Until the 1990s, health care professionals interested in postgraduate education were limited to either a master’s degree or an academically-focused Ph.D. While a master’s in healthcare administration is a worthwhile post-baccalaureate degree, healthcare is a complex industry that now demands a practical expertise. The doctorate in healthcare administration (DHA) is a terminal degree that emphasizes these practical skills in the field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the medical and health service managers field is projected to grow by 17% by 2024. This number reflects the changing, multidisciplinary role of healthcare administrators. An online doctor of healthcare administration program blends organizational business practices with intricate knowledge of the healthcare system. Graduates of these programs are experts in their field, and prepared for leadership roles in an emerging healthcare landscape. If you are a management professional in healthcare and want to balance running a business with caring for patients, read on for our guide to DHA online programs.
Choosing a Program
WILL THIS PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
The healthcare industry is changing at an unprecedented rate, and effective leadership in this dynamic environment calls for business knowledge, agile thinking, and a willingness to innovate. An online doctorate in healthcare administration delivers interdisciplinary subject mastery and practical expertise in the field. The leadership training in these programs helps you to assess and improve your own performance, while the critical and analytic skills will move your organization forward.
DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?
Most doctor of healthcare administration programs require significant work experience for admission. At least five years of management-level experience in healthcare, public health, or public policy is commonly expected of applicants.
CAN I WORK WHILE I COMPLETE MY ONLINE DOCTORATE IN HEALTHCARE ADMINISTRATION?
Yes. In fact, most online doctoral programs in healthcare administration are structured for adults with full-time jobs.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO EARNING MY DOCTORATE ONLINE?
Online doctorate in healthcare administration programs assume that their students are employed full-time, and set expectations accordingly. Online coursework is managed at the student’s discretion, while intensive face-to-face seminars are limited to periodic weekends. Some schools even organize residencies in kid-friendly locales to accommodate parents. Aside from flexible scheduling, some DHA degrees online grant class credits for professional credentials or prior work experience. They also offer extensive student support programs including online mentoring, advising, and study groups.
Online Doctorate in Healthcare Administration Degrees
|Rank||School Name||Relative Cost||Graduation Rate||Location||Description|
|A T Still University of Health Sciences||COST||GRADUATION RATE 38%||LOCATION Kirksville, MO||
ATSU is a leader in osteopathic healthcare education, and extends this holistic approach to its exclusively online doctorate in healthcare administration. The 76 credit program includes online coursework, a competency examination, and a dissertation. This DHA degree online develops business skills within the healthcare environment, with a heavy emphasis on research methodology. Fourteen courses cover topics like conflict management, population health, and healthcare informatics. A capstone course follows, during which students review and present three dissertations related to their own dissertation topic, followed by an examination. The program culminates in either an applied or theoretical dissertation.
All program coursework is completed exclusively online; learning is asynchronous, and there are no field experience requirements for the degree. Through ATSU's partnership with the American College of Healthcare Executives, members who enroll in the program receive a 20% discount on tuition. This partnership also provides degree candidates with a dissertation mentorship by an ACHE member.
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|Central Michigan University||COST||GRADUATION RATE 20%||LOCATION Mount Pleasant, MI||
The doctoral program in healthcare administration at Central Michigan University (CMU) is a hybrid of online courses, face-to-face seminars, comprehensive examinations, and a dissertation. Roughly 51 credits of coursework explores the business side of contemporary healthcare organizations, with topics such as leadership strategies, organizational behavior, research analysis, and fiscal accountability. Additionally, six seminars are held on the CMU campus and in regionally-based locations reasonably accessible to students; these seminars are two and a half days in length. Following the completion of coursework, degree candidates sit for a comprehensive written examination. The program concludes with a dissertation on an applied research project within healthcare administration.
CMU's doctorate in healthcare administration is intended for professionals currently working in upper management levels of their organizations. This competitive program does not grant transfer credit, nor prior learning credits. Two international travel courses may be substituted for seminars.
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|Franklin University||COST||GRADUATION RATE 85%||LOCATION Columbus, OH||
At Franklin University, the online doctorate in healthcare administration emphasizes evidence-based decision-making and the importance of leaders as educators. This 58 credit program builds a solid foundation of research methodology, augmented by tactical business skills in workflows, process improvement, informatics, and analytics. Special attention is also given to healthcare policy and regulation, specifically those policy makers and change influencers within the healthcare industry. This DHA degree online culminates in a comprehensive exam and dissertation. Franklin's no-fear dissertation process is designed to be seamless and fully supported by faculty and peer-to-peer support.
While most coursework in this DHA online program is completed at a distance, degree candidates attend campus on two occasions to facilitate the dissertation process. Distance learning at the university is entirely asynchronous. Franklin is transfer-friendly, and may grant as many as 24 credits for prior learning, industry certifications, or professional credentials. The university has also dedicated institutional scholarship funds for eligible graduate students enrolled in the College of Health and Public Administration.
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|Medical University of South Carolina||COST||GRADUATION RATE 38%||LOCATION Charleston, SC||
The DHA Executive Program at Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is for professionals currently holding senior leadership roles within the healthcare industry. This online doctorate in healthcare administration is develops advanced skills in four areas: leadership, applied research, strategic management, and health policy. Students also gain an interdisciplinary understanding of all drivers of the contemporary healthcare industry, including compliance and legislation, healthcare finance, and the obligations of ethical practice.
The three-year program delivers two years of didactic content via online instruction and campus-based classes -- which are held one weekend each semester. Immediately following coursework, degree candidates sit for a comprehensive essay examination. The program concludes with an applied healthcare project that examines a real-world situation. This doctoral project is completed in one year.
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|University of Mississippi||COST||GRADUATION RATE 14%||LOCATION University, MS||
Doctoral candidates seeking a part-time program may find Ole Miss's online doctor of healthcare administration program appealing. The nine-semester DHA degree online targets working professionals aspiring to senior management roles within their healthcare organizations. The program examines the interdisciplinary influences on the industry, from epidemiology to economics, fiscal accountability, and healthcare law. Coursework develops practical skills through topics like leadership strategy, communications in healthcare, and process improvement. Candidates are also well-versed in applied research methodology, which they then use in an original research project and dissertation. Online coursework is delivered through the Canvas distance learning platform. while most of the program is conducted online, there are some minimal on-campus attendance requirements.
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|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||COST||GRADUATION RATE 8%||LOCATION Chapel Hill, NC||
While not officially an online doctorate in healthcare administration, UNC's executive doctoral program in health leadership is designed for healthcare professionals with senior management aspirations in the global public health arena. This program, which results in a doctorate in public health, emphasizes global public health, as well as leadership skills and applied research methodology. The program's three-year curriculum explores global public health policy and programs, healthcare business skills, and evidence-based decision-making. Following coursework, students complete a comprehensive examination. The program culminates in a dissertation that addresses an administrative or policy issue related to public health.
This hybrid program combines distance learning with six on-campus sessions held in Chapel Hill, or at an alternate site more suitable for students. Online learning is conducted via synchronous live-streamed class attendance and asynchronous study. Additionally, degree candidates complete at least one practical experience that advances the practice of public health.
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What Else Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Healthcare Administration Program?
Each doctorate in healthcare administration online is designed independently and may differ slightly. However, the curriculum content and program structure is governed by the industry’s accrediting body, and therefore schools generally offer similar content. Read on for our breakdown of a typical DHA degree online.
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE DOCTORATE IN HEALTHCARE ADMINISTRATION
While individual programs may differ, all doctoral programs in healthcare administration share the same goal: to acquaint students with the multidisciplinary knowledge required of leaders in the industry. Courses in DHA online programs introduce the various sectors that drive the healthcare business, and emphasize the practical applications knowledge. A typical DHA curriculum may look like the following:
Marketing and Communications in Healthcare: This course reviews marketing, communications, and public relations principles, with a specific application to healthcare administration. This includes health literacy promotion, culturally appropriate message delivery, health services marketing, and ethical practice.
Leadership in Public Healthcare: An introduction to leadership theory, descriptive and prescriptive systems, and public health leadership principles. Students strategize the most efficient uses of the resources available within healthcare systems.
Governance for Healthcare Leaders: This course examines policy, law, mandates, advocacy, contracts, and ethical obligations of leaders of healthcare organizations. Students approach hypothetical and real-world situations from economic, political, and sociological perspectives.
Advanced Healthcare Analytics: Analysis of the retrieval and reporting processes of data-driven healthcare management. Students refine database skills including extraction, transformation, and analysis within corporate data warehouses.
Advanced Healthcare Informatics: An introduction to issues surrounding health information resources at the institutional level. Students use national initiatives to develop and implement informatics technologies, particularly in clinical applications such as electronic patient records, digital prescribing, disease management, and provider order entry. Special topics also include strategic IT systems planning and the role of management in major IT implementation.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE DOCTORATE IN HEALTHCARE ADMINISTRATION?
It can take between three to seven years to complete an online doctorate in healthcare administration, but completion time is subject to several variables including your educational background and the individual program differences. As a general rule, a full-time doctoral student should expect to spend a minimum of two years completing 50 hours of coursework, and roughly two more years completing a dissertation.
This process can be accelerated in some programs; for example, students who hold a master’s in healthcare administration may complete coursework more quickly than those who hold a master’s in another discipline. In other cases, some DHA online programs begin the dissertation process before coursework is completed, allowing students to get a head-start on their project. Most degree candidates progress through the program in cohorts, and begin and end coursework with the same group of peers.
Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Healthcare Administration Programs
Accredited academic programs have undergone a rigorous examination of their curriculum and admissions procedures by a neutral third party. This process ensures that reasonable academic and admissions standards can be expected at these schools. Accreditation may be granted on the national, regional, or program level — or a combination of all three. However, each accrediting body uses different criteria to evaluate a school.
National: National accrediting bodies focus on a type of education, such as distance or vocational education. Distance learners are best served by schools that are nationally accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) Accrediting Commission.
Regional: Regional accreditation usually carries more weight than the others, because it evaluates a program’s academic rigor.
Program level: Program-specific accreditation is for academic offerings specific fields. For a doctorate degree in health administration online, the premier accrediting agency is the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). CAHME has established clear standards on DHA curriculum content and design, school resources, career development resources, and the performance record of program graduates.
Though the government is not involved in granting accreditation, the U.S. Department of Education oversees the accreditation process and maintains a database of accredited schools. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation is an independent association of accredited degree-granting institutions that also provides oversight to the process, and they also hold a database of accredited schools.
Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Healthcare Administration Graduates
Graduates of online doctorate in healthcare administration programs can attest to the value the degree adds to their careers. Below, we’ve listed testimonials from healthcare professionals who’ve personally experienced this benefit.
"I would highly recommend this program for leaders who want to augment their professional skills and drive their level of excellence in health care management to a new level. It is clear to me that the DHA degree will set me apart from my peer group as a contemporary leader in the healthcare community and position me for greater personal and professional achievements in the future." Patrick J. Murtha, DHA (2007) Hospital President and CEO, Michigan
"The online format was challenging, vastly interactive, and emphasized both theory and practical application... I would highly recommend the DHA program to any healthcare professional who wants to accelerate their career to a premier level." Dr. Yolanda S. Draine, MSA, DHA (2010) Senior Vice President and Adjunct Professor, Memphis, Tennessee
"The doctoral academic roadmap, which culminates with the dissertation process, has allowed me to attain better critical and systems thinking skills, ultimately making me a better health care leader. The networking opportunities among student executives and experienced academic staff have opened the doors of opportunity for advancement within the healthcare industry… I firmly believe that the decision to enter the DHA program has made me a better healthcare professional and expanded my prospects for future employment." Christian Wallis, DHA, FACHE, USN (Ret.) Director, Pediatric Medical Subspecialties Illinois
DOCTORATE IN HEALTHCARE ADMINISTRATION SALARY
Because the doctorate in healthcare administration is a relatively new academic discipline, data on the salaries of its graduates is still being gathered. For this reason, there is not yet a quantifiable return on investment that DHA degree candidates can expect. However, the BLS does offer significant projections on the future of the healthcare industry, which can infer useful information for prospective online doctorate in healthcare administration students.
According to the BLS, positions of medical and health services managers are expected to grow by 17% through 2024. The BLS also aggregates data on the salaries and employment opportunities for medical and health services management professionals. The table below illustrates BLS data on the top five metropolitan areas in the U.S. with the highest employment level of medical health and services managers.
|Hourly Wage (mean)||Annual Salary (mean)|
|New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metro Area||$66.57||$138,470|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, California||$54.06||$112,450|
|Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Illinois||$51.55||$107,210|
DOCTORATE IN HEALTHCARE ADMINISTRATION CAREERS
Online doctorate in healthcare administration programs are designed for a specific type of student: a working professional in the healthcare industry with at least five years of management experience. These students usually have defined career paths, and the DHA provides academic credentials to further establish themselves as leaders within their healthcare organizations.
The degree also opens several paths for career advancement, including positions at the highest level of healthcare administration. Many graduates hold executive titles such as vice president, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief executive officer, or health system president. These are driven, decisive, and knowledgeable individuals. In an industry beset by changes in political, legislative, economic, and patient-centric areas, DHA graduates lead organizations that deliver high-quality care at the lowest possible cost.
Membership in professional organizations is invaluable as it promotes interaction with peers in the field. With an annual membership an individual receives subscriptions to industry publications, invitations to annual conferences and other networking events, and continuing education opportunities. Student membership is often discounted, and can provide useful insider information like access to job boards and professional networking. Below, we’ve listed a few of the major organizations dedicated to healthcare administration.
Financing Your Online Online Doctorate in Healthcare Administration Program
Before you attend school for a DHA degree online, complete the FAFSA form to learn which opportunities for federal funding are available, such as scholarships, loans, grants and work-study. You may also be eligible for any number of externally funded scholarships from private foundations.
Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.