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Degrees in Health Administration

As the healthcare industry continues to grow and evolve by huge margins, the health administration field searches for eager professionals like you who can help manage healthcare services.
There are a variety of careers within health administration and several ways to enter the profession. You could choose to obtain your associate degree and then work your way up to a doctorate, or you could enter the workforce immediately after graduating from a bachelor’s or master’s degree program. Specific jobs require different education levels, but the variety of options allows you to find the best fit for your needs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for health administrators is predicted to grow by a staggering 20% through 2026, which is nearly three times the national average. With a degree in health administration, you could manage a hospital department, lead a doctor’s office, serve as a consultant, or even be CEO of a healthcare system. Newer careers, like healthcare data scientist, are also emerging.
On this page, you’ll learn about jobs in the field, securing an in-person or online health administration degree, education requirements, job prospects, and more.

What is a Health Administration Degree?

Individuals with a health administration degree help healthcare services run efficiently. They monitor trends and implement changes and new technology to improve patient care. They also oversee staff, manage budgets, and assist with marketing and human resource management.

You can study this field at the undergrad or graduate level. Typically, you can get a job in health administration with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, though professionals may consider pursuing additional education along the way. There are also a number of specialties to choose from. For instance, you could choose to focus on public health, healthcare management, or another area of focus. If you’re interested in a particular discipline within health administration, you’ll want to make sure that it’s offered at the colleges you’re interested in.

In a bachelor’s program, you’ll take a variety of classes, like communication or finance. Because of the many business-related factors in the field, these skills are very important. School curriculum for traditional and online degrees should generally be the same. However, it’s important to make sure that your desired college or university is accredited. Accreditation signifies that a school has met certain educational standards and may make it easier for students to receive federal financial aid.

Once you graduate from your health administration program, you could go on to work in health clinics, doctor’s offices, and hospitals. You could also work in medical transcription, manage a billing and coding team, or run an entire health organization. Depending on your career goals and experience level, you could choose to be part of a smaller team or lead a large company – or pursue a position somewhere in the middle. As a graduate right out of school, you won’t likely assume the role of CEO immediately, but with experience you can work your way up to better and higher-paying jobs.

Health Administration Degrees at a Glance

Before we dive into specifics, here’s a quick look at degree and job information across education levels. Keep in mind that the cost of each degree program depends largely upon whether you attend an in-state or out-of-state school, public or private college, and/or online or in-person program.

Associate Bachelor’s Master’s Doctorate
Cost of Degree Costs typically range from several hundred to several thousand dollars per semester. Costs typically range from $15,000 to $50,000 for the entire program. Costs typically range from $20,000 to $50,000 for the entire program. Like master’s programs, costs typically range from $20,000 to $50,000 for the entire program.
Length of Degree Two years or less Four years One to two years Three to five years
Career Possibilities Customer service representatives, medical coders and billers, medical transcriptionists Hospital executive (CEO, COO), facilities manager, nursing home administrator Hospital executive (CEO, COO), health administrator, healthcare consultant Faculty member at a university, researcher

Associate Degrees in Health Administration

To get accepted into an associate degree program in health administration, you usually need a high school diploma or GED. Once you’ve been accepted into a program, you’ll take courses on health policies and laws, healthcare management, and accounting or algebra. Depending on whether you pursue an associate of arts or associate of science degree, you may take more communication- or math-oriented classes. You also have the option of earning your associate degree online, which may cost less and take a shorter amount of time to complete.

Here are a couple of jobs you can hold with an associate degree in health administration. Salary information is from the BLS or PayScale.

  • Customer service representative: You’ll provide information about your organization’s services and costs, and work with patients or clients to resolve issues. Median pay is $16.23/hour or $33,750/year (as of 2018).
  • Medical coder: Armed with an extensive knowledge of health records, you’ll transfer diagnostic and treatment terms from health professionals into coded form for record-keeping. Average pay is $17.88/hour or $41,180/year (as of July 2019).
  • Medical transcriptionist: You’ll use your strong analytical and listening skills to transfer codes and/or transcribe from doctor’s notes and store it into a computer database. Average pay is $15.57/hour or $32,681/year (as of July 2019).

Bachelor’s Degrees in Health Administration

You’ll need a high school diploma or GED to pursue a bachelor’s degree in health administration. Some schools may also offer associate-to-bachelor’s degree programs, where you won’t have to worry about your credits transferring. If you decide to attend a standalone associate degree program, you’ll want to review your long-term education plans to make sure your classes won’t overlap with those in a bachelor’s degree setting. Some schools may accept or let you “test out” of certain classes you’ve taken in a previous program, but others might not.

A bachelor’s degree in health administration will help teach students about managing patient care and service, administration operations, and state and federal regulations. Some of the classes you could take include healthcare finance, health information technology, strategic management, and ethics. If you’re interested in leadership or another specialty within health administration, you can take courses in that, too. Many bachelor programs exist online as well as in-person, so you can pursue the program that best fits your lifestyle.

Here are a couple of jobs you can hold with a bachelor’s degree in health administration. However, it’s important to note that different facilities have different education and experience requirements, and many higher-up positions require that a professional continue their education while in the role. Salary information is from PayScale (2019).

  • Nursing home administrator: You’ll provide information about your organization’s services and costs, and work with patients or clients to resolve issues. Median pay is $16.23/hour or $33,750/year (as of 2018).
  • Health administrator: Armed with an extensive knowledge of health records, you’ll transfer diagnostic and treatment terms from health professionals into coded form for record-keeping. Average pay is $17.88/hour or $41,180/year (as of July 2019).
  • Hospital chief executive officer (CEO): You’ll use your strong analytical and listening skills to transfer codes and/or transcribe from doctor’s notes and store it into a computer database. Average pay is $15.57/hour or $32,681/year (as of July 2019).

Master’s Degree in Health Administration

The most common master’s degree in the industry is the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA). Requirements to get into an MHA program include a bachelor’s degree and often, a minimum undergraduate GPA and letters of recommendation. Work experience and community service could also help increase your chances of getting accepted to your preferred program.

This type of degree will prepare you for a role as a leader and manager in health administration. With an MHA degree, you could work in a variety of settings, including pharmaceutical and health insurance companies. You’ll also be able to perform higher-paying jobs and gain more experience in the field. Since the field is rapidly and frequently changing, you might be interested in taking continuing education (CE) classes to stay on top of trends and advance your training.

In an MHA graduate program, you’ll take many of the same courses that you would in bachelor’s program – healthcare finance, policy, marketing, and human resource management, for example – in addition to covering more advanced topics such as directing and coordinating services and processes.

Here are a couple of jobs you can hold with a master’s degree in health administration. Salary information is from the BLS or PayScale.

  • Hospital chief operating officer (COO): As COO of a hospital, you’ll direct daily operations, implement strategies, and help the business run smoothly. Average pay is $26.19/hour or $141,991/year (as of July 2019).
  • Healthcare consultant: In this role, you’ll conduct evaluations, design systems and procedures, and help organizations run more efficiently. Average pay is $35.60/hour or $76,852/year (as of July 2019).
  • Health services manager: You’ll plan, direct, and coordinate health services such as individual departments, entire facilities, or private medical practices. Median pay is $47.95/hour or $99,730/year (as of 2018).

Doctoral Degrees in Health Administration

If you know you want to dedicate your career to the field of health administration, earning a doctorate degree could be a smart choice. To earn a doctorate degree in health administration (DHA), you’ll need to complete a master’s program first. Some DHA programs also require past work experience and specific GRE scores. While a license isn’t necessary, certain certifications might help increase your odds of being accepted into a choice program.

Once you’re accepted into a DHA program, you’ll be able to focus on a particular subject. For example, you could choose public health or healthcare leadership as your focus. You’ll also take courses in subjects such as health policy and law, healthcare marketing, and risk management. When it comes to costs, look into scholarships, research grants and financial aid to help reduce your out of pocket expense. You can also get a job through the university as a research assistant and receive a stipend.

Here are a couple of jobs you can hold with a doctoral degree in health administration. Salary information is from PayScale.

  • Assistant or associate professor at a university: As a professor, you’ll teach students and conduct research. Average assistant professor pay is $35.45/hour or $66,914/year; average associate professor pay is $36.32/hour or $76,102/year (as of July 2019).
  • Hospital administrator: You’ll manage daily operations, set budget goals, and coordinate with regulatory bodies and internal departments. Average pay is $22.32/hour or $87,749/year (as of July 2019).

Online Health Administration Degrees

As online programs increase in both availability and popularity, it becomes easier for health administration students to find programs at every degree level. Traditionally, there are three different degree types: in-person, online, and hybrid. The latter refers to programs that incorporate both online and in-person learning. For instance, you might listen to video lectures virtually and connect with your classmates in web forums, but then attend labs at a brick-and-mortar school.

In online-only programs, you attend classes, submit work, and interact with classmates and professors entirely on the web. If this is your preferred learning environment, an online health administration degree might be the right path for you to take.

Pros and Cons of Online Degrees

Like all degree programs, online health administration programs have both benefits and drawbacks, which are important to consider before applying.

Pros: Online programs may cost less. Because they’re online, they tend to implement a lot of online-only tools, such as e-books and readings on the web as well. These types of programs can also help save you and other students more money if the university itself is online-only (no need for pricey buildings and amenities!). The flexibility of attending school whenever and wherever there’s a strong WiFi connection is also appealing.

Cons: Depending on your learning style, you might find it hard to pay attention or fully participate in an online-only classroom. It also might be trickier to secure financial aid or scholarships, especially if the school isn’t accredited. There may also be fewer accredited online-only programs. Check with your school to confirm their accreditation status.

The Importance of Accreditation for Online Programs

The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education(CAHME) is the organization that accredits graduate programs. They set measurable criteria to ensure quality among healthcare management programs. Without this accreditation, it can be difficult to judge a program on the outside. You can search for accredited programs – at all education levels and different settings in the United States and Canada – for free online. Schools will usually list their accreditation on their website and promotional materials, too.

Top Health Administration Schools