Ask a group of medical students what they want to be and it’s likely you’ll hear “doctor” or “nurse” in reply. What most students don’t recognize, however, is that there are a host of other careers within the healthcare industry, some of which offer more leadership opportunities and better pay. Health care administrators, for example, oversee healthcare facilities and are responsible for making decisions related to policy, finance and marketing. They orchestrate physicians, nurses, and specialists to ensure that operations run smoothly, and assess the need for additional services or equipment. Forbes also named health care administration one of the best master’s degrees for jobs and estimated the average mid-career pay at $87,800. Not bad, considering the average mid-career salary for nurses is $68,200.
Most high-level health care administration positions require a master’s degree, which is why NerdScholar has compiled a list of our favorite master’s programs. For students interested in health care, but perhaps too squeamish to draw blood, health care administration just might be the perfect fit.
Trinity University — Most Focused
Located in San Antonio, Trinity University’s master of health care administration (MHA) program has been continually accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education since 1969. The program offers two routes to a graduate degree. The first is a traditional on-campus program, requiring four semesters of classroom study and one year of residency in an approved health care facility. The second is an executive program designed for individuals currently working in the health care industry who wish to advance their career. This program integrates work experience with course content and requires six semesters of part-time study. “As a Trinity student, you will know your professors and they will know you, and we will be committed to pushing you to become the leader that we hope you aspire to be,” says department chair Ed Schumacher, Ph.D. “Other programs may have larger faculty, but the advantage of Trinity is that we are 100% focused on our master’s degree students. We are one of the few programs in the country that can make this claim.”
The University of Utah — Most Interdisciplinary
The University of Utah offers its MHA program as a joint degree in conjunction with its master of business administration, master of public health and master of public administration degrees. Because the field of health care administration draws upon a number of disciplines, the program’s interdisciplinary structure is one of its strengths, says director Debra Scammon, Ph.D. Students take MHA classes across a number of different schools, including the School of Medicine, the Division of Public Health and the Colleges of Allied Health, Law, Nursing and Social and Behavioral Sciences. In addition, Utah’s UMentor program helps students learn from executive-level faculty in the health care industry of their choice. “The students in the MHA program at the University of Utah receive the leadership skills and technical tools needed to improve the human condition,” says Scammon. “And the diversity of our students and faculty provides a unique and engaging learning environment.”
Des Moines University — Most Integrated
The MHA program at Des Moines University offers students the ability to adjust their education to their schedule. Roughly 85% of the degree is completed online, with the option to enroll as a full-time or part-time student, or simply one class at a time. To supplement their online education, students participate in interactive experiences at the university at the beginning, midpoint and final term of the program. Finally, all students conclude the program with a field-based learning project, which applies students’ education to real-world administrative challenges. “Program faculty have discovered that we can achieve higher learning outcomes by blending online with classroom, than we could with one delivery format,” says program chair Carla Stebbins, Ph.D. “The program ensures a high quality education by using the same faculty to teach on campus and online, a variety of proven teaching strategies and technologies, and a great deal of effort into assessing student performance.”
University of New Haven — Most Resources
An established program for over 20 years, the University of New Haven’s health care administration program is one of the largest in the country. Located in West Haven, Conn., the university offers online and on-campus courses, as well as a variety of concentrations and a graduate certificate in health care administration. In addition to strong classroom instruction, New Haven also provides access to valuable internships and research positions. Most students are able to complete the program within two years. “Our degree program offers the best of both worlds: A strong grounding in research methods and data analysis, as well as core knowledge in health care delivery, management and administration,” says associate professor Summer J. McGee, Ph.D. “This prepares our graduates to be leaders in the 21st century health care industry, no matter where the future of healthcare takes us.”
Bellevue University — Most Flexible
Bellevue’s online master of health care administration program delivers content through interactive case studies, individual assessments, avatars and 3D animation, and a variety of video platforms. Because of its online nature, Bellevue’s program has served as a viable option for military students and those spread across the world. Course topics include health care finance, strategic management, leadership and team development, and health care delivery systems. The program culminates with an applied capstone project, where students can apply what they have learned to assess current issues and trends affecting their own health care organizations. “We’re not just preparing [students] academically,” says Mike Freel, the program’s director. “Students use what they learn to make a real difference with regard to leadership and administration within their hospitals, long-term care facilities and clinics.”
Suffolk University — Most Business-Oriented
At Suffolk University, the health care administration program is taught through the Sawyer Business School, making the program ideal for students who have “a head for business and a heart for health care,” says program director Richard Gregg. The program draws upon the Boston area’s large number of preeminent health care organizations, as well as the university’s local network of alumni, students and friends, to provide students with mentors and internships. In addition, the program’s rigorous courses focus on the most important challenges in health care, including health economics, population health, operations management, performance improvement and patient safety, health information systems, leadership and ethics and strategic management. “Coming to Suffolk University means being a part of Boston’s world-class health care community, with unparalleled opportunities for professional development and employment in health care administration,” Gregg says. “[The program is] designed to help students be agents of transformation who understand the weaknesses and needs of our health care system and are prepared to take steps to address them.”
Note: Superlatives, noted in green, are inclusive of the group of schools listed in this article only.
Image of health care administrator courtesy of Shutterstock.