Complete Guide to an Online Healthcare Administration Degree
All 51 schools on this page offer online degrees in healthcare administration. These programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate level and can last from one to five years in length. Students can choose from an array of specializations in the field, from bioinformatics to healthcare management and medical transcription. Graduates of an online healthcare administration school may pursue a variety of professional roles, from working as part of a billing and coding team to leading an entire hospital or healthcare facility.
Students researching online degrees in healthcare administration are encouraged to choose an accredited program. Continue reading for more information on accreditation, licensure and certification, careers in the field, and the details of specializing in medical office administration.
Comprehensive List of Colleges & Universities for an Online Healthcare Degree
Overview of Available Online Degrees in Healthcare Administration
Online undergraduate certificates and associate degrees are available in areas such as medical transcription, medical office administration, and healthcare information systems. These types of programs discuss the skills for managing the large amount of information, record keeping, and correspondence that is common in the healthcare environment. It’s wise to look for a program that emphasizes technological proficiency, since information technology is growing in importance in healthcare settings.
Bachelor’s degrees in healthcare administration are available in healthcare management, healthcare information systems, and public health. These programs typically delve deeper into the history and structure of the healthcare system and its repercussions on patient care. Programs that focus on management include courses that discuss the business aspects of healthcare settings, such as healthcare finance, staffing, and marketing.
Online master’s degrees and graduate certificates are great preparation for entering management and administrative roles in care settings. These programs build on undergraduate work and are often aimed at individuals with a year or more of professional experience in healthcare. Courses cover topics like organizational behavior, managed care, personnel administration, and quantitative methods. Graduate programs often include an internship or fieldwork requirement, where students work in a healthcare setting.
Doctorates in healthcare administration areas may focus in a number of specializations, such as managed care, executive training, and information systems. These programs typically require that applicants have significant experience in roles such as a clinical care professional, administrator, or policy professional. These programs require a lengthy project, thesis, or fieldwork assignment that allows graduates to function at the highest level in their particular healthcare administration area.
Professionals in healthcare administration are concerned with providing organizational support in the medical industry. Associate degree programs are strongly recommended to those who prefer to take a step-by-step approach toward establishing a career in this field. Students must complete at least 60 credit hours and commit to two years of full-time study or four years of part-time study. A high school diploma or GED is necessary to enroll as well.
Associate degree programs in healthcare administration focus on providing students with foundational concepts in the medical profession. Individuals learn about the rewards and challenges of working in the healthcare field, as well as their role in offering assistance to other staff members. Many schools require the selection of specialties in medical records, pharmacy practice, or billing and coding. The associate program curriculum typically involves classes in information technology, patient records, claims preparation, billing procedures, health language, medical law, management principles, health communication skills, medical terminology, and medical ethics.
Individuals who earn associate degrees in healthcare administration may be eligible for jobs as medical transcriptionists, medical records technicians, and medical administrative assistants. They work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, outpatient facilities, physicians' offices, adult residential centers, and rehabilitation centers. Those who want to advance into careers as medical and health services managers should pursue a bachelor's degree.
Bachelor’s degrees in healthcare administration cover the healthcare policy knowledge and unique business skills required for leadership in healthcare settings. These four-year degrees require 120 credit hours of work. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED, as well as the usual admissions packet requirements of standardized test scores and letters of recommendation.
The curriculum in the healthcare administration program teaches students how to ethically and efficiently manage a hospital, skilled nursing facility, outpatient care center, or another healthcare setting. Core administrative classes discuss healthcare finance, human resources and personnel management, healthcare IT, and marketing for health services. Other classes provide a legal and ethical framework for the sensitive business of managing a healthcare facility.
Along with courses focused on the administrative and business aspects of healthcare, students also study the history of the healthcare system, healthcare policy, and relevant social science topics. Many online healthcare administration bachelor’s programs also require a hands-on practicum experience in a hospital, physicians' office, or another healthcare setting in the student’s local community.
A bachelor’s in healthcare administration is the minimum educational requirement for most entry-level jobs in medical and health services management. About 40 percent of healthcare administrators are employed in hospitals. Doctors' offices, home health services, nursing care facilities, and outpatient care centers are also large employers. Master’s degrees are common in the healthcare administration field, and new bachelor’s graduates without previous industry experience will likely be hired in an assistant or entry-level capacity, with the option to move into higher-level management roles after a year or more of experience (BLS).
The master’s degree program in healthcare administration provides students with the skills needed to run a healthcare services organization. Students examine business management principles as they apply to a healthcare organization, as well as healthcare quality and policy issues. These degrees typically take two years to complete; students take 12 to 15 courses. Applicants to these programs need an accredited bachelor’s degree but most programs accept individuals from a variety of academic backgrounds, though some amount of professional experience in a healthcare setting may be required.
The interdisciplinary curriculum in the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) program discusses management skills, information technology, quality care, and healthcare policy. Management courses touch on topics like decision making, organizational behavior, human resources management, and communication in healthcare organizations. These classes prepare students to lead and coordinate the teams of clinical workers in healthcare settings.
Courses in quality care discuss statistics, healthcare monitoring, and ways of maintaining care standards. Health policy courses teach future leaders about the ways in which the healthcare system impacts different groups in society. Most health administration master’s degrees require an internship, a research project, or both. Internships require work in a hospital, outpatient care facility, or another health center, shadowing an administrator.
Many MHA graduates go on begin a career as a medical or health services manager. While a bachelor’s degree is the minimum entry-level requirement for these types of positions, a master’s degree can provide advanced training and better job opportunities. Healthcare administration graduates without professional experience in healthcare management usually begin working as assistant managers or managers of smaller departments. After gaining experience, managers can advance into higher-paying positions.
Doctoral degrees in healthcare administration are available to students who have completed and excelled in a related bachelor's and master's degree. If you're planning on going to school full time, a doctoral program will take about four years to complete. Each student will need to complete approximately 30 units per year for a total of 120 units upon graduation. Extra time will also be required for residency requirements.
Doctoral programs in healthcare administration will include courses such as healthcare systems, research, human services, human resources, healthcare marketing, risk assessment and management, critical thinking, leadership, strategic planning, organizational change, law, and health systems analysis and evaluation. In addition to coursework, all doctoral students will need to complete a dissertation, which includes individual research, a written report, and a presentation. Students will also have to complete a mandated number of hours spent in a residency program at a hospital or healthcare facility recognized by their school.
The doctorate is the highest degree level possible within healthcare administration, and therefore opens up many career opportunities. Common career paths for those with a PhD in healthcare administration include hospital administrators or directors, hospital CEOs or CFOs, and hospital vice presidents.
Healthcare administration refers to the provision of office support and organizational assistance in medical settings. Individuals who wish to enhance their skills and knowledge regarding specific themes and procedures in this field should consider getting a graduate certificate. These programs typically take between 12 and 18 months to complete and may consist of approximately 15 credits. Schools prefer to admit applicants that submit undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. In rare cases, a resume that documents relevant work experience is mandatory as well.
Graduate certificate programs in healthcare administration are designed to nurture the talents of individuals who've already initiated their postsecondary studies with bachelor's degree programs in a related field. Students learn the distinctive healthcare policies, as well as business management concepts. Topics covered include national health insurance, introduction to healthcare systems, healthcare ethics, quality and information management systems, healthcare trends in the United States, and strategic planning and marketing. Students also explore a variation of issues that impact the healthcare system and develop strategic approaches to performing their duties.
Many certificate holders become medical secretaries in practitioners' offices, medical clinics, outpatient centers, or rehabilitation facilities. Those who want to continue their education should earn a master's degree in order to advance into leadership roles in the healthcare system. Healthcare research positions or postsecondary teaching jobs require a doctoral degree.
Regardless of the healthcare administration career path you choose, it's always wise to enroll in a degree program that's been accredited by a reputable agency. Accreditation is an important designation granted to schools that offer students access to high-quality academic programs, qualified faculty members, current research programs, and other resources. Accreditation may be granted by a programmatic agency or by one of the institutional accrediting agencies across the United States. While attending an accredited program isn't a requirement for employment, having a recognized degree on your resume may increase your chances of being hired. It will also help you meet eligibility requirements when applying for federal financial aid or if you ever need to transfer your earned credits to another school in the future.
Some of the principal programmatic accrediting agencies for healthcare administration-related degree programs include CAHME, ABHES, and CEPH. The US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation each offer a free database of recognized schools, programs, and accrediting agencies. For more information about the benefits of accreditation, please visit our comprehensive accreditation hub.
Licensing is not a requirement for individuals seeking to practice in the field of medical and health services management. The exceptions to this are for nursing facility administrators, who must be licensed in all US states, and assisted-living facility administrators, who must be licensed in some US states. Because licensing requirements for these administrators aren't uniform across all states, it's best to inquire about details from the department of health in the state where you wish to practice.
There are a range of industries and places where you will be able to put your healthcare administration degree to use. A few examples include healthcare clinics, health insurance companies, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers. You could also find work with public health organizations, universities, or research institutions. Some positions in healthcare administration are also available in the armed forces.
The focus of your job can relate to many different aspects of healthcare administration, and you could either work directly with other people or work in a larger planning capacity. For example, you could focus on relations with entities such as the government, or on public affairs and marketing of a particular healthcare system. You might work in nursing administration or you could be in charge of inventory management, such as purchasing necessary supplies.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry with the highest level of employment for medical and health services managers in the United States in 2012 was the hospital industry, with 39 percent of employed medical and health service managers. Following hospitals, the highest concentrations of employment were found in ambulatory healthcare facilities with 26 percent, nursing and residential care facilities with 11 percent, and government facilities with 8 percent (BLS).
Some common job titles for graduates of healthcare administration programs are administrator, assistant administrator, clinical manager, and information manager. Some titles may include the terms “medical” or “health services.” With experience and education, healthcare professionals can move into executive positions within hospitals, health management systems, or a related facility. Regardless of the career you choose to pursue, it's important to be in touch with supportive organizations that push for the allocation of healthcare resources and advancement of the profession, such as the Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals.
Online degrees in medical office administration are available at nearly every educational level and can be useful for preparing for a variety of roles, from healthcare information technician to healthcare policy maker. Online degrees in medical office administration can vary greatly in the focus of the curriculum. Some look primarily at entry-level administrative tasks, while others focus on management and supervisory skills. Others have an emphasis in electronic medical records and technology. Prospective students should ensure that the curriculum in their online degree program reflects the requirements of the particular healthcare role they want to assume in their careers.
Online associate degrees and undergraduate certificates are a good option for entering the healthcare information technician position. Students study topics like medical terminology, medical coding protocol, healthcare reimbursement, and healthcare ethics. Students learn how to update and maintain accurate medical records, something which is absolutely vital for the competent care of patients.
The bachelor’s degree in medical office administration is geared more toward the application of business and management strategies to the healthcare setting. Students learn how to manage the financial, human resources, and marketing issues faced by healthcare facilities. Many bachelor’s programs require an internship in a healthcare facility in the student’s focus area. Bachelor’s programs also provide a wide-ranging introduction to the liberal arts and sciences.
The online master’s degree in medical office administration discusses advanced skills for maintaining operations and quality care in facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, and urgent care clinics. Master’s programs may be broad-based programs discussing a variety of skills required for health services administration, or they may focus on a particular area, such as healthcare information management. Hands-on work is typically a required part of the master’s program.
Doctoral programs in medical office administration are highly specialized degrees that are usually aimed at professionals with years of experience in healthcare. These degrees may focus on a number of aspects of healthcare administration, from quality care improvement or healthcare economics to clinical monitoring. The unifying factor of all doctorates is the required dissertation, a long research project that revolves around a medical administration issue.
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.abhes.org.
- Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education. Accessed December 11, 2014. https://www.cahme.org.
- Council on Education for Public Health. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.ceph.org.
- Medical and Health Services Managers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published January 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Management/Medical-and-health-services-managers.htm.
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