The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects healthcare occupations to grow by 18% by 2026. Healthcare is one of the nation’s fastest growing industries, and this increase in demand adds more than two million jobs to the economy. As more people enter the healthcare field, additional research needs to be done on care practices, procedures, and workers.
A Ph.D. in healthcare management appeals to thought leaders in the healthcare industry concerned with organizational structure and development.
Research helps the industry understand the areas that need improvement and the population groups that require different resources. A Ph.D. in healthcare management equips health managers with the tools to research and develop better initiatives and policies. They work from the top down to put new strategies in place.
Professionals with leadership experience that want to shift an organization’s strategy will appreciate the concepts explored in a DHA degree. The following guide will address the most common questions potential healthcare management doctorate students have, what you can expect from the admissions process, and more.
Should I Get a Doctorate in Healthcare Management?
A Ph.D. in healthcare management appeals to thought leaders in the healthcare industry concerned with organizational structure and development. These workers tend to be busy individuals, so an online program appeals to them. DHA degree candidates learn basic competencies that prepare them for healthcare administration at the highest levels. Students explore the nuances of organizational theories and apply them to common organizational issues.
Through advanced study and research, students become problem-solvers, identifying problems before they occur and researching innovative ways to allocate resources. As a key stakeholder within the organization, these professionals make decisions that affect the facility personnel and every other aspect of the organization.
Obtaining a doctoral degree in healthcare management helps students in several ways: First, it shows employers that graduates possess the skills and knowledge needed to head an organization. Secondly, it exposes students to other healthcare administrators that they can collaborate with or look to for mentorship. The school itself also offers career services to help students maximize their potential. They offer writing workshops and advisers to help students with their dissertation, and they also provide networking opportunities through alumni associations and events.
What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Healthcare Management?
A Ph.D. in healthcare management program uses concepts, theories, and evidence-based research to mold students into the future movers and shakers of the healthcare industry. With this knowledge, students gain access to careers in academia, politics, research, and facility management. Graduates decide the sector that appeals to them; those that want to shape policy go into public health fields or advocacy, while graduates that like teaching others become college professors or advisers. The ideas and theories taught in each course stress communication and innovation. Potential students must possess leadership qualities and collaborative skills. Therefore, self-starters and creative thinkers benefit the most from this program.
- Top Executives (Healthcare Administrators)
Administrators take on different responsibilities such as managing finances, supervising staff, maintaining facility operations, or storing health data. Each department has its own set of administrators that make sure things run smoothly and the department meets its goals. Top-level administrators take an overall approach to management by ensuring each department functions properly and works together.
Median Annual Salary: $104,700
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
- Management Analysts
Usually analysts work independently or as part of a firm to offer expert counsel and guidance to healthcare organizations. They work with executives to create and implement business plans and processes.
Median Annual Salary: $82,450
Projected Growth Rate: 14%
- Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
Health information technicians use IT to process healthcare information. Although, tech-focused technicians must understand medical terminology and competencies to fulfill the job duties. They manage health information for hospitals, clinics, insurance companies, and the public sector. They code and classify information and also help facilities transfer information from paper to electronic files.
Median Annual Salary: $39,180
Projected Growth Rate: 13%
- Social and Community Service Managers
These managers work with community leaders and organizations to distribute social services to members. As managers they work on the administrative side, evaluating program data to determine the effectiveness of current initiatives. Once they identify issues, managers work to implement organizational changes. Managers also reach out to different stakeholders to receive funding for programs.
Median Annual Salary: $64,100
Projected Growth Rate: 18%
- Financial Managers
The financial manager oversees the organization’s financial health. They work with administrators to create and adhere to budgets, increase revenue, reduce spending, and address any concerns with the financial processes. Financial managers in the healthcare industry must be familiar with medical equipment, pharmaceutical, and staffing costs.
Median Annual Salary: $125,080
Projected Growth Rate: 19%
How to Choose a Doctoral Program in Healthcare Management
Once students decide to get a doctorate in healthcare management, they must understand the financial and time commitments of the process. After receiving an undergraduate and then a graduate degree, these candidates have already dedicated potentially six years of their life to higher education. Enrolling in a healthcare management doctorate program could take at least another three years to complete. At this point students may decide that a nontraditional program better suits their needs and lifestyle. Schools offer traditional on-campus and fully online programs. Hybrid programs combine on-campus and online elements such as in-class meetings and online discussion forums. Students may opt for online programs because they think these programs are accelerated, but in most cases, completion time depends on the student.
Some students decide to enroll part time due to program costs. However, many schools charge part-time students per credit hour instead of a flat tuition rate, so students must decide if the reduced cost supersedes program length. Students should also look into the program’s curriculum, as some schools offer healthcare management as a concentration within a general management major. Other schools offer concentrations within a doctorate in healthcare management program. The dissertation remains the most important component of the program. Schools enlist advisers to help students write their dissertation, and they may also include mandatory seminars to help students write and organize their paper.
What’s the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a DHA?
A Ph.D. in healthcare management administration and a DHA degree both focus on original medical research. However, a Ph.D candidate conducts research and presents their findings to the academic and medical community. They work behind the scenes carrying out research efforts and educating the next generation of medical professionals. A DHA candidate uses their research to solve real-word problems in the healthcare industry. They go on to work as healthcare administrators and consultants. Both programs teach financial management, data analysis, business practices, and evidence-based research methods.
Schools that confer a doctorate in healthcare management will let applicants know if the program has a Ph.D. or DHA focus. In addition to research methods and applications, DHA candidates take courses in leadership, advocacy, and policy to mold them into quality care professionals. Essentially, students interested in research implementation should consider a DHA degree, while those that enjoy collecting and analyzing data can pursue a Ph.D. in healthcare management administration.
Accreditation for Doctoral Programs in Healthcare Management
Programmatic accreditation describes an accrediting body that works to evaluate degrees within a specific industry. Committees consist of industry professionals and educators with years of experience in the field. They assess the department that confers the degree, its faculty members, and the program’s curriculum to ensure it meets certain goals and learning objectives. They want programs to produce knowledgeable professionals that understand the current landscape of the industry. The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education works with healthcare organizations to accredit university programs. Most certification associations only accept applicants with a degree from an accredited program. Employers also look for candidates with a degree from an accredited institution to fill highly skilled roles. Students with a degree from an unaccredited program may experience trouble qualifying for certifications or applying for positions.
Doctorate in Healthcare Management Program Admissions
Gaining entry into a Ph.D. healthcare management program requires several documents. The process starts with an application. Schools host open houses and informational sessions to recruit prospective students. Once an application is submitted, administrators contact the applicant to conduct an interview. The mandatory interview process allows faculty to gauge the student’s interest and commitment to the program. Universities are much more selective with program admittance, and faculty members play an active role in approval.
The application deadlines vary, but most schools expect students to submit their application by early winter. Students should fill out the application form online and upload necessary documents to their electronic profile. They will need to ask their previous schools and testing centers to submit test scores and transcripts directly to the admissions office. The department reviews the required documents, interviews the candidate, and then makes their final decision.
- Degree: Administrators prefer applicants with a graduate degree in a health-related field. Some students apply for the Ph.D in healthcare management immediately after obtaining their master’s degree.
- Professional Experience: Students should have some work experience before entering the program. Candidates should already be familiar with management techniques and duties. Many programs require a copy of the applicant’s resume to verify work experience.
- Minimum GPA: Schools expect applicants to maintain a 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA throughout their undergraduate career.
- License: Professionals working as facility administrators should hold a valid license. Most states require nursing home administrators to obtain and maintain a practice license.
- Application: Doctoral applications include a section for a personal statement. Administrators want to know more about the applicant’s background and their reason for applying to the program.
- Transcripts: Graduates can request official transcripts from their undergraduate and graduate programs. Admissions departments want a transcript with an official seal to prove its validity.
- Letters of Recommendation: Departments request at least two letters of recommendations from people that know the applicant personally. They prefer letters from supervisors, managers, instructors, coaches, and mentors.
- Test Scores: Not all schools require GRE or GMAT scores, but the ones that do want students to submit test scores with their application. They look for high scores in math, science, and critical/analytical sections.
- Application Fee: Schools require students to submit a nonrefundable application fee but some schools waive the fee altogether. Students that met certain income requirements qualify for fee waivers.
What Else Can I Expect From a Doctoral Program in Healthcare Management?
Healthcare management encompasses many different duties and job functions. Most learners want to focus on a specific management area and become an expert in that discipline. Therefore, many institutions offer concentrations in popular fields like analytics, advocacy, and ethics. Program names and specializations differ by school, but sample concentrations are listed below.
|Bioethics||The ethical impact of healthcare policy decisions is a hot topic as the government gets more involved in healthcare delivery. Students analyze public health initiatives using empirical research methods. They also probe the ethical implications of emergency preparedness systems, population health practices, infectious diseases, and obesity prevention.||Long-term care director|
|Quality and Patient Safety||This track focuses on delivering quality care to the patient through different methodologies and techniques. Using a public health perspective, degree candidates probe patient safety, outcomes, and performance measurement. Graduates apply these techniques to clinical environments to aid in prevention and treatment efforts.||Healthcare system executive|
|Health Policy and Advocacy||Students examine organizational issues and use evidence-based research methods and ideologies to create improvements. Students work at the highest level to advocate for healthcare organizations and patient communities. They gather data from case studies and other exercises to create presentations and projects. Many graduates go on to work with the government to create healthcare policies.||Chief compliance officer|
|Healthcare Leadership||Students delve into the true meaning of a healthcare leader. They explore organizational directional strategies influenced by evidence-based data. These thought leaders can change organizational culture through the leadership qualities developed in this concentration. Students also make decisions using the ethical concepts taught in these courses.||Chief operations officer|
|Healthcare Quality and Analytics||This concentration deals with healthcare compliance and regulatory policies. Workers use data to create directional plans for the organization. They use data metrics to track and improve performance measures. These professionals must always put the safety of staff members and patients first by developing risk management strategies.||Practice administrator|
Courses in a Doctoral Program in Healthcare Management
A Ph.D. in healthcare management features different types of research courses, and each course aids students in collecting, organizing, and presenting the data found in their original research. Similarly, management courses explain basic principles needed to supervise workers and lead the organization. The following list shows courses commonly found in the healthcare management curriculum.
- Management Theory
Taught as a foundational course, this class examines what it means to be a manager and a leader within an organization. Learners explore the principles taught in organizational behavior and management theory.
- Management and Ethics
Students learn management ethics using different moral dilemmas that managers face. They look at real-world problems using a global perspective and analyze and read literature focused on socio-technical systems.
- Strategic Thinking and Organizational Alignment
In this class, students develop the competencies needed to think like a manager. They learn how to look at the organization using a wide-scale lens to identify issues and create solutions. The course goes beyond critical thinking to explore the impact of biases on management decisions.
- Principles of Research Methods and Design
Before a student embarks on a research project, they must identify and follow a research method. This course probes quantitative and qualitative methods of research design. With this knowledge, students will collect, analyze, and organize data appropriately. By the end of the course, doctoral students will successfully demonstrate collection and dissemination methods.
- Practice and Theory of Consulting and Intervention
Students put all the theories and ideologies learned in other courses to use in this class. Students enroll in this course after taking other research and organizational development courses that teach the fundamentals of management processes. Students create a plan and implement it within a client system, then write about the implementation process in a research paper.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Healthcare Management?
It takes approximately three years to complete a Ph.D in healthcare management, but certain schools give students up to eight years to finish. The programs consist of 49 to 100 required credit hours. Schools with a flexible online schedule set multiple start dates throughout the year; this option allows students to arrange courses around their schedule. Due to mandatory in-person components, schools make special accomodations for online students to attend and receive housing during these events. Off-campus students must be able to work these events into their schedule.
For the dissertation, students must conduct original research and schedule meetings with advisers to analyze the work. Students write multiple drafts and meet with different board members before turning in their final dissertation paper. Most courses revolve around the research needed to complete the dissertation.
How Much Is a Doctorate in Healthcare Management?
Tuition rates depend on the school, but doctoral programs tend to cost more than undergraduate and graduate programs. Students can transfer credits into the program, which may decrease costs, but most schools cap credit transfers at 25 credits or less. Schools calculate tuition by adding up the cost of all required courses in the program. Typically, tuition costs do not include technology fees, graduation fees, or a symposium fee. A symposium is a conference where academic professionals speak on a given topic. The symposium might occur off-campus in which case the university covers lodging costs. The fee covers the conference room, equipment, academic materials, and hotel accommodations. Symposium fees start at $1,000.
Program tuition ranges from $54,000 to $60,000 per academic year. Some institutions with a per credit hour option charge different rates for part-time and full-time students. In these instances, part-time students pay more per credit hour. Other schools charge an entirely different rate for online courses.
Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Healthcare Management Prepares For
- Registered Health Information Administrator
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) awards this credential to administrative professionals that use computer information systems, medical terminology, and classification systems to monitor patient health records and information. Applicants need a baccalaureate degree or higher in health information management. Students can apply for the certification during their last term of study.
- Certified Health Data Analyst
Analysts work through the data lifecycle to acquire, store, and interpret health data.They maintain databases for personnel access and to assist the overall care flow of the facility. Applicants need a baccalaureate degree or higher, the RHIA or RHIT credential, and at least one year of healthcare data experience.
- Certified Documentation Improvement Practitioner
The AHIMA established this credential in 2011 for clinical documentation specialists to reinforce their commitment to improving healthcare. Documentation specialists oversee both internal and external audits, such as the RAC audits. To receive this credential, applicants must hold another AHIMA credential and/or an associate degree and two to three years of clinical documentation experience.
Resources for Healthcare Management Doctorate Students
CAHME resources help students find accredited programs, highlights the careers within healthcare management, and awards scholarships to students pursuing a degree.
Johns Hopkins University hosts this center, which is known as one of the oldest research facilities in the U.S. Faculty members display their research findings, and healthcare community members can attend center events.
The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) leadership blog informs readers with the latest news in healthcare technology, strategy, quality, and costs. Readers find tips on improving their leadership skills and helping the organization with redesign.
AUPHA works with students, faculty members, and schools to improve healthcare through managing university healthcare programs. Students can use the site to research reputable programs.
The Becker brand publishes five trade reports that give healthcare leaders an inside look into the trends, changes, and climate of the industry. They host annual conferences to connect leaders from different areas.
Professional Organizations in Healthcare Management
At the post-graduate level, degree candidates have already exhibited advanced knowledge and skill in their field. Professionals need to surround themselves with like-minded individuals to stay in tune with industry developments and trends. A professional organization provides networking opportunities through conferences, seminars, and other scheduled events. Many graduates use the career and educational services to receive additional training.
AHIMA offers multiple certifications in information management. They also provide continuing education courses, seminars, assessments, and exam prep for their members. They actively recruits students and new graduates.
The NAHAM prides itself on improving patient access services and facilities, such as call centers and ambulatory surgery centers. They award certified healthcare access manager and associate credentials.
The HFMA hosts an annual revenue cycle conference and publishes newsletters, blogs, and podcasts on financial management in healthcare. They also spearhead initiatives to maximize revenue and allocate resources throughout the industry.
AAHAM wants to educate administrative professionals in the healthcare field and find innovative ways for them to carry out their duties. They hold conferences, seminars, and distribute publications to share their ideas.
ACHE unites leaders in the healthcare industry by promoting diversity and social responsibility within its ranks. They conduct their own research into healthcare management.