The healthcare sector is one of the fastest growing, rapidly innovating industries in our nation. As we face an aging population, there is more and more demand for workers in all levels of healthcare. If you would rather not work with the medical side, all is not lost. There are loads of opportunities in healthcare administration. That can include accounting, IT, management, human resources, and marketing, among other positions.

Idaho Salary Information

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Salaries for these jobs are healthy, too. In Idaho, medical and health services managers earn between $75,160 and $96,400 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top median salary in Idaho was in Lewiston, where administrators garnered $92,480, while similar workers in Idaho Falls were paid $71,880. The state's top earners were again in Lewiston, where the 90th percentile earn $144,810.

Most high salaries for healthcare administration are in southwestern Idaho where the state's population is most dense. However, Coeur d'Alene's median salary for this sector is $75,230 and their top 90th percentile earns $127,740. While this is notably lower than, Lewiston, you might prefer living next door to a national forest.

Undergrad Program Overview

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Now that you know how much money is available along this career path, you might be wondering how to get involved. As with most professions, you should first start with an appropriate academic background that will launch a highly successful career. Given the incredible growth in healthcare, many undergraduate and graduate programs have been tailored to provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed as a hospital administrator, for instance. Of course, you might prefer to specialize as an accountant in the field, or perhaps computer science and information technology is your forte. The right undergrad degree will position you to realize your dreams.

Before you go and apply to the first healthcare administration program, make sure that your research is informed so that you find a program that best suits your goals. First, you should assess where you see yourself in the long-term. Would you like to be the administrator of a major hospital or maybe manage a regional chain of elder-care facilities. Perhaps you are more creative and would like to work in marketing for a healthcare company or a university's healthcare system.

To make this decision, review what courses are offered under the rubric of healthcare administration. The more business-minded might look for a course offering that is heavily weighted on the following:

  • Healthcare human resources management
  • Hospital accounting
  • Healthcare marketing
  • American healthcare system

If you think you'd rather specialize in marketing or healthcare communications, you might seek course offerings such as:

  • Business communications
  • Technical writing
  • Copywriting
  • Graphical document design

It's also worthwhile to look at what sort of degree you can achieve. That is, some feel that a Bachelor of Science is worth more to an employer than a Bachelor of Arts. There are multiple options in the field of healthcare administration. A few options are:

  • Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Administration (BHA)
  • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration or Management (BS)

Though you might take virtually the same courses for each degree and be equally skilled regardless of the letters at the end of your name, sometimes these appearances can make a difference. That is, if you are not certain that you want to make your entire career in healthcare, you might prefer a more neutral degree, such as a BBA or a simple BS in Management or Accounting.

Accreditation

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One of the more important aspects of your research should include accreditation. Seek out programs that have achieved regional accreditation. This means that a neutral agency has assessed the program's curriculum, faculty, and student body to ascertain that it is worthy of the degrees it bestows. That is, if you attend a fully accredited institution you will be able to use your transcripts with confidence when you apply to graduate school or if you need to transfer to a different program.

For instance, a top Idaho university is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). You should look for the same or similar in the institution you select. If, for some reason, you are unsure of a desirable program's accreditation, you might investigate whether its graduates are finding gainful employment in their field. You can also check to see if alumni are going to graduate school at top schools. If that information is not available, you might check with graduate programs to see if they honor degrees and coursework from that program.

Online or Traditional Classes

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Nowadays, college students have more options for college than ever before. The internet has opened up the possibility to take courses in nearly any city and state in the nation. If you are in remote Idaho, you might not have to move or commute to take any courses at all.

Keep in mind that not all online programs are created equal. Some may require that you log in at specific times to engage with classroom discussions or live-streamed lectures. That won't be much of a problem if the lecture is in California or Washington State, but if the class is in New York at 8 o'clock, you might not be so keen on waking for a 5 am course.

However, many online programs are asynchronous and allow you to download materials and work at a more leisurely pace. You may still need to submit work by a certain time, in a particular time zone, but that likely won't be much of a problem. If you think that your time zone and/or schedule will prevent you from uploading work by a particular time you might be able to work out an accommodation your instructor.

Instructors

Take a look at the instructors in your chosen program. While there is no clear way to know whether an industry-seasoned instructor will be a better teacher than one who has spent a career in academia, you will want to assess this for yourself. In your interview with the school, ask about this and take a look at the instructors' biographies. This will give you a sense of their approach and the weight their background will have on your learning.

Graduate Program Overview

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Graduate school is a reality for more and more workers these days. Some say that a graduate degree today is worth what a bachelor's degree was worth in previous generations. Therefore, you should start thinking about graduate school as soon as possible. In fact, it would be a good idea to tailor your undergrad work to suit your longer-term goals in grad school.

From the first day in your first class of undergrad work, focus on attaining the best grades possible. Your GPA will be a major determining factor in which graduate program accepts you. You should also look at what courses grad programs look for so that your transcripts are immediately accepted by the admissions staff. It's also important to start building contacts both at school and in the field so that you will have a selection of people to solicit for letters of recommendation.

If you must work during your undergrad years, make sure that you are working in your field. Some employers even take an interest in the educational aspirations of their employees and may offer some sort of tuition assistance. Regardless, seek to do the type of work that informs your coursework and long-term goals. If possible, see if you can convert your position into a for-credit internship that will look great on your transcript.

There are generally two degrees you should consider: a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) and an Master of Business Administration (MBA). Depending on your desired focus, you might also consider studying for a Master of Public Health, which would open doors in the realm of public policy, but also might land you a job with a hospital or many other sorts of healthcare institution. However, most will seek the MHA or MBA to propel themselves toward the C-suites.

Job Prospects in Idaho

Though the market of available jobs is in constant flux, a brief sampling of available jobs yielded the following diverse batch of openings:

  • Healthcare Business Analyst – a strong business analysis background that includes accounting will likely be a good fit for this position
  • Customer Service Advocate, Healthcare Insurance – this would be on the front lines of the healthcare industry and a strong background in healthcare public relations might be helpful here
  • Administrator, Home Health – this job asks for a degree in Business Administration, so a BHA would likely be a good fit, too.
  • Health Data Analyst – this position is looking for someone with a computer science, statistics, or math background. If you have a background in health care administration, you would probably land an interview.

Largest Employers of Idaho Health Admin Professionals

The largest healthcare employers in Idaho include:

  • Melaleuca Inc
  • Centra Healthcare
  • St Luke's Health System
  • Saint Alphonsus Health System

Health Administration Associations in Idaho

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When you enter the field, and even as a student, you will have the opportunity to join professional organizations. These associations can offer so much to your career, including career development, fellowship, and leadership opportunities.

One of the top associations is AAHAM – the American Association of Healthcare Administration Management. If you are in Idaho, you will probably become active in the Western Reserve Chapter. Their website offers information regarding job postings, certification opportunities, and conferences. When you attend conferences, your participation in the field will truly come to life.

Now that you have all of this information, you're off and running towards a rich and successful healthcare administration career!