Following completion of a bachelor's degree program and work experience in a healthcare field, aspiring health administrators commonly pursue a master's degree in health services administration (MHSA) or long-term care administration. Such programs are accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). Entry into a master's program often requires a bachelor's degree and some work experience.
Graduate certificate programs in health management are also available as an alternative to the master's degree and may be appealing to current medical professionals. Those directing clinical offices usually need prior training in the clinical arena, such as nursing or physician assisting. Students may find online and evening classes available to accommodate busy schedules.
Graduate Certificate in Health Management
A 1-year graduate certificate program may be appropriate for students with bachelor's degrees with current experience in the health care field. The purpose of such programs is to provide students with skills in medical department management ranging from personnel management to patient admissions. Graduates usually work at the department level providing management support and oversight. Courses include:
- Healthcare organizations
- Human resources
- Financial management
Master's Degree in Health Services Administration
Often completed in two years, the master's of health services administration program provides students with core clinical and organizational management knowledge and the ability to apply it as a leader in the field. Many programs offer evening or online courses to accommodate working professionals. Topics of study include the following:
- Healthcare systems
- Healthcare economics
- Financial concepts and applications
- Health law
- Health policy
Master's Degree in Long-Term Care Administration
Graduate-level long-term care administration programs prepare students to manage agencies and institutions who provide healthcare for the elderly population. Graduates understand the aging process, the services available for older adults and are usually prepared to take the nursing home administrator licensing examination. Areas of study include:
- Geriatric care management
- Death and dying
- Social work and aging
- Healthcare systems
- Human resource management
- Healthcare policy
Health care administrators usually have a minimum of 3-5 years experience in a healthcare field, and this experience may substitute for a graduate degree in some facilities. Graduates from degree programs may begin as an assistant administrator in a specific clinical area, and then may progress to supervising multiple departments or entire facilities.
Health administrators seeking a career in managing long-term care facilities must meet state-specific licensing requirements. Generally, a specific number of related coursework, completion of a licensure examination and a specified number of practicum or work hours is required.
Health administrators may also become board certified through the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE). To achieve this milestone, the requirements include passing of an exam, a graduate degree, three years as an ACHE member, three references from current fellows, 40 hours of continuing education, current work in the field and at least five years of experience three years as an ACHE member.
Several organizations offer regular workshops and seminars for professionals to stay abreast of current policies and regulations. ACHE offers an annual congress for members and fellows of the organization, as well as educational seminars in various locations, webinars and short, six-week online seminars. The American Health Care Association (AHCA) focuses upon long-term care events, and offers frequent webinars and an annual convention that works to bring awareness to issues related to long-term and acute care facilities. The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) provides opportunities for health administrators to stay current on the latest financial trends through e-learning courses, a multitude of workshops and an annual conference.
Obtaining membership in any of the several reputable organizations allows for continued development in the field. Healthcare administration is a growing and constantly changing field, and therefore health administrators often attend several educational events annually. After several years of experience, administrators may pursue higher-level administrative positions within a health care facility or system.
Students can pursue careers in healthcare management and other leadership roles in healthcare settings, as well as advance a career by enrolling in continuing education programs. Health administration degree programs help students learn and master the needed skills to succeed in the field of healthcare administration.