A career in Health Administration can mean many different things. Within this wide umbrella you could pursue work as a marketing executive, financial wizard, or health policy analyst, to name a few options. Many others pursue careers as medical office managers, hospital administrators, and medical equipment salespeople. Essentially, any position you can imagine outside of healthcare is probably found within this fast-growing industry.
Career Overview and Salary
In fact, the healthcare sector is growing by leaps and bounds. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 20% growth in employment for medical and health services managers in the years 2016-26. That is a positive demand growth of 72,100 jobs. Given that median pay for this job type was $105,260 in 2019, it's likely that you can find the perfect job and the perfect pay.
If you are working in the great state of South Dakota, you'll be happy to see that their medical and health services managers are making an annual mean wage between $68,240 and $142,670. These professionals make even a bit more in Sioux Falls, where the annual mean wage is $118,110. In the Rapid City area, where employment is the sparsest, the annual mean wage is $107,510.
These salary numbers might even underestimate the total compensation. Mean wages doesn't include things like bonus structures, healthcare benefits, retirement packages, or other ancillary payments or perks. If, for instance, you are a regional manager for an system of elder care facilities, your employer might provide a company car and a generous expense account to cover your business trips.
Undergraduate Program Overview
To make sure that your career takes off with the maximum propulsion, complete an undergraduate degree that positions you for success. If you see all of the potential and are determined to work in healthcare administration, then you should definitely work toward a specialized degree. These days the influence of the industry has extended into academia, prompting such degree programs as:
- Bachelor of Healthcare Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration
- Bachelor of Business Administration – Healthcare focus
While you could focus on a traditional degree in marketing, management, accounting, or business, when you work towards a specialized degree you send a clear message to hiring managers. They will see that you are serious about working in healthcare and have a long track record of that determination. Further, you will acquire specific skills that will enable an easy transition from your school day to your working life. Your coursework might include, but won't be limited to, such courses as:
- Medical terminology
- Financial analysis for health delivery systems
- Healthcare management
- Public health policy
- Human resources in healthcare
- Healthcare informatics
- Legal issues in healthcare
- Medical ethics
- Business communications
- Technical writing
Find the Best Undergrad Program
One of the first things you want to check when seeking out healthcare administration programs is the school's accreditation. Accreditation is a process that schools undergo to prove that they offer quality education. The accreditation agency is an objective, discerning body that evaluates curriculum, faculty, admissions, student body attrition, and other factors before they offer their stamp of approval – full accreditation.
Your program should be regionally accredited so that your degree will be fully acknowledged by future employers and graduate schools. Accreditation is also valuable in case you wish to transfer to a different program before graduation. Students whose credit hours are not accredited by a recognized body often find that they have to re-take courses if they wish to transfer to their state's major university.
When you research schools, be sure to include both online and traditional programs. Online education can open opportunities that were not previously available. One option you could consider is to take your core classes from a local, brick-and-mortar institution and then transfer those accredited credits to an online program where you can receive the specific training you desire.
Each healthcare administration program is likely to offer different focuses. Some might prepare you to work with hospital finances, while other programs might be more general, or offer specialization in human resources, for example. Since there are so many different avenues to pursue in the field, its important to see that not every program will offer what you need.
It's also important to take a look at the faculty. Look for a predominance of full-time, dedicated professors and instructors, but also check to see if there is a balance between professional academics and faculty with real-world experience in the field. There is no guarantee that either background type will result in better instruction, so seek a balance in the faculty.
Graduate Program Overview
It's never too early to start thinking about graduate school. These days, a bachelor's degree is seen as a minimum standard for employment, just as a high school diploma was years ago. Thus, a graduate degree is taking the status that an undergrad degree did just a generation ago. Further, if you want to take your healthcare administration career as far as you possibly can, you definitely need higher education.
In a graduate program, you will spend at least two years intensely focusing on the specific avenue of health administration that you desire. This will likely be an area in which you already have experience, and many programs will insist on such experience. Graduate programs will want to find specific items in your admissions packet. These include, but are not limited to:
- Minimum undergrad GPA – better grades will get you into better programs
- Letters of recommendation – schools may want letters from both academic and business colleagues
- Admissions essay – frequently schools want to see your mission statement
- Specific courses – inspect the admissions requirements to make sure you've taken the specific courses your program demands
- Work experience – after undergrad, keep a record of the types of duties you perform so that you can discuss these with admissions counselors and in your personal essay
- Satisfactory GRE scores – consider a prep course to brush up on your academic skills
There are many degrees that you might choose from. Each has its own strengths, and you'll find that similar degrees are comprised of different curriculum, depending on the institution. Nonetheless, seek out the program that is most closely focused to your long-term, specific career goals. Graduate degrees in health administration include, but are not limited to:
- Master of Healthcare Administration
- Master of Business Administration – healthcare administration
- Master of Science in Healthcare Administration
- Master of Public Health
If you are just now starting your undergraduate journey, keep grad school admissions issues in mind. You might want to work as an intern or in a healthcare facility prior to graduation. If you are taking courses online, you might be able to hold a full, or part-time job in a local healthcare facility. Try to work in a department that reflects your long-term goals, but keep in mind that even seemingly unrelated work will pay off as valuable experience in the long run. Imagine if you become a hospital administrator but you started as an orderly. You'll thus have knowledge of a hospital's organizational structure from the ground up. Not only will this give you additional insight, but you'll find that your employees have greater respect for you.
Job Prospects in South Dakota
South Dakota might be more sparsely populated than many other states, but there are still plenty of healthcare facilities that need administration professionals to ensure that they hum at maximum efficiency. Here is a brief list of jobs that employers were advertising for as of July 2018:
- Rural Health Clinic Manager this position is looking for an RN, but your education and experience might satisfy the hiring professional
- Online Healthcare Administration Tutor when you have your MHA or other master's degree you can work as an educator to budding health administration professionals
- Finance Manager for those who pursued accounting and finance in graduate school
- Healthcare Data Analyst if your education and experience includes Information Technology or computer science, this could be the position for you
- Grants Administrator Grants are a vital part of many research facilities so a strong background in technical writing and medical terminology will serve you well here
Largest Employers of Health Administration Professionals in South Dakota
There won't be any problem finding employers in South Dakota. Their top 100 companies list is full of healthcare institutions. Given that the overall population is aging and in increasing need of healthcare and related services, you are sure to have a long and brilliant career with one of the following employers:
- Avera Health
- Regional Health
- Rapid City Regional Hospital
- Avera St. Luke's Hospital
- Concordance Healthcare Solutions
- Primrose Retirement Communities
- Prairie Lakes Healthcare System
- Madison Regional
- CDP Healthcare
- Sioux Falls Surgical Center
- Marion Family Dentistry
- Viborg Medical Clinic
Healthcare Administration Associations in South Dakota
You will certainly want to join a professional association to help enrich your professional experience. These associations offer yearly, or more frequent, conferences, educational opportunities, and fellowship with your fellow healthcare colleagues. Consider joining one or more of the following:
- Health Care Administrators Association
- Health Management Associates
- American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management
- South Dakota Healthcare Executive Group
- South Dakota Medical Group Management Association
No matter what avenues you take on your path to success, you are bound to have endless opportunities for growth and learning in your Health Administration career. Good Luck!