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Online Master’s in Healthcare Administration

Everything you need to know

When pursuing a career in health administration, education and experience can make all the difference. While those with bachelor’s degrees may be limited to entry-level jobs, a master’s degree opens doors to greater opportunities. In fact, Forbes named the master’s degree in healthcare administration as one of the top ten degrees in terms of income and job outlook.

For healthcare professionals who want to move into administration, it may be difficult to pause their careers and go back to school. Online education offers a flexible alternative. This guide lets students know what to expect when earning a master’s in healthcare administration online, from class flexibility to program offerings to cost.

Top Online Master's in Healthcare Admin

Earning a master’s in healthcare administration can open the doors to exciting new career paths and advancement opportunities. Thanks to the recent upswing in degree programs that are available entirely online, students looking to earn their master’s in healthcare administration find that completing their degree virtually makes keeping up with classwork – while maintaining their personal and professional lives – much easier.

To aid in the search for the perfect program, GoGrad has ranked the schools offering a master’s in healthcare administration degree. Each school has been vetted using our stringent criteria to ensure that they offer the very best in distance education programs.

SCORE:  98.3 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Tennessee

East Tennessee State University offers two online master’s programs in health administration. The programs are flexible, allowing working professionals to take courses while working. Topics of study include the organization and delivery of health services in the U.S., planning and marketing in health service organizations, fundamentals of human resource management and the legal and ethical principles of health services, among others.

Courses are taught by the same professors who instruct on-campus classes. They may be held in a synchronous format, where students must log on to a virtual class at a specific day and time, or an asynchronous format, where students can complete coursework at their own convenience.

  • Human Resource Management in Health Administration
  • MS in Allied Health
  • MPH (Community Health)
SCORE:  97.98 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Alabama

The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers a master’s degree program in health administration that blends online and on-campus courses. However, on-campus time is minimal, with just three 8-day visits required per year during the 2-year program.

The program is designed for working professionals, requiring applicants to have at least five years of health care experience. Curriculum addresses key health care management issues including marketing, leadership, strategic planning and quality improvement.

Students also participate in a preceptorship that serves as the program’s capstone. Through this course, they will spend three or four days in an area of health care outside of their current work experience, with the goal of gaining in new skills and knowledge.

  • MAE in Health Education (Community Health)
  • MPH in Health Care Organization
  • MPH in Environmental Health and Toxicology
SCORE:  96.95 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Texas

Professionals who wish to work full-time while completing their degree may be interested in Midwestern State University’s online master’s in health administration. Students learn the skills necessary to assume leadership roles in the complex health industry.

The 45 credit-hour program includes courses in health care financial management, research, law and bioethics, marketing and health systems analysis. Students complete their studies with a graduate seminar in advanced research. The university admits new students in the spring and fall semesters.

Online courses are delivered through the Desire2Learn course management system. Distance students have access to numerous resources, including academic advising, counseling, career services and the university library and bookstore.

  • MHA
SCORE:  96.19 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: California

For working health care professionals seeking careers as administrators and managers, California State University – East Bay offers an online master’s program in health care administration. Courses focus on essential skills and technologies for managers in this quickly changing industry. Curriculum is centered on five domains: communications and relationship management, leadership, professionalism, the health care environment and business skills and knowledge.

The program is designed for professionals with two years of health care work experience. Graduates will be prepared to work in a variety of settings, including non-profit, for profit and voluntary health care organizations.

  • MS in Health care administration
SCORE:  95.98 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: California

National University’s Master of Healthcare Administration degree program covers health administration and management at the public or private sector at the local, state and federal level.

Courses are taught by instructors with diverse backgrounds in management, economics, law, sociology, statistics medicine, public health and planning. Students will have experiential opportunities through their studies in project management, teamwork and leadership. They may also participate in internships and a capstone experience.

The program consists of 16 required courses worth 72 quarter units. Students may transfer up to 13.5 quarter units from other institutions for equivalent graduate work.

  • MHA
  • MPH
  • MS in Health Informatics
SCORE:  95.87 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Illinois

Loyola University Chicago offers several online master’s programs related to health care administration. These programs allow working professionals to advance their education and careers while providing in-depth training in the clinical, legal, social science and philosophical aspects of the field. Courses are taught by university faculty who have been trained in online instruction.

Students access course materials through Sakai, a distance learning management system. On this platform, professors can post course materials, host discussions on message boards and administer tests and quizzes. Students have access to a number of Loyola’s resources, including a help desk, library services, the bookstore and additional services for those with disabilities.

  • MA in Health Care
  • MA in Bioethics and Health Policy
  • MA in Health Care Mission Leadership
SCORE:  94.44 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Pennsylvania

Students seeking an MBA in health administration can fast-track their education with Eastern University’s online program. Graduation requirements include 11 courses and an integrative health care business project. The program is designed around adult learning models and leverages a variety of teaching methods, such as facilitated dialogue, group projects and use of previous experience.

Curriculum centers on economics, medicine, government policies and social sciences, and how these core concepts interact with health administration. Courses are asynchronous, which means students can participate and complete work on their own schedule. Nearly all students are working professionals, with an average age of 38.

  • MED in School Health Services (School Health Supervisor certification)
  • MED in School Health Services (School Nurse certification)
  • MBA in Health Administration (Fast Track)
SCORE:  94.18 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Pennsylvania

For experienced professionals in the health delivery field who wish to assume management and leadership positions, Saint Joseph’s University offers an online master’s in health administration.

Curriculum prepares students to enter or advance in many areas of the field, including health policy formulation, organization development, economic and financial analysis, and quality assessment for patient care improvement.

Students can choose from career-oriented specializations in health care ethics or informatics. Health care ethics students complete 12 courses to graduate, while informatics students complete 14 courses. Both specializations cover health care law, managed health care, financial management of health care organizations, and an integrative capstone course in health services.

  • MS in Health Administration
  • Executive MBA in Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing
  • MBA in Health and Medical Services Administration
SCORE:  94.07 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Delaware

At Wilmington University, students can earn an online MBA with a concentration in healthcare administration. Students will learn about health policy, insurance and reimbursement, as well as how to analyze situations and make effective decisions related to healthcare administration.

The program consists of 12 courses: seven general business courses and five courses on health care administration. Areas of study include health policy and economics, legal aspects in health care and marketing in the health care sector.

Courses are asynchronous, allowing students to participate and complete coursework at any time and day that is convenient. However, there are weekly due dates for assignments and participation.

  • MBA (Health Care Administration)
  • MS in Management (Health Care Administration)
SCORE:  93.53 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Mississippi

In the online master’s of health administration program at Belhaven University, students gain academic, practical and technical skills combined with Christian values. The program can be completed in two years, with courses divided into 8-week terms. Each course includes team-based projects, where students collaborate in groups to build teamwork, problem-solving and leadership skills.

The 36 credit-hour program includes courses in strategic leadership, finance and budgeting, along with a health administration capstone. Graduates can enter a variety of career fields, such as leadership of hospital departments, marketing and communications for a health care center, leadership in a pharmaceutical company or management of medical records and finances.

  • MHA
  • MBA (Health Administration)
SCORE:  93.5 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: North Dakota

For students pursuing clinical and health care management careers, the University of Mary offers a Master of Science Nursing (MSN) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) dual degree in health care administration. This accelerated online program combines nursing and business coursework.

Classmates collaborate on projects, building a strong peer network for support throughout their education and career. Students also have access to academic advisors to guide them on course registration and completion of degree requirements.

In addition to business, administrative and clinical concepts, the program incorporates Christian, Catholic and Benedictine values. Students also learn about finance and accounting, evidence-based practice and nursing leadership.

  • MBA in Healthcare
  • MSN/MBA in Healthcare Administration
SCORE:  91.97 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: New York

Students who wish to further their education while maintaining full-time employment can earn their healthcare informatics administration master’s degree at Roberts Wesleyan College in just 17 months. The online program combines technical knowledge in medical informatics with business and leadership skills. Curriculum focuses on the complexities of today’s health care issues, including health care reform, electronic medical records, privacy laws and the electronic exchange of medical information. Applicants are not required to have a technical background or prior education in informatics.

Courses are taught in an asynchronous format, allowing students to complete coursework and view lectures on their own schedule.

  • MS in Healthcare Informatics Administration
  • MS in Nursing Leadership and Administration
SCORE:  91.46 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Maine

At Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, students can complete a health care administration degree entirely online. Applicants are expected to have two years of relevant health care experience; however, those without experience can include a letter explaining their interest and motivation in the field.

The 42 credit-hour program can be completed in two years or more, depending on course load. Summer classes are offered to help students complete courses more quickly and accelerate graduation. Students will learn how to effectively manage health services, assume high standards of professional and ethical conduct, and continue their education independently throughout their career. The program also offers a specialized concentration in managing Catholic health care organizations.

  • MHA
SCORE:  91.26 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Indiana

Students of Valparaiso University’s Master of Science in Healthcare Administration program can earn their degree entirely online. The program focuses on ethical leadership and process improvements, as students learn about complex business management and policy issues that arise in a healthcare setting.

Students can specialize their degrees with a concentration in strategic leadership, health informatics, gerontology or forensic health. Courses use streaming, video-based lectures and an online platform that allows students to interact with peers and instructors.

Although the degree can be earned in 24 months, students also have the option of taking fewer classes at a time to accommodate busy schedules.

  • MS in Healthcare Administration
SCORE:  90.72 CAREER COUNSELING: Yes JOB PLACEMENT: Yes STATE: Minnesota

At Concordia University – Saint Paul, qualifying students can enroll in an MBA program with a concentration in health care management. Students complete 42 credit-hours to earn the degree through a fully online or blended distance/on-campus program.

The degree features an MBA mentor and Managerial Application Portfolio (MAP), where each student is assigned a designated MBA faculty advisor to support them throughout the course of their studies. The mentors assist students in building a network of professional contacts, improving interview skills and polishing resumes. Students progress through the program in a cohort with peers, taking courses together and building a network for collaboration in school and support after graduation.

  • MBA in Health Care Management

The Inside Scoop on the Online Master’s in Healthcare Administration Degree

The online master’s in healthcare administration degree allows students to pursue higher education without sacrificing their current job or family obligations. In addition to convenience and flexibility, there are many other factors to consider when evaluating online programs.

Well-trained faculty

Those who are teaching classes in healthcare administration should have a great deal of hands-on experience. Faculty might include former nurses, medical administrators, and/or management professionals who understand the finer points of healthcare. Ideally, they should be involved in industry organizations and associations, and may even have published materials.

Accreditation in good standing

An accredited school has been reviewed by an accrediting body and found to meet rigorous educational criteria. Schools can be accredited on regional and national levels. For healthcare administration, the gold standard of accreditation is the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education, or CAHME. To ensure the best possible education, ensure that the health administration program is fully accredited before applying.

Top-notch resources

In addition to business and management, quality programs also focus on information technology and information systems. This technical knowledge enables students to work with complex medical systems. Students should also look for programs that emphasize human resources, communications, and other areas that complement management courses.

Possible internships

Health administration graduates need to get hands-on experience before advancing into key positions. Many schools offer internships, post-graduate fellowships, and other opportunities that help guide students to the right career path. Many master’s programs have relationships with local hospitals or healthcare facilities to offer on-the-job training before or after graduation.

Concentrations & Coursework

One of the advantages of the health administration master’s degree is that students can choose a concentration, gaining in-depth skills and knowledge for a specialized career path. For instance, some health administration professionals might choose to work in nursing homes or with the elderly, while others may plan to work for major health systems. Here are some of the most common concentrations for the master’s degree in health administration.

Nursing Home Administration

This concentration focuses on caring for the elderly, particularly in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, or assisted living facilities. Basic courses include gerontology, legal aspects of treating elderly patients, financial management, and quality standards of care. This area of study also prepares graduates for their state’s nursing home licensing board examination, which is a prerequisite to working as a nursing home administrator.

  • Nursing Home Administrator

    Manages staffing and admissions to ensure optimal patient care. Also handles finances, facility maintenance and other operational tasks.

  • Home Health Manager

    Hires, trains, and manages home health workers. Plans schedules and coordinates delivery of supplies and medications to patients. Manages care plans and monitors budgets.

Nursing Leadership

This concentration is designed for those who already have extensive experience in clinical nursing and want to move into a leadership or administration position. Courses include leadership theory, facility planning, legal and regulatory practices, community health, healthcare policy and more. Graduates will be ready to move into leadership roles within hospitals or healthcare systems, working closely with other administrators to make the best use of nursing resources.

  • Nurse Supervisor

    Manages staffing and scheduling, stays on top of regulatory changes, and implements new technology into the nursing department. May work in a variety of clinical areas, such as surgery or maternity.

  • Assistant Administrator

    Works under the head administrator to make daily operational decisions. May focus in a particular area, such as nursing, surgery, medical records or outpatient care coordination.

Emergency Management

This program concentration focuses strongly on emergency management systems and how they interact, including courses like hazards identification, the use of technology in disaster triage, services coordination, risk communication and psychology. Some programs might include unexpected courses, such as those in geology, climatology or ecology. The graduate will be prepared to enter a higher level of administration in emergency services, including rescue squads and paramedic teams.

  • Disaster Management Specialist

    Plans procedures and protocols for handling emergency situations in a large-scale disaster. Coordinates the response of police, fire, medical and other personnel, and evaluates the outcome to better prepare for future issues.

Health Information Management

This concentration prepares healthcare students to handle technology-related tasks, including medical records and billing. Courses include advanced risk assessment, systems analysis and design, emerging healthcare technologies, database and communications concepts, project planning, financial accounting and the like. Graduates are prepared to work in a variety of settings, from physicians’ offices to insurance companies to medical billing organizations.

  • Office Manager

    Works to ensure smooth operations of physicians’ offices. Tasks include scheduling patients and staff, ordering supplies, keeping up with regulatory changes, planning budgets and more.

  • Medical Billing and Coding Specialist

    Works to organize and manage health information, including billing through hospitals or health systems. Often works closely with insurance companies, patients and organizations to help ensure proper billing.

Another way to find valuable information about a master’s degree program in health administration is to look at the course list. Drawn from several programs across the United States, the following list is a sampling of courses students can expect to encounter.

Understanding the U.S. Healthcare System

This course provides an overview of the U.S. healthcare system, discussing its strengths and weaknesses, new legislation for healthcare delivery, the impact of health insurance, the role of the policymaker, and the relationship between patient and provider.

Healthcare Laws and Ethics

This course begins with an in-depth explanation of current laws, regulations and ethical concerns related to healthcare. Topics include tort litigations, privacy issues, criminal law, contract law, civil law and more. Students will examine many high-profile cases in the healthcare system, working through hypothetical moral and ethical dilemmas.

Organization Theory and Behavior in Healthcare

Students will study organizational design, behavior and effectiveness in healthcare systems, including the regular work of change, policy, power and politics. This course looks closely at the impact of both internal and external factors on particular issues.

Healthcare Financing and Budgeting

This course begins by analyzing the finances and budget of the national healthcare system, and then narrows the focus to specific systems. Subjects include finances and budgeting for departments, non-profit organizations and community-based health. Forecasting expenditures through demographics, utilization rates, current prices and technology is also covered.

Health Care Quality Assessment and Improvement

Students will develop evaluation and assessment techniques with an emphasis on quality management. The course includes information on historical cases, voluntary and governmental efforts over time, the new assessment techniques forced by informatics, and proposed policy to improve healthcare quality.

Marketing Management

This course focuses on marketing practices for leadership positions, including a strong overview of product, place, price and promotion as it applies to the financial bottom line. Students will get insights into consumer behavior, often completing a research and marketing project.

Introduction to Health Informatics

This broad overview prepares students for more in-depth courses in informatics. Studies include the use of information technology in the healthcare setting, privacy implications, tools such as telehealth and electronic medical records, and potential applications.

Health Administration Master’s: What to Expect

Once you’ve chosen to pursue an online master’s in health administration degree, it’s important to understand what will happen over the next two or three years. Let’s look at what students can expect, from the application process to graduation and beyond.

Year 0

When applying to any master’s program in the healthcare field, competition is bound to be fierce. Students should begin the application process as early as possible. We recommend creating a calendar with all of the requirements and deadlines. When applying to several different schools, it’s a good idea to use color-coding for each program. Below are tips for some common application requirements:

Request standardized test results long before the deadline. It can sometimes take several weeks for organizations to send results to schools.

Allow former colleges, colleagues and employers plenty of time to submit transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Start work on all essays early, and submit them well before the deadline.

After determining the cost of the program, discuss financing options with an advisor. If you already have a job, find out if the company will pay for continuing education.

Year 1

The first courses will focus on the fundamentals of health administration, such as an overview of U.S. health systems, information about budgeting and finances, and legal and ethical considerations. Courses in the latter part of the first year and those in the second year will build upon this foundation.

Now is the time for students to think about concentrations they might want to pursue. If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to take a variety of courses across different specialty areas. Those who are certain about their career path can take courses that are targeted to support it. When choosing courses, always consider graduation requirements to ensure that you’re moving forward toward your degree.

Year 2

After a solid year of immersion in health administration courses, it’s time to decide on a specialty. This might be working in a nursing home, joining emergency services, or even choosing to direct a department rather than a health system. Whatever specialty you choose, this year will likely move quickly. Students should focus on the final courses that meet graduation requirements, particularly for their area of concentration. If there is a thesis requirement, now is the time to prepare.

Another key point this year is planning an internship or post-graduate fellowship, which is a requirement for some programs. In some cases, working professionals can simply continue in their present position, or may seek a more advanced position in their current organization. Others might need to plan an internship in their area of concentration, such as a nursing home. Many online schools offer helpful planning resources.

Keep in mind that this 2-year program is just a guideline. Some programs may take up to three years to complete, especially if a student is studying part-time. Other programs offer accelerated courses, which can reduce the total study time to as little as 18 months.

From the Source: Working As a Healthcare Administrator

Dr. April Smith McDonald is a tenure-track professor in the Department of Public Management and the director of the Graduate Health Care Administration programs on the university level. Here’s what she has to say about pursuing a master’s degree in health care administration:

Stay up to date

What you learn in class today may change next week or next year. Stay up to date with trends and news in the health care industry on social media and health care websites.

Make connections

Use online and in-person networks to connect with peers and leaders in the field while you’re a student. The connections you make as a graduate student will be among the most important you make in your career.

Keep up to date with technology

New technology and data analytics are likely to dramatically change what we do and know about health care for patients, providers and administrators. Being tech savvy and knowledgeable about emerging areas in health care technology will give you an edge as you move toward being a health care leader.

How Much Does a Master’s in Healthcare Administration Online Degree Cost?

When evaluating health administration programs, affordability is an important factor. Let’s take a look at the typical costs of the online master’s in health administration, as well as what type of salary students can expect upon graduation.

Calculating the Costs

The biggest portion of master’s degree program costs is tuition. Some schools charge tuition by the quarter hour, others charge by the credit, and still others charge by the semester. Public universities tend to be priced lower than private colleges, but some schools may resist that trend.

As college costs can vary widely, it is difficult to pinpoint firm numbers. However, multiplying the cost of one course by the number of required courses can offer a fairly accurate idea of what the bottom line will be. For example, if most credits in a program cost $300 each and there are 60 credits required to graduate, students are looking at an overall price tag of $18,000 for tuition.

In addition to tuition, there may be separate expenses for books and fees. Students should also include their usual living expenses in the overall budget.

Understanding the Payoff

Will an investment in a health administration master’s degree pay off? The typical income for health administrators is quite strong. Although there is no guarantee that a master’s degree will result in higher pay, it can make a job seeker more marketable, which increases the possibility of a better position. These were the salaries for medical and health service administrators in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Top 10 % $155,130
Median (50%) $90,940
Bottom 10% $55,470

Salaries can vary widely depending on the amount of experience. According to Payscale.com, those who had 10-20 years of experience made 11 percent more than the national average, and those with more than 20 years of experience enjoyed a pay rate of 14 percent more than the national average. On the flipside, those who had 5-10 years of experience or less made between three and eight percent lower than the national average pay for health administrators.

Today, 66% of health administrators are female and 34% are male.

A survey of 171 health administrators found that they were all “extremely satisfied” with their jobs.

The Growth of Health Administration

The health administration field is thriving — the BLS expects job growth of 23 percent from 2012 to 2022 for medical and health service managers, which is much higher than the average for all occupations. This growth is due to many factors, including a booming healthcare system, an aging population that will require more health care, and expanded healthcare legislation that has spurred the growth of more medical practices and outpatient care centers. The industries that hired the most health administrators in 2013 included:

  • General medical and surgical hospitals
  • Offices of physicians
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Home health care services
  • Outpatient care centers

For those seeking higher-paying opportunities, these industries topped the list of health administrator salaries in 2013:

  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing
  • Navigational, measuring, electromedical and control instruments manufacturing
  • Computer systems design and related services
  • Electronic shopping and mail order houses
  • Data processing, hosting and related services

Finally, it is important to know where the jobs are. In 2013, New York, California, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania had the highest employment in the health administration occupation. The highest-paying states included District of Columbia, California, New York, Delaware and New Jersey.

Unconventional Paths for the Healthcare Administration Master’s

The job of a health administrator entails more than working in an office and shuffling through paperwork. There are many alternative positions for graduates who want to blaze their own career path. Here are a few opportunities outside of the typical hospital setting:

  • Medical Practice Manager

    The work of physicians is increasing dramatically; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for physicians is expected to increase by 18 percent between 2012 and 2022. Along with that growth comes increased demand for people to handle staffing, finances and more. Medical practice administrators are trained to handle everything from a busy single practice to a large group of practices under the same umbrella of service, such as a family doctor.

  • Administrative Services Manager

    Those who have honed the skills and knowledge to work as a healthcare administrator can use that expertise to move into other related fields, such as the administration of small businesses or large global organizations. Many management skills are equally valuable outside of the healthcare setting. This particular job is growing at about 12% from 2012 to 2022, which is higher than most management occupations.

  • Emergency Management Director

    These professionals step up when disaster strikes, ready to coordinate everything from the government’s response to skilled emergency healthcare teams to volunteer services. It’s a high-pressure job that requires impeccable coordination skills, excellent communication and a willingness to work around the clock to get the job done. Job growth is expected to hit eight percent from 2012 to 2022.

  • Top Executives

    Many health administrators can spot gaps in supply chains, problems with staffing, and other issues that might drive them to create a new business solution. Those who have experience successfully running a hospital or health system have the necessary skills to run other companies as well, making them attractive to top companies seeking new leadership. Top executives will see growth of 11 percent from 2012 to 2022.

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