Healthcare Policy

This concentration is suitable for students who want to pursue population and global health careers. Covered topics include financial management for public and nonprofit organizations, policy analysis and advocacy, and equitable health reform.

Patient Quality and Safety

In this concentration, students explore current best practices for the development, analysis, and compliance of quality health services. Required courses may include healthcare accreditation, performance improvement methodologies, and patient safety strategies and systems.

Health Education

Students pursuing this concentration learn how to present health information to diverse audiences. Learners also develop the skills needed to develop curricula and evaluate the effectiveness of teaching and learning methods, preparing them for careers as nonprofit managers and corporate trainers.


A good concentration for students with a business management background, this pathway centers on the financial governance of clinics, corporate offices, and hospitals. Students strengthen their data analytics skills, preparing to help their organizations make strategic decisions regarding resource allocation and program development.

What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration?

The following section details the general responsibilities of five healthcare administration careers. A doctoral degree prepares graduates for management roles within specialty clinics, hospitals, and other health service facilities.


Health Services Manager

Also called healthcare executives, these professionals help improve the quality and efficiency of an organization's services. They recruit and train staff, create work schedules, develop departmental goals, and manage operating costs.

Nursing Home Director

Directors oversee all of the activities that go on in a nursing home, including patient services and daily tasks assigned to staff. They also develop marketing strategies, working with their team to create effective advertising campaigns and tours.

Clinical Educator

These educators teach and analyze the performance of clinicians-in-training, nurses, insurance personnel, and hospital administrators. They also develop training programs and professional development activities.

Health Information Management Director

These directors oversee medical records departments within hospitals, clinics, and healthcare-related corporations. They ensure their organizations comply with IT regulations and monitor the security of computer databases and networks.

Postsecondary Teacher

In addition to providing classroom instruction, postsecondary teachers help their students pursue independent research and find internships and field experiences. College instructors also pursue their own projects and assist their departments with student recruitment and curriculum development.

How to Choose a Healthcare Administration Doctoral Program

Prospective students should enroll in doctoral programs that hold both regional accreditation and specialized accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education. Accreditation means that a program and school have passed a rigorous evaluation from a respected third-party organization.

Program format is another important factor to consider; for example, online degrees in healthcare administration typically offer more flexibility than their on-campus counterparts. Prospective students should also examine the curriculum, paying close attention to required coursework, concentration options, and practicum/dissertation requirements.

How to Get Into a Healthcare Administration Doctoral Program

Graduate programs evaluate applicants based on academic performance and professional accomplishments. To pursue a doctoral degree in healthcare administration, you should have a minimum 3.0 GPA and about two years of healthcare industry experience, preferably in a leadership role.

Doctoral candidates must also submit a personal statement, CV, and recommendation letters. Additionally, you should prepare to talk about specific research interests and goals in a formal interview with faculty members.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration?

In general, a doctorate takes 3-5 years to earn, with students spending the first 1-2 years taking classes. Practitioner-focused programs require students to complete a community-focused project, while research-oriented Ph.D. tracks culminate in a dissertation defense.

In addition to a doctoral degree in healthcare administration, professionals must obtain state-specific licensure if they want to work in nursing departments and assisted-living facilities. Healthcare administrators can also advance their careers by earning certifications from organizations like the American College of Healthcare Executives and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average graduate student paid $11,926 in annual tuition when attending a public university and $25,442 when enrolled at a private institution during the 2017-2018 school year. However, online doctoral programs can sometimes help students save money; for example, distance learners often qualify for in-state tuition no matter where they live.

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