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The health care industry is complex and evolving. At the administrative level, you need to have the education required to anticipate and respond to challenges and changes in the industry. Health care administration degrees combine elements of management, health, finance, and other business essentials to offer a degree program that is well-rounded in business and targeted to the health care management level.

Why Earn a Master's in Health Care Administration?

Health care administration degree programs attract students from all backgrounds. However, professionals working at a lower level in health care administration or in other leadership positions are the most likely to be interested in a master's degree in health care administration. The master's in medical & health with a specialization in health care administration is designed with the following goals in mind:

  • Improve understanding of the health care system
  • Enhance management and leadership skills
  • Increase efficiencies within the health care system

With a MHA in health care administration, you gain a fuller understanding of administrative policies and procedures, improving your own ability as you keep your skills current.

MHA or MS in health care administration programs require you to complete coursework spanning a range of ideas. Typical areas of study within a health care administration degree include the following topics:

  • Health and disease
  • Sociological, economic, legal and political views on health care
  • Management and organizational behavior, including marketing, financial management, data generation and analysis, human resource management, and planning

Earning a master's in health care administration typically requires between 40 and 50 credit hours, plus a thesis. The degree is generally completed in two years of full-time study, but part-time students may take significantly longer to finish their degrees.

How to Earn a Master's in Health Care Administration

Earning a graduate degree in health care administration means focusing your interests and studying in a field that fascinates you. Before the first day of classes begins, however, you must spend some time researching your degree options.

The research process may seem time-consuming and complicated, but it's the best way to make sure you pick the on-campus or online graduate degree program that's right for you. Apply to the best schools for your goals, and you'll be rewarded with the satisfaction that you've chosen the best and most applicable health care administration programs.

Step 1: Explore Your Health Care Administration Degree Options

Get the basic facts about health care administration master's degrees as you begin your research. Whether you want to work in administration, teach management courses, or research in the field, you must choose among three basic degree distinctions:

  • Master of Health Care Administration (MHA): This popular health care administration degree is a professional administration degree, often designed with working students in mind.
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA): It's possible to find an MBA degree with an emphasis in health care management or administration.
  • Master of Science (MS): This research-heavy degree can prepare you for a professional career in administration, a health informatics research career, or entrance into further study at the doctoral level.

Step 2: Choose Among Health Care Administration Specializations

The master's in health care administration isn't the only degree you can earn to qualify for some positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recommends the following master's degree programs for anyone interested in a career in medical and health services management:

  • Health services administration
  • Long-term care administration
  • Health sciences
  • Public health
  • Public administration
  • Business administration

Your own interests should help dictate the type of health care administration degree you choose. In the end, learning more about the coursework and requirements for individual degrees can offer insight into each option.

Step 3: Choose a Campus-Based or Online Master's Degree Program

As a prospective master's degree student in health care administration, you have a choice as to how you'll earn your degree. Would you prefer the traditional environment of an on-campus master's degree, or the flexibility you gain when you earn a master's degree online? Ultimately, it's up to you. Consider the pros and cons of both types of learning:

  • Online health care administration degree: Earn a master's degree online and enjoy the freedom of logging on from anywhere in the world to complete your education. For self-starting students who prefer to work independently, an online master's degree may be ideal.
  • Campus-based health care administration degree: Study the fundamentals of health care administration in person with peers and professors. For students who value teamwork, group projects, and face-to-face interaction, campus-based degrees may be best.

Your learning style, traveling schedule, and preferences as a student each help determine which type of degree you earn. Browse to WorldWideLearn.com's guide to online degree programs to learn more about what you can expect when you earn a master's degree online.

Step 4: Compile a List of Potential Health Care Administration Programs

The BLS reports that, according to the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education, there were 72 schools offering accredited programs leading to the master's degree in health services administration in 2008. Establish your own list by using the following resources:

These resources can help you create a long list of potential programs, which you can use to further determine your requirements as a student. Whether you've been away from college for years since your bachelor's degree or you're continuing directly from your undergraduate studies for a master's in health care administration, you should research your options before committing to a school.

Step 5: Determine Accreditation at Each Master's Degree Program

The simplest way to take control of your educational future is to ensure that each school you're considering holds current accreditation. The accreditation process requires a third-party agency to study the faculty, credentials, and academics of a school and make its findings public.

Making sure each school on your list is accredited helps to ensure the quality of your health care administration degree. It also improves your chances of receiving federal financial aid, and raises the standard to which your degree is measured by academics and hiring managers in the field.

Fortunately, it's easy to determine a school's accreditation. Use these tools to find or confirm accreditation of your health care administration program:

  • For a search of all accredited institutions in the U.S., use the U.S. Department of Education's searchable database. Schools may be searched by name, location, or accrediting agency.

Learn more about the process and importance of accreditation at WorldWideLearn.com's Accreditation Answers page.

Step 6: Narrow Down Your Accredited Master's Degree List

At this point, you should have a long list of accredited master's degree programs in health care administration. Whether you're considering an online or campus-based MS, MHA, MBA, or a combination of degree programs, you should have a lot of options. Use these categories to help focus your degree search down to the programs that fit you best:

  • Location: Particularly if you want to work in the area after you've graduated or while you finish your degree, you'll need to think about the career prospects you'll face in health care. Consider the city or town as if you are looking for a job.
  • Requirements: Each health care administration application is different. Some schools may require GRE and TOEFL test results, GPA minimums from undergraduate school, certain coursework requirements, letters of reference, and more. In general, the most exclusive schools have the toughest requirements.
  • Program Rank: Consider rankings, like the ones published by U.S. News & World Report. Remember that rankings aren't everything, however. Think about a school's ranking along with other qualities that would make it personally attractive to you as a student.
  • Financial Aid: Schools often make financial aid promises to potential students to attract them to the program. Learn which schools offer the most attractive financial aid packages. Consider things like grants, teaching stipends, scholarships, and other funding.
  • Professors: While it's tempting to attend a school based on the strength of one professor, you should base your graduate school applications on the general strength of a school's faculty. Professors often leave or take sabbatical breaks, and you want to still be happy with your school choice if your ideal thesis chair is not available.
  • Extras: Think about the additional perks offered by each health care administration department. You might be encouraged to participate in community events, travel in order to attend conferences, or complete special research. These extras are important, but they should be the last category you consider after all the other categories above.

Once you've considered each school in terms of each category, a list of your top programs should emerge. This step of the research process does take time, but narrowing down your long list of degree programs to the best choices is good for your educational future.

Step 7: Apply for Your Master's Degree Program

After research and consideration, you should have condensed your long list of potential health care administration schools down to the strongest few. As you start the application process, keep the following in mind and help improve your chances of being accepted to one of your top schools:

  • Personalization: Stand out from the crowd by personalizing your application. Write each cover letter or personal statement while taking the school's personality into account. Personalization helps you convince your readers why you would be a good fit with their school.
  • Requirements: Each health care administration master's degree program requires different materials from its prospective students. Be prepared to provide everything from transcripts and work history to letters of recommendation and GRE test scores.
  • Deadlines: Each school has different deadline requirements for applications, transcripts, and financial aid. You don't want to carefully research programs only to miss an important deadline. Staying organized with a calendar or day planner is key to your success.

Work your way through the steps above and fully research potential schools. You can save time and money on applications, plus you'll be more likely to attend a health care administration master's degree program with the confidence that you've made the right choice.

Sources

  • Accreditation Search U.S. Department of Education
  • Accredited Programs : By Name Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education
  • Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA)
  • Master of Health Care Administration Des Moines University
  • Masters of Healthcare Administration (MHA) Texas State University
  • Medical and Health Services Managers Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL)
  • Top Healthcare Management Graduate Schools U.S. News and World Report

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