The field of health services covers multiple areas, including hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, ambulatory care centers, clinics, and pharmaceutical facilities. Pursuing a master's degree in health services can help propel you toward a career in one of these areas, all of which have a high demand for health services professionals. The medical and health services manager profession is projected to grow by 20% between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Moreover, the median salary of this profession reaches nearly six figures.
Health services administration master's degrees are available in a few different forms, including traditional on-campus programs, online programs, and hybrid programs that integrate in-person and distance learning. Admissions departments consider recent college graduates along with applicants with full-time jobs who want a career change. Read on to learn more about master's programs in health services administration.
Should I Get a Master's in Health Services?
A master's degree can help you begin a career in health administration. The degree equips you with skills and knowledge for the workplace, teaching you about the finances of healthcare organizations, legal considerations as they relate to the healthcare field, and management tactics. Students also learn about healthcare policy and regulations, which dictate how administrators run health services organizations.
Master's degrees -- including those from online programs -- commonly require students to complete residencies, in which students work at health services organizations under the guidance of experienced professionals. Residency programs often introduce students to professionals in the industry, so they begin networking. Schools offer other opportunities meant to help students enter the field, such as virtual job fairs or hospital partnerships. Some degrees specifically tailor their curricula so students may obtain certification after graduation. These factors give master's degree recipients a competitive edge over other job seekers.
Working professionals who feel hesitant about returning to school need not worry; many schools offer online master's degree programs, which allow students to tailor their degree pathways to fit their own schedules, whether they work in the office or as parents. Schools work with distance learners to find residency programs in their communities. Recent college graduates, on the other hand, may prefer on-campus programs.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Health Services?
The health industry sees frequent changes in regulations and policies, which presents challenges to employees in the field. Health services managers must keep operations efficient at their organizations, despite fluctuations in the industry. They must provide high-quality care while also keeping track of finances and insurance claims. Students who earn their health services administration master's degrees may find careers in any of the following positions.
- Medical and Health Services Managers
Managers of health services facilities and medical organizations coordinate operations at healthcare organizations. They may work at different levels of management: some oversee specific departments, while others run entire facilities. These managers work to improve the efficiency and health outcomes of their organizations. Employers prefer medical and health services managers who hold master's degrees.
Median Annual Salary: $98,350*
- Administrative Services Managers
These professionals direct administrative employees and organization activities. In the field of health services, administrative services managers may work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, or assisted living facilities. They must monitor various aspects of these organizations, including recordkeeping, security, and government-mandated requirements.
Median Annual Salary: $94,020*
- Human Resources Managers
Human resources managers supervise the hiring of new staff and oversee employee issues and conflicts. While some entry-level positions only require a bachelor's degree, higher-level positions sometimes demand job candidates to hold master's degrees.
Median Annual Salary: $110,120*
- Compensation and Benefits Managers
Many hospitals and healthcare facilities hire hundreds or even thousands of employees, so they depend on compensation and benefits managers to make sure those employees receive fair pay. These managers analyze how much people in different positions should earn, create an organization's benefits structure, and make sure their organization's compensation plan meets budget requirements.
Median Annual Salary: $119,120*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Master's Program in Health Services
With a variety health services administration master's degrees available, you might struggle to figure out which program fits your needs. To decide, you should consider multiple factors, starting with location. On the other hand, if you have worked as a professional for years and want to enter health services management as a career change, look at online programs. Distance-learning master's degrees allow students to enroll part time and pursue their education at their own pace.
You should also take an honest look at your finances. Tuition costs tend to add up quickly. What can you afford? How much can you take out in loans? Remember, scholarships and grants may help you out with the cost, but you must find those financial aid opportunities first.
When thinking about which health services administration master's degree to choose, examine the program's curriculum and compare it to your career goals. You can usually find lists of courses online. However, you may want to read the in-depth class descriptions in course catalogues. Course catalogues often include information about degree concentrations. If you hope to manage long-term care facilities, for example, make sure your prospective schools offer courses or specialization tracks on that topic. Also check to see whether the school requires internship, practicum, or other professional experience.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's Programs in Health Services
In order for your degree to hold value, seek an accredited master's program. In the accreditation process, agencies send representatives to evaluate programs and schools to assess whether they properly equip students with the skills they need to succeed in their careers. Without an accredited degree, you may find it difficult to land a job.
When looking at schools, keep an eye out for those with program-specific accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education. If you plan on earning your degree with a focus on health informatics, the program may hold accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education. Some schools may also possess regional accreditation, which is often considered more valuable than national accreditation.
Master's in Health Services Program Admissions
When you reach the admissions stage of your master's degree journey, you must spend a considerable amount of time preparing applications. The application process can take months, once you account for essay requirements, personal statements, writing samples, and letters of recommendation. Make sure to start as early as possible.
Once you discern which health services administration master's degrees match your career goals, you must narrow down your options. It's important to not over apply to schools, or else you might spread yourself too thin and not give each application enough individual attention. Instead, think realistically about which schools line up with your aspirations, and which schools offer reasonable tuition rates. Remember that schools offering professional experience and internships can help you get your foot in the career door before graduation. After considering all of these factors, choose a handful of prospective schools that check every box.
- Bachelor's Degree: Master's programs in health services administration expect applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. Your bachelor's can be in one of a variety of fields, but it must come from an accredited school.
- Professional Experience: For the most part, health administration master's programs do not require prospective students to have prior professional experience in the field. However, some programs do require or recommend at least a couple years' of experience in healthcare.
- Minimum GPA: Most health services master's degrees like to see applicants hold a minimum GPA of 3.0 in their undergraduate studies. For some schools, the threshold lands a little lower. Some colleges consider students with lower GPAs, if their other credentials make up for it.
- Application: Graduate school applications share many similarities with undergraduate applications: You fill out your biographical, education, and professional experience. Some master's programs have additional requirements, including essays, personal statements, and writing samples.
- Transcripts: Admissions departments like to see how students performed academically in the past, so they require applicants to include transcripts from their bachelor's programs. You can request to send these transcripts from your college's registrar office. Transcript requests often incur a small fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Graduate degrees also ask students to submit letters of recommendation. Ask a boss or former professor whom you respect, especially if they think highly of you. Give them three or four weeks to write their letters.
- Test Scores: Some master's in health services programs require applicants to take the GRE, but many programs do not require GRE scores. Master's programs typically do not set a minimum score for admission.
- Application Fee: Graduate programs in health services usually set a $50 application fee. If you can prove financial need or you hold military status, schools might waive this fee.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's Program in Health Services?
The field of health services contains a vast spectrum of subject areas and focal points. As such, narrowing down health services programs might seem an impossible task. Each program boasts a unique curriculum with concentration areas specific to the program's strengths.
|Health Organization Leadership||Students who choose this concentration typically want to work in management in any part of the health services and healthcare fields. Students take classes covering healthcare risk, human capital planning, strategic innovation, and Medicare and Medicaid. They may end up working at hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities, and they should know how to apply their expertise across the board.||Hospital manager, nursing home administrator, clinic administrator|
|Gerontology||The gerontology track dives into the care of aging people. Students learn about issues like housing development for older and ill adults, the processes of aging, policies and regulations on the elderly, and how to assess needs of older adults. These courses teach students how to maintain the dignity of older adults through long-term care.||Long term care administrator|
|Health Economics and Outcomes||Students might feel curious about the financial value of products and services within the healthcare industry. If so, they should consider a specialization in health economics and outcomes. This track teaches students how to assign financial value to health services and products, as well as how humans value those products and services.||Medical and health services managers|
|Biopharmaceutical Regulatory Compliance||If you aspire to work in regulatory compliance, consider a concentration like pharmaceutical regulatory compliance. This focus teaches students how to establish and follow regulatory compliance systems within pharmacies, drug wholesalers, or medical centers.||Regulatory compliance officer, pharmacy manager|
|Rehabilitation Services||Students on the rehabilitation services track study the management of healthcare facilities that treat people recovering from addictions. Coursework covers serving diverse populations with different cultures; understanding the medical, psychological, and social aspects of people struggling with addictions; and evaluating the effectiveness of rehab programs.||Rehabilitation center administrator|
Courses in a Master's in Health Services Program
The curriculum at each school varies. If you feel curious about potential courses, you can find courses listed online or in course catalogues. See below for a list of possible courses.
- Financial Management of Health Systems
The American healthcare system operates on complex rules and regulations, and those rules involve issues of finance and insurance. This course takes a look at budgeting for healthcare facilities, as well as auditing, capital financing, and investing. Students also learn how insurances comes into play.
- Health Law and Legal Aspects of Management
In this course, students examine legal aspects of healthcare that affects administrators. This includes malpractice, medical and surgical consent, contracts, immunity, and liability.
- Quality Assessment and Outcome in Healthcare
When running health services organizations, managers commonly like to know how well their practices perform in the eyes of patients and other stakeholders. This course trains future health services managers in assessing the quality of their own facilities by surveying patients and healthcare providers.
- Administration in Long-Term Care Programs
Long-term facilities and other organizations for the sick and elderly sometimes seem overlooked in the realm of healthcare. This course equips students to manage these facilities and teaches them the how to best serve the aging population, such as by maintaining family relations.
- Managing Human Resources and Health Professions
Human resources makes up a sizeable component in managing a health services organization. Administrators must know how their employees perform in the workplace. They must also understand labor issues, like employees' claim to overtime hours, paid vacation days, or their own healthcare benefits. Students learn all of this in human resource management courses.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Health Services?
Many health services administration master's degrees operate on a 36-credit plan. This means students, both full time and part time, must complete at least 36 credit-hours of coursework. However, some programs require students to complete as many as 48 credit hours, or as few as 30 credit hours, before they can graduate.
The actual length of these programs varies. That depends on how many credits students take each semester, whether students complete internships, and whether students stay enrolled in consecutive terms or take breaks in between. Depending on the program, students may finish their degrees in two years, 18 months, or even as quickly as 15 months on accelerated tracks. Most programs, whether on campus or online, require students to complete their programs in six years.
How Much Is a Master's in Health Services?
Tuition rates vary greatly between schools, and most schools implement different tuition prices for in-state and out-of-state students. State resident students usually pay between $450 and $650 per credit hour, while nonresident students may pay anywhere from $660 to $825 per credit hour. Tuition makes up only a portion of the total cost of your health services administration master's degree. You must also account for technology fees, textbooks, and distance learning fees for online courses. Housing expenses can add up, as well, so consider whether you need to work while enrolled in school.
You can find many ways to curb the costs of graduate school. Students with veteran status or active-duty military status may qualify for lower tuition rates at many master's programs. Schools typically run scholarship programs, as do professional associations, nonprofit health services organizations, and healthcare companies. You may find tuition relief through student loans, as well.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Health Services Prepares For
- Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives
In order to become a board-certified fellow with the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), candidates must pass an exam covering professionalism, ethics, management, healthcare technology, and human resources, among other topics. Candidates should also hold a master's degree, five years of experience working as a healthcare executive, and ACHE membership.
- Registered Health Information Administrator
The registered health information administrator program certifies that professionals possess management skills regarding patient health information and medical records. Run by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), this certification also tests whether professionals meet the legal, ethical, and administrative expectations of AHIMA.
- Certified Medical Manager
The Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management offers the certified medical manager exam. The examination evaluates healthcare administrators in their abilities to manage small physician practices and ambulatory service centers. Candidates must possess two years of professional experience and at least 12 continuing education credits. The test costs $385 for members and $770 for nonmembers.
- Certified Healthcare Access Manager
Also run by AHIMA, the healthcare access manager certification tests administrators who help connect patients to their healthcare providers. This credential certifies that professionals have mastered concepts such as patient management, statistical reporting, information systems, and the revenue cycle. Candidates with two years of professional experience may apply for this certification.
Resources for Graduate Health Services Students
The National Association of Healthcare Access Management offers members eight toolkits that include data, educational materials, and professional guidance. For instance, the disaster preparedness toolkit provides resources to help health services facilities to prepare for emergencies.
Run by the American College of Healthcare Executives, this resource center includes everything from databases to statistical resources and research. Some parts of this resource center reserve access for ACHE members.
The Medical Group Management Association dedicated an entire section of its website to gathering and consolidating resources. Here, students can find articles on risk and compliance, operations management, and the revenue cycle.
The American College of Health Care Administrators offers several scholarships throughout the year. The scholarships change annually, so make sure to check out the running list on the ACHCA's website for application information and deadlines.
This journal publishes research about the health services administration industry. Subscribers receive access to articles on the future of behavioral healthcare and patient safety in Southern California, among other healthcare topics.
Professional Organizations in Health Services
Transitioning from graduate school to the working world may seem intimidating, but professional associations make that shift less scary. If you join one of these organizations while pursuing your health services master's degree, you can network with working professionals at conferences and other events. Professional connections like these make the job search much easier to face. Even if you never attend a conference, these associations usually run job boards or provide a job listings page on their websites. Professional groups also provide certification programs and continuing education opportunities, so you can keep learning long after you graduate.