Guide to College Majors in Healthcare Management

Safeguard the health both of body and soul.
--Cleobulus

What is Health Care Management?

Few industries in the world are expanding as quickly as healthcare, and that growth is not expected to stop any time soon. As the U.S. population ages, our need for healthcare services increases as well. Additionally, advances in medical science have allowed people to enjoy greater life expectancies. Therefore, the elderly - the group that uses healthcare services the most - now comprise a greater percentage of the overall population.

Even in a slow economy, when many industries have lost ground in capital expenditure and in jobs, the healthcare industry has continued to expand. This expansion translates to plentiful job opportunities for those with the skills and training for this thriving sector of the job market.

Healthcare management professionals work as administrators, managers, CEO's, planners, and more. Through the efforts of well-trained and caring healthcare managers, patients are treated to state-of-the-art facilities, compassionate medical treatment, and an overall positive healthcare experience. Individuals who choose to pursue this career path tend to be sympathetic, caring personality types with an honest desire to help others.

This desire combines with a natural inclination toward leadership and the ability to apply organizational techniques successfully to achieve maximum results. The most effective healthcare professionals keep abreast of the many shifting trends, new technologies, and advanced techniques in the health and management fields. They use their knowledge and skills to deliver the most positive experience possible for consumer and staff alike.

A college degree in healthcare management enables business-oriented professionals to thrive in this growing market and to take advantage of numerous job openings. Healthcare facilities recognize the need for skilled workers to fill management and planning roles, and these businesses are willing to pay for skilled employees. A report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicated that over a four-year range, hospital expenditure for labor accounted for more than 55% of increased hospital spending. Further, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has predicted that 16% of new jobs created over the next six years will be in the healthcare field. That's a higher growth percentage than was predicted in any other field.

With the proliferation of online degrees, a degree in healthcare management is more attainable than ever. Individuals who would once have been held back from advancing in their professional careers due to other obligations, such as work schedules or childcare, can finally obtain the vital training they need to pursue the career of their dreams. A career in healthcare management offers financial stability, a booming job market, and the emotional satisfaction of working in an industry that provides a vital service to the community.

Career Education in Healthcare Management

Certificate Programs in Healthcare Management

Healthcare management certificate programs can provide career boosts for experienced professionals and for newcomers to the industry. Certificate programs in this field tend to be aimed at nurses, physical therapists, and other trained professionals who wish to move into supervisory or management-oriented roles.

Some certificate programs are designed for healthcare professionals who are already employed in lower-level management or administrative roles and wish take on greater responsibilities and challenges. Other programs help upper-level management professionals stay up-to-date on the newest and best trends in management methods and technologies.

A certificate program can also be an extremely helpful tool for physicians wishing to open their own practice or healthcare facility, helping them build the business skills required to succeed in such a complex venture. While a certificate alone is considered a mark of accomplishment, the courses taken as part of a certificate program can often be credited toward future degrees, helping students earn an MBA or Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management.

Associate Degrees in Healthcare Management

An associate degree in healthcare management focuses on fundamental financial, leadership, and organizational skills that are applicable to general business settings. It also acquaints students with skills specific to the healthcare industry. Often, the classes taken while pursuing an associate degree can later be applied toward the pursuit of a bachelor's or other advanced degree. The associate degree enables students to enter the workforce faster, while leaving open the option of additional degrees that will enhance their career prospects.

Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management

For students interested in dedicating themselves to healthcare administration, a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management can be instrumental. This degree offers in-depth instruction regarding the ins and outs of managing a healthcare facility. Students learn general business management and develop the skills they'll need to take on a leadership role in one of the many types of healthcare facilities, including doctors' offices, hospitals, special care facilities, and more. Professionals with this level of education demonstrate an advanced level of competence and are often promoted into jobs with higher salaries and advanced responsibilities.

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Learn more about online healthcare management degree programs offered at these universities:

University of Phoenix, Walden University, & Colorado Technical University Online

What Can You Do With a College Degree in Healthcare Management?

As baby boomers age, they require more healthcare services. This demand has led to healthcare becoming one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, offering an abundance of professional opportunities to the success-driven healthcare management professional. Below are just a few of the numerous opportunities open to trained healthcare management professionals.

  • Hospital executives provide the backbone for hospital services and facilities. They are responsible for running their facility smoothly and successfully, ensuring optimum patient care and site services. Hospital executives hire doctors and nurses, provide comfortable patient surroundings, and develop state-of-the-art facilities and medical equipment. Healthcare executives must stay abreast of the latest developments in a range of related areas. Technological advances, human resource developments, legalities, and patient care techniques are all the domain of the hospital executive.
  • Group practice executives, like hospital executives, provide patients with a positive healthcare experience via clean, pleasant facilities, strong organizational leadership, and financial savvy. However, the group practice executive possesses human resource skills as well.

    To provide exemplary patient care, the group practice executive creates an environment that results in the least amount of physician turnover possible. Higher physician turnover rates result in higher costs and less consistent patient care. The group practice executive, therefore, must not only provide organizational leadership regarding finances and operations, but must also create an environment that promotes stability and a positive work environment for the physicians and staff.
  • Rather than being tied down to one individual facility, healthcare consultants cultivate a complete and thorough understanding of the healthcare industry as a whole. They offer their knowledge and organizational ability to a wide range of facilities on an as-needed basis. Healthcare consultants are highly valued within the healthcare community for their firm knowledge of the foundations of healthcare management, their skill at analyzing trends and data, and their ability to design and implement special projects for a variety of facilities.

    Consultants' unique abilities to enter the scene of a new facility, to organize special projects, and to train staff make them a valuable commodity in the hot healthcare market. Also, since healthcare consultants will often work for different facilities and facility types on a project-to-project basis, they experience a unique perspective on the many organizational styles and trends within the healthcare industry. Consultants use that knowledge to benefit the patients of many facilities rather than just one.
  • Home healthcare administrators provide a vital service to the community. These professionals possess extremely effective organizational skills and must juggle the demands of patients, government agencies, financial auditors, and staff members.

    Recruiting plays a large role in this branch of healthcare management. The administrator must ensure that the on-staff home healthcare providers themselves are efficient, skilled, and compassionate. An administrator covers every managerial aspect of home care, including staffing, financial concerns, and scheduling. The emotional rewards of home healthcare administration are vast. The home healthcare administrator provides not only healthcare, but also independence to patients who may otherwise have to leave behind their homes to enter group care.
  • Emergency medical services (EMS) administrators coordinate with hospitals and state agencies to ensure that community members will have the help they need in an emergency situation. This aspect of healthcare administration is both high-pressure and highly rewarding. EMS administrators coordinate emergency response communication and resources within their geographic area of responsibilities, using their organizational talent to make certain that ambulances and emergency personnel are ready and waiting to help those in need.

    Although EMS administrators must face high-pressure, life-or-death scenarios daily, emergency services remains one of the most emotionally rewarding career options in the healthcare management industry. With high pressure comes high reward, along with the personal satisfaction of knowing that their skill and the systems they have implemented enable community members to get the vital help they need the instant they need it.
  • Using skills learned in advanced degree programs, public health planners utilize the many informational tools at their disposal to design effective health programs for their communities. Often called upon to analyze a combination of statistical data, community study results, input from physicians and nurses, and various other resources, public health planners develop beneficial health programs and initiatives that affect a wide range of individuals.

    A career as a public health planner can be incredibly gratifying, for the right initiatives can improve people's lives by helping community members to live in a fuller and healthier manner. This is also one of the most dynamic and challenging career paths in the healthcare field. The healthcare planner must be able to constantly predict and adjust to consumer and healthcare trends. A health planner may work as part of a team one day and be alone with his research the next. Using a combination of research skills, problem-solving ability, expertise and compassion, public health planners provide a much-needed service, benefiting individuals and communities alike.
  • Managers of patient safety take on one of the most vital roles in the healthcare industry. The patient safety manager ensures that facility staff carries out patient treatment in a safe manner and in compliance with all applicable state and federal regulations. Patient safety managers must possess the ability to predict and avoid possible future problems. By identifying potential issues, healthcare professionals in this field give patients the assurance they need to feel as comfortable as possible in unfamiliar and potentially intimidating surroundings.

Certification, Licensure and Associations

While requirements vary from state to state, healthcare management professionals generally must obtain licensure only in specific circumstances. Within the healthcare management field, a license may be required for professionals who wish to open their own facilities. Most states also require nursing homes and long-term care providers to obtain licenses.

To qualify for a license, professionals must meet a series of requirements. Most licensing bodies require a bachelor's degree in some aspect of healthcare. Aside from a degree, a series of licensure courses may be required. Many colleges and universities offer the required courses as part of their degree programs. Working professionals may enjoy the convenience of learning sites specifically developed to meet licensure requirements, and some online colleges and universities have responded to the needs of working professionals by offering distance learning opportunities to aid in this pursuit. However, even for those working outside those specific aspects of healthcare, there are many advantages that come with certificates of recognition and credentials.

Several professional organizations offer board certification in healthcare management, typically based on a combination of education, professional experience, and an examination. Perhaps the best- known credentials in the healthcare management field are the designations of Certified Healthcare Executive (CHE) and of Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE). Both titles carry national recognition and are bestowed by The American College of Healthcare Executives.

Additionally, the National Association for Healthcare Quality grants the title Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) to professionals deemed worthy of recognition. Another board with the ability to grant credentials is The American College of Medical Practice Executives, which grants the title of Certified Medical Practice Executive (CMPE). Board certification and recognition demonstrates a high level of commitment and expertise in the healthcare management field.

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