Our healthcare options change almost daily. Those changes are major ones—changes that mean we will access healthcare services in ways we can’t imagine now. Our access to healthcare may be severely limited by availability and cost. The quality of care we receive may be good or it may be wanting.

This means that, as a future healthcare administrator, you’ll be dealing with those changes as well. However, you’ll be facing them from the implementation side. The decisions that are made at the federal and state levels, as well as those you make within your organization, will affect people who need health services.

Overview

The healthcare industry is responsible for nearly 20 percent of the entire economy of the United States. What is true today may not hold tomorrow. From the cost of an individual insurance policy to a new technology that impacts patient confidentiality, you’ll be responsible for all of it.

As a healthcare administrator, your voice will be critical in deciding what happens with health care within the foreseeable future. You have to worry about affording your health care; be able to assess its quality; hope that federal dollars allocated for healthcare will be sufficient, and; ensuring that every resident in your community has access to your healthcare facility.

As you are considering your eventual choice of university and healthcare administration program, don’t forget to think about accredited versus unaccredited educational programs. An accredited program offers so many advantages that offer benefits to you while you’re in school; you’ll also continue benefitting once you graduate.

What is a Master’s in Healthcare Administration?

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This is a professional degree aimed at students who are working toward their healthcare administration degree. Once you receive your degree, you’ll be able to begin applying for positions in health service settings. The degree program you select should be challenging and rigorous, with classes and material that you’ll be able to use in your job.

Look for programs that provide administration in public health programs—this emphasis is becoming ever more important every year. The philosophy in this environment is that managers and leaders are expected to establish the direction in how particular healthcare facilities meet the needs of their populations.

You should also look specifically for leadership programs and courses, as you will be using this skill daily. Leadership is such a vital quality of the healthcare administrator that it is taught in several master’s programs.

Another big concern is a strong business focus in the courses you’ll be taking. Even if your degree will be named “Master of Health Administration,” you will be using business practices and precepts. Once you graduate, you’ll be able to find a position in a home health care agency, hospital or other health system. You may choose to work in a medical group practice; outpatient care center or clinic; skilled care nursing facility; insurance company; consulting firm or even a federal regulatory or public health agency.

You also want to look for a program that has a strong interdisciplinary focus. That is, you’ll learn about business practices, such as leadership, accounting, economics or ethics at the same time that you are focusing on learning about healthcare environments.

Some schools have separate MHA tracks, such as the traditional or executive programs. These are designed for traditional students and for those who work during the day, making classes in the evenings a necessity.

Career and Salary Outlook

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The webpage for the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the typical entry-level education of a healthcare administrator as a bachelor’s degree—but, more and more, employers are looking for candidates who have already completed their master’s degrees.

Between 2016 and 2026, the number of open positions for healthcare administrators will increase by 72,100, from 352,200 to 424,300, an increase of 20 percent. This is much faster than normally happens, which underscores the importance of healthcare to today’s population.

Hourly median pay, as of 2017, was $47.29; annually, median pay was $98,350. Again, this serves to underscore the importance of these jobs to the current (and aging) U.S. population. When you consider that the difference in annual wage for a healthcare administrator with a bachelor’s degree was $70,000 in 2013, as compared to a median annual wage of $90,000 for a healthcare administrator holding their master’s degree, the difference is clear.

Ideal Candidates

Not everybody is cut out to work as a healthcare administrator; not everyone wants to. This is a tough field to work in, although, once you have your degree, you’ll be welcomed into job interviews.

If you believe you are right for this career field, you need to make a strong commitment to earning your degree, then finding a job. Once you carry the “health administrator” designation, your commitment has to continue. Because this career field is so challenging, you’ll have to re-commit yourself to it nearly every day.

You’ll need to make tough decisions when it comes to health care provided to individual patients—or continue providing it, even if it may not be in the patient’s best interest.

You’ll also have to make frequent sacrifices., but if you have the right mindset, you won’t mind them very much. You may believe that your job role is “you;” if you identify this strongly with your profession, you may actually enjoy those long days, working on budgets, work schedules and responding to patient concerns.

The most effective healthcare administrator is also analytical, knows current healthcare regulations very well and has better-than-average communication skills. If you can also connect with your staff and lead them, that’s a definite plus.

You should also have previous work experience within the health industry, so you are better able to identify areas of concern.

Because situations develop every day, you should be highly adaptable and willing to be flexible in your day’s plans.

Your employer needs a dependable healthcare administrator, one who can be professional and use good judgment. You should also have a strong character and sense of ethics—you will be making decisions that affect people in the most personal areas of their lives. Your job role, as an administrator, requires good management skills. Your ability to manage should be a trait you were born with, rather than something you honed.

Before you are accepted into a Master of Healthcare Administration, you should know yourself well. You need to be highly motivated to accept a senior leadership role within the healthcare sector. You should be mature. Your undergraduate education should have been excellent. You have to have high-level communication skills, both written and verbal.

MHA Curriculum

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School curriculum from university to university will vary. But the overarching goal is to equip graduate students in the healthcare administration major to be the most effective administrators possible.

As you begin your program, plan on beginning with ethics and courses intended for entering masters students.

Your first year covers public health, microeconomics, statistics, budgeting, legal and ethical issues, and budgeting.

You’ll also begin your leadership classes, financial accounting, strategic planning and financial management. Look forward to human resources courses and marketing. You’ll also take quality courses. Some master’s programs also begin exposing their students to the real world through practicums.

As you enter your second year (and prepare to graduate), you’ll work in your field placement and work on health policy. Finally, you’ll end with your capstone presentation.

Some school work on the cohort model. That is, you’ll go through your master’s program with the same students through to graduation.

Your classes will focus on health policy, leadership and management, and public health and health systems. You’ll also take traditional business management courses that focus on healthcare environments. Your assignments will expose you to scenarios that you’ll use to practice your newly gained knowledge. As you are going through your courses, you’ll be developing your collaborative and analytical thinking skills. You’ll practice your business skills, expanding your management ability.

Other programs focus on helping you develop the various competencies you need before graduating. This means you’ll complete each competency rather than completing traditional courses. The competencies you’ll be working on include knowledge and skills you need in a healthcare administrator’s position.

Choosing the Right School and Program

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When you begin to deliberate between the different healthcare administration masters’ programs, begin with the quality of the program. One must-do: get in touch with graduates from each school you’re considering. They should explain to you how they and their employers have managed to deal with adversity in healthcare and how they adjust to each new trend. Finally, ask them how they recognize opportunities and capitalize on them.

If you’ve already decided what healthcare administration area best fits your interests, remember to narrow these down even further, looking for those that have the best future prospects, such as nursing homes. Consider health informatics or IT, as well.

Examine each program and eliminate any with weak records of success in helping graduates find employment. Don’t forget to check out their accreditation status.

Look for programs that stress leadership development. A generalist approach is better than a program that focuses only one one or two industry areas. You want to be adaptable, in case you need to seek new employment in a different healthcare sector.

Change in the healthcare field is rampant. Therefore, a program that specializes on teaching you how to lead through disruptive events gives you the richest experience.

Executive Master of Healthcare Administration

If you are looking for an executive Master of Healthcare Administration, you’ll be put through a more rigorous admissions process. Once you are admitted to the program, your classes focus more on management, leadership and strategy development.

If your focus is more on preventative healthcare, then a Master of Public Health meets your educational and career goals. Here, you’ll focus on regional and global healthcare trends, health policy impacts and population health.

Accreditation

CAHME Accreditation

The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is the most well-known healthcare administration accreditation organization in the U.S. It accredits the various educational programs in health administration across the country. This communicates to future students that the programs they are interested in are either a good choice or not. Accreditation simply verifies that the teaching processes in place at universities or colleges meet the high standards that the accrediting organization requires.

CAHME draws its evaluators from a broad, interdisciplinary group of organizations that work on healthcare issues. These include clinical, educational and professional professionals who have chosen to ensure that this field offers only the best education to incoming healthcare administration majors. CAHME also helps to promote the value of accreditation to students and healthcare programs, reminding these populations that an accredited program is one that almost always ensures that a program’s graduates will land the best jobs and have the most positive effect on their healthcare organizations.

When you are admitted to an accredited program, you receive several distinct advantages, including access to top-notch internships that will prepare you for the working world. You’ll also receive a high-quality education that delivers some of the latest and most innovative healthcare management practices. You’ll also benefit from your school’s commitment to educating you across the spectrum of healthcare issues—once you graduate, you’ll be prepared to enter any healthcare field you choose. Finally, you’ll be included in an exclusive group of fellow healthcare administrators who also chose accredited MHA or MBA/MHA programs.

Schools that have been accredited undergo rigorous external reviews and internal examinations that look at every aspect of their academic standards and curriculum. Once a university or college meets these high standards, the accreditation statement on its admissions paperwork and website communicate to students that their healthcare offerings are of the highest quality. Every school is accredited on a regular basis to ensure that their standards remain high.

SACSCOC Accreditation

Another accrediting organization is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). This organization accredits healthcare administration programs in the southern region of the United States.