If you're interested in healthcare administration but are looking at approaching the field from a slightly different angle, a master's degree in Public Administration is one way to set yourself apart from the pack. While this may seem a bit odd, you'll soon see that an MPA degree will prepare you for success in ways that other master's degrees won't.
In fact, many MPA programs have fashioned specialty tracks for those interested in leading the healthcare sector. When you complete such a degree, you will be prepared to work primarily with local, state, or federal agencies that intersect with healthcare and policy. You might also find great opportunities with non-profit healthcare organizations. Non-profit healthcare institutions include many large health systems companies, university medical complexes, and even hospitals.
There is a growing demand for professionals in the healthcare sector. Our rapidly aging population is flooding waiting rooms and increased access to insurance has created even more demand. The demand is not only for clinicians such as doctors, nurses, and technicians of all sort, but also for the managers who support and organize them. Doctors and nurses don't have the time to stay on top of new regulations, much less the weekly scheduling, inventories, and finances, among many other details.
Graduating with a master's degree in public administration with a healthcare focus positions you to help support and steer healthcare institutions. While a standard MPA degree might be helpful, when you focus specifically on healthcare, you are uniquely prepared to work in that vast industry. That is, while you will have a specific focus, you will enter a world that offers a variety of opportunities. MPA-HA degree holders go on to work in areas including, but not limited to:
- Health policy
- Strategic planning
You can pursue these sorts of positions for a range of employers, including:
- State, federal, and local health departments
- Centers for Disease Control
- Food and Drug Agency (FDA)
- VA hospitals
- American Red Cross
- Private, non-profit healthcare corporations
- Major, publicly traded healthcare corporations
To begin considering an MPA-HA program, you will first want to start collecting materials for your application. First, you will need an undergraduate degree. Depending on your degree, your desired MPA program will possibly want to see additional coursework. Check the admissions standards for your top choice programs to determine whether you need more courses.
Select a Program
This begs the question of how to select the best program. After all, not all master's programs are created equal. Each has its share of strengths and weaknesses which must be weighed against your personal career and personal goals.
One of the first things to look for is how well a program is connected to its wider healthcare community. Look for affiliations with hospitals, local offices of federal agencies, and state healthcare connections. Then, assess how well those match with your long-term goals. However, it's important to keep in mind that you're looking opportunities to learn new skills and gain insights into the broader healthcare picture. With that in mind, even if you have no desire to work for a federal agency, working with them during graduate school might provide you with the exact sort of insights and experiences you need to work as a consultant or in the private sector.
Perhaps even more vital is a program's accreditation. Though you may be familiar with this from your undergrad days, it's still vital to check on every program's reputation. Look for accreditation from organizations such as:
- Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
- Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA)
- Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA)
When your program has been signed off on by one or more of these agencies, you will be assured a quality education. Though unusual, if you for some reason need to curtail your studies and then re-start them in another MPA-HA program, some of your credits will be sure to transfer, thus ensuring that you don't have to re-take courses. Furthermore, your accredited degree will command respect, open career opportunities, and possibly land you higher salaries.
If you decide that you cannot move to attend a graduate program, consider an online MPA-HA program. The key advantage here is that you won't have to report to a physical location in order to learn. If the program is asynchronous, you won't even have to log-in at any set time.
When you are in an asynchronous online program, you can live anywhere in the world and still complete a degree on your own schedule. That is, you can choose to participate in discussions during the morning, afternoon, or evening. You can submit your homework or papers when you are ready, though certain deadlines will apply. Typically, deadlines will fall at midnight which can be easier to work with if you are working all day.
Working students love online graduate degree programs because they can arrange coursework around their workday. If you bring a tablet to work, you can probably do a bit of work on your break time if you need. You might even review your term papers on your lunch hour and then submit them from your phone on the train ride home.
Some might say that an online program deprives students of a community and professional contacts. However, that is not necessarily true. Plenty of online students are able to form friendships and bonds that persist into the professional world. As an online scholar, you can arrange for internships through your program, just the same as traditional students.
There is a middle ground, however. You might find a low-residency program that asks students to report to a campus periodically throughout the program. Sometimes the meetings are once a semester, sometimes more, depending on the program. These programs offer you the best of both worlds. You can study independently and carry on a job, but also have the opportunity to meet your fellow students and professors, too. Before you enroll in a low-residency program make sure that the travel won't be an undue burden.
Applying to Graduate School
Once you are certain that you have completed all the undergrad courses you'll need to apply, you will likely need the following materials:
- Three letters of recommendation
- Transcripts from every undergrad institution you attended
- Personal essay that details your statement of purpose
- GRE scored – if required by your programs
Note that for your initial application you might not need to submit official transcripts. Copies might suffice for the initial interview and application stage. However, you may need to provide official, sealed transcripts later on. Your undergrad school should be able to provide you with multiple unofficial copies that you can send along with the rest of your application materials. Once you're accepted, you can have your official transcripts sent directly to your graduate program.
Once you are accepted (congratulations in advance), you will be immersed in academic and experiential learning environments that are designed to prime you for success. Some MPA-HA students are called on to help healthcare organizations in their strategic planning, grant-writing, and program education.
What is an MPA-Healthcare Admin?
An MPA-HA degree is an advanced degree that will propel your career in healthcare administration to new levels. You will first delve deep into a curriculum focused on public administration in general. From that point, you will dig deeper into the world of healthcare. Many programs will include an experiential learning portion that will ask you to apply your academic learning to a real-world scenario.
This degree is sought after more and more due to the fast pace of change in the industry. Legislation and policies have been quite volatile, and all healthcare institutions are in need of professionals who can take the reins and maintain compliance, while also maintaining fiscal solvency.
Career and Salary Outlook
The future is looking rosy for everyone in healthcare, including administrators. The industry is growing by leaps and bounds. There may be a few bumps in the road, but those will surely be smoothed over soon enough. When you land your MPA-Healthcare Administration degree, your present and future will be nothing short of stellar.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics bears out this optimism with great numbers. They show that, in 2017, medical and health services managers earned a median salary of $98,350. If you complete your master's degree and work for the federal government, your pay will start at step one of the GS-9 level. Salaries in the GS-9 paygrade start at $43,251 and then cap at $56,229. While that might seem low for a worker with a master's degree, the federal government adjusts your pay based on your location. For instance, a step 5 GS-9 employee in Georgia will see an average adjustment of 17 percent. Thus, if you live in Dekalb County and are at level 5, your pay will be $60,222.58. California, on the other hand, has an average adjustment of 25 percent due to the higher cost of living in that state. If you work in Los Angeles county, and are at GS-9 level 5, your total salary will be $64,899.82.
Though working for the federal government might provide lower pay year-to-year, government employees enjoy great benefits. You will receive outstanding medical coverage, ample vacation and holidays, plus a pension for when it's time to retire. When you add up your full compensation package, you are looking at a rather healthy lifestyle for you and your family. Note, too, that when you retire from a significant, successful tenure with the federal government, you can likely parlay that experience into a well-paid career as a consultant. When you work as an independent consultant, you can choose to work as much as you like and then carry home hefty fees. After all, so many private healthcare companies will clamor for your experience and insights into federal regulations
On top of the great salary news, the BLS reports that this job sector will see major growth in the years between 2016-26. Their numbers show a 20 percent jobs growth for healthcare administration. According to the BLS, this is "much faster than average."
The ideal candidate for an MPA-HA program will be someone with either an academic or professional background in healthcare administration. If you are just starting out in an undergrad program, try to focus your studies on healthcare. You could consider one of the following undergrad degrees as a springboard to your master's work:
- Bachelor of Healthcare Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration
- Bachelor of Business Administration – Healthcare focus
- Bachelor of Public Health
You should also focus your energies on working in healthcare. In undergrad, you should consider entry-level jobs in healthcare administration or even as a low-level worker, such as an orderly. As long as you keep your feet in the industry, hiring managers will smile on your dedication. Every bit of experience you can accrue in healthcare will be helpful.
Your experience will instill a value system congruent with your master's program, provide you with excellent references, and augment your GPA.
As you work through your MPA-HA degree, you will take some or all of the following courses:
- Organizational Psychology/Management
- Public Policy Analysis
- Healthcare Economics
- Medical Ethics and Regulations
- Capstone Project/Thesis
If you've read this far, your career is already on its way. Find the very best program for yourself and apply today! The future starts no