As you explore the health administration field, you need to be aware of the various educational levels for this field. If you graduate with an associate degree, your health administration duties will be different from those performed by someone who has graduated with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in health administration.

If you earn either your bachelor’s or master’s degree, your job responsibilities will be much more on the management side of the spectrum—but you’ll still obtain a sense of satisfaction, knowing you’re helping people who need assistance with health issues.

Associate Degree

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that those who have completed their associate degree in health administration, earning their certificates, can expect to be hired as assistants, managers or coordinators in various healthcare settings.

Expect to learn about medical admissions, medical office coordination, office management, administrative skills, hospital admissions, healthcare management and administrative skills. After taking a program that lasts for up to two years, that’s significant.

At this educational level, the BLS said that health administration careers should grow about 23 percent between 2016 and 2026. The economy in the U.S. in 2013 was kinder to graduates of associate degree programs than it was to high school graduates. Employment for graduates with AAS degrees was more than 35 percent higher. This effect also extended to the paychecks that AAS graduates received—their weekly paychecks were, on average, $126 higher than those earned by high school graduates.

Your classes will help you learn about leadership and administration skills. You’ll learn about effective communication, administrative and organizational skills. Your instructors will heavily stress customer satisfaction and relations so that, when you are at work, you’ll be able to help patients who aren’t happy with their experience in the medical setting.

If you’re considering extending your education beyond the associate’s level, look for an educational program that lays a good foundation that will lead into a bachelor’s, then a master’s program for you.

In the associate’s program, you’ll learn those skills and processes that make you attractive to healthcare employers. These employers periodically look for knowledgeable and eligible candidates for employment. If you are up-to-date with the most recent changes, news, law and technology, you’ll have an advantage over other applicants for the same positions.

With a degree, you’ll earn a higher level of pay for your work. Expect your hourly pay to increase as the need for effective healthcare services continues to rise.

This is why, even though it’s a degree at the beginning of your educational career, you will be establishing the basis for a career that will take you as far as you want to go. If you decide to continue your education, earning your bachelor or master’s degrees, your career opportunities will only continue to grow and widen.

Bachelor’s Degree

At the bachelor’s level, your classes will focus on both the analytical and conceptual skills you need as a health administrator. The classes you’ll take expose you to more complex concepts in business, finance, economics, accounting, leadership and ethics.

Once you graduate, you’ll be offered a job that puts you into the managerial offices of a health facility, such as a nursing home, rehabilitation facility, medical practice, community clinic, hospital or an insurance company.

Overall, your course work will allow you to learn, using both experiential and investigative techniques. This will apply to many of the courses you take, so you learn to use leadership and management skills. You’ll learn how to work as a member of a team as well.

As you progress through your classes, you’ll begin to understand where each piece fits, expanding your knowledge of good management in a health setting. Most critically, you should begin to learn about building cross-functional teams and why this is such a vital practice.

In your early classes, you’ll learn about the structure of healthcare organizations and how they work. Your exposure to the various forces that impact healthcare systems will help you develop a deeper understanding on how each one has its effect. These forces are private, public and social.

Working in teams, you’ll develop realistic strategies for working in an individual health sector and for several sectors working together (as an example, use a substance abuse treatment facility working with mental health and public health organizations).

The business aspect of your course work will become the focus when you study about financial questions and situations, and their effect on healthcare and its consumers.

Once you graduate, you may wonder just how you’ve been prepared for working in a health organization as an administrator. Expect to begin as an entry-level administrator (mid-level at the most) when you begin working post-graduation.

At the beginning of your health administration major, you should take your general education requirement classes. Once these are out of the way, formally declare your major, so you can begin taking classes required by this major. In your junior year, you’ll be able to take elective courses that relate to your health administration major.

If you were in a professional medical role before (nurse, for instance), then you’re going to advance into a supervisory role. If your employer utilizes directors of nursing, this will be the ideal role for you. It’s a good blend of the nursing role with the managerial.

Where should you expect to work? Keep your eyes opened for health administration positions opening up in long-term care facilities, doctor’s offices, outpatient care facilities, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, insurance companies, mental health agencies and even government health agencies. The opportunities are many, given the bright outlook for health administrators.

You’ll take part in an internship that allows you to experience the real world in a healthcare setting. Your internship requires that you complete a certain number of hours before you graduate. Once you complete your internship, you’ll be better prepared and equipped for your first job post-graduation.

You may find a position as a facilities manager, purchasing agent or director, nursing home administrator, office administrator or as a healthcare billing administrator.

Graduate Degrees

degree-3

In graduate school, you’ll gain the skills you’ll need to work with a health facility’s expenditures. At the graduate level, you’ll earn a Master of Health Administration or an MHA/MBA.

Today, U.S expenditures are close to 20 percent of the entire U.S. economy. That is some big money. However, your master’s degree in health administration equips you well to work with the finances and economics of the organization where you’ll be working.

Other departments in that health organization also need management and leadership. These include accounting, human resources and finance.

Along with learning the nuts and bolts of management, you’ll also learn about health care specific topics, such as the organization’s structure, its policies and service delivery.

If your goals run more toward health informatics or information technology, a graduate degree will give you the skills and knowledge you need to administer a tech division.

As with the bachelor’s program, you’ll learn, through role playing and real-life scenarios, how to deal with problems and develop realistic strategies and programs.

If you have a previous medical degree and you want to enter the administration side of health care, a graduate degree will ensure that you are well-suited to administer your employer’s health organization.

As examples of the various majors you could choose, these include Master of Public Health and Master of Science in public health.

These graduate programs do have some requirements. Some require you to have prior clinical or administrative experience.

If you are working full-time, then you’ll need to find a graduate program that accommodates your working hours. These will hold classes in the evenings, on Saturdays and during the summer, so that you can graduate in two years,

Upon graduation, expect to be offered positions in middle to upper management of a health care facility. If your classes included analysis of health care trends, you’ll be asked to analyze various trends in health care.

You’ll possibly be able to work as a consultant, assessing various health organizations and helping them to identify areas where they need to improve on performance or service delivery to patients.

If you come from a medical field, you may be well-suited for a position that combines health planning and managerial epidemiology.

Looking at different graduate programs, you should be seeking opportunities for graduate assistantships, which require you to work between 10 and 30 hours per week in a health care organization. You should expect that this type of placement gives you the skills you need post-graduation.

As you meet professors and health administrators, take the opportunity to network—after all, you are going to need these relationships once you graduate, find work and begin mingling with other administrators at conferences.

If you have a specific role you want to fill, look for a program that helps you to develop the competencies you need, such as management or leadership.