Healthcare is one of the fastest growing labor sectors in the country, and every area of healthcare has one thing in common: administration. From major hospitals to small clinics and everything in between, healthcare requires a lot of oversight to run smoothly and keep all different aspects functioning in a timely manner. Although many hospital administrators concentrate on a single portion of the business such as nursing or information systems, often an administrator covers every aspect of the business. This is where having a Master's in business administration with a healthcare emphasis shows the value of the degree. By combining business expertise with in depth healthcare knowledge you can qualify for the most sought after positions in the healthcare industry.

Overview

A Masters in business administration with a healthcare administration emphasis gives you the knowledge to pursue practically any position in health management. Although the entry level degree is a Bachelor's, those with a Master's degree or higher will meet qualifications for the most coveted positions and highest salaries.

Many enter the field of healthcare administration with an undergraduate degree in another field such as accounting, human resources, or medical records. Earning a Master's in business administration with an emphasis on healthcare administration gives you the knowledge to oversee large health facilities and eventually qualify for executive positions within major organizations and corporations.

The field of healthcare in general is expanding at a rapid rate and administration is no exception. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) this field is projected to grow an astounding 20 percent over the next decade, which means you'll be in an excellent position for employment.

This large growth projection is due to a combination of factors, primarily the aging baby boomer generation and the growing opioid epidemic. As baby boomers reach retirement their healthcare needs are expanding as well as the facilities needed to provide for their care. Assisted living campuses, retirement villages, and nursing homes all require administrators as do clinics, hospitals, outpatient surgeries, and other healthcare providers. Likewise, the opioid epidemic has expanded the need for treatment, rehabilitation, and counseling services for both the addict and their families.

The position of health administrator requires a specific skill set that combines analytical, interpersonal, leadership, and communication skills along with the knowledge of specific medical terms and abilities. Because of the extensive requirements you should make sure your personality and talents fit the career before you enter your MBA program.

Your curriculum will be a combination of both business and healthcare coursework, and you'll also learn about healthcare information systems, accounting, ethics, and the law as it pertains to the healthcare field. Choosing the right school and program is critical to your success, and it is vital that your school of choice has the required accreditation that is accepted as an industry standard. Here's a detailed look at each of these areas:

What is a MBA-Healthcare Administration Emphasis?

The MBA with a healthcare administration emphasis is a mix of managerial, economics, and finance topics designed to focus on financial management systems, technology, operational efficiency, and interpersonal oversight within a healthcare organization.

While an MBA concentrates on business insights in general the healthcare emphasis is designed to give specific skills within the field of health. Many who choose this field of study are already employed within a career that is connected to healthcare or business such as nurses, health insurance managers, human resource managers, or marketing directors. An MBA in healthcare administration is a fast track path towards a leadership role as you will learn to oversee all aspects of a healthcare system, hospital network, or other healthcare business.

Depending on the specialty you choose you may take coursework concentrations specific to a certain healthcare area or issue. For example, if your long-term goal is to be administrator of a nursing home or assisted living facility you can concentrate on issues that affect the aging demographic. If you have an interest in public health campaigns you may choose a track that concentrates on marketing theory for healthcare. If your goal is to be an administrator or executive of a major hospital organization or network you might concentrate more on the policies, ethics, and legal aspects of the healthcare industry.

Career and Salary Outlook

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As mentioned above, the career outlook for healthcare business administrators is robust. Because there is a projected high demand for the next decade health administrators can expect to earn excellent salaries once they have earned their post graduate degree and have a few years experience.

While you may expect hospital administrators to be the most common career in this field the fact is there are many other careers as well as job titles. Basically, any business or organization that interacts with the healthcare industry employs administrators. Other titles for this job category are:

  • Medical service manager
  • Health services manager
  • Healthcare executive
  • Healthcare administrators
  • Director of Nursing

They may be charged with overseeing an entire organization or a specific department or service within an organization. Here are some career examples you might qualify for with an MBA in healthcare administration:

  • Hospital chief executive officer (CEO)
  • Hospital chief financial officer (CFO)
  • Hospital department manager
  • Clinic administrator
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Medical office business manager
  • Chiropractor office manager
  • Dental office administrator

Rehabilitation facilities, assisted living communities, and retirement villages also employ healthcare administrators to manage their organizations.

The BLS states that in 2017 the median annual wage for health administrators was $98,350. The highest 10 percent of administrators, typically representing those with a post graduate degree and experience, earned over $176,130 per year. The top paying industries for employment were:

  • Hospitals: state, local, and private
  • Government
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Physician offices
  • Residential care and nursing facilities

Roughly one-third of administrators work over 40 hours per week and many in hospitals and residential facilities must remain on call during their off hours.

Employment for this field is expected to grow more in health practice offices as hospitals shift some services to this area. In addition, medical group practices are expected to grow and will have more demand for management. As the use of electronic health records expands there will be a greater need of administrators trained in health information technology and this will cross over into the health insurance industries.

Ideal Candidate

Because the position of healthcare administrator covers such a wide range of duties the ideal candidate must also possess a diverse range of knowledge, skills, and abilities. While the following is not inclusive it will give you an idea of the qualities a healthcare administrator will need:

Skills:

  • Analytical
  • Detail oriented
  • Leadership qualities
  • Communication skills
  • Technically savvy

Leadership has a skill set all its own as an administrator will be charged with overseeing all personnel:

  • Critical thinking
  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Decision making reading comprehension
  • Coordination
  • Writing
  • Time management
  • Social perception

Besides the leadership qualities you'll need other communication skills such as:

  • Oral comprehension and expression
  • Written comprehension and expression
  • Speech clarity and recognition
  • Deductive and inductive reasoning

To be considered technically skilled for the position you'll need to be proficient in many types of software programs used in both business and healthcare:

  • Accounting
  • Business intelligence
  • Scientific or analytical
  • AMA classification
  • Medical coding
  • Document management
  • Medical systems
  • Project management systems
  • User databases
  • Project sharing software such as Sharepoint

School Curriculum

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Because the administrator position oversees so many aspects of a healthcare organization the curriculum is quite rigorous. You graduate program may last two to three years and often includes a year of supervised administration in a healthcare or hospital consulting position. Since most employers prefer to hire an administrator with experience you should consider this internship a valuable part of your degree program.

Although the exact curriculum and course titles will differ depending on your school of choice you can expect your curriculum to look something like this:

Business and management courses

  • Organizations
  • Marketing
  • Accounting
  • Data analysis
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Managerial accounting
  • Managerial economics
  • Decision models
  • Leadership of organizations
  • Information and technology
  • Financial management
  • Managerial marketing
  • Operations management
  • Corporate legal and social responsibilities
  • Capstone project

Healthcare administration core and elective subjects

  • Healthcare economics
  • Health systems organization and delivery
  • Healthcare principles of management
  • Building and leading healthcare teams
  • Healthcare finance: analysis
  • Healthcare finance: decision making
  • Healthcare leadership: strategic success
  • Global health systems
  • Health policy and regulation
  • Healthcare total quality management
  • Health information technology
  • Lean healthcare

Choosing the right school/program

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School and program choice depends on your personal situation. If you are already employed you may wish to enroll in an online school, or you may be limited by location and must attend a brick-and-mortar school within driving distance. If you already know what area you'd like to specialize in you may be limited to schools that offer that specific coursework.

When choosing an online school you should find a forum or referral website and see what former students have to say about the program and courses. If you're already employed in the healthcare industry you can ask for referrals from your department managers or administrators who hold a Master's degree. If you plan to go to a local college or university make sure the coursework is well rounded in the topics listed in the previous section.

Here are some specializations you might concentrate on when choosing your MBA with healthcare administration emphasis:

  • Acute care
  • Child and maternal health
  • Environmental health science
  • Gerontology
  • Health care ethics
  • Health informatics
  • Health policy and management
  • Long-term care
  • research

The most important item to look for when choosing a school or program is accreditation. A school that has accreditation for healthcare degree programs has met the specific industry standards, and that means your degree will be both accepted and respected.

Accreditation

Accreditation means your school of choice has been thoroughly assessed by the Council for Higher Education (CHEA) or Department of Education (DOE) and meets the standards set for MBA programs. There are six regional agencies in the nation and they accredit the university or college itself.

For your MBA business school there are specialty agencies that oversee the quality of MBA programs individually, so you should verify your school is accredited both on a national level and an individual program level. Here are the three agencies that accredit MBA programs in the U.S.:

  • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)

The most respected accreditation is from the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). CAHME was founded in 1932 and is held in high regard by the healthcare industry, so your degree from a CAHME accredited program will show you have met the highest standards in the healthcare management industry.