Illinois is a fantastic place to have a career as a health administration professional. The state is a nationwide leader for employment in the health management sector and boasts the third largest employment market. Chicago ranks fourth behind New York City, Boston and Los Angeles. While the state was formerly paid the top salaries to healthcare admins, it still offers a competitive range of $63,580 $146,320. Given that the healthcare sector remains one of the fastest-growing in the economy, it's safe to say that the salary outlook for Illinois is rosy.
Nationally, the future for this profession is projected to be quite robust. The BLS' analysis shows that the healthcare industry will add 72100 new jobs in this area through 2026, a 20% increase. That is nearly double the job increases in sectors that require roughly equivalent training. If you are looking for a career that offers loads of potential and is overflowing with opportunity, this is it.
Starting a Career
When you start a career in healthcare administration, you will probably find a wide range of choices. The industry is not specific to any geographic region, and you'll find a wide range of workplace environments. For instance, you might be a hospital administrator who is in charge of a specific ward of the hospital – such as a maternity ward. You might find a job outside of hospitals altogether and instead oversee a clinic or a chain of geriatric-care facilities.
In fact, you might find yourself working in healthcare administration but in more of a business capacity. Rather than overseeing the actual application of medicine, you might be involved in medical equipment sales, finance, accounting, or information technology. When you look at the broad range of opportunities that a background in healthcare administration opens up, it is no wonder that they have no trouble filling all the many jobs offered.
Health Administration Undergrad Programs
You won't have any trouble finding many Illinois colleges and universities that offer health administration as a major field of study. With Chicago standing as the third largest healthcare market, there will also be loads of opportunities for internships and entry level jobs once you graduate. The question now becomes one of selecting the right program for you.
Choose your Field
First, it's important to decide what particular facet of health administration you'd like to pursue. You can focus your education towards management, accounting, marketing, communications, or even information technology. While you can study each of these separate from a rubric that includes healthcare, you will be well-served by a degree such as a Bachelor of Health Administration that will impart much of the jargon you'll need in that particular industry. You can also seek a Bachelor of Science in Health Administration or a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management. Further, such a specific job title will indicate to employers that you are serious and driven towards healthcare. That will go a long way over a person with a general degree in Business Administration.
As you pursue your major field of interest, you will be well-served with a minor to broaden your field of knowledge. You might study accounting as a minor that will help aim you towards the boardroom, or you might augment your learning with technical writing, which might help you find a job writing grants for a university health system.
Your core healthcare administration courses will point you towards a world in healthcare and might include, but not be limited to, the following topics:
- Human resources in healthcare
- Economics of healthcare
- Healthcare accounting
- Analyzing financial statements in healthcare
- Health informatics
- Healthcare policy
- Healthcare communications
When you are researching colleges and universities for a healthcare administration degree, one thing you should first look for is their accreditation. Your school's accreditation is a good indicator of the quality of education they offer. A fully-accredited healthcare administration degree will help you when you apply to graduate school or if you need to transfer credits to another school. A good place to start is to see if the school has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Once you have determined that a school is fully accredited, investigate the health administration curriculum. Try to determine whether your goals and interests will be served by that program. For instance, if you are more interested in working as a human resources director, ensure that the program offers a few courses in that area of specialty. Even if they don't you might find that a faculty member has experience in that area. That could lead to a possible internship under that instructor, or perhaps an independent study that enables you to delve deep into that topic.
When it comes to instructors, it's probably wise to look for diversity amongst the faculty. Some may have pure academic experience, where others might have worked for years as hospital administrators or elsewhere in healthcare management. There is no guarantee that experience will pay off in terms of classroom experience, but you can at least get a good feel of what you might be facing when you investigate faculty biographies.
An even better way to familiarize yourself with your desired program is to visit the campus. Taking a tour will likely enable you to sit in on a class or at least talk with some current students to gain insight from their experience. Call the admissions department and see when you can schedule a visit.
On the other hand, you might find that your desired program isn't in Illinois but that you cannot relocate to its location. It may be that you can still take courses from that program via an online interface. If that is the case, you might find ways to get creative and take your basic core courses locally but complete your major online. Note that you will need to complete a larger portion of courses at a particular school in order to receive a diploma from it, so proceed carefully and ensure that your education is both logically feasible and to your best benefit.
There is always the possibility of completing an entire degree online. This option could free you up to work in your field while studying in your off hours. Search around for employers who might be interested in offering tuition reimbursement or some other form of scholarship. Often such employers will allow you to work limited hours while you study, ensuring that you remain in school and can graduate in a timely fashion.
Graduate Program Overview
These days, graduate school is nearly mandatory if you wish your career to advance beyond a certain level. If you seek a position in the C suites, you will certainly need a master's degree from the best possible program. Therefore, when you start your undergraduate coursework, you should set your sights on graduate school. Keep the following items in mind:
- GPA – the higher your GPA the better program you can attend. Study hard!
- Recommendations – make contacts among your faculty as well as in the healthcare industry. Your admissions packet will require recommendations.
- Goals – constantly assess and focus your academic and professional goals. Graduate schools will often want to know what your plans are prior to admission.
- Experience – though not always necessary, any experience in healthcare administration or healthcare management will help your application. If you have been out of school for a number of years, your professional experience will matter all the more.
Graduate Degrees in Health Admin
Not all health care administration graduate degrees are created equal, and there are many types of degree that you can pursue. Rather than focusing on the letters you can append to your name, focus on the coursework and overall academic experience the program has to offer. Make sure that, regardless of the credentials, that your long-term goals will be reflected in your academic work. That said, here are a few graduate degrees you can pursue:
- Master of Healthcare Administration
- Master of Business Administration in Healthcare
- MHA/MBA dual degree
- Master of Science in Healthcare Administration
- JD/MBA in Healthcare Administration – adding a law degree might help you work in a political lobbying firm, for instance.
- Master of Public Health
Illinois Job Prospects
The sky is the limit if you pursue healthcare administration in Illinois. Chicago has many jobs in the field, and there are many financial firms in the Loop that cater to the healthcare industry on an advisory basis. Here is a small sample of jobs available as of July 2018:
- Planning and Developmental Specialist – this job specifically asks for a Bachelor of Healthcare Administration
- VP of Operations and Administration – this position likely would require a master's degree and lots of experience, but you will be well rewarded
- Hospital CEO – this sort of job will demand that you excel in every aspect of your career
- Practice Manager – this position is in managed care and requires previous managerial experience
Illinois' Largest Healthcare Employers
Illinois is home to some of the largest healthcare systems in the nation. Here are some of the largest healthcare employers in the state:
- Healthcare Service Corp
- Cancer Treatment Centers of America
- Resurrection Health
- Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare
Professional Associations for Healthcare Administrators
Professional associations are a vital part of any successful career. Make sure that you become a member of at least one such association. They will help you find opportunities for professional advancement, new friends and colleagues, and even resources for lifelong learning. Consider these two national organizations:
- Health Care Administrators Association – The HCAA offers a legislative voice to its members. Given that the industry has been at the center of much political turmoil over the past 10 or more years, having a strong voice is vital to the industry. The HCAA also offers educational resources, fellowship opportunities, and conferences where you can level-up your engagement with your industry and career.
- American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management – AAHAM offers continuing education, current information, and advocacy. They are dedicated to helping you develop as a professional.
If you've read this far, then your career has already begun. Start seeking your next course of study, or the next employment opportunity. Congratulations, this is going to be exciting!