At the graduate certificate and master's degree levels, health systems management programs offer training in the leadership and business skills needed to work in an administrative position in the health care industry. Graduates can qualify to take the examination for licensing as a nursing home administrator, as well as prepare for other types of health care administration roles. Doctoral programs offer advanced training in the field to students who want to teach at the college level or work in high-level government or corporate administrative jobs. Applicants to graduate certificate and master's degree programs must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Some programs also require applicants to have work experience in the field of health care management. Some schools offering doctorate programs may not require anything more than a bachelor's degree, though successful applicants are likely to have a graduate degree.
Health Systems Management Graduate Certificate
This graduate certificate program is more compact than a master's degree program because it is designed for professionals who may already have a graduate degree, such as a doctor who is managing his own office. Some schools offer this certificate program in conjunction with a master's degree, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Health systems management certificate programs are typically offered part-time to accommodate the schedules of working professionals. Health systems management certificate programs are typically short in duration, requiring about 15 credit hours. Course topics might include:
- Health care organization and delivery
- Laws relating to health care
- Policies and challenges of U.S. health care systems
- Managing health care accounting
- Management of nonprofit organizations
Master of Health Care Administration
This graduate degree program combines a solid business foundation with unique issues in the health care arena. Completion of bachelor's degree program, which does not have to be health care related, and at least a 3.0 GPA in undergraduate coursework are also typically required. Students are trained to deal with new health care technology, changing health care laws and new insurance policies. Some schools also offer this program as part of a dual degree option, combined with a Juris Doctor (JD), Master of Business Administration (MBA) or similar program. Successful graduates of this program may find employment managing a large hospital, leading a public health department or consulting for a large health management organization (HMO). This master's program typically involves a focus on internship work experience. Some class titles might include:
- Human resource management in health services
- Information systems in health care
- Health service delivery and the law
- Health services financial management
- Health care management and the spread of disease
Ph.D. in Health Care Administration
This program is the pinnacle for health care administrators. Students who successfully complete a Ph.D. program in this field are prepared to take on roles in research and teach health care delivery methods and public policy. This program focuses heavily on research and the reporting of findings, so coursework typically involves a thesis or dissertation. Some course titles may include:
- Disease research methods
- Health data analysis for research
- Health services financing and policy research seminar
- Growth and development of the U.S. health care system
- Health insurance and managed care
Popular Career Options
This type of program is meant for professionals who may already be in management positions, but it can also open the door to management for other health care workers, such as nurses or physical therapists. Some possible job titles include:
- Hospital manager
- Nursing home administrator
- Health care management consultant
- Clinical manager
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The need for qualified hospital and health care administrators is expected to cause job growth of 17% from 2014-2024, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Salaries vary depending on the type and size of the organization, but the median salary for medical and health services managers was $94,500 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.
The BLS also noted that an individual seeking to be a college professor has an edge with a Ph.D. The median annual salary for postsecondary health specialties instructors was $90,840 as of May 2015, as noted by the BLS. Those who teach at colleges and universities made an average annual salary of $122,010 during this time.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Most states require licensure for nursing home managers, and many states require a license to manage an assisted living center, according to the BLS. There are professional organizations for health care executives that offer credentialing programs, such as the American College of Health Care Executives.
Nursing home administrators must be licensed by the state. All other management positions don't require a license. However, there is a certification process, which includes an exam from the American College of Health Care Executives. In addition, health information managers can seek certification as a Registered Health Information Administrator from the American Health Information Management Association, as reported by the BLS. For those who want to teach health care administration at the college level, serve on an advisory board or manage a college-level program, a Ph.D. in Health Care Administration is the next step.
Individuals interested in careers in hospital administration may seek a Health Systems Management Graduate Certificate, a Master of Health Care Administration or, if they are considering postsecondary teaching in the field, a Ph.D. in Health Care Administration. These programs provide in-class and hands-on instruction in both business and legal aspects of managing a health care facility.