What is a Healthcare Management Associate Degree?
Healthcare managers oversee the day-to-day administrative operations of medical offices, hospital nursing departments, or emergency services facilities. Like any position in management, the best online healthcare management associate degrees prepare students to apply strong leadership, organization, decision-making, and problem-solving skills in their careers.
Many working students with family obligations choose schools that offer highly affordable online healthcare management associate degrees. With convenient online coursework and accelerated completion options, students can develop soft skills and industry prowess in subjects like electronic medical records management, medical billing and coding, and healthcare laws and ethics. At the associate level, online programs typically do not require an in-person practicum or field experience to earn the degree.
Healthcare managers enjoy steady job growth and high salary potential. Though they typically need to possess bachelor's degrees, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for medical and health services managers will grow by 18% through 2028, with electronic health records and nursing care administration among their most critical skills. With an advanced degree, a healthcare manager can earn a median annual salary of as much as $99,730.
Why Earn an Online Healthcare Management Degree?
Students can gain tremendous personal and professional benefits from earning an online healthcare management associate degree. Candidates seeking morally satisfying careers with room for advancement are among those best suited to a healthcare occupation in administration or management. Aspiring healthcare workers should consider the following as just some of the uniquely inspiring benefits of a service career.
- Moral Fulfillment
Healthcare occupations are among the few careers to offer both personal and professional gratification. Students with a strong pull toward serving others often find that healthcare work can build character and feed the soul.
- Diverse Job Availability
Among the most varied job fields, healthcare managers can work in many different settings, including clinics, nursing care facilities, and physician's offices. Plus, with additional education and experience, students can keep moving up.
- Room to Grow
Healthcare managers with advanced degrees can pursue senior management positions and even executive leadership roles within the healthcare industry. The flexibility of the healthcare field ensures unlimited advancement opportunities for qualified candidates.
Among the most enduring of industries, the world will always require educated and experienced healthcare providers and administrators. With many potential areas of expertise, healthcare managers can pursue their choice of concentrations in healthcare or a related field such as insurance or health technology.
- Paying it Forward
As a critical part of the healthcare system, healthcare managers contribute to pushing forward innovations in the field. With proper leadership from healthcare managers, medical facilities can continue daily operations to serve a broader patient base and improve patient care resources overall.
Career and Salary Potential with an Associate Degree in Healthcare Management
Students who complete accredited online healthcare management associate degrees can qualify for entry-level clerical and administrative positions. Graduates may pursue careers as medical records technicians, medical administrative assistants, and medical office managers. They may also consider specialized positions in areas like billing, coding, or medical transcription. Others may choose to combine their clinical and clerical skills as medical assistants. Though career and salary vary by degree, the following list features some of the most common jobs for graduates in the field.
|Medical Records/Health Information Technician||
Median Annual Salary: $40,350
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 11%
|These technicians manage medical records and health information for medical facilities. While online healthcare management degrees increasingly emphasize electronic records management skills, professionals with expertise in this area should also master hard-copy filing and organization. Employers prefer candidates with bachelor's degrees and may require professional certification in this specialization.|
|Medical Administrative Assistant||
Median Annual Salary: $35,760
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): -7%
|Medical administrative assistants fill clerical roles for hospitals or medical facilities, sometimes overseeing the administrative tasks within a specific department, such as nursing. Through a top online healthcare management associate degree, students can master soft skills, including communication, decision-making, and organization, while developing field abilities in appointment setting, electronic records management, and medical billing and coding. While requirements vary, a candidate with a college degree and clerical experience can work their way up to medical office manager.|
Median Annual Salary: $34,770
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): -3%
|Transcriptionists in the medical field create written records of voice recordings made by physicians and medical care providers. They also transcribe recordings made through speech recognition technology. Professionals who specialize in medical transcription can master field terminology and commonly used abbreviations through an associate program. Though not always required, employers generally prefer a candidate with an associate degree and may require professional certification.|
|Medical Billing/Coding Clerk||
Median Annual Salary: $35,044
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): N/A
|Medical billing and coding clerks specialize in understanding the codes assigned to medical services and billing for insurance and patient procedures. They address patient inquiries, pursue collections, and process bills. While some entry-level employers accept candidates with lesser qualifications, senior positions require associate degrees and field experience.|
Median Annual Salary: $33,610
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 23%
|In addition to fulfilling minor administrative duties, these crucial professionals are uniquely qualified to perform clinical duties that assist physicians and healthcare providers. Along with filing, correspondence, and records management for medical offices, medical assistants often help physicians with medical exams and taking vital signs. Generally, employers prefer candidates with associate degrees or certificates, but some positions allow on-the-job training.|
Earning an Associate in Healthcare Management Online
Encompassing the same curriculum as a traditional program, online healthcare management associate degrees offer additional conveniences and affordability. Many accredited schools feature simplified application processes, discounted tuition, and accelerated completion times for online healthcare management associate degrees. In most cases, students can complete the required coursework completely online, with no in-person internship or practicum components. Additionally, enrollees can save on the costs of commuting and living on campus by studying from home.
Schools vary in their application processes, but most online associate degrees in healthcare management require a similar set of admissions criteria. Students should start by completing their high school diploma or GED. Additionally, programs require applicants to submit transcripts of all of their previous college coursework, though each school maintains its own transfer policy and most schools may only accept credits from other regionally accredited universities.
To arrange to send transcripts from one school to another, a student typically makes a transcript transfer request through a student advisor or counselor in the admissions office. Candidates should expect to pay shipping charges to send transcripts from one school to another, but the request itself typically does not incur a fee. Applying to multiple schools requires multiple transfer requests, each with separate shipping costs. Some programs require both high school and college transcripts with each application.
At the associate level, most online healthcare management programs do not require personal statements or letters of recommendation. As the first step toward pursuing a postsecondary education after high school, programs often require standardized test scores such as the SAT or ACT, along with other placement/assessment exams. Schools charge an average of $50 to apply to an online healthcare management degree.
The majority of online healthcare management associate degrees incorporate core courses in the following topics, though specific titles vary from school to school.
Computer Applications in Healthcare
Computer skills are a necessity for healthcare managers entering the field. This course introduces students to the most common computer applications and software used in the field and continues into electronic health records management.
This course builds on the communication and interpersonal skills with field-specific terms and codes commonly used by healthcare managers and their industry peers. Coursework covers all major systems and functions of the human body structure.
Medical Office Management
Students in this course examine the day-to-day operations required to manage a medical office. While coursework broadly covers general clerical procedures such as filing, correspondence, and bookkeeping, the curriculum emphasizes field-specific duties like billing and coding, managing medical records, and understanding medical ethics and liability.
Often delivered through a comprehensive, two-part series, the best online associate degrees in healthcare management require this course for all students. Medical coding coursework teaches students to recognize and use common medical codes, outlining the general life cycle of a medical claim and how it is processed.
Healthcare Organization and Administration
As an eye-opening course for students aspiring to healthcare management in many settings, this course introduces students to the core infrastructure and policies of healthcare organizations including hospitals, clinics, and private healthcare institutions. Coursework examines the similarities and differences in how various institutions gather and store patient information, address staffing needs, and implement healthcare programs and services.
Average Online Degree Length
Generally, online healthcare management associate programs can offer accelerated completion times compared to a traditional degree. By taking only the courses needed to graduate and, when possible, taking more than one course at a time, online students can complete their degrees faster and at a discounted rate. Pursuing online healthcare management associate degrees especially benefits working students with family obligations.
An enrollee can complete a typical online associate degree in four semesters over two years, though some students finish in as little as 12-18 months. While each program varies its degree requirements, each degree-seeker can expect to complete roughly 60 credits through five-, eight-, or 16-week online courses. Depending on a learner's individual preferences, they may seek out a program that offers flexible full- or part-time enrollment options.
Transfer students may apply credits for previous coursework toward their associate degrees. Many schools encourage applicants to consider transferring credits for college coursework, military service, or life experience. In addition to saving time through an accelerated program, students can save on housing/dorm costs and commuting fees.
Skills, Traits, and Knowledge Gained
The best online healthcare management associate degrees can equip graduates with the career skills that employers demand for entry-level work in the field. Students can develop skills performing administrative duties specific to a medical office while emphasizing broad leadership, communication, and business acumen for advanced management positions in the healthcare industry.
While students can receive a formal education to start their careers, advisors recommend independently pursuing additional field experience in a particular area of expertise. Though not required of most associate degrees, applicants who complete field training such as internships can experience the day-to-day operations of medical offices and set themselves apart from other job seekers.
With core courses that emphasize managing medical records, human resources, and patient schedules, the field's top online healthcare management associate degrees also develop the following broad career skills:
Accreditation for Healthcare Management Associate Programs
Students should only consider schools with accreditation when pursuing online healthcare management associate degrees. The Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) approve multiple agencies to issue national or regional accreditation. While both types of accreditation involve a rigorous process, most schools prefer regional accreditation, as demonstrated by the high number of colleges and universities that only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions. Examples of accrediting bodies include the WASC Senior College and University Commission and the Higher Learning Commission.
In the field of healthcare management, select programs receive special programmatic accreditation through agencies like the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). However, CAHME only accredits graduate-level programs in this major. For any online healthcare management associate degree, an applicant should verify their school's institutional accreditation through the ED or CHEA websites.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Students can gain tremendous benefits on the path to beginning their careers by joining professional organizations. Earning an online associate degree in healthcare management can take each graduate even further when supplemented with a membership in a field association. Organizations for healthcare managers serve students at all career levels, from emerging professionals to seasoned experts. The organizations below represent just some of the most prominent in the field.
As one of the first national organizations created for health information managers, AHIMA serves more than 50 state chapters and over 100,000 health information professionals. Students can attend conferences, access career services and networking events, and pursue professional certifications through AHIMA, including for health information and coding.
With a focus on advocacy and professional development, ACHE primarily serves existing and aspiring executives in the healthcare system. More than 48,000 professionals over 78 chapters nationwide belong to ACHE, which provides its members with access to multiple publications, career development services, and exclusive networking and continuing education options.
Established in 1968 as the American Guild of Patient Account Management, AAHAM now represents one of the most well-known national healthcare administrative management organizations in the U.S. Members can enjoy professional development opportunities, access to an exclusive social network, certification options, and continuing education courses.
Next Steps: Continuing Your Education
For a student looking to advance to a senior healthcare management role, earning an online healthcare management associate degree can lead to a higher degree in a customized specialization aligned with their personal career goals. Graduates of a healthcare management associate degree can choose to pursue entry-level positions in healthcare management or transfer to four-year degrees in the same concentration, like health informatics, health science, or medical assisting.
Transferring to a Four-Year Degree Program
Students who hold associate degrees in healthcare management can reduce the time and cost required to pursue a four-year program, especially at schools that offer dual degrees and accelerated completion options. In any case, degree-seekers considering a four-year program should begin their process early, verifying the transfer policy of their schools and asking advisors to help determine which credits will transfer.
While individual terms vary, some regionally accredited institutions only recognize transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools. Additionally, some programs require specific prerequisites for their four-year healthcare management degrees.
Additional Degree Paths to Consider
Many graduates of healthcare management associate programs aspire to pursue bachelor's degrees in healthcare management. Degree-seekers can also qualify to pursue closely related majors in fields like health science and health informatics. Many four-year programs emphasize specialized concentrations such as healthcare HR management and health technology.
- Bachelor of Healthcare Management: A natural choice for graduates of associate degrees in healthcare management, a bachelor of healthcare management prepares students to manage administrative and human resources documents in medical offices. Like healthcare administrators, a healthcare manager with a bachelor's degree can pursue careers that require combined medical and administrative skills.
- Bachelor of Health Science: As a career path with broad applications in a variety of medical disciplines, students who pursue bachelor's degrees in health science can seamlessly build on the administrative skills they learn in online healthcare management degrees and continue in a more technical direction. Bachelor's degrees in health science prepare students for careers as health information technicians, physical therapy assistants, and dental hygienists.
- Bachelor of Health Informatics: A popular concentration of healthcare management, health informatics programs train students to use various forms of storage and organization to manage medical information, with an emphasis in information technology. Graduates with bachelor's degrees in health informatics can pursue professional certification to increase employment and advancement opportunities.