When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented in 2011, more than 3.4 million Californians who were not previously insured gained access to healthcare coverage. According to reports released by the Bay Area Council, $4.4 billion in federal funding was added to the state’s coffers to implement the ACA. Fast forward to the state’s 2020-2021 budget and it included $103.5 billion in funding for just Medi-Cal alone. Healthcare administrators are playing an increasingly important role in helping California to realize its promise to provide quality healthcare for all its residents.
As the more than 82,600 hospitals, clinics and integrated health systems in the state increased staffing to accommodate the growing demand for healthcare services, the number of jobs for health administrators and managers has been increasing dramatically. This has helped create new opportunities for career advancement for those seeking executive positions, resulting in higher salary offers as employers compete for top talent.
Earning a Healthcare Administration Degree in California
With an average annual salary of $122,410 in California (the highest in the nation for this field), and an estimated job growth rate of 22 percent for the ten period spanning 2012-2022, professionals from a variety of related backgrounds, from business to healthcare, are pursuing graduate-level education as a way to compete for executive and director level positions in health administration. As lower-to-mid-level healthcare services administrators ascend to more advanced positions, more opportunities are also being created for those entering the field with an undergraduate education (Salary and job growth statistics furnished by the US Department of Labor, 2014).
Undergraduate Degrees in Healthcare Administration
There are multiple bachelor’s degree programs available online and through campus locations in California for those looking to build an educational foundation before moving on to a graduate program. Relevant bachelor’s degrees available in California include:
- Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) with a Concentration in Health Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration (BSHA)
- Bachelor of Health Administration (BHA)
These undergraduate programs usually consist of 120 credit hours in total. Typically, the first two years of a bachelor’s degree program are comprised of a general education core. The last two years of these programs cover the major-specific subjects that are unique to the field of health administration.
Topics often covered in these upper level courses include the following:
- Financial administration and management
- Legal and ethical aspects of healthcare administration
- Healthcare policy
- Health facility operations
- Strategic management
- Public relations
- Business communications
Graduate Degrees in Health Administration
A graduate degree is the most commonly accepted industry standard for those seeking director and executive-level positions in healthcare administration and management.
There are a variety of options available in California to graduate students majoring in health administration:
- Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Healthcare Administration
- Master of Health Administration (MHA)
- Master of Science (MS) in Health Policy and Management
- Master of Science in Health Administration (MSHA)
- MHA/MBA dual degree programs
Graduate Program Admission Criteria
Most graduate programs in health administration will admit students with undergraduate degrees in healthcare, business, accounting, and many other generally relevant majors. However, students without the requisite business background may be required to take additional prerequisite courses in order to gain admission into these graduate programs. Specific admission requirements may differ between programs, but generally the standards and requirements include:
- Official undergraduate transcripts
- Professional experience in the healthcare field
- Letters of recommendation
- Essay or statement of purpose
- Minimum GPA requirements
- Current employment in a healthcare facility
Graduate Program Content
Most graduate programs in health administration can be completed within 18 to 24 months and consist of 36-60 hours of normal coursework. Courses typically cover such topics as:
- Strategies for healthcare team management
- Financial management
- Policy and law in healthcare
- Medical informatics
- Ethical decision making in healthcare administration
- Healthcare quality and performance standards
- Community healthcare needs
- Diversity in healthcare
After all courses have been completed, many graduate programs require that students complete a capstone project or thesis paper. Occasionally, graduate programs also require internships or fieldwork hours.
Whether a student seeks an online or residential graduate program, California colleges and universities offer many options for both degree formats. Schools with campus lactations in the following cities offer graduate programs in health administration and management:
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- Loma Linda
- San Diego
- San Bernardino
- Long Beach
Healthcare Administration Jobs in California
The following job descriptions were sourced from job vacancy announcements found throughout California to give an idea of what employers expect from applicants as far as experience and education is concerned (These examples are provided for illustrative purposes and are not meant to constitute job offers or offer the assurance of employment; November 2015):
Stanford Health Care – Stanford
- Manager of Business Operations – Responsible for overseeing business operations of a 100-employee staff. Tasks include budgeting, human resources, inventory and purchasing, and various department decision-making; Bachelor’s degree and at least four years of experience required.
- IMS Patient Advocate – Mediates between patients and the medical center to coordinate referrals, appointments, and works in conjunction with patient services to best meet the needs of patients. A bachelor’s degree in the healthcare administration field is preferred as well as five years of related work experience.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center – Los Angeles
- Clinical Support Services Manager – Ensures compliance with state and federal regulations, oversees budgeting and hiring, manages ordering supplies, and manages decontamination and sterilization of materials. Applicants must hold a Bachelor of Science degree in the healthcare field, but any candidates who have earned a higher degree or certification will be given preference.
- Director of Clinical Technology Integration – Develops and integrates clinical technologies into the needs of the health system and ensuring compliance with regulatory and inspection standards. Masters degree (or higher) is preferred in addition to at least 5 years of experience.
- Administrative Services Associate in General Surgery – Oversees all daily administrative operations in the Division of Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery, including hiring, billing, scheduling, medical record management, and inventory control. A master’s degree in healthcare administration is preferred, as well as 5-10 years of related experience.
UC San Diego Medical Center – San Diego
- Program Coordinator, Direct Marketing – Coordinates and manages marketing projects to raise annual fundraising from alumni, parents, friends, and businesses, using social media and other marketing outlets. Bachelor’s degree in a related field is required.
- Administrative Specialist – Provides administrative support to an executive assistant, ensures that day-to-day operations function efficiently, handles and organizes all legal and medical documents and records. Bachelor’s degree in a related field is required, while a master’s degree is preferred.
Top Employers and Professional Resources for Healthcare Administrators in California
Healthcare Administrators and Managers in California will find that there are numerous institutions and resources to turn to when searching for employment, professional support, and further educational opportunities.
California’s Top Employers of Healthcare Administrators and Managers
- Cedars Sinai Medical Center – Los Angeles
- Loma Linda University Medical Center – Loma Linda
- Sharp Memorial Hospital – San Diego
- Huntington Memorial Hospital – Pasadena
- University of California Davis Medical Center – Sacramento
- Sanford Hospital – Palo Alto
- San Francisco General Hospital – San Francisco
- Santa Clara Valley Medical Center – San Jose
- Grossmont Hospital – La Mesa
- Rady Children’s Hospital – San Diego
- Scripps Mercy Hospital – San Diego
- LAC & USC Medical Center – Los Angeles
- Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles – Los Angeles
- Community Regional Medical Center – Fresno
- Women in Health Administration of Southern California
- California Association of Health Facilities
- Hospital Association of Southern California
- Health Care Administrators Association
- Health Management Associates
- American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management
- California Hospital Association
- Upsilon Phi Delta Honor Society
- California Medical Association
2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for Medical and Health Services Managers.
Job growth projections sourced from the California Employment Development Department and published in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2018-2028) database – https://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm.
Salary figures and job market projections represent state data, not school-specific information.
Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2021.