Best Online Associate in Healthcare Management Degree Programs

Oct 20, 2021

What is an Online Healthcare Management Associate Degree?

An online healthcare management associate degree is one way to jumpstart a career in the medical industry. After graduation, students will have the knowledge needed to help a healthcare facility run smoothly or continue their education by enrolling in a bachelor's program.

Associate degree programs in healthcare management usually take about two years to complete as a full-time student. Because healthcare managers use business practices in the medical industry, associate degree programs require students to take classes in healthcare and business in addition to general education courses. By pursuing this degree online, students will have the opportunity to take classes and study wherever they are, making this a flexible option for those who are working or have additional responsibilities.

Although most employers require healthcare managers to have at least a bachelor's degree, many associate-degree graduates can find entry-level jobs as healthcare administrators, health tech workers or healthcare administrative assistants. Also, with additional licensing or certification, graduates can become medical coders or medical transcriptionists.

Types of Online Healthcare Management Associate Degrees (AA, AS, AAS, etc.)

While looking into schools for an online healthcare associate degree, students may find that some offer an associate of arts (AA), an associate of science (AS), or even an associate of applied science (AAS) degree. Although all three of these degrees usually can be completed in about two years of full-time study, there are a few differences.

Both the AA and the AS prepare students to transfer to a four-year school, usually as a junior rather than a freshman, to earn a bachelor's degree. AA degrees usually focus more on liberal arts, while AS degrees typically focus more on science and math. Meanwhile, the AAS degree is geared toward students who want to enter a skilled or technical occupation upon graduation rather than transfer to a four-year school to continue their education. Nonetheless, some courses may transfer if students change their minds.

Who Should Pursue a Healthcare Management Associate Degree?

Those interested in the business of healthcare rather than the clinical side may consider obtaining an associate degree in healthcare management. Many healthcare managers' job duties include overseeing a medical practice's or nursing home's day-to-day operations by managing staff, supplies, facility maintenance and finances. An associate degree will introduce students to both healthcare and business concepts.

There are job opportunities for graduates with an associate degree in healthcare management, but more career choices and higher-paid positions will become available through additional schooling. These include most healthcare manager roles as well as chief executive officer, chief operations officer, and health information manager.

To begin a healthcare management associate degree program, aspiring students are required by most schools to have a high school diploma or G.E.D. For those wanting to keep down their cost of education, an associate degree program is a good option because it is usually more affordable than a bachelor's degree and can be completed quicker. For students who may struggle with schoolwork or have additional responsibilities, such as working or taking care of family members, pursuing the degree part-time is an option at many colleges.

Application, Admissions, and Enrollment for Online Healthcare Management Associate Degree Programs

Nearly all colleges that offer associate degrees in healthcare management require aspiring students to submit proof of a high school diploma or a G.E.D. Class transcripts from high school or other post-secondary institutions may also be required. Most, but not all schools require an application fee.

Be sure to check if a school requires any standardized test scores. Some schools may require students to take an English and mathematics placement test if they don't have a minimum ACT or SAT score.

Application materials such as personal statements, essays or resumes are generally not needed to get accepted into an online healthcare management associate degree program.

Deadlines to apply differ among schools, but most have three application due dates for the spring, summer and fall semesters. Some colleges offer six start dates to begin enrolling in the online healthcare management associate degree program, while others accept students on a rolling basis.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of an Online Healthcare Management Associate Degree Program?

There are several factors to consider before enrolling in an online healthcare management associate degree program. Online students need the self-discipline to stay on track and complete assignments without regularly scheduled classes or deadlines. Plus, it may be harder to connect with classmates through an online course.

However, an online program does offer a large amount of flexibility, so if students have other responsibilities in their lives, like a job or family, this can be a great option. Online students may also save time because they can take courses wherever and whenever they may be; no commute is required. Some online students may be able to complete classes, and even their degree, at a faster pace than traditional in-person students.

Students may choose an online degree option because they think it will be more affordable, but that is not always the case. Students may save on transportation costs, but most schools still charge fees to students who enroll in online classes. Some schools even charge a higher tuition rate for online credits.

One more thing to consider is that some online healthcare management associate degree programs require students to take a practicum to graduate. A practicum is when a student participates in an on-the-job work experience in a healthcare setting; it is usually one of the final classes a student enrolls in because a student is meant to apply their newly acquired and specialized knowledge into the experience. Because of this, the entire program may not be online.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Healthcare Management Associate Degree?

If a student pursues the course of study full time, it will take about two years to complete an associate degree in healthcare management. However, some online programs are shorter or allow students to take classes over the summer, so some students may be able to graduate on a quicker timeline. Meanwhile, if students enroll part-time, it will take longer to finish the required coursework.

Generally, online healthcare management associate degree programs are about 60 credits. Most students average about 15 credits per semester, so 60 credits typically take four semesters to complete.

How Much Does an Online Associate Degree in Healthcare Management Cost?

Every school charges a different tuition price for its courses, so students will need to research and evaluate their options. Some can be as low as $79 per credit hour, or about $5,000 total. Others can charge as much as $300 per credit hour, which equates to about $18,000 in tuition for a 60-credit program.

Some individual schools charge different tuition rates depending on whether a student is a resident of the state, taking classes part-time or full time, or taking their classes online or in-person.

Also, students should be aware that tuition is just one cost of education. Many schools, even for online-only programs, also charge fees, such as a technology fee, general fee, and a health service fee. Textbooks and technology needs (like computers) can add more to the cost, also.

Online Healthcare Management Associate Degree Coursework

Courses often include a mix of general education requirements (classes such as English composition and statistics), healthcare-related classes (medical terminology and ethics) and business classes (like marketing and accounting). A few classes that most programs offer in their programs include:

  • Medical terminology, where students learn the definition of medical terms related to the human body, healthcare practices and diagnostic procedures.
  • Healthcare ethics, where students explore ethical decision-making in a healthcare setting by discussing laws, informed consent and treatment refusal.
  • Management principles, where students begin to learn the foundations of managing groups of professionals.
  • Accounting, where students practice how to record financial information to ensure a business is fiscally responsible.

What Can I Do With an Online Associate Degree in Healthcare Management?

Many with an associate degree in healthcare management go on to pursue a bachelor's and even a master's degree because most jobs in healthcare management require these advanced degrees.

However, there are several career options for those with an associate degree, and they can provide a taste for a career in healthcare management if a student decides to take that path. These entry-level jobs generally involve working in a medical office, hospital or nursing facility and performing administrative work.

Some job examples include healthcare administrative assistants, secretaries, support specialists, patient service representatives or financial clerks. Jobs such as health tech workers, medical records specialists and medical transcriptionists may require licensing or certifications in addition to an associate degree. However, graduates may also find jobs that work directly with physicians and patients, such as a personal care aid or medical assistant.

Begin a Career as a Healthcare Administrative Assistant

Armed with an associate degree in healthcare management, graduates should be prepared to begin work as an healthcare administrative assistant or secretary in a healthcare setting. Many employers prefer candidates with an associate degree in this field.

The job entails providing clerical support to help run a medical practice, and duties include scheduling appointments, collecting insurance information, issuing bills and compiling medical records. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this position may be employed in a physician office, hospital, dentist office or outpatient care center.

The mean annual wage for medical secretaries and administrative assistants is $39,000, or $18.75 an hour, according to the BLS's May 2020 numbers. The three states with the highest annual mean wages include Washington, D.C. at $47,110; California at $46,140; and Washington state at $45,990.

The BLS does not provide the job outlook for medical secretaries and administrative assistants, but a similar job, medical assistants, is expected to grow 19% between 2019 and 2029; this is a much faster pace than average.

Begin a Career as a Health Tech Worker

Alternatively, students can become a health tech worker, whose job duties involve maintaining patients' medical records by compiling, reviewing, coding and organizing documents and data. They typically spend the majority of their day at the computer, and most work at a hospital or physician's office. If the facility is open 24/7, a health tech worker may have an evening or overnight shift.

Most employers require health tech workers to have at least a high school diploma and certification, such as the Certified Professional Coder (CPC), the Certified Coding Associate (CCA), or the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many associate degree programs in healthcare management prepare students to take the credential exams for certification.

The median annual wage for a health tech worker is $44,090, or $21.20 per hour, as of May 2020, according to the BLS. The three states with the highest annual mean wage for this occupation is Washington, D.C., at $60,530; Alaska at $58,620; and Washington state at $56,890, according to the BLS.

Additionally, jobs in this occupation are expected to grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029, which the BLS notes is a much faster rate than the average for all occupations. This is because the aging population requires additional healthcare services, and electronic health records cause medical facilities to need specialized medical record keepers.

Accreditation for Online Healthcare Management Associate Degree Programs

Accreditation means that a school has been reviewed and evaluated to confirm that its programs meet educational standards. Essentially, accreditation increases a student's chances of getting a quality education. Only students who attend an accredited school are eligible for federal grants, loans and other aid. Additionally, some employers may require their employees to have degrees from accredited schools.

The Distance Education Accrediting Commission and Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools are two accrediting agencies that students may find while analyzing potential schools at the associate degree level, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Transfer Options After Completing an Online Healthcare Management Associate Degree

Graduates of an online healthcare management associate degree may want to continue their education for a variety of reasons, such as career advancement. In fact, if students want to become a healthcare manager or a public health manager, they will need at least a bachelor's degree.

Common majors for such students who go on to enroll in a bachelor's degree program include healthcare management, healthcare administration, social work, and business degrees such as management, marketing and human resources. Students may even consider studying for a master's or doctorate degree.

Online healthcare management students in the associate program who are considering going on to pursue another postsecondary degree should research how their current degree credits will transfer. This is important because not all course credits will transfer.

What Are Other Healthcare Management Degree Paths/Options?

Those interested in a career in healthcare management will find that there are multiple degree paths to achieve their goal.

But by choosing to study and achieve additional degrees in healthcare management, students will often find that they are eligible for promotions and other higher-paying positions.

Below, we'll detail bachelor's master's and doctoral degree programs in healthcare management, along with some options for certificates in the field.

Online Bachelor's Programs in Healthcare Management

A bachelor's degree program in healthcare management will build upon the coursework at the associate level. Students have a chance to explore concepts more in-depth and may find them more rigorous than their associate-level classes. However, if students aim to become a healthcare manager and oversee a medical facility, they will need a bachelor's degree. Other job opportunities include a health services manager, healthcare administrator, quality and improvement manager, health insurance manager and managed care representative.

Bachelor's programs can usually be completed in about two to four years, depending on how many associate degree credits transfer and whether a student is enrolled part-time or full-time. Credit hours, including general education requirements, range from 120 to 180.

Online Master's Programs in Healthcare Management

Typically completed in about two years, an online master's degree in healthcare management is an option for students who want to hone their skills with additional in-depth coursework. Healthcare managers with a master's degree may obtain higher salaries and more opportunities for career advancement compared to those only with a bachelor's degree. The number of credit hours needed to earn this degree range from 30 to 60.

Students have three major online master's degree programs to choose from. A master of business administration (MBA) in healthcare management is housed in a business school and focuses on using business practices in a healthcare setting. There is also the master of healthcare administration (MHA, which is housed in a school of health and focuses more on the healthcare side than the business aspects of managing a medical practice. Lastly, some schools offer programs for a master of science in healthcare management, (MSHCM). This degree blends and gives equal weight to both the business and healthcare topics.

However, there are many other healthcare graduate degrees students can pursue instead if they want to branch out of healthcare management. These include a Master of Science in Health Informatics and a Master of Science in Public Health.

Online Doctoral Programs in Healthcare Management

In addition to master's degree options, students can go on to pursue a doctoral program to enhance their healthcare management knowledge and career. Most doctoral programs are designed for students who want to teach or do research.

Students can choose from a doctor of philosophy in healthcare management (Ph.D.), a doctor of health administration (DHA) or a doctor of business administration in healthcare management (DBA). All three degrees typically have some sort of research component. However, most with a Ph.D. enter the academic world as professors, while DHA and DBA programs prepare students for using their skills and knowledge in the field.

Online Certificate Programs in Healthcare Management

Those in the healthcare management industry will find that many jobs require a non-degree healthcare management certificate or license. To earn these achievements, most require an exam, fee and work experience.

There are many graduate-level online certificates for healthcare managers who want to work on their professional development. These programs typically offer one to four classes at a college or university and take less than a year to complete; sometimes the credits can directly transfer to the school's master's program. Certification options include healthcare management, healthcare administration, healthcare leadership and healthcare policy.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Healthcare Management Online Associate Degrees

One of the first things students should do when they decide to pursue a postsecondary degree is to fill out the Free Application Student for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) through the U.S. Department of Education. This form determines what type of financial aid a student, who must be a U.S. citizen or permanent immigrant, is eligible for. Aid received through this program can only be used at accredited schools.

Additionally, there are many private and nonprofit scholarships available at the national, state and local levels. For example, the Union Health Foundation offers several scholarships for students in certain Indiana and Illinois counties who pursue a career in the healthcare industry. Associations in California and Texas offer scholarships for students pursuing a degree in health information. And Samaritan Health Services in Oregon offers the John & Carol Dinges Medical Scholarship specifically for Linn-Benton Community College students who enroll in an entry-level healthcare program.

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