The healthcare field is a vast sector encompassing multiple disciplines, and it continues to grow with every technological advancement and medical breakthrough. Health service providers include administrative support professionals like medical transcriptionists, clinical support workers like phlebotomists, and physician assistants. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an overall 18% growth rate for the healthcare industry, with 2.4 million new job openings from 2016-2026.
In this positive job climate, many professionals choose to maximize their employment opportunities by earning a health services administration online master's degree. Read on to learn how an online master's degree can expand your career options and salary potential.
What to Know About Online Master's in Health Services Administration Coursework
Similar to on-campus learners, students pursuing a master's in health services administration online typically complete 32-50 credits in around two academic years. Accredited colleges and universities make no distinction between their onsite and online programs, with the latter maintaining the same academic rigor and degree requirements as the former.
Many master's in human services administration curricula include a required ethics course. These classes introduce health services administrators to legal and ethical issues in the healthcare industry. Some core curricula also include courses in financial management to equip health service administrators with budgeting strategies and strong financial decision-making skills.
Additionally, some online master's programs include an internship or applied learning component. Usually arranged at an approved healthcare facility near the student's home, these opportunities allow candidates to develop and strengthen their leadership abilities and communication skills through practical experience in real-world settings.
What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Health Services Administration Program?
Every online master's in health and human services program is different, and course offerings and graduation requirements can vary considerably between schools. However, most master's in health services administration programs hold similar objectives and include one or more of the following core courses.
- Contemporary Issues in Health Services Delivery Systems: This course addresses topics related to health services delivery and management, including financing, regulatory ordinances, technological developments, and electronic health record management. Distance learners explore emerging trends in patient safety and quality care as they learn to craft policies and establish standards that facilitate and enhance healthcare operations and information exchange.
- Financial Management in Healthcare Organizations: Lectures introduce key concepts in risk and financial management alongside industry-specific strategies for meeting fiscal objectives. Candidates develop the skills needed to improve health services delivery through resource allocation, contract management, financial planning, and evaluation.
- Information Technology in Healthcare Systems: In this course, students build familiarity with health information management software, medical terminology, healthcare delivery systems, and reporting requirements. Emphasizing the role computers play in patient care and health services delivery, lessons offer practical methods for applying information management theories to administrative challenges.
- Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare: This class examines emerging ethical and legal healthcare issues in light of recent technological and scientific advances. Coursework addresses complex ethical topics impacting health services administrators and healthcare policy, including end-of-life issues, limited medication and donor organ allocation, medication errors, and workplace violence.
- Quality Improvement in Healthcare Settings: Distance learners survey quality and process improvement strategies used in a variety of healthcare settings. Computer simulation modeling and real-world case studies help students explore demand and capacity challenges with the goal of improving healthcare quality and delivery.
What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Health Services Administration Program?
Some schools allow distance learners to pursue a specialization as they earn a master's in health services administration online. Specializations allow students to gain unique, career-centered skills in a particular field. Like core curricula, specializations vary by program, but here are a few common options:
- Biopharmaceutical Regulatory Compliance: This concentration is ideal for students interested in regulatory compliance for drug manufacturers, hospitals, or pharmaceutical companies. Along with an introduction to biopharmaceutical regulatory compliance, coursework explores state regulation of health professions, empirical analysis for health services administration, and prescription benefit management decisions.
- Financial Management: Health services administrators who specialize in financial management usually take advanced classes in accounting, budgeting, forecasting, and health services finances. Real-world examples teach students to address healthcare-specific budgeting challenges using time-tested financial principles. Graduates may be eligible to pursue professional certifications like the certified self-funding specialist credential.
- Health Institution Leadership: This specialization serves experienced clinicians interested in shifting their careers toward management. Courses address topics like financial planning for health institution leaders, identifying healthcare risk and quality, human capital planning for health service administrators, and strategic innovations in healthcare.
What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?
Most distance learners must develop a practice-oriented capstone project or thesis before earning their health services administration online master's degrees. Typically, capstone projects require candidates to address an existing health services concern or common workplace challenge. Students who elect to write a thesis use scholarly research to examine a particular topic within human service administration. Some master's programs also expect students to pass a comprehensive exam or complete an internship prior to graduation.
How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Health Services Administration Program?
It is important to verify any potential school's accreditation status before you select a master's in human service administration online program. Institutional accreditation ensures that a school meets high academic and ethical standards, while programmatic accreditation reviews individual degree offerings. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee accrediting bodies in the U.S.
The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is the only accrediting body in the U.S. and Canada to approve graduate-level healthcare management programs. CAHME evaluates programmatic criteria like curriculum, institutional support, research activity, and faculty development opportunities. Completing a CAHME-accredited program assures future employers that you are a competent, knowledgeable health services administrator.
Career Opportunities With a Master's in Health Services Administration Degree
A master's in health services administration can open up a variety of rewarding career paths. While it is possible to secure some of the following jobs with a bachelor's degree, a master's degree means increased responsibilities and higher salaries. Graduate students who pursue a specialization like finance or research may also enjoy unique employment opportunities related to their academic focus areas.
Medical and Health Services Managers
Large-scale healthcare providers usually retain several medical and health services managers, with each one in charge of a particular department or clinical service area. In smaller healthcare operations, a single health services manager is often charged with maintaining an entire facility. A medical and health services administrator's duties typically include preparing budgets and monitoring spending, improving healthcare service quality and delivery, and developing, implementing, and evaluating policies and programs.
- Median Salary: $99,730 per year
- Currently Employed: 352,200
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +20%
Social and Community Service Manager
Many social and community service managers with a master's in health services administration assume executive responsibilities. They set policies, manage stakeholder expectations, and spearhead fundraising activities. These managers must evaluate programs and services to ensure that each is effective and appropriate. Often, they represent their organizations before government, national, or international agencies.
- Median Salary: $65,320 per year
- Currently Employed: 147,300
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +18%
Operations Research Analyst
Operation research analysts who work in healthcare settings monitor variables associated with healthcare services quality, including costs and funding sources, personnel and professional staffing, and technology use. Using staff reports and data culled from various sources, operations research analysts help healthcare facilities remain profitable without compromising the quality of their services.
- Median Salary: $83,390 per year
- Currently Employed: 114,000
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +27%
Human Resources Manager
Health services administrators often work in large healthcare facilities, ensuring that professional and support staff meet patient needs and deliver quality services. They perform employee and departmental evaluations and provide opportunities for clinical and support staff to maintain and upgrade their skills.
- Median Salary: $113,300 per year
- Currently Employed: 136,100
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +9%
Health services administrators with a strong accounting or finance background often work as financial managers for healthcare organizations. These professionals craft policies and develop strategies that support long-term financial viability for their organizations. They must analyze healthcare trends to anticipate challenges and create timely and appropriate financial plans.
- Median Salary: $127,990 per year
- Currently Employed: 580,400
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: +19%
What's the Expected Job Growth for Health Services Administration Careers?
The rapidly growing healthcare industry drives demand for trained health services administrators, adding roughly 2.4 million jobs from 2016-2026. Overall, healthcare occupations are projected to see an 18% job growth rate, with a slightly higher job growth rate of 20% for medical and health services positions. Individuals with a master's degree, particularly those interested in leadership positions in healthcare, have a positive employment outlook.
Professional Organizations for Careers in Health Services Administration
Professional organizations offer a wealth of resources for students and professionals. Along with networking events like conferences and seminars, these organizations sponsor continuing education opportunities, mentoring programs, and scholarships. Some feature members-only job boards and career development services for recent graduates.
- American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management: Known for offering industry-recognized certifications, AAHAM connects healthcare administrators across the country. Members can participate in online seminars, explore AAHAM's exclusive job bank, and apply for scholarships and awards.
- American College of Healthcare Executives: ACHE serves more than 48,000 members through regional chapters in the U.S. and beyond. Members can earn its fellowship credential in only three years. ACHE also maintains an active job board, provides free resume review services, and offers resume-building volunteer opportunities.
- American Health Information Management Association: In addition to multiple regional and national conferences, AHIMA sponsors eight professional certifications, six continuing education programs, and a virtual health information technology workspace.
- Healthcare Financial Management Association: As an advocate for patients and practitioners, HFMA enacts positive change by influencing financial policies in the healthcare industry. Members receive access to certification programs, skill-building training opportunities, and e-learning courses.
- National Association of Healthcare Access Management: NAHAM members enjoy a variety of benefits, including on-demand webinars, industry certifications, and exclusive publications. Students can join as associate members to apply for scholarships and awards.
How to Pay for a Master's in Health Services Administration Degree
While the cost of higher education can be daunting, there are many funding opportunities available to students pursuing a master's degree in health services administration. Some companies offer tuition assistance programs, which cover employees' work-related education expenses. Additionally, many private companies and professional organizations sponsor scholarships and grants like the opportunities below. Unlike loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid, making them an ideal funding source.
- Foster G. McGaw Graduate Student ScholarshipOpen to full-time graduate students in their final year of study, this need-based $5,000 award funds candidates pursuing a degree in healthcare management or a related discipline. Applicants must be U.S. or Canadian citizens who demonstrate financial need.
- Harry J. Harwick ScholarshipSponsored by the American College of Medical Practice Executives, this $3,000 scholarship is open to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree related to medical practice management. Applicants must be enrolled in a program accredited by CAHME or the Association of University Programs in Health Administration to qualify.
- Institute for Diversity and Health Equity ScholarshipsThe Institute offers three scholarships for minority graduate students pursuing a degree in healthcare administration. The Transamerica Retirement Solutions Leaders in Health Care Scholarship grants two $5,000 awards, while the Cathy L. Brock Scholarship and the Elliott C. Roberts Scholarship each award $1,000.
- National Association of Health Services Executives ScholarshipsNAHSE sponsors three $2,500 scholarships for African American students: the Haynes Rice Award, the Florence Gaynor Award, and the Ellis Bonner Award. Eligible students must be NAHSE members pursuing a graduate degree in healthcare administration or a related field, hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, and demonstrate financial need.