Earning a health services management degree online opens pathways into key positions in healthcare management. These administrators and executives streamline hospital and office efficiency; manage finances and work schedules; and communicate between patients, nurses, and doctors to unite workforces.
This page introduces you to what earning a healthcare administration degree entails, from the application process and coursework to the types of jobs for which this degree prepares. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects medical and healthcare service management positions to increase by 20% between 2016 and 2026 -- well above the national average for all jobs. Students interested in joining a fast-growing field and making a difference in people's lives should consider pursuing an online health services degree.
Overview of Health Services Administration Degrees
Two main degree options prepare learners for a career in healthcare administration: a liberal arts degree track with a humanities focus and a more technical bachelor of science track with statistical and computer systems management training. Depending on the specializations offered by a program, degrees may focus on business administration, technology management, or human resources. Regardless of which path you choose, administration degrees prepare students for the field of healthcare management; choose the program and focus that best fits your personal interests and career goals.
Medical services require complex organizational systems. Managers coordinate patients with healthcare professionals, while also overseeing insurance frameworks, departmental budgets and salaries, and employee training. Health services administration differs from other managerial fields, like hospitality, in that healthcare management professionals maintain high levels of sensitive information and conduct corresponding technological security maintenance. In the modern healthcare system, administrators combine their competence in information technology with interpersonal communication skills to convey and protect sensitive information.
This degree serves students who aim to help patients and families navigate the complex modern healthcare system. Beyond one-on-one assistance, managers may also coordinate nurses in hospitals or home-care systems and oversee departmental finances and IT security to protect sensitive data.
Students interested in earning an online bachelor's degree must submit many of the same application materials as their on-campus peers. Applicants need to provide evidence of a high school diploma or GED, including academic transcripts for high school and any prior college-level coursework. Many programs also require SAT or ACT test scores, which schools may use to judge an applicant's reading, writing, and mathematical skills.
Most applications also require a personal statement or essay and letters of recommendation. A personal statement provides space to explain academic and personal triumphs not mentioned in transcripts, while letters of recommendation from previous teachers, mentors, and employers attest to an applicant's work ethic and other positive qualities.
Students should also consider application costs when applying to college. Most schools require an application fee (often between $25 and $65) to process submissions. Schools may also charge fees to send official transcripts (typically between $10 and $20), and SAT and ACT tests each come with processing fees (ranging from $45-$70). Preparation courses for standardized tests can tack on additional costs to the overall application process. Make sure to account for these expenses while applying to college.
What Will I Learn?
Degree seekers pursuing health services administration online degrees learn about the fundamentals of management, from critical analysis and communication skills to infrastructural insights and healthcare informatics. The average bachelor's program comprises 120 credits spread over four academic years, during which students take leadership coursework to hone their writing and communication skills. They also take classes in biological and physiological fundamentals, healthcare policy, and computer program systems. Students typically take 45-60 general education credits, 30-40 specialized degree credits, and 25-30 elective credits to create a well-rounded educational experience.
This education builds a strong background in critical thinking, risk analysis, and research to prepare students for independent decision-making at the professional level. A bachelor of science in healthcare administration requires more specialized degree coursework and offers a larger number of technical courses, such as classes in accounting, information technology healthcare systems, business statistics, and strategic development. The following list describes common coursework taken in health services administration programs.
Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology
As an introductory class, this course prepares students to comprehend diagnoses and treatments prescribed by doctors and nurse practitioners and identify the corresponding needs of patients and healthcare systems. Through laboratory observations and patient case studies, participants learn to work effectively in the modern healthcare system.
Also called healthcare or human resources management, this course covers the managerial skills necessary to serve as an effective administrator. Learners cover the intricacies of administrative architectures in hospitals, clinics, and home-care providers; examine various managerial processes and procedures; and hone written and oral communication skills.
An increasingly digital workforce requires a strong basis in healthcare technology. In this class, students study core systems used across multiple healthcare institutions while developing evaluation and analytical skills. Learners also build competencies related to software and hardware systems to better understand how information is gathered and interpreted on a large scale. Additionally, participants learn about the ethical and governmental policies underlying modern healthcare services.
The legal elements of information security and patient privacy are paramount to successful administrative healthcare systems. This course investigates the legal procedures supporting the modern U.S. healthcare system, including local and national initiatives. Students discuss the constantly evolving ethical questions that arise in healthcare as well as the competing interests of stakeholders, NGOs, and advocacy groups that shape public and private healthcare institutions nationwide.
By focusing on statistics and budgetary systems, this course covers the many financial issues addressed by administrative professionals. Students study budgetary concepts, single-payer and third-party systems, and the fundamentals of statistical metadata acquisition and analysis in order to critically evaluate hospital and departmental systems.
Professional Writing and Composition
Degree seekers learn to communicate complex information in clear, comprehensible ways to medical professionals and members of the general public. With a focus on textual composition, this class may also require students to perform group or single-person professional presentations.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Health Services Administration?
Graduates qualify for a variety of professions that rely on the skills inherent to health services administration. For example, they can become an operations manager to connect clients with materials and skilled professionals, take on roles in nursing home administration to improve the lives of patients through quality healthcare and insurance assistance, or run the medical staff at an independent practice or department.
Effective administrators should demonstrate strong interpersonal communication skills to accurately convey the needs of patients and employees. A clear understanding of administrative structures in healthcare and insurance allows graduates to provide helpful advice and consultation. This important knowledge helps demystify the healthcare system to incoming patients and their families and provides clearer parameters for medical and nonmedical staff.
At the administrative level, budgeting design and implementation stand as key elements to running a smooth operation. Students also learn about habitual statistical analysis regarding clinical productivity, allowing them to identify issues and organize infrastructural responses.
Similarly, strong technological skills related to current database systems, healthcare claims, and national reporting procedures are fundamental to modern administration. Students cover systems like electronic health records (EHR) and interactive personal health records (PHR), telehealth technologies, computerized physician order entry (CPOE), and e-prescriptions, all of which prove useful to modern healthcare organizations. Degree seers learn how to navigate these complicated platforms to provide clear information to clients and physicians and streamline access to diagnoses and medications.
Overall, healthcare administration relies on communication, organizational, and leadership skills; the ability to think critically; and technological aptitude, all of which can translate into multiple related fields.
Potential Careers & Salaries
In the healthcare industry alone, administrators can contribute to private practices, clinics, hospitals, local and national healthcare advocacy groups, and the medical departments of schools and correctional facilities. Salaries range from entry-level positions earning $45,000-$50,000 to nearly $100,000 for experienced professionals. Wages fluctuate depending on your location and the regional cost of living, but careers in healthcare administration generally offer a livable wage and a solid professional foundation.
Beyond the healthcare system, your knowledge of management and technology prepares you for careers in private project management or government administrative positions at the local, state, and national levels. The following table lists just a few of the many positions commonly pursued by individuals who earn a services management degree online.
Annual Median Salary: $58,493
These workers organize and manage private or public clinics or other healthcare institutions. They handle staffing, scheduling, and sensitive patient information, all while observing legal privacy and insurance obligations. To maintain optimal productivity, managers also regularly reevaluate and update systems.
Annual Median Salary: $64,356
Working in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and primary-care facilities, healthcare administrators manage nursing and supplemental staff, oversee budgetary concerns, monitor state and national healthcare initiatives, and liaise between patients and professionals to offer better healthcare.
Annual Median Salary: $63,502
Whether in the public or private sector, operations managers coordinate clients, buyers, and merchandise to meet professional needs in an economic and expedient fashion. Facilitating goods and/or services, these managers hire and coordinate workers, oversee budgets, and communicate progress to clients and parent companies.
Nursing Home Administrator
Annual Median Salary: $87,093
Nursing home administrators combine patient and employee management with careful maintenance of legal frameworks at the state and national levels. They may also provide long-term care for patients, organize nurses and orderlies, and assist with the intricacies of healthcare insurance.
Annual Median Salary: $71,801
These professionals run the daily procedures of local healthcare practices. They address staffing of doctors, nurses, and nonmedical assistants by coordinating training and overseeing budgets. They also order supplies and communicate with vendors to make sure practices remain well-stocked and prepared.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Health Services Administration?
All administrative positions in healthcare require at least a bachelor's degree, but the need for a master's depends on your employer and the executive level or specialized department you aspire to enter. Graduate programs -- typically in public health, nursing, or business administration -- add an additional two years of education on top of your bachelor's program. These often include a period of supervised fieldwork. An advanced degree can set you apart from your competitors and demonstrate your dedication to healthcare services at your institution, clinic, or government office.
Regardless of whether you decide to pursue further education, an online health services bachelor's degree lays the foundation for your career in healthcare administration. It qualifies you for organizational and project management positions in the U.S. healthcare system and beyond.
Accreditation for Health Services Administration Bachelor’s Programs
Given the many regulations governing modern healthcare, prospective students should make sure to attend an accredited institution. Accreditation verifies that schools meet certain educational requirements. Without accreditation, future employers and colleagues may doubt your training, and a degree from an unaccredited program may disqualify you from applying for administrative positions at public institutions. Moreover, most graduate programs do not recognize undergraduate degrees from unaccredited institutions. Save time and money by enrolling in an accredited program.
Students should look for schools that hold regional accreditation. The U.S Department of Education sanctions several regional agencies, which ensure accredited programs meet appropriate standards. For example, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education awards accreditation to qualifying colleges and universities in Middle Atlantic states. Additionally, the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education specifically monitors administrative healthcare programs; its website provides a useful school search engine.
Health Services Administration Professional Organizations
Joining a local or national professional organization can provide critical networking and information resources for individuals in the health services administration field. Student members of these organizations can access job search engines, information forums, and the latest publications in the field. These resources, as well as annual organization meetings and conferences, give members the chance to meet like-minded professionals and future employers. In addition to the three major organizations listed below, you should seek local opportunities in your state to better integrate into your community.
American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management
Providing a wealth of certifications and ongoing education opportunities, AAHAM promotes personal development across healthcare administration nationwide. Along with a subscription to the Journal of Administrative Healthcare Management, AAHAM provides members with access to a job search engine and annual national meetings to network with members from all levels of administration.
Healthcare Financial Management Association
Another association dedicated to ongoing educational opportunities, HFMA helps members stay up to date on technological, legal, and social innovations in the healthcare field. The organization offers its own certifications in financial administration and hosts forums, newspapers, and a career center.
American College of Healthcare Executives
ACHE brings together higher-level healthcare administrators at the national and international levels. Members must hold at least a bachelor's degree to join but may participate while actively enrolled in a graduate program. Members can access a learning center with complimentary webinars and attend national conferences (complete with digital platforms for long-distance members) to connect professionals nationwide.