The healthcare administration field is perfect for individuals interested in developing and administering comprehensive programs that focus on the health of people within a community. Health care administrators play a very multifaceted role in healthcare, as they are often responsible for a wide variety of tasks within their hospital or medical network. The primary goal of professionals in healthcare administration, however, remains the same: find ways to ensure patients receive the best possible medical care available.
Day in the Life of a Health Administrator
Health administrators are responsible for managing the overall operation of a single department, practice or, in some cases, multiple facilities. Daily tasks can vary quite drastically, but often include:
- Planning, coordinating, and implementing medical and health services
- Establishing programs to help educate community members about healthy lifestyle habits and disease prevention
- Remaining familiar and up to date with important healthcare policies and laws
- Ensuring staff adherence to healthcare policies and laws
- Taking part in governing board and investor meetings
- Supervising healthcare providers
- Communicating with the heads of medical departments and other staff
- Evaluating, monitoring, and ensuring financial effectiveness
- Developing and maintaining systems to positively impact health system efficiency
- Overseeing the hiring of new professional staff members
- Addressing any potential salary issues
The health administration field is quite lucrative. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers made a median annual salary of $115,160 in 2020. The median hourly wage was $55.37. Individuals in the highest paying positions in the field made significantly more. Health administration professionals in the top 10 percent of the earnings scale had median yearly salaries above $189,000 and even those in the bottom 10 percent still made median yearly salaries of $58,820.
While this difference in pay may seem quite drastic, there are several contributing factors that impact the final numbers. The level of education attained and the years of professional experience both play a role, as well as job title and setting. In general, health administrators with more responsibilities make more money. A professional in charge of a large hospital, or a number of medical facilities, for example, will likely earn a higher salary than a professional overseeing a single department or practice.
The industries that pay health administrators the most are:
- Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing
- Scientific Research and Development Services
- Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing
- Computer Systems Design and Related Services
- Business, Professional, Labor, Poetical, and Similar Organizations
A health administrator may make more working for one of the industries mentioned above, but most are actually employed by hospitals, outpatient care centers, physician offices, residential care facilities, and the government. While not quite as lucrative, these industries still offer very competitive salaries. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, private, local, and state hospitals paid health administrators a median annual salary of $107,230 in 2017 and health services managers in government positions made a median annual salary of $106,230. The lowest paying of these industries was residential care facilities, which still provided a median annual salary of 82,950.
Location is another important factor influencing health administration pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts were the five highest paying states for medical and health services managers. Alaska was the seventh highest paying state, with an average yearly salary of $113,990, or an average hourly rate of $54.80, in 2019. In fact, Alaska boasts some of the highest reported salaries for health administrators; those in the top 10 percent of the pay scale earned as much as $184,650. Even the lowest paying positions, however, still paid average annual salary of $64,140.
It’s important to note that the cost of living in Alaska is higher. Additionally, the state has a significantly lower population. In 2019, Alaska only employed a total of 1,030 health administrators. This is a drastically smaller number than states like New York and Texas, which both employed around 30,000, or California, which employed almost 36,940. Over half of the health administrator positions in Alaska were located in Anchorage, with the second largest amount situated in Fairbanks. While the positions in the nonmetropolitan areas of Alaska tended to pay well, there were significantly fewer of them.
Undergraduate Health Administration Degree Programs
At minimum, professional health administrators will need a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration, business administration, or a related field. Though this is a sparsely populated state, there are still healthcare administration degree programs in Alaska. While additional education will likely be necessary to qualify for more advanced jobs, an undergraduate degree is generally sufficient for entry-level positions.
Due to the small population, there are very few colleges and universities that offer health care administration bachelor's degree programs in Alaska. Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage offers a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Management with a concentration in Health Care Management. Even those who don't concentrate in healthcare administration can complete one or more internship programs in Alaska. The work experience in health administration in conjunction with the business degree will surely look good on a resume. As with most bachelor programs, admitted students will need to complete at least 120 credit hours of coursework. This can be accomplished over a four year period, but part-time healthcare administration students are encouraged to take online and evening courses at their own pace. While this will extend the timeframe until graduation, it does allow for the ability to work and attend school simultaneously. Some students may also be able to complete the program early, as college credits from upper-level high school classes and associate degree credits may be transferrable.
Alternatively, the Charter College in Anchorage offers a Bachelor of Science in HealthCare Administration. This program is designed for individuals who already have an associate degree in a similar field and want to continue their education. This degree takes only 14 months to complete and scheduling is advertised as very flexible.
Another viable method of earning an undergraduate degree in health administration is to enroll in an online program. While Alaska Pacific University and the Charter College both offer courses online, it may be worth researching out-of-state universities and colleges as well.
Course titles and offerings regularly change, but some of the most common classes offered in the health administration field are:
- Financial Accounting
- Statistical Data Analysis
- Information Systems Management
- Community Health
- Management Information Technology
- Labor and Employee Relations
- Health Care Law
- Strategic Human Resource Management
- Ethics of Health Care
- Business Finance
- Standards for Health Care Staff
- Health Care Management
- Health Care Strategic Marketing
- Health Care Finance and Accounting
- Health Care Legal and Ethical Issues
- Health Care Licensing and Accreditation
- Public Health
Graduate Health Administration Degree Programs
While an undergraduate degree in healthcare administration is often enough to qualify candidates for entry level positions in the field, a master’s degree is becoming more and more essential. Individuals with a higher level of education are generally given preference for better paying jobs and advancement opportunities. There are a number of great benefits associated with earning a graduate degree in health administration, including:
- More thorough understanding of the field as a whole
- Improved chance of being considered for higher level management positions
- Opportunity to advance further in the career
- Potential to earn a higher yearly salary
- Increased flexibility in career options
- Familiarity with a variety of applicable and transferrable skills
- Chance to positively impact the health of others
Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage offers a Health Services Administration concentration within their Master of Business Administration program. Unfortunately, there are few other healthcare administration graduate degree programs in the state. While this concentration will be sufficient, the lack of options may be limiting. It may be worth researching other master’s in health administration degrees online. In fact, many online Master of Business Administration programs offer health administration as a concentration. Some Master of Business Administration programs offer dual degrees with public health, healthcare informatics, healthcare marketing, or even a master of science in healthcare administration.
Every healthcare administration program is a little different, but most graduate degrees consist of 30 to 60 credit hours. For most students, they will take two years to complete. Early graduation is sometimes possible, however, depending on professional work experience and previous credit hours. Other factors may extend the timeframe, such as the need for prerequisite courses and/or a demanding work schedule. All candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in health administration or a similar field to be considered for admittance.
Job Prospects in Alaska
While Alaska employs relatively few health administrators, the job prospects within the state are still very favorable. This is due in large part to an increase in the number of American Indians and Alaskan Natives who now have healthcare coverage. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, many residents were uninsured. As more and more people begin utilizing the medical facilities in the state, more health administration positions will be necessary. Further, Alaska's population is sure to grow, meaning that healthcare administration professionals will need more managerial, pubic health, informatics, and even marketing training. A bachelor's degree in health administration is a great place to get started, as is a public health degree, or even a degree in healthcare informatics.
Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be a 20 percent increase in employment for medical and health services managers before the year 2026. As the baby-boomer population continues to age, there will be a larger demand for quality healthcare services. Smaller practices are also beginning to offer services that were once primarily provided by larger hospitals. This means there will be a need for more health administrators to oversee and manage these facilities.
Overall, professionals can expect the health administration field to grow much faster than other occupations. This is especially promising for professionals with a master’s degree and/or familiarity with health information technology, electronic health records, and informatics systems.
While health administrator job prospects in Alaska change on a regular basis, here are several examples of job postings collected in July of 2018:Hospital Outreach Development Representative at Alaska Regional Hospital
Responsible for developing and retaining referrals from local physicians, as well as referring patients to hospitals for primary healthcare services.Hospital Administrator at Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium
Responsible for overseeing daily activities at the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, as well as creating a productive clinical environment.Associate Director of Special Projects Practice Management at Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium
Responsible for creating and implementing goals and projects to make the primary care division more successful.
*Please be advised that the positions listed above are for illustration purposes only. These offerings are examples of job opportunities that might be available in the state of Alaska; they are not current job postings and in no way guarantee availability or employment.
Prominent Employers in Alaska
There are many industries that employ health administrators, but the most common employers are hospitals, physician offices, residential care facilities, outpatient care centers, and the government. In Alaska, there are several prominent employers of health administrators, including:
- Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage
- Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium
- Bartlett Regional Hospital in Anchorage
- Fairbanks Memorial Hospital in Fairbanks
- Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage
- Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation in Dillingham
- Cordova Community Medical Center in Cordova
- Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau
- Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage
- Bassett Army Community Hospital in Fort Wainwright
Health Administration Associations in Alaska
While there are a number of national healthcare administration associations for professionals, the Alaskan Medical Group Management Association (AKMGMA) is the primary resource in the state. AKMGMA is an organization intended to support and assist healthcare administrators, managers, executives, consultants, and vendors in Alaska. The association’s goal is to provide members a means of networking, sharing ideas, and finding solutions to problems related to the medical field.