North Dakota’s oil boom has resulted in an economic and population surge. The swelling population and the resulting demands on the healthcare system have created both opportunities and challenges for the state’s healthcare administrators.
Regional health care providers struggle to keep pace with the demands coming from a long line of laborers, many of which are uninsured. McKenzie County Hospital in Watford City serves as a clear example of the increased demands being placed on North Dakota’s healthcare system. In recent years, the hospital averaged about 100 emergency room visits per month; in 2014, this number shot up to 400.
The population of Watford City has more than quadrupled to 6,500 over the past two years. In nearby Williston (considered the heart of the oil boom), the population stands at more than 33,000, an increase from just 15,000 in 2010.
Hospital executives in North Dakota are pushing for a sales tax increase and money from the state (which has a surplus of more than $1 billion) to help the burdened health care delivery system keep up with the healthcare needs of a growing population.
It is no surprise that the North Dakota Workforce Intelligence Center categorizes medical and health services management jobs as “high growth” when estimating long-term job growth projections. In 2012, there were 755 jobs in healthcare administration in North Dakota; the Center projects this number to increase to 926 by 2022, representing an increase of nearly 23 percent.
Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Health Administration in North Dakota
Post-secondary degrees have become a standard requirement for those working in healthcare administration, both in North Dakota and across the country. These programs are more abundant than ever, with institutions offering residential, executive, online, and accelerated programs to suit students with different backgrounds and educational goals.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Health Administration
Bachelor’s degrees in healthcare administration provide students with a comprehensive foundation in today’s healthcare industry. Health information systems, managed care systems, marketing, public health, and legal and ethical issues are just a few of the areas of study within these undergraduate programs, which tend to consist of about 120 semester credits and four years of full-time study.
Graduates of bachelor’s degrees in healthcare administration are well poised to pursue graduate study in this field or enter the workforce as entry-level administrators in a wide array of settings.
Core coursework in a bachelor’s degree in health administration often includes topics such as:
- Healthcare marketing
- Healthcare administration and regulation
- Legal aspects of healthcare
- Business process improvement
- Human resource management in healthcare
- Healthcare delivery systems
- Organizational leadership and management
Master’s Degrees in Health Administration
Upper-level positions in health administration demand professionals who possess an advanced skillset in areas like analytical thinking, collaboration, communication, resource management, strategic thinking, and financial analysis, among others—competencies gained from a master’s degree in healthcare administration, largely considered the standard requirement for senior administrative positions in healthcare.
The competency-based curriculum of a master’s degree in healthcare administration prepares students to excel in positions in both the public and private sector, as well as in consulting, finance, insurance, and pharmaceutical organizations.
Admission into a master’s degree program in healthcare administration is not unlike other graduate programs, as candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Although some candidates possess undergrad degrees in healthcare administration or a similar field, most institutions accept students from a wide array of backgrounds and with undergrad degrees in such areas as finance, human resources, accounting, and business management. It is also commonplace for students with healthcare backgrounds to pursue healthcare administration master’s degrees.
Other typical admission requirements for these programs include:
- Minimum undergraduate GPA
- The completion of specific undergraduate prerequisites
- Minimum GRE score
- Past experience in the healthcare or administration field (executive programs only)
- Admissions essays/statements of purpose/interviews
Program Structure and Design
Healthcare administration master’s degree programs may have a foundation in a number of disciplines, depending on the school or college that houses them. For example, they may have a foundation in business administration, public health, or public administration. Therefore, their titles and overall structure may vary:
- Master of Business Administration (MBA)
- Master of Public Health (MPH)
- Master of Science (MS)
- Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)
- Master of Public Administration (MPA)
Many of these graduate programs in health administration are also part of a dual program, such as:
While residential programs attract traditional students, many of whom do not possess any experience in healthcare or administration, executive master’s degree programs appeal specifically to professionals from managed care organizations, health departments, hospitals, consulting firms, law firms, and other healthcare settings. The design and structure of executive programs meet the needs of these working professionals, who often require distance learning, flexible scheduling, and earned credits for prior work experience.
While the foundation of a master’s degree program may differ based on the school or college in which it is located, the core curriculum remains fairly standard from one program to the next. Many of these programs also offer coursework that allows students to develop their interpersonal skills, communication strategies, and career goals.
The core curriculum of these programs often includes study in:
- Analytics and managerial decision-making
- Health economics
- Healthcare accounting and budgeting
- Public health concepts
- Healthcare marketing
- Health information technology
- Comparative strategic analysis
- Governance, health law, and ethics
North Dakota’s Health Administration Job Market
The following list of healthcare administration jobs in North Dakota, taken from recent job posts (November 2015), provide a glimpse into the many opportunities available to graduates of health administration degree programs (These examples are shown for illustrative purposes only. They should not be interpreted as job offers or a guarantee of employment.):
Program Coordinator, Residency, Williston
Responsible for the operational and financial management of the residency/fellowship training program; requires a bachelor’s degree in business administration or healthcare
Executive Director of Fiscal Services, Fargo
Provides system-wide leadership and strategic direction for the business operation and for the development, implementation, and control of financial strategies; bachelor’s degree in business administration or a health-related field required; master’s degree preferred
Denials Manager, Fargo
Provides leadership and oversees the denial management process, including working with operational departments to support denial reporting needs; requires a bachelor’s degree in finance, business, quality management or healthcare administration
Director of Client Delivery, Fargo
Focuses on growing healthcare revenue, reputation, and image by servicing and training client accounts; requires a bachelor’s degree, MBA desired
Resources for Healthcare Administration Professionals in North Dakota
Graduates of healthcare administration programs in North Dakota may find a number of job opportunities through the state’s largest healthcare/hospital systems:
- CHI St. Alexis Health, Bismarck
- Sanford Fargo Medical Center, Fargo
- Sanford Medical Center, Bismarck
- Altru Hospital, Grand Forks
Professional associations in North Dakota allow professionals in healthcare administration to actively participate in networking events and continuing education opportunities:
- North Dakota Hospital Association
- Community Healthcare Association of the Dakotas
- North Dakota Long Term Care Association
- Healthcare Financial Management Association, North Dakota Chapter
- North Dakota Medical Association
- North Dakota Association for Home Care