If you're looking to enter a high-growth career field and are doing your research on the most in-demand jobs, you've probably seen that healthcare administration is at the top of many lists. There's good reason for this: the Bureau of Labor Statistics has excellent projections for the field, with a 20% growth rate and a median pay of over $96,500 per year. If your interest is piqued by these compelling numbers but you're curious about how to get into healthcare administration, read on to learn more about this exciting, dynamic field.
Pursuing a Healthcare Administration Career
What Is Healthcare Administration?
First off, it's helpful to have a clear understanding of what healthcare administration is. Essentially, this field involves the management of the business side of healthcare-focused organizations, institutions, and businesses. If you are interested in healthcare but do not want to work in a medical role, this is the career for you!
If you're still wondering, "What does a healthcare administrator do?", be aware that there's no clear-cut answer, as healthcare administration roles can vary greatly from position to position. Some of the tasks that can typically fall under the umbrella of a healthcare administrator's roles include, but are not always limited to, staffing, budget management and finances, administrative tasks, facility management, operations and program oversight, external relations, policy, and leadership of teams and employees.
While almost all individuals who get a degree in healthcare administration end up working in the healthcare field, they are qualified to work in a number of different types of organizations, including hospitals, private medical facilities, government offices, schools and universities, mental health facilities, nursing homes, or insurance companies, among others.
How to Become a Healthcare Administrator
If you're looking to enter the healthcare administration field, related work experience is a must. Most employers require at least some experience working in a healthcare environment, whether it's on the medical or administrative side. These do not have to be high-level roles: many healthcare administrators come to the field from entry-level positions such as medical record clerks, health information technicians, administrative assistants, or medical assistants.
In addition, a degree is required for most healthcare administration roles. You will almost always need at least a bachelor's degree to enter the field, and for many roles, a master's degree is required as well, especially those with higher pay and increased responsibility. If this is a field that interests you, it's a smart decision to plan on getting a master's degree at some point, even if it's a few years down the road.
M.S. in Healthcare Administration vs. MBA With Concentration in Healthcare Administration
When researching what healthcare administration master's degree to obtain, you'll usually encounter two different degree types: a master's degree in healthcare administration, or an MBA with a concentration in healthcare administration. Many individuals are unsure of the difference between the two programs, and don't know which one to pursue. The good news is that both of these master's degrees will more than prepare you for your healthcare administration career. However, there are some key differences between them, which will affect your decision of which one to pursue.
An MBA in healthcare administration provides the foundational coursework of a business degree with an added emphasis on key healthcare topics. Students will gain a broad base of business knowledge and technical skills, focusing on topics such as finance and accounting, risk management, leadership, globalization, decision-making, performance management, sales and marketing, and process integration. You'll also complete a set of healthcare-focused courses that examine key topics through a healthcare lens: system design and innovation, information systems, finance, law, and project management. You will leave this program as a well-rounded business professional with both the highly transferrable skills expected from an MBA program, and a depth of knowledge in the healthcare administration field.
A Master's in Healthcare Administration is a deep immersion into the field of healthcare administration. You will complete many of the same core healthcare administration courses that you would in an MBA in Healthcare Administration program, and then build on them with highly-focused courses that take your understanding of the field to the next level. Many of these classes are similar to the business courses you would be taking in an MBA program, but have a clear emphasis on and applicability to the healthcare world. For example, in an MBA program, you might take a general leadership class, which would equip you with leadership skills that can be used in any industry, whereas a master's in healthcare administration program would offer a class that is designed to focus on leadership in the healthcare realm specifically. Many of the skills and competencies gained through these classes (such as decision-making, performance management, and project management) will be based around the same concepts learned in an MBA program, but all of the examples will be relevant to healthcare administration - and all of your classmates will be either coming from a similar background to you or have similar goals, lending a unique dimension to the classroom discussions.
Ultimately, graduates of both programs are well-prepared for successful careers in healthcare management. The choice is ultimately up to you: whether you would prefer the general applicability and diversity of classmates that come with an MBA in healthcare administration, or the in-depth, immersive experience of a master's degree in healthcare administration.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Healthcare Administrator?
This question really depends on where you are in your career, and what your background is in. As mentioned above, you will usually need a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration or a related subject, which takes most students four years to complete (though it can be completed sooner through accelerated courses and transfer credits where applicable). To be eligible for higher-paying roles that involve more responsibility and experience, you may want to pursue a master's degree, which can usually be completed in one to two years. However, the good news is that whether you get a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration or a master's degree, you will be qualified to enter the field right away - so beyond the time it takes you to complete your education, you don't have to delay getting started!
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