A healthcare administration degree prepares one for a senior leadership role in a hospital or other in-patient care facility. It is not indicative of a medical background; a healthcare administrator will probably work side-by-side with the medical director in a given care facility. Instead, this degree provides the business and leadership acumen that allows facility leadership to maximum efficiency, patient outcomes and ultimately, profit.
A healthcare administration credential will sharpen a student’s team leadership and project management skills in ways that are unique to the needs of a healthcare business. Such a degree should also provide the financial and marketing foundations necessary to plan a budget, build a network of providers and assist with philanthropic and fundraising functions. Some programs may be more specialized or more general than others, providing for an experience that matches the needs of the student.
What Are the Prospects for Healthcare Administration?
Healthcare administration is projected to grow rapidly over the next decade. This change is largely due to demographic factors affecting the United States. As more and more members of the Baby Boomer generation prepare for retirement, people of working age will be facing with increased challenges helping their parents and other elderly relatives to maintain quality of life. Healthcare administrators provide vital leadership skills to the hospitals, skilled care facilities and medical research labs on which these efforts depend.
Although the demographic factors driving the growth of healthcare administration are a temporary phenomenon, they will provide for a period of rapid training and professional development in this field. In many ways, the role of the healthcare administrator is rapidly evolving — and becoming more defined — throughout the nation. Those who seize this great opportunity now will be positioned for senior leadership roles well into the future, providing them with high levels of compensation, benefits and job satisfaction.
What Does a Healthcare Administration Degree Entail?
All healthcare administration degrees are unique. However, there are some aspects and tools that are very common within the field. For the most part, healthcare administration is considered a graduate-level course of study. You must have an undergraduate degree in order to be accepted into such a program. No specific background is required, but many healthcare administrators come from a business or financial background. A small amount of others have scientific or medical training.
Virtually all healthcare administration degrees will include “case studies” that show how certain healthcare facilities overcame business challenges. Students are required to review a case study and the surrounding factors and propose solutions before they learn how the problem was ultimately handled. Like many business degrees, healthcare administration is often founded on a great deal of group work. This helps prepare the student to balance the needs of the many technical experts in a healthcare setting.
Some programs may also include human psychology courses, providing for a better understanding of the patient as an “end user” toward whom all healthcare administration decisions are ultimately directed.
How Long Does a Healthcare Administration Degree Take?
Since many healthcare administration degrees are offered at the graduate level, it is fairly common for them to take about two years. However, there are also “accelerated programs” that might be completed in 12 to 18 months. The time that any degree program takes will be impacted by a variety of factors, including class availability and format.
There are many healthcare administration programs available both online and in the traditional “face-to-face” format. It is common for programs to offer a capstone experience where students will work directly in a hospital setting for a short time. During that time, students often work under a senior healthcare professional and address a specific problem that faces a care facility.
What Kind of Skills or Traits Should a Healthcare Administrator Have?
A healthcare administrator must have a keen mind for business, including finances and the “nitty gritty” details of making common healthcare processes run more efficiently. However, he or she must also be humane and empathetic, able to motivate medical professionals and manage all decisions within the human context — all the decisions a healthcare administrator makes will impact dozens, hundreds or thousands of lives.