Health Administration Programs by State
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the American economy to create 11.5 million jobs between 2016-2026. Four million of those jobs, more than one in three, will be in the health care field—but you don’t have to wait to get in on the action. Thanks to aging baby boomers and a general trend toward health and wellness, health care recently passed manufacturing and retail to become America’s largest employer—and highly skilled administrators are needed to manage it all. A degree in health administration could help send you into job interviews prepared to convince hiring managers that you’re the one they need to manage and administer the day-to-day operations of the people and organizations who deliver America’s health services.
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
You can earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or even a doctorate degree in health administration, each of which prepares you for a different level of work in the field. From entry-level work like an administrative assistant to the CEO of a major health-care system, there’s a degree for everyone interested in the field. Where you live and study, however, will have a big impact on the experience you’ll have.
This page will help you understand what to expect from state to state, how to find programs near you, how salaries and job trends vary from one place to the next, and how admissions and licensing requirements might change depending on where you live.
How to Find Health Administration Programs Near You
No matter where you live, you’ll want to follow a checklist to make sure the program you’re pursuing is right for you. Here are a few of the most important criteria to keep in mind while narrowing down your choices.
- Tuition: As with so much in life, your budget will determine your options. When you look at programs, consider not just tuition and per-credit costs, but also fees, service costs, and the price of materials and supplies. Keep in mind that financial aid, scholarships, grants, and other awards can offset or even eliminate some of the biggest expenses.
- Admission requirements: Admissions requirements change from school to school and program to program. You can thin out your options by making sure you satisfy the minimum requirements for the program you’re pursuing. Some doctoral programs, for example, require you to have first earned a master’s degree. Some master’s degree programs only accept students whose undergraduate program included significant coursework related to health care.
- Scheduling: Your potential to succeed in any degree program depends on your ability to fit the program into your schedule. That might not be the case with a traditional on-campus program that is highly structured. Explore online learning options, which tend to offer much greater flexibility, as well as programs that offer day, evening, and weekend courses.
- Specializations: One of the things that makes work as a health administrator so popular is how varied the career options are in the field. From public health management and budgeting to informatics and data analysis, your career goals should define the program you choose. If you know which sector of the field you want to pursue as a career, make sure the program you choose offers that specialty as a concentration.
- Licensing requirements: Many states require health care administrators to earn a license in order to work in certain settings, like nursing homes and long-term care facilities. If your career goals will lead you to this kind of work, make sure you understand your state’s licensing requirements and be certain to choose a program that prepares you for state licensure.
- Salary: Where you live and work has a big impact on what you can expect to earn. Average and median salaries vary considerably from state to state, and even from metro region to metro region. This dynamic is discussed in greater detail in the following section.
Salary by State
The median national salary for medical and health services managers is $98,350, according to BLS data from 2017, the most recent year for which data was available. Potential earnings, however, can vary wildly from one place to the next, so it’s a good idea to visit BLS and see how your state stacks up. You’ll also find mean annual salary information, as well as data on hourly rates and salary information on the percentiles that fall outside the median. You’ll also learn how different industries within this highly varied field compare in terms of things like salary and number of employees per state.
You’re probably curious about which states pay their health administration professionals the most. BLS doesn’t compile median salary data for individual states, but it does report on average salaries. Here’s a look at the top five highest-paying states in America in terms of mean annual earnings:
- District of Columbia: $143,710
- New York: $136,770
- Connecticut: $132,600
- Delaware: $129,070
- Massachusetts: $128,730
Admission and Program Requirements by State
Admission and program requirements vary, but those variations have less to do with what state you’re in and more to do with the school and program you choose. Here’s a look at some of the most common requirements and how they can change from program to program, school to school, and state to state.
- Associate degree: You’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent credential to enter all associate degree programs. Some, however, require a minimum high school GPA, usually 2.0 or better, while others do not. Some, but not all, also require letters of recommendation and a letter of intent.
- Bachelor’s degree: You can skip an associate degree and enter a four-year bachelor’s program directly, but the admissions standards here will almost always be more stringent. In most cases, you’ll need letters of recommendation, writing samples, and a letter of intent, but the standards for those requirements will vary from program to program. Some schools require a minimum GPA of 2.5, but some may be as low as 2.0 or as high as 3.0.
- Master’s degree: There will also be different admissions requirements for master’s degree programs, but they, too, will have less to do with where you live and more to do with the program you choose. Some programs might only accept applicants whose undergraduate work focused heavily on health care, while others might accept students who are new to the field. Some may require an undergraduate GPA of 3.0, others 3.5. Many will require GRE scores, but some do not.
- Doctorate degree: The admissions requirements for this high-level graduate degree will vary considerably—not based on the state you live in, but the type of doctorate you choose. Doctor of health administration (D.H.A.) programs train students to apply existing research and evidence to problem-solving in the field. Doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) programs, on the other hand, teach students to develop new research. Both application processes are long and involved, and the differences between those processes vary considerably from program to program. Some include interviews with faculty, essays, statements of career goals, and research proposals. Some schools don’t even allow candidates to choose a program, but instead decide for them during the application process if a Ph.D. or D.H.A. is right for them.
Job Trends Across States
It’s probably not surprising that the biggest, most heavily populated cities employ the most health services managers. According to the BLS, the metro regions with the most health care administrators are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Dallas, and Atlanta.
That, however, doesn’t mean that America’s big cities have the highest concentration of health care administrators—they just have more people. The Peabody-Salem-Beverly region of Massachusetts, for example, more than doubles the percentage of health services managers than New York City in terms of the number of jobs per 1,000 people, as do Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville, Md., Iowa City, Iowa, and Ann Arbor, Mich. In the end, Iowa, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Arkansas have the highest concentration of medical and health service managers.
Across the country, hospitals employ the most health care administrators by far—nearly 117,000 compared to fewer than 41,000 in doctors’ offices, which is the second-most-populous setting. America’s health care administrators, however, are not concentrated most heavily in hospitals. In terms of industry percentage, outpatient care centers have the highest concentration of health services managers.
Of America’s 3,906 hospitals , 365 are in Texas, 340 are in California, and 215 are in Florida. That means that nearly one-quarter of all hospitals in the U.S. are distributed across just three states. Comparatively, there are only seven hospitals in Vermont, eight in Delaware, and 11 in Rhode Island. No matter where you live or work, however, no matter where you study, and no matter how many hospitals operate in your state, you’ll be entering the right field at the right time. According to a recent report, the highest-paying jobs in all 50 states are now related to health care.
Health Administration Licensing Requirements Across States
Most states don’t require a license to work as a health administrator—your degree is the only qualification you need. Virtually all states, however, require a license to work as a nursing home or long-term care administrator and/or administrator in training. Georgia, Maine, and Wisconsin are exceptions.
Individual state boards determine the requirements for each state and also govern the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB), which is the organization that creates and administers the Nursing Home Administrators (NHA) national examination and oversees the continuing education protocols. Licensure is not cheap. The core exam alone costs $300, but that price can increase by more than $100 if supplementary tests are required. It’s important to note that most states protect the vulnerable patient populations in nursing homes and long-term care facilities by running criminal background checks on license applicants. Visit the NAB to find out more about your state’s licensure requirements.
The NAB also administers something called the Health Services Executive (HSE) qualification, a high-level credential that allows health administrators to practice in a broad variety of health care fields and services, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. As of today, 12 states recognize and accept the HSE qualification.
Transferring Health Administration Licenses Across States
If you move to a different state after already earning your license elsewhere, your new state board might request what’s called a score transfer from the NAB’s testing company. The NAB maintains NHA national licensing scores for 30 years, and the organization charges $70 to report your scores to a new jurisdiction. This might not be necessary if you earned an HSE qualification and move to a state that accepts that credential, but some states still require HSE holders to take a state exam, even though the HSE credential satisfies the NHA national exam qualifications.
It’s important to note, however, that exam scores and HSE qualifications are only part of the puzzle. If the board requirements in the state where you earned your license vary considerably from those of the state where you’re moving, you might have to work with your state to satisfy its own requirements. That could include accruing more educational hours or—if you come from one of the few states that allow associate degrees—to complete a bachelor’s program.