If you decide to earn your associate degree in Healthcare Administration, you’ll be in school for up to two years, taking the classes that will give you the knowledge you need to carry out your professional role.

Because this is a two-year program, you’ll get just the basics that allow you to handle your day-to-day work responsibilities. No matter which healthcare facility you work for (hospital, retirement facility, medical practice or clinic), you’ll have the basic skills and knowledge you need. You’ll have the qualifications needed to run your healthcare facility on a day-to-day basis.

Your duties will range from coding, billing, computer applications and medical office administration. Once you have your associates degree, you’ll be able to run an entire office with the help of fellow employees.

What is an Associate’s in Healthcare Administration?

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An Associate degree in healthcare administration is the entry ticket you need into the professional field in which you have chosen to work. Once you have your degree in hand, you’ll have the knowledge you need to do your work.

You need to be a strong communicator so that your employees know just what needs to be done, and how it should be done.

Problems develop every day in a healthcare facility. Computers glitch and freeze; a delivery doesn’t arrive on time; disagreements between fellow employees develop and erupt into a distracting argument. For every one of these issues, you need to be able to develop alternative solutions that will allow everything to keep moving along as it should.

Healthcare law is changing every day. You need to be able to keep up with, and understand, changes to regulations, policies and legislation so that your can complete your patient paperwork within the requirements of the law. This also involves HIPAA, the privacy law that was signed into law by President George W. Bush after 9/11.

Along with all of this, you need to know about technology so that you understand what is happening with your facility’s database. You also need to have a strong understanding of cybersecurity, what the threats are and how to protect your facility against these threats.

Career and Salary Outlook

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Current numbers indicate that an assistant administrator’s median annual salary is $35,110, with a projected growth rate of 23 percent. A medical assistant may earn a median annual salary of $30,590, again with a projected growth rate of 23 percent.

Graduates of an associate of healthcare administration can enter one of several career field, including health information management, nursing home administration and clinical management. For each of these career paths, students need to learn a range of material in their classes.

Obviously, the rate of employment and wages will vary by state.

Ideal Candidate

The healthcare manager/administrator is responsible for a wide range of duties. They may be charged with administering a medical clinic, department in a hospital or an entire hospital.

Part of their daily duties may include reading and authorizing supply orders, setting work schedules, hiring and training new staff members, working on insurance claims, and creating and maintaining budgets.

The right person must be able to switch “hats” at a moment’s notice. They need to be able to transition quickly and effortlessly between tasks so they get their work done as efficiently as possible.

The right hire should also fit well into the healthcare organization. Their vision for the organization and goals should complement the organizations goals and vision.

The healthcare administrator must be able to motivate their team of employees; keep several details in their minds, yet be clear-headed; be compassionate, yet able to make tough personnel decisions. They must be able to communicate numbers with insurance companies; and troubleshoot issues.

Education and Training

Their education and training will be a large part of the healthcare administrator’s professional skills. Thus, they need to be able to easily understand and assimilate numbers and large amounts of data so they can keep the hospital, clinic or department operating at top efficiency.

An ability to remain cool and collected when under pressure is a badly needed skill. If a healthcare administrator becomes nervous or unglued in a bad situation, they won’t be able to make the decisions that have to be made, then implement them. Therefore, a calm demeanor also makes this list.

A good healthcare administrator should be reliable, with a strong character. They need to have a high degree of maturity, because situations will develop where someone will have to take blame for failures. Strong ethics and a moral compass mean the healthcare administrator will be much more likely to make the most ethical and honest choices. The healthcare administrator should also commit to working for their healthcare organization rather than leaving if a more attractive position becomes available.

Healthcare administration is an advanced position. The right person should also have previous work experience, preferably in a health field. Past work experience demonstrates to the hiring team that a job candidate possesses the necessary sense of commitment to their work schedule. They should also plan to continue developing their professional knowledge during the year.

Strong management skills are a must. If the right candidate possesses this skill beyond any training they may possess, they will truly be a valuable member of the team.

School Curriculum

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In the beginning of the healthcare administrator’s college career, their classes will be more general. They will become more specific to the degree—and more difficult—the closer the student gets to graduation.

Their early classes will be the general education curriculum required of all students in community college programs. Classes such as English, medical terminology, computer basics and technology will make up the curriculum.

They will continue with a general science elective, which satisfies this requirement. The rest of their class schedule will be taken up with medical health records courses.

As the student continues in their classes, they will move on to more general education classes, then fill their schedule out with health sciences-style courses and another medical office class.

Before they graduate, they need to complete their required curriculum with the last few general education classes, at least one elective, then an advanced medical office course.

Choosing the Right School and Program

Students trying to find the right school and program for their needs should take several future decisions into account: Where will they want to work? With whom do they want to work? Do topics such as regulations or policy attract their interest?

Each of these questions should lead to a decision that brings them closer to choosing what school program to attend.

Once the student knows where they want to work, they should have a good idea of the type of office and environment where they would be. This list includes healthcare-affiliated businesses such as insurance companies. Different working environments will require the student to take courses that are more weighted to business or healthcare. These include doctors’ offices, hospitals, insurance companies, consulting services for scientific, management or technical areas, or universities, colleges or professional schools.

The “who” question means administration or directly with doctors and nurses. Maybe the student dreams of working more directly with patients. If they prefer to remain in the back office, then that should also be considered.

Knowing what topics they feel most passionate about informs the student that they might be most interested in an administrative office, working on regulations, administrative tasks or policy.

Before enrolling in an associate’s healthcare administration program, the student should answer all of these questions. Speaking to a student adviser can help them narrow down the classes they should focus on.

The student who knows they like to solve problems or work with several people has a better idea of the type of healthcare administration work they want to do. Because, although most of the classes they take will give them the knowledge and tools they need to operate a medical office or a hospital, they need to understand the type of work they would be most interested in.

Having people skills and an ability to help people talk through problems may impel the student toward a more people-oriented role, either in the administration office or directly with medical care providers.

Or, if they enjoy creating and interpreting spreadsheets or writing business documents, they are clearly meant for the administrative suite.

The student may need to take stock of their own needs when it comes to setting professional goals. By “needs,” this is talking about working on a team or solo, doing clinical or administrative work, or even working full-time and needing an educational program that will allow the student to fulfill work requirements.

Next, the student needs to take stock of career goals. What educational requirements do they already have, such as a high school diploma? They need to know what skills they have and which need to be better-developed.

Once they have all of these answers, they are now ready to begin looking for the right associate degree program and school. Where is the school located? In their hometown or in a different community? Finally, are there several healthcare facilities close by where the student can apply to work?

Accreditation

College (associate, bachelor and graduate) healthcare administration programs should be accredited. That is, an outside organization should inspect each school’s program to determine if it meets baseline requirements for educating students sufficiently before graduation. This allows graduates to have the skillsets and knowledge they need to compete effectively and compete well with other healthcare administration program graduates.

CAHME

One such accrediting organization is the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education, or CAHME. Accreditation is a form of endorsement that signifies to future students that the programs they are interested in will deliver everything they need to be able to stand next to other gradates and know their education is equal to what those other graduates received.

“Accreditation” also informs the student that the program they are interested in has been recognized officially by the U.S. Department of Education—a high bar to meet.

Schools’ programs are accredited when their programs meet the standards set by CAHME or other accrediting organizations. CAHME is a private educational association and it sets accreditation standards.

Once a school’s education program has been accredited, this means that its program is legitimate and of a high quality. This program may also be better thought of than another healthcare administration program would be, simply because the second program is not accredited.

Here are some examples of accredited healthcare administration programs:

Community Care College, Tulsa, Oklahoma

This healthcare administration program trains students in using computer software in a high-quality medical office. Students also learn data entry, diagnostic coding and electronic health records management.

Keiser University—Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Degrees from this program are viewed as relevant and current. Students learn computer applications, principles of health service administration, CPT coding and medical office administration/billing. Students can take a four-week accelerated course; they don’t need to have a prior healthcare background.

Ultimate Medical Academy, Clearwater, Florida

Here, students learn entry-level information that allows them to begin working in healthcare administration. Students learn business practices (micro, macroeconomics, statistics and international business. They also learn about payroll systems, accounting and interpersonal communications. All of this means that, upon graduation, the student has received a well-rounded education.

Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Granite Falls, Minnesota

If students here are interested in healthcare administration, they can earn an associate of science in management and supervision in healthcare. This program is structured for healthcare veterans and those who are new to this field.

Rasmussen College

Another program accredited in healthcare administration is at Rasmussen College. This program is accredited and offers a healthcare administration associates degree. This school has 23 campuses in several states.

Once a student graduates with their healthcare administration associate degree, they can find work in their state.