An online Ph.D. in healthcare management provides the advanced research and leadership skills healthcare professionals need to take on administrative and management roles in the public and private sectors. Doctoral candidates pursue a variety of career paths after graduation, becoming healthcare administrators, college and university professors, healthcare consultants, and health information managers. Graduates enjoy a generally positive employment outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth rate for medical and health services managers is projected to increase by 20% by 2026 -- much faster than all other occupations combined.
The following guide explores everything prospective students need to know about earning a doctorate in healthcare management online, including career options, salary information, degree requirements, and common course offerings.
Should I Earn an Online Doctorate in Healthcare Management?
There are many professional and personal reasons why individuals choose to earn a doctorate in healthcare management online. Some candidates want to pursue advanced healthcare roles that directly involve patient care and staff. Other students may seek a research-focused path that allows them to contribute to scientific progress, scholarship, and education. Below are just a few reasons why healthcare management professionals choose to pursue a doctorate.
- Leadership Skills: Doctoral students develop versatile leadership and communication skills that apply to a variety of administrative and management roles in the healthcare field. Doctorate-holders are able to find a job that fits their professional and personal goals.
- Rewarding Tasks: Healthcare management professionals assume important roles in healthcare facilities and leave a lasting impact on patients and staff. Their daily activities often directly affect the facility's quality of services and financial health. Many professionals take comfort in knowing that they contribute to a positive healthcare environment.
- Research Opportunities: Learners pursuing a doctorate in healthcare management online can explore diverse areas within the discipline. Graduate students work closely with professors, study specialized topics, and develop an extensive body of knowledge as they make unique contributions to the field.
- Financial Security: Many individuals with a doctorate in healthcare management secure well-paying positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health service managers earn a median annual wage of $99,730 -- more than double the median annual wage for all other occupations in the country.
What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Healthcare Management?
Many professionals who earn a doctorate in healthcare management online hold positions at hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. Serving in leadership roles, they work directly with patients and staff, making crucial decisions that affect facility employees, daily operations, and the quality of patient care.
Some graduates seek careers outside of healthcare facilities, working in healthcare consulting and private industry management after they earn a doctorate in healthcare management online. Using specialized knowledge, they help private companies, individuals, and other entities make informed business decisions.
A doctoral degree also prepares graduates for public sector jobs with local, state, and federal government or nonprofit groups. These healthcare professionals work closely with communities and governing officials to develop and fund public programs, social services, and community organizations.
Most doctoral programs center heavily on research, allowing candidates to build a strong analytical skill set as they contribute original scholarship to the field. Doctoral students who are interested in research careers often take positions in academia and research facilities. Most universities and colleges prefer to hire professors with advanced degrees.
Health Information Management Manager
These managers ensure that hospitals and private practices uphold ethical, medical, and legal standards. They maintain complex databases that contain patient information and legal records, prioritize patient safety, and comply with legal stipulations. Most oversee a team of information technicians and office workers.
Consultants typically work for private healthcare organizations, where they study and evaluate hospital management systems and facility efficiency. Many professionals in this area hold additional work experience outside of healthcare; usually in marketing or business. They must be able to synthesize large amounts of data, work independently, and effectively communicate statistical findings.
Administrators work in a wide variety of facilities, including primary care medical practices, nursing homes, hospitals, and specialty clinics. They handle staff training, conduct performance reviews, and ensure their facilities receive attention from accrediting agencies. Many healthcare administrators hold registered nurse licensure.
Social and Community Service Managers
Working on behalf of human services or social organizations, these managers collaborate with community members to develop and implement health-related programs and services. They oversee administrative duties, plan outreach activities, and write funding proposals. Some work with large agencies to address issues such as mental health needs, chronic hunger, and substance abuse.
Finance and Healthcare Managers
Finance and healthcare managers ensure that healthcare facilities adhere to budget restrictions, reduce spending, and increase revenue. These managers must thoroughly understand the costs associated with healthcare facility operations.
Healthcare Management Doctoral Degree Overview
Applying to graduate school is a daunting task for many prospective healthcare management students. Differences between programs are often subtle and difficult to identify, making it challenging to find a degree that best serves your academic and professional needs. The following section covers some important factors to look for as you research healthcare management and administration programs, including application and admission requirements, common course offerings, and desired program outcomes.
Types of Doctoral Degrees in Healthcare Management
Distance learners interested in pursuing a doctorate in healthcare management can choose from two degree options: a doctoral degree in healthcare management (Ph.D.) or a doctor of healthcare administration (DHA). Both degrees offer similar training and emphasize research; however, the Ph.D. best serves students interested in developing original research projects and contributing to existing scholarship. Students interested in using research to improve applied healthcare practices and patient care may prefer a DHA program.
Required courses for each degree vary between programs. While the Ph.D. and DHA require similar introductory coursework, advanced courses and electives options can vary greatly between the two degrees. Although most Ph.D. and DHA programs require candidates to complete a dissertation, the intention behind this research-driven endeavor may differ based on degree type. A Ph.D. dissertation typically focuses on contributing new information to an existing body of work, while DHA dissertations use existing information to solve immediate problems in healthcare.
Application Requirements and Admission Criteria
While application requirements differ between schools, most institutions request similar materials. Contact an admissions advisor at your prospective schools to ensure you satisfy all application requirements. Admissions committees often discard incomplete applications.
Candidates applying to doctorate in healthcare management online programs must submit their official transcripts from all previously-attended undergraduate and graduate programs. Many schools require applicants to demonstrate a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher. Additionally, prospective students may need to demonstrate experience working in a healthcare administration setting or related area.
Some schools also request letters of recommendation from individuals who can attest to your professional and academic abilities. These letters should come from your previous professors or job supervisors. Other common application materials include a resume, professional statement, writing sample or an example of original research, and GRE scores. In addition, candidates are typically required to pay a handling fee when they submit their application.
Every doctoral program features a slightly different curriculum, and curricula can vary considerably between departments and schools. Candidates who wish to earn a doctorate in healthcare management online should consider any prospective department’s faculty members, as course offerings often depend largely on faculty specialties.
Most Ph.D. and DHM curricula include a series of core courses. These classes typically address general topics in healthcare management and administration such as human resources, research ethics, policy compliance, and quality management. Core classes typically take up over half of a degree’s required credits. Most students who earn a doctorate in healthcare management online complete 60-75 credits.
In addition to classroom study, candidates usually complete multiple supervised residencies at approved healthcare facilities. Distance learners may also complete capstone courses, comprehensive exams, and a dissertation before graduating. These components allow doctoral students to demonstrate their applied knowledge and skills. Doctoral students often take one or more of the following classes:
This class develops leadership strategies and managerial competencies that improve organizational quality and healthcare delivery. Students gain a broad understanding of daily operations at healthcare facilities of all sizes. Lectures often use case studies to illustrate key organizational theories, concepts, and principles.
Resource Management for Administrators
Students explore strategic resource management theories commonly used in healthcare settings. Learners study management practices and theoretical models associated with integrated health systems, nursing homes, medical offices, and similar facilities.
Marketing and Communications for Healthcare Leaders
This class provides an overview of public relations principles used in healthcare administration. Coursework examines social media marketing methods, community partnerships, and communication principles.
In this interdisciplinary course, learners explore global healthcare and disease prevention strategies. Students examine the interplay between economics, urbanization, and globalization.
Healthcare Law & Policy
Candidates examine governance principles, health policy issues, and laws from political, ethical, economic, and sociological perspectives. Lectures emphasize the ways in which policies impact healthcare managers and administrators.
The U.S. Healthcare System
This course surveys the U.S. healthcare system from a historical perspective. Class topics may include reimbursement methods, hospital systems, long-term care, and illness prevention strategies.
Students who earn a doctorate in healthcare management online master a spectrum of desirable competencies. In addition to possessing top-notch research and writing skills, graduates are excellent leaders, managers, and communicators. In-depth study of national and global healthcare organization and practices helps graduates understand and serve diverse populations.
Individuals with a doctoral degree find success in a variety of healthcare careers and related jobs in both the public and private sectors. Both Ph.D. and DHA degrees require students to absorb information in specialized subject areas, develop strong decision-making skills, master budget analysis and financial planning, and synthesize large amounts of information for research projects. These valuable skills help graduates find lucrative and fulfilling positions in today's competitive job market.
Accreditation for Doctorate in Healthcare Management Online Programs
It is important to select an accredited college or university if you wish to earn a doctorate in healthcare management online. During the accreditation process, organizations known as accrediting bodies evaluate and ensure that an institution upholds quality standards. Accrediting bodies, in turn, are monitored by the U.S. Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
While colleges and universities hold regional or national accreditation, some healthcare management programs possess programmatic accreditation. The field’s top programmatic accrediting body is the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). CAHME ensures that a program meets academic standards specific to healthcare management.