Health care has always been one of the biggest industries, and for good reason – it’s something everyone requires throughout their life. In recent decades the importance of health care has grown even more, and it’s now the largest private sector employer in America. Those gains will continue, creating exciting opportunities for anyone wanting to start a career or switch careers.
Health administration is a major aspect of health care, and a majorly overlooked one, too. Behind the scenes of hospital, clinics, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities there is an army of administrators ensuring that everything is managed properly. These professionals handle things like accounting, human resources, marketing, scheduling, compliance, and everything in between. The work that health administrators do is essential for health care providers to be economically sustainable and deliver a high level of care.
Demand for health administrators is expected to be strong according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Between 2016 and 2026 the demand for qualified medical and health services managers (other names for health administrators) is projected to grow by 21%, which is much faster than the national average for all professions. This represents an increase of 72,100 professionals in just a decade.
Washington Salary Outlook
The outlook is strong in Washington state as well. Demand for health administrators is forecast to grow by 19% between 2014 and 2024. At the start of that range there were 6,330 health administrators in the state. By the end there will be 7,530, with hundreds of projected job openings every year.
In addition to high demand, Washington offers competitive compensation. The median 2017 salary for all health administrators nationwide was $98,350 per year, but in Washington it was $103,740. The highest earning administrators can expect to earn around $184,790, which is also unusually high.
This guide covers everything you need to know about starting and excelling in a career as a health administrator. Use it to accomplish your professional goals on your own schedule.
Getting an Undergraduate Degree in Health Administration
Not every health administration job requires a four-year degree, especially at the entry level. But in order to move past the entry level a bachelor’s degree is more or less mandatory. Colleges and Universities throughout Washington have degree programs, but it’s not necessary to attend school in state in order to work in state.
Picking an Undergraduate Option
This is a great time to pursue a new career in part because education is more accessible than ever. Students now have access to options that fit their budget, schedule, professional goals, and learning needs. And those options are available from accredited four-year institutions. Start by deciding what kind of degree program works best for you:
- In-Person Work face-to-face with instructors and other students
- Online Access online resources on your own time at a lower cost
- Hybrid Combine the benefits of online and in-person classrooms
- Nights/Weekends Take classes when you are not working at 9-5 job
- Accelerated Pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree as part of one consolidated program
Getting Accepted to an Undergraduate Program
Schools are eager to admit new students, but those students must meet the academic standards of the institution. Every school creates its own specific admission requirements, but these are common:
- Having a high-school diploma or GED certificate
- Meeting a minimum GPA requirement in high school
- Earning adequate scores on standardized tests
- Providing a personal essay or letter of recommendation
Completing an Undergraduate Program
Bachelor’s degree programs come in all shapes and sizes. Typically, however, they require 120 credit hours to complete, which is around 40 courses. Four years is the traditional time frame, but some students take more/less time.
Picking a major is an important early step. Health administration is a broad topic, and there are multiple majors that fall under its umbrella. Students may choose to focus specifically on health administration, or to major instead in a related discipline like finance or marketing. A career in health administration does not necessarily require that exact degree, but it proves to be an asset over the duration of a career.
Here are some majors that deal specifically with health administration:
- Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Health Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Health Administration
- Bachelor of Arts in Health Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Health Care Management
- Bachelor of Science in Public Health
Each one of those majors has a slightly different curriculum, and it’s important for students to explore the course offerings before declaring a major. But there are also a lot of shared courses, and students should expect to explore topics like these:
- Health Care Ethics and Leadership
- Legal Issues in Health Care
- Health Informatics
- Human Resources in Health Care
- Economics of Health Care
- Health Care Budgeting and Finance
- Health Care Marketing
- Health Care Politics and Policy
Some programs require students to complete an internship, practicum, capstone project, or independent study in addition to completing courses, but this requirement is not widespread. Washington, like most other states, does not require health administrators to have any special license, certificate, or professional credential to work legally. That means new graduates are fully eligible to work as soon they have their degree.
Getting a Graduate Degree in Health Administration
Health care executives are in high demand, and their compensation reflects that. But in order to lead large teams of staff, take on multi-million-dollar budgets, and oversee critical aspects of health care, professionals must have the right credentials. And one of those is almost always a graduate degree in health administration. It’s rare for a doctoral degree to be required, but having a master’s is a must for upper-level administrators.
Enrolling in a Graduate Program
Graduate programs are available in as many online/in-person/hybrid orientations as undergraduate programs. That makes it easy for working professional or students with families to enhance their education and advance their career. Having a bachelor’s degree in health administration is not usually an admission requirement, but students should expect to meet these criteria:
- Have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
- Provide a college transcript proving your GPA was adequate
- Earn at least the minimum required scores on the GRE or GMAT exam
- Provide a resume, essay, or letter of recommendation
Selecting a Graduate Degree
Graduate programs are designed to turn generalists into experts. Health administration master’s degrees are available in a number of different specialties so that students can pursue the courses and subjects most relevant to their personal interests and professional goals. These are some popular options:
- Master of Health Administration
- Master of Public Administration in Health Care
- Master of Health Policy and Management
- Master of Science in Health Services Administration
- Master of Long Term Care
- Master of Public Health
- Master of Science in Health Finance and Management
Earning a Graduate Degree
Graduate programs require 30-60 hours to graduate, but in almost all cases they are designed to take two years for full-time students to complete. Students take a combination of required and elective courses while also completing a research project or internship. The specific curriculum varies widely, but most classes focus on topics and issues like these:
- Managing Health Care Organizations
- Group Dynamics and Team Leadership
- Accounting for Health Services Managers
- Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management
- Health Economics
- Health Care Financial Management
- Strategic Management of Health Care Organizations
- Health Policy Development
- Health Administration and Business Law
- Risk and Insurance
Health Administration Job Prospects in Washington
Demand for health administrators is already high throughout Washington. As evidence, just consider these actual vacant jobs from July 2018. They give a good sense what type of opportunities are available and what real employers are looking for. Take note that these jobs may no longer be available and working with this site provides no guarantee of employment.
- Clinic Manager, Republic, WA A clinic is looking for a hospital administrator to oversee all aspects of daily operations while also handling long-term strategic duties. Primary responsibilities include budget and expense management, staff recruiting and training, policy development, and vendor relations. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in health care management or a related field, and 5+ years of relevant experience.
- Financial Analyst, Port Townsend, WA A large health care provider is looking for a health administrator with financial expertise. Responsibilities include developing reporting and analytics based on business needs and strategic priorities. Candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree in health administration or a financial field, and 5+ years of relevant experience.
- Residency Program Coordinator, Seattle, WA A hospital is looking for a health administrator to oversee the residency program. Responsibilities include running the residency training program, overseeing scheduling, and serving as the primary liaison for residents. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in health care, business, or communications, and experience in HR or adult education is preferred.
Top Health Admin Employers in Washington
As you search for your first job or your next job, consider working for one of the state’s largest health care employers:
- Providence Health & Services, Renton, WA
- MultiCare Health System, Tacoma, WA
- EmpRes Health Care, Vancouver, WA
- United General Hospital, Sedro-Wooley, WA
- Highline Community Hospital, Burien, WA
- Yakima Regional Home Health and Hospice, Yakima, WA
- Seattle Children's Hospital, Seattle, WA
Health Administration Associations in Washington
Accessing training, information, and networking opportunities through a professional association is a great way to advance your career forwards. Here are some associations specific to health administration in Washington:
- Washington Health Care Association
- Washington State Hospital Association
- Washington State Psychological Association
- Washington Health Foundation
- Washington State Medical Association
- Washington State Association for Health Care Recruiters