The Path to Healthcare Administration: Follow These Steps to Score Your Dream Job
Published on: September 21, 2023
Are you eager to make your mark in the healthcare industry? What if you prefer to avoid clinical positions? No worries: if you have an analytical, detailed-oriented personality and a knack for leadership, you could have a bright future in healthcare administration.
There’s a lot to love about today’s health administration jobs: they’re plentiful and they provide stability and, often, predictable work hours — not to mention the pay can be impressive. There is also plenty of room for advancement, although you could start reaping the rewards of working in this field as soon as you obtain your bachelor’s degree.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that medical and health service managers (also known as health administrators) are in high demand, boasting a job outlook of 28 percent. Compare this to the national average of 5 percent, and it’s easy to see that prospects are strong for this field. What’s more, the median annual wages for this profession reached $101,340 in 2021.
It takes a lot of effort to reap these rewards, however, and if you want to score the best health administration jobs, you will need extensive training. To get you started, we’ve compiled a step-by-step approach to preparing for your career as a healthcare administrator.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Healthcare Administrator?
The timeline for becoming a healthcare administrator can differ considerably from one person to the next. However, this career path generally has a standard progression: earn your bachelor’s degree, gain experience in the field and, once you’re ready to move up the career ladder, pursue your master’s.
Each step may take a few years, but you can enter the field in some capacity as soon as you are equipped with your bachelor’s degree. This typically takes four years to obtain, although some programs may allow you to streamline your trajectory and make progress toward a bachelor’s and a master’s degree simultaneously.
The good news? Because health administration employees are in such high demand, you may be able to secure a job you love soon after — or, perhaps, even well before — you graduate.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Every journey toward becoming a health administration professional must begin with a college degree. This is the minimum barrier to entry for today’s most desirable jobs. While it is sometimes possible to gain entry-level work with an associate degree, a brief glance at today’s job listings will reveal a clear preference for applicants equipped with their bachelor’s.
Beyond appealing to potential employers, a bachelor’s is crucial for gaining an in-depth understanding of the modern healthcare system and all the complexities it presents for clinical and administrative professionals alike. You’ll benefit from targeted coursework delving into the nuances of epidemiology, risk management and more. Additionally, you will enjoy numerous opportunities to gain hands-on experience.
Healthcare Administration Degree
If you have a clear vision of your ideal path to becoming a health administrator, a highly targeted degree program may be your best bet. Specifically, you could be an ideal candidate for seeking your Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration, preferably accompanied by a concentration in a niche you find compelling.
Keep in mind that while employers are often willing to hire candidates with a variety of other academic credentials, a healthcare administration degree increases the likelihood that, once hired, you will hit the ground running and rise quickly through the ranks.
The right program should thoroughly prepare you for the many challenges that you will encounter when you eventually enter the healthcare sector — so there should be no surprises once you’re hired.
What’s more, you will emerge from your bachelor’s program equipped with the makings of a strong professional network, bolstered not only by your close relationships with advisors, instructors and mentors but also by your newfound friendships with similarly ambitious graduates.
Other Healthcare Related Degrees
A targeted healthcare administration degree can give you an edge, but it’s not the only relevant degree that can prepare you to enter this in-demand field. Any degree program that centers around healthcare can be advantageous.
For example, many people enter healthcare administration after first working as nurses. This may not be a typical career path, but it can be valuable. After all, administrators with varying healthcare backgrounds contribute unique and often much-needed perspectives on what patients require and how administrators can help.
While a targeted degree is generally a better option if you enter college with a clear desire to become a healthcare administrator, there are still plenty of opportunities to get the training you need if you come to this realization later on. For example: depending on your bachelor’s degree and your current career goals, you could gain in-demand administrative skills by enrolling in a healthcare administration program at the graduate level.
Step 2: Experience as a Healthcare Professional
Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s, it’s time to apply for entry-level jobs that expose you to the realities of the modern healthcare industry. A variety of positions allow you to apply key administrative concepts in the real world, but ideally, you will find work in a niche for which you show both aptitude and personal interest.
Your ability to secure desired positions may depend, to some extent, on the concentration you sought as a bachelor’s student, although many employers are willing to train well-rounded administrators on the complex concerns that may arise within specific niches.
At this stage, you should also be open to new challenges or experiences that allow you to expand on the broad base of knowledge developed in college. Whether or not you eventually advance to the master’s level, your desire to develop new skills and learn about new topics should always remain strong.
Step 3: Pursue a Master of Healthcare Administration
While it’s possible to obtain your Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) shortly after you have secured your bachelor’s, some experienced graduate students value their ability to draw on real-life situations they’ve seen play out in the workforce. This could help you expand on any health administration function you’ve fulfilled previously while also addressing any lingering gaps in your skill set.
Other students prefer to swiftly move from the undergraduate to the graduate level. No matter your timing, however, an MHA will prepare you to take on some of the industry’s most esteemed roles, where you can shine as a leader and enjoy a greater degree of autonomy than would be possible in an entry-level position.
Choosing an MHA Program
Pursuing your MHA is a great start, but where you enroll matters more than you think. The right program will expose you to industry experts while providing a powerful overview of core concepts — not to mention soft skill development, which is increasingly crucial for aspiring leaders.
There are many other factors worth considering as you select your MHA program, such as:
- Online availability. Good news: You don’t need to relocate to get a stellar education — simply enroll in a respected online healthcare administration program. This allows you to learn at your own pace as you continue to work full-time or juggle a jam-packed schedule. If you thrive under a more conventional, in-person setup, however, you’ll want to look at available campus centers and determine whether they provide hybrid options.
- Available concentrations. Niches abound within healthcare administration. Look for a degree program that offers a variety of concentrations so you can take courses that reflect your unique interests and desired career path. Examples include business analytics, finance, human resource management and marketing.
- Admission requirements. Admission policies can vary dramatically between programs. As you prepare to apply, confirm that you’ve reached the minimum threshold for grade point average and met other key requirements. Keep in mind that it may be possible to gain admission in a provisional or conditional capacity.
Step 4: Earn Professional Certifications or Credentials
Board certification goes beyond clinical professions to provide a valuable source of verification and confidence for healthcare administrators.
A variety of professional societies and organizations provide opportunities to get credentialed. This process may involve submitting an application, completing targeted coursework, providing references and passing a rigorous exam. Paired with a graduate degree, this will reflect your mastery of critical skills — and make you an even more compelling hire for top employers.
As with graduate degree concentrations, professional certifications and credentials are available for every niche imaginable. Top options include:
- American College of Healthcare Executives: Fellow
- National Association for Healthcare Quality: Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality
- American Society for Health Care Risk Management: Certified Professional in Health Care Risk Management
- National Association of Healthcare Access Management: Certified Healthcare Access Manager
Step 5: Join Professional Associations
The process of getting credentialed often involves joining and participating in esteemed professional associations. We’ve highlighted several of these above, along with the specific certifications they provide — but there are several other organizations worth getting involved in, even if you’re not intent on adding a new credential to your resume.
These groups provide insight into niche concepts that might not be covered elsewhere, not to mention unique networking opportunities and constant support for hardworking health administrators.
Top associations are often run at the national level but may have local chapters that help you get acquainted with like-minded professionals. Other organizations may focus on supporting health administrators from underserved communities.
For example, the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) strives for greater representation of minority groups within the healthcare field. The Association of Asian Healthcare Leaders (AAHL) has a similar mission but tailored to the unique circumstances faced within the Asian American community.
Don’t be afraid to join several organizations. The more involved you get, the stronger your network will become and the better insight you will gain into the latest research and job opportunities. Select associations that closely align with your values while helping you become the highly capable and respected administrator you’ve always wanted to be.
Step 6: Explore Entry-Level Graduate Healthcare Administration Roles
You’ve earned your MHA and are ready to take the next step in your career. While you may have already gained some entry-level experience at this point, you will now want to be more strategic in how you select entry or mid-level roles.
Consider not only the niche involved but also the setting: do you prefer to work in a hospital, lab or clinic? Role’s worth considering include:
- Patient services coordinator
- Insurance claims analyst
- Medical records manager
- Administrative specialist
Step 7: Higher Level Positions and Career Progression
Experience and graduate-level credentials are both important for gaining the most esteemed positions in healthcare administration.
Through years of hard work and focused study, you will develop both the soft skills and the targeted administrative knowledge needed to succeed in a leadership capacity. Examples of positions that may become available include:
- Director of managed care
- Nursing home administrator
- Health information manager
- Chief patient experience officer
Your Story Starts Here
Whether the next step in your career trajectory involves earning a bachelor’s in healthcare or a bachelor’s or master’s degree in healthcare administration, you will find plenty of excellent options at Park University. Our healthcare administration degree programs prepare you for a bright future in a growing field. Reach out today for more information.