Health Administration Degree Program Overviews by Level

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

Associate's degree programs in health administration can prepare students for careers as administrative assistants, health information technicians or medical office managers, while bachelor's degree programs can lead to higher administrative positions. Undergraduate programs focus on providing students with a background in how healthcare systems work and are structured. Master's degree programs in health administration often have concentration options, such as human resources management or finance.

Associate of Science in Health Administration

Health administrators manage the daily operations of healthcare facilities, which might be a hospital, long-term care facility, community health clinic and more. The associate's curriculum combines the study of healthcare and business with major coursework in finance, accounting and marketing. Introductory coursework acquaints students with the United States healthcare system, policies and the politics of healthcare regulations and programs. Management studies prepare students for leadership positions in healthcare facilities, including a survey of issues in human resources management and budgeting. Prior to enrollment in these two-year programs students should have high school diploma or its equivalent.

Courses prepare students to lead a staff of employees, market health programs to underserved populations and develop policies for improving the delivery of health services. Course topics include:

  • Reimbursement
  • Financial statements
  • Insurance law
  • Diversity
  • Health systems organization

Bachelor of Science in Health Administration

This program focuses on the management side of healthcare, with studies in financial, human resources and health information management. The curriculum explores the role of the healthcare administrator from issues in leadership and ethics to motivational techniques. Students learn about the organizational structure of healthcare facilities, including the roles and responsibilities of employees and systems for improving organizational behavior. The program also incorporates studies in quality care, health programs and the protection of electronic health information. Like a two-year undergraduate degree, students seeking enrollment into these four-year programs need to have a school diploma or its equivalent.

Coursework prepares students to be effective communicators, problem solvers and managers of employees, healthcare programs and health information systems. Topics of discussion might include:

  • Recruitment
  • Principles of managed care
  • Elder services
  • Product development
  • Occupational health

Master of Science in Health Administration

Offered with the option to choose a concentration area like finance and human resources management, the program prepares students for executive positions in the healthcare industry. Areas of focus include technologies used to maintain efficiency, policies that regulate the delivery of health services and financial considerations in the planning of health programs. Studies in economics examine the costs of health services and budgeting of healthcare organizations. A healthcare law course introduces students to torts, contracts and risk management. The program culminates in an internship experience where students gain hands-on administrative experience in a healthcare organization or facility.

These programs take two years to complete. Prerequsites for enrolment include a bachelor's degree, minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), professional experience, letters of reference and prerequisite coursework in statistics and microeconomics are required for entry into a master's program.

Graduate courses emphasize executive leadership, healthcare ethics and financial responsibilities for administrators. Other areas of focus include the following:

  • Policy analysis
  • Medical malpractice
  • Project management
  • Patient care
  • Information systems

Popular Career Options

Health administration graduates from associate's programs find employment in hospitals, residential care and long term care facilities, emergency clinics and more. Potential job titles include:

  • Medical office manager
  • Administrative assistant
  • Health information technician

Employment opportunities for bachelor's graduates are available in mental health organizations, rehabilitation centers, insurance companies and a variety of other settings. Job titles for graduates include:

  • Nursing home administrator
  • Residential care and assisted living administrator
  • Human resources manager

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that medical and health services managers held 422,300 jobs in the U.S., with most positions being in medical and surgical hospitals ( Jobs in this profession were expected to grow by 32% between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS; this increase is largely related to an aging population and a rise in medical procedures. The median annual salary of medical and health services managers in 2020 was $104,280, per BLS data.

Continuing Education Information

NAB (National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards) administers the Nursing Home Administrators (NHA) licensing examination for eligible graduates. NAB also oversees the Residential Care/Assisted Living Administrators (RC/AL) exam. Eligibility requirements include completion of a 40-hours approved training course and six months experience in assisted living leadership and management. A state exam might also be required for RC/AL certification.

While individuals with an Associate of Science in Health Administration may pursue entry-level employment as administrative assistants, technicians or office managers, a Bachelor or Master of Science in Health Administration may lead to greater leadership roles in healthcare institutions. These programs combine a healthcare and management curriculum with an emphasis on leadership, ethics and healthcare organization.

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