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Become a Care Coordinator: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a care coordinator. Learn about the job duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a care coordinator.

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Do I Want to Be a Care Coordinator?

Also known as patient coordinators or patient representatives, these professionals work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, HMOs and other health care facilities. They work with both medical and administrative staff members to assist patients in obtaining care, understanding their options and making health care decisions. Duties might include acting as a liaison between patients and the medical staff, explaining hospital policies, managing referrals and investigating patient complaints.

Job Requirements

Although the majority of patient representatives have a bachelor's degree, according to O*Net Online, it is possible to secure this position with an associate's degree or certificate. Work experience related to the duties of a coordinator might also help applicants secure a position in this field. The following table contains some common requirements for becoming a care coordinator:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Some employers prefer those with a bachelor's degree*
Degree Fields Medical, business or health care administration discipline**
Experience About 2 years**
Key Skills Communication skills, critical thinking skills, customer service skills**
Technical Skills Medical knowledge**

Sources: *O*Net Online, **Various online job postings (July 2014).

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree

Care coordinators typically have a 4-year degree in a communications, business or medical field, such as public relations or health care administration. These degree programs are open to individuals who hold a high school diploma or GED. Core courses in a health care administration program may include topics in health care law, long term care, health information systems and medical terminology. Some programs may also include an internship in a hospital.

Success Tip:

  • Choose courses that can help prepare you for this career. Upon entering a degree program, prospective care coordinators may wish to take courses related to customer service, medical terminology, hospital administrative procedures and basic care techniques.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Some health care facilities require training or experience as a care coordinator. Aspiring care coordinators can gain experience in the medical field through an internship while in an educational program, or by taking entry-level positions such as a medical receptionist or clerk.

Step 3: Complete a Post-Bachelor's Certificate Program

Medical facilities may prefer to hire care coordinators with the most education, training and experience. For this reason, individuals who have completed an advanced certificate related to care coordination may have an advantage in the job market. Students in care coordinator or patient advocacy certificate programs learn about health care coaching, health care advocacy, medical laws and ethics, navigating the health care system, health care insurance options and tracking patient care goals.

Depending on the school, these programs may take anywhere from 13 weeks to one year. Most programs require applicants to have a bachelor's degree, but some may accept students who have relevant experience in lieu of the degree.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics