Healthcare administration represents an essential component of the healthcare industry, ensuring the efficient and coordinated delivery of health services, and the effective management of hospitals and other healthcare facilities. In addition to working for hospitals and clinics, healthcare administrators are also often found working for consulting firms, bio-pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies.
Healthcare administration jobs are interdisciplinary in nature, requiring experiential knowledge of the healthcare industry and a level of business acumen sufficient to manage the extraordinarily complex world of contemporary healthcare systems. With the right experience to back it up, those skills can be further developed with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in healthcare administration.
Admission Requirements and Program Selection Factors
Admission requirements for master’s degrees in healthcare administration often include:
- Minimum undergraduate GPA
- Work experience in a healthcare setting
- An up-to-date resume detailing the candidate’s educational and professional background
- An essay reflecting the candidate’s personal and professional goals
- Letters of recommendation
- Minimum GRE score
With the many types of healthcare administration master’s degrees available, those looking to pursue these graduate degrees may find it difficult to narrow down their options.
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To simplify the process of choosing a master’s degree in healthcare administration, the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) has a common set of characteristics that help individuals distinguish among programs, whether they are MBA, MPH, or MHA degrees.
Factors to consider include:
- Members of the faculty
- The publications of the faculty
- How much the faculty serves or consults with healthcare organizations
- The existence of a large and distinguished alumni body that supports the program by hiring students and graduates for both full-time jobs and internships
The ACHE also recommends that program candidates always keep their personal career goals in mind when choosing a master’s degree in healthcare administration. Of course, the MHA (Master of Health Administration) is Ideal for students that want a highly focused education that deals very specifically with healthcare management concerns, preparing graduates for healthcare facility, faculty and organizational management.
But there are also options out there that offer a cross-over education, that gives more attention to patient advocacy, public policy, or the purely business side of healthcare.
MPH (Master of Public Health) – healthcare administration focus: The pandemic drove home the lesson that even in a healthcare system largely comprised of private insurers and providers, under certain circumstances all healthcare services become inseparable from bigger picture public health concerns. You will find plenty of health facility managers with a public health background and an MPH in health administration, and the degree is also a perfect fit for anybody interested in taking on non-profit and public sector health program management roles.
MBA (Master of Business Administration) – health services management focus: With total U.S. healthcare spending reaching 3.8 trillion and representing nearly 18 percent of GDP in 2019, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, healthcare is very big business. Cost controls, efficiency and profit are always a necessary part of the conversation around healthcare, so an MBA with a focus in health administration is a natural fit for healthcare leaders who can ensure organizations deliver the best patient care while also making sure the business runs lean.
Master of Public Administration (MPA) – healthcare administration focus: With healthcare and public policy so interrelated, master’s degrees that combine expertise in both fields have been popular for years. From the FDA and CDC to state and local agencies, there is no shortage of healthcare directors and managers heading up non-profit and government-run programs with a blend of expertise in organizational management and health policy analysis that they developed through an MPA in health administration.
The Design and Structure of Master’s Degree Programs in Healthcare Administration
The design and structure of master’s programs in healthcare administration may differ between MHA, MBA, MPH, and MPA programs, but the different titles given to the health administration component of those programs generally come with a similar blend of courses. When used in degree titles, these terms are usually used interchangeably and mean the same thing:
- Healthcare administration
- Health services management
- Healthcare management
- Health planning and evaluation
Universities may house interdisciplinary healthcare administration graduate program in any number of different schools depending on the curriculum make-up of the program. If it’s an MBA, the program is likely offered through a business school, while an MPH program would typically be offered through a school of public health, and so on. Straight MHA programs are most often offered through a school of health sciences.
The type of graduate school that offers the program can give you a sense of the background your instructors will come from and how the program will be taught. Business school faculty will be able to offer you a true perspective on the business side of healthcare, while faculty and curriculum in a school of health sciences will naturally tend to lean the lessons more in the direction of facility staff and patient care concerns.
Some programs may also be part of a dual degree, such as:
There are also executive MHA programs designed specifically for mid-career working professionals with experience in health organization management. These programs offer curriculum designed to accommodate the work schedules of professionals already involved in healthcare or other industries.
Coursework and Curriculum
Master’s degrees in healthcare administration allow students to develop the professional competencies healthcare organizations expect from anybody joining the leadership team:
- Critical and creative thinking skills
- Business and interpersonal communication skills
- Strategic planning skills
- Analytical thinking skills
- Adaptability and collaboration skills
Research, fieldwork, and professional interaction often accompany coursework to ensure an interdisciplinary education that covers management, organizational leadership, healthcare policy, and health systems.
Core coursework in a master’s degree program in healthcare administration often includes:
- Foundations of healthcare administration
- Law, ethics, and policy in healthcare administration
- The United States healthcare delivery system
- Principles of population health in healthcare administration
- Healthcare human relations management
- Healthcare financial management
- Organizational behavior and leadership theory
- Health information management
- Population health and managerial epidemiology
Master’s Program Accreditation
According to the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME), the master’s degree is an essential step toward an executive and managerial career in most healthcare organizations.
The master’s degree has been the standard for professionals in health care administration since 1932, when CAHME accredited its first graduate program in healthcare administration. CAHME is the only organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to accredit healthcare management graduate programs in the U.S.
CAHME accreditation offers the assurance of quality. In order for a graduate program in healthcare management to become accredited, the school must submit to a rigorous analysis that looks at curriculum, student experience, program purpose, and the success of its graduates. To remain a CHAME-accredited program, the institution must submit to a periodic self-examination of its program, followed by a panel-led review to ensure that the program is constantly improving.
CAHME recognizes that the curriculum and course format of a master’s degree in healthcare administration will differ from one program to the next. Therefore, flexibility and innovation remain hallmarks of CAHME-accredited programs. However, accredited programs must ensure that their curriculum:
- Meets the diverse educational needs of all students, whether full- or part-time
- Addresses the broad scope of career opportunities available to graduates in healthcare administration
CAHME accredits fully online programs designed to accommodate the needs of busy working professionals.