What is a Healthcare Administration Associate Degree?
Many students may wonder, "exactly what is healthcare administration?" Like administrators in any field, these professionals perform clerical duties to help manage the day-to-day operations of an office or department — in this case, in a healthcare setting. Earning an online healthcare administration associate degree prepares each graduate for administrative positions within hospitals, clinics, and physician's offices.
Some schools offer especially convenient and affordable online healthcare administration associate degrees. With coursework emphasizing managerial, accounting, and computer skills, students can also explore topics like ethics, healthcare laws, and policy regulations in the industry. Though schools encourage early field experience, most learners can complete their associate degrees 100% online with no practicum or internship requirements.
Generally, healthcare administrators and managers enjoy generous salaries and high job growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment growth of 18% for medical and health services managers through 2028, especially for nursing care facility administrators and those with electronic health records expertise. Healthcare managers with advanced degrees can earn annual salaries of nearly $100,000.
Why Earn an Online Healthcare Administration Degree?
Earning an online healthcare administration associate degree can yield many personal and professional benefits. The majority of students pursue healthcare careers for job security and the satisfaction of contributing to the greater good. The following list includes some of the many ways healthcare administration jobs can inspire positivity.
- Making a Difference
Healthcare administrators and managers can positively impact individuals and the healthcare industry as a whole. These workers can help to advance innovations in the healthcare system, including public policy and patient care.
- High Job Growth
The healthcare industry is a necessity for individuals in all age groups around the world. As the universal demand for healthcare services grows, so does the demand for qualified healthcare professionals.
- Room for Advancement
For students with online healthcare administration associate degrees, the healthcare field offers many career options. Aspiring administrators can pursue entry-level positions or go on to earn advanced degrees in related disciplines.
- Diversity in the Industry
Healthcare workers can focus their skills to meet the demands of their choice of occupations. With so many options, they can also go back to school at any time to switch majors or advance their careers.
- Working Through Service
Working as a healthcare administrator provides personal fulfillment and career satisfaction. Choosing to pursue a career in a service-based industry suits individuals with a strong character and moral compass.
Career and Salary Potential with an Associate Degree in Healthcare Administration
Graduates of accredited online healthcare administration associate degrees can choose from many entry-level positions and work environments. Associate-level programs in health administration can prepare students to become medical administrative assistants, medical office managers, and medical records/health information technicians. In addition to pursuing a hands-on role as a medical assistant, a student may also hone their skills in specialties like medical transcription, billing, or coding. While no degree guarantees a career or salary, this section examines some sample careers and salaries for this field.
|Medical Administrative Assistant||
Median Annual Salary: $35,760
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): -7%
|Medical administrative assistants perform clerical duties for physician's offices, clinics, hospitals, and emergency medical facilities. These professionals possess advanced skills in administrative tasks like filing, answering phones and emails, and ordering supplies. They can also master skills specific to the industry, including electronic records management, appointment scheduling, and insurance billing. While requirements vary, most executive-level positions require a college degree and clerical experience in the field.|
|Medical Records/Health Information Technician||
Median Annual Salary: $40,350
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 11%
|Medical records and health information technicians are the keepers of patient information in the healthcare system. After data has been collected from a patient, these professionals document and maintain medical records, increasingly through an electronic medical records database or digital filing system. While they do not provide direct patient care, information technicians can work closely with nurses and physicians in clerical support positions. Employers may prefer candidates with associate degrees.|
Median Annual Salary: $34,770
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): -3%
|Medical transcriptionists transcribe recordings of physicians and medical care providers into written documents. These professionals also review recordings made through speech recognition technology. Transcriptionists working in the healthcare field must possess an acute understanding of medical terminology and commonly used abbreviations. Most employers prefer each candidate to possess an associate degree and may require professional certification.|
Median Annual Salary: $33,610
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 23%
|While job requirements vary by the size and scope of the facility, medical assistants often perform clerical and clinical assisting duties in this position. Responsibilities may include scheduling appointments, managing medical records, assisting with medical exams, and taking vital signs. While there are no formal education requirements from state to state, most employers provide on-the-job training and prefer a candidate who possesses a certificate or associate degree.|
|Medical Billing/Coding Clerk||
Median Annual Salary: $35,044
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): N/A
|These professionals perform some of the same duties as a medical administrative assistant, with a focus on patient billing and insurance coding procedures. They assign codes for medical services provided, answer patient questions, collect payments, and manage billing records. While not always required for entry-level positions, a senior medical and billing coding clerk needs an associate degree and professional experience.|
Source: BLS, PayScale
Earning an Associate in Healthcare Administration Online
The best online healthcare administration associate programs offer benefits above and beyond a traditional degree. While a student can earn the same credentials through an accredited online degree as an on-campus program, many schools offering online healthcare administration courses feature a more convenient application process and accelerated completion options. With most programs delivered 100% online, rigorous coursework introduces enrollees to the core set of field skills they need to start their career in healthcare administration.
While requirements vary by school and program, most students applying to an online healthcare administration associate degree must meet the same general criteria. First, all programs require each student to possess a high school diploma or GED. Applicants must also provide transcripts for any additional completed college coursework. Degree-seekers with prior college experience should check each school's transfer policy, which may only accept credits from regionally accredited universities.
Applicants must coordinate the direct submission of transcripts from one school to another, typically by request through a counselor or student advisor. The transfer request is free, but the student may need to pay for shipping charges. Candidates applying to multiple schools should make arrangements to send multiple copies as needed, and they should prepare to pay for shipping to each of the recipient schools on their list. Depending on the school receiving the application, students may need to send both high school and college transcripts for consideration.
Generally, online healthcare administration associate programs do not require letters of recommendation or personal statements. As many candidates pursue this degree immediately after graduating high school, some programs may require standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT. Fees vary by school and program, with the majority of schools charging roughly $50 to apply to an online associate degree.
Though specific course offerings and titles vary by program/school, the information below gives prospective students a general idea of what to expect in a curriculum.
This course, crucial to any healthcare administration career, teaches students the correct medical terminology corresponding to all aspects of the human body. Coursework covers all functional systems, including muscular, skeletal, cardiovascular, reproductive, and respiratory anatomy, along with terms related to radiological, nuclear, and oncological medicine.
Health Records Management
Also a critical skill needed in the healthcare industry of the future, the best healthcare administration courses introduce students to health records management. Most courses outline common software and database systems used by major medical facilities to manage patients records and collaborate on billing, treatment, and integrative care.
Often a two-part course, medical coding provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the terminology used in the industry among medical professionals, and it outlines how these codes are used for billing insurance companies and patients. Coursework typically introduces students to the most common codes for medical procedures and diagnoses according to popular insurance carriers.
Medical Office Management
Courses in medical office management provide an overview of general administrative skills while teaching students the specifics of managing a medical office. Enrollees can learn about medical terminology and codes, records management, and specialized practice clerical duties to familiarize themselves with diagnostic equipment, medications, and lab procedures.
Anatomy and Physiology
A unique characteristic of healthcare administrators, the best online healthcare administration associate degrees emphasize anatomy and physiology coursework. Here, students can gain a thorough understanding of the body's systems and functions, including how these elements work together to metabolize nutrients, fight disease, and adapt to medical conditions.
Average Online Degree Length
Many different factors can affect the time it takes to complete an online healthcare administration associate degree. Generally, online degrees offer greater conveniences than traditional programs, like accelerated schedules and generous credit-transfer policies. Taking healthcare administration courses online may especially benefit students with full-time family or work obligations.
Most associate degrees encompass four semesters and take two years to complete, though some online programs offer shorter paths to graduation for full-time students. While credit requirements vary by school and program, an accredited healthcare administration associate degree typically encompasses roughly 60 credits, with each course spanning five, eight, or 16 weeks online. Most online healthcare administration schools offer full- and part-time enrollment options.
Students with previous experience can also transfer credits toward their accelerated degrees. Most colleges and universities accept transfer credits for previous college-level coursework, life experience, and military service. Among the perks of completing an accelerated healthcare administration associate degree online, students can save on the cost of tuition by taking only the courses they need from the convenience of their own home.
Skills, Traits and Knowledge Gained
Graduates of an online healthcare administration associate degree can enter the field equipped with a comprehensive set of career skills. Trained to perform multiple administrative and clerical tasks specific to the healthcare industry, students can pursue jobs that require advanced leadership, organization, and communication skills.
Beyond completing an associate degree online, aspiring healthcare administrators can pursue additional field experience in a particular area of expertise. For example, though not typically required in an associate degree, students often seek out internships or on-the-job training to experience the day-to-day operations of medical offices, emergency services providers, or nursing facilities.
In addition to completing required core coursework in subjects like medical records management, billing and coding, and medical office management, top online healthcare administration associate degrees also emphasize the following soft skills:
Accreditation for Healthcare Administration Associate Programs
All schools offering online healthcare administration associate degrees should hold institutional accreditation. Agencies approved by the Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) may issue national or regional accreditation through a rigorous process, though regional accreditation is more desirable. Regional accrediting bodies include the Higher Learning Commission, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Some graduate programs may receive additional programmatic accreditation through an agency such as the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education, though this is not applicable at the associate level. Especially in the absence of accreditation specific to this program, students should check the ED and CHEA websites for their school's institutional accreditation status.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Professional organizations can provide students with an insider's path to career networking and continuing education in their field of choice. The healthcare industry, with a variety of broad applications for graduates of an online associate degree, offers a wealth of resources to aspiring healthcare administrators and managers. Many organizations tailor their memberships to students in the process of completing their degrees, new professionals, and seasoned experts in their respective fields.
The following list includes just a few of the most prominent membership associations in the industry.
The nation's most prominent association for healthcare administrators and managers, AAHAM originated in 1968 as the American Guild of Patient Account Management. Today, the organization emphasizes professional development through an exclusive social network, exclusive certification opportunities, and continuing education credits.
Among the first organizations of its kind in the U.S., AHIMA encompasses more than 50 state affiliates and over 100,000 individuals working in the health information industry. This association awards multiple professional certifications in health information, coding, and related specialties. Members can enjoy access to conferences, career services, and networking events.
ACHE promotes advocacy and professional development among executives in the healthcare system. The organization serves a membership of more than 48,000 across 78 chapters nationwide. ACHE manages one of the industry's largest publishing presses and offers members career development, networking, and continuing education opportunities.
Next Steps: Continuing Your Education
Completing an online healthcare administration associate degree can mark the first step in a path toward achieving a higher degree or advancing a career. While graduates qualify for entry-level positions in healthcare administration, the program also prepares students to transfer to four-year degrees in healthcare administration or a related major that reflects their specific career goals.
Transferring to a Four-Year Degree Program
Many schools offer generous credit transfer packages. Each student should start the process early, reviewing their school's transfer policy and working with an advisor to determine transferability. Applicants should bear in mind that many programs only accept transfer credits from regionally accredited institutions, and some bachelor-level programs may require additional prerequisites.
Additional Degree Paths to Consider
Naturally, many graduates of associate programs in healthcare administration go on to pursue bachelor's degrees in the same major. However, the healthcare field also favors bachelor's degree-holders in closely related fields, like healthcare management and health informatics. With bachelor's-level programs that offer personalized healthcare concentrations, many schools emphasize innovative majors in healthcare technology and management.
- Bachelor of Healthcare Administration: A natural next step for graduates of associate-level healthcare administration degrees, earning bachelor's degrees in healthcare administration enables students to concentrate their studies in specialties like informatics or medical billing and coding. Graduates can pursue careers as hospital department managers, medical billing specialists, and healthcare HR managers.
- Bachelor of Healthcare Management: Closely related to the healthcare administration major, bachelor's degrees in healthcare management prepare students for leadership roles within medical offices, nursing homes, and emergency service facilities. Like healthcare administration workers, healthcare managers can pursue careers that require a unique set of combined clinical and clerical skills.
- Bachelor of Health Informatics: For students interested in the technical side of healthcare administration, the bachelor of health informatics combines clerical and computer skills. Graduates can prepare for roles that require HR management and staff training, daily operations supervision, and strong communication skills, along with technology problem-solving skills specific to health information databases/digital management systems.