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Overview

Becoming a healthcare administrator is a challenging task. Depending on your level of education, you need to enroll in classes at either the undergraduate or graduate level. In some states, you’ll have to take an exam so you can receive a license that allows you to work in your field. In other states, an official certification will be all you’ll need. (Healthcare administrators working in assisted living facilities or nursing homes may need their certification to practice.)

While the classes may be difficult, once you graduate and obtain your professional license, it will all be worth the effort you put into your new career. While you can find a healthcare administrator position with your bachelor’s degree, you’re much more likely to do so after earning your graduate degree. This makes the extra time in school a good investment in your career.

As a healthcare administrator, you’ll be responsible for several functions, including the recruitment, hiring and training of your staff; improving the quality of healthcare services your facility delivers to recipients; establishing good communication between staff members, departments and other administrators; planning your facility’s goals and objectives; creating work schedules, and being the face of your facility in meetings, fund raising events and on governing boards.

After becoming a healthcare administrator, your staff and service recipients will be comfortable knowing that your hard work is backed by the state or national board that granted you your license or certification.

Healthcare administration has become its own highly specialized field. This is no wonder, considering that the administrator possesses, not only business skills, but some medical knowledge. The field is a mixture of both business and disease, patient services and healthcare. This means that the prerequisites you need before you embark on your specialized degree will be every course ranging from accounting, courses on healthcare organizations, several business courses, classes on leadership and management, classes about the laws and ethics governing health services, American healthcare, healthcare finance, current health challenges, healthcare organizations and healthcare administration and management.

You’ll also be required to focus on a healthcare management concentration. By choosing the concentration in which you feel the most comfortable, you’re ensuring that you’ll have a role you can step into.

Does a Health Administrator Have to be Certified and Licensed?

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Federal funding demands that certain healthcare administrators be licensed or certified before beginning their work. Certification communicates to employers and employees that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out your daily job duties.

The American College of Healthcare Executives, or ACHE, offers certification to administrators who have earned their degrees at the post-baccalaureate level and who have joined this organization.

You’ll begin by becoming an affiliate (member) of ACHE. You should also find a niche in which you can be active within the community. This may be community health or raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, just to provide a few examples. Become active in civic activities within your community.

Networking is also a vital activity—you’ll need professional references from those who have gotten to know you. These references should come from other ACHE fellows, with one being an actual interview.

Before you become an ACHE fellow, you’ll have to pass the Board of Governors Examination in Healthcare Management. ACHE makes advancement webinars available to new members. These webinars concern advancement within the organization. After rising to become a fellow, keep working hard to maintain your membership.

You may also have to obtain other certifications, depending on your background and work role. These include the CMM or certified medical manager. This comes from the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (most appropriate for healthcare administrators employed within a hospital, and who work with the hospital’s financial accounts.

Undergraduate Programs and Courses

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Depending on your circumstances (working full-time or going to school full- or part-time), you need a program that works with your schedule. You may also need an online program rather than a face-to-face program because of odd working hours.

Look for the right kind of educational program (not a degree mill). Its online offerings should provide several classes that pertain directly to your major.

On the bachelor level, look for courses that cover topics such as healthcare economics, U.S. healthcare systems, quality management, health law and ethics, along with other offerings. Even in an online program, you’ll have to take part in an internship in a healthcare administration setting.

There are many options for you as you enter the world of Healthcare Administration, starting from Associate degrees on up.

Graduate Programs

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If you earn your graduate degree in healthcare administration, you have just made yourself a highly sought-after potential employee. That’s because, even though a bachelor’s degree is acceptable, the master’s degree fits the roles and actions of a healthcare administrator even more.

Because the U.S. has an increasingly larger senior population, whose members will live more years than they did in the past, every state in the country will be seeking leaders for medical facilities and medical practices.

More and more medical facilities and practices are also making use of healthcare informatics and digital record-keeping. This means that these employers need administrators who are highly knowledgeable about information technology. If that is your degree focus in graduate school, you’ve just written your own ticket into a rewarding career.

Which graduate programs are the best? These were ranked by several criteria:

  • Graduation rate
  • Length of accreditation
  • Peer assessment
  • Employment rate
  • Overall cost (of fees and tuition)

As with the bachelor health administration programs, the graduate programs should be accredited by one of several accrediting organizations. These include the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education, or CAHME. The programs listed are residential (traditional) only, not online.

Once you graduate, you’ll be able to choose the healthcare setting where you’ll work: private health organization, hospitals, nonprofit, pharmaceutical company, government organization, nursing home or a health insurance company.

If, because of a current work commitment, you can only take online classes, look carefully for the best online school programs for your goals.

There are a few options when it comes to graduate degrees, and which one you choose depends on the direction you want your career to take.

Is Healthcare Administration Right for Me?

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Having read this far, you are excused for wondering if healthcare administration is truly the right field for you. You do have to be qualified as an expert in one or more areas of this field.

Do you consider yourself to be a visionary? Healthcare facilities and practices need administrators who are experts in their specialties. These administrators also need to possess the vision needed to marry quality patient care with reporting, planning and institutional goals.

Visionaries can make healthcare better than it currently is. Healthcare can certainly stand to be more efficient. If you appreciate and love people, you are ideal as a healthcare administrator.

Healthcare administration has so much to offer you, such as emotional and moral benefits. You’ll find yourself learning and growing in your career.

If you feel the need to, you can continue your education, moving from a healthcare administrator with a bachelor’s degree up to a master’s degree graduate.

Other desirable qualities include excellent communication—written and oral—skills. Previous work experience is a solid strength.

Know how to adapt and be flexible. Adapt quickly to changes and fit into the organization well.

Your list of characters should include good professional judgment, dependability and have a strong character.

Possess general management skills. While these can be taught, if they are a part of your cognitive makeup, you’ll blend well into your job.