What Can You Do With a Healthcare Administration Degree?

Kristen Hamlin
Updated May 23, 2024
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A healthcare administration degree can lead a variety of careers. Learn more about what you can do and where.
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Whether you’re a registered nurse (RN) looking for the next step in your career or you’ve never worked in healthcare at all, studying healthcare administration can pay off. With a healthcare administration degree, you’ll qualify for roles in fields like health informatics, medical office management, clinical nurse leader, and nursing home administrator.

If healthcare administration sounds like a good fit, keep reading to learn more about this profession, how to get the right training, and what you can expect after graduation.

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What Is Healthcare Administration?

Healthcare administrators are not doctors or nurses. Instead, they focus on the non-clinical or business side of healthcare. Hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and private practice groups rely on healthcare administrators to oversee operations, budgeting, staffing, policy development, and compliance with the complex rules and regulations that govern the healthcare system. Many healthcare administrators also specialize in facilities management, informatics, or marketing.

While healthcare administrators do not treat patients, many of the most effective administrators lean on their own patient care experience when making key decisions. Administrators need strong decision-making, organizational, and leadership skills — skills many nurses gain on the job but that are also acquired and polished through effective education programs.

Demand for healthcare administrators is high. Because of staffing challenges, an emphasis on cost management, and a growing reliance on electronic health records, healthcare organizations need lots of qualified administrators. That helps explain why the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected 28% annual job growth for medical and health services managers from 2022-2032 — more than five times faster than the 5% projected for all management occupations.

Types of Healthcare Administration Degrees

There are several degrees that can prepare you for a career in healthcare administration and the many diverse paths available within the field. At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, healthcare administration programs help you build an industry-specific skill set.

Associate in Healthcare Administration

An associate degree in healthcare administration is a two-year degree that introduces concepts within the healthcare field, emphasizing human resources, medical terminology, healthcare delivery systems, and informatics. Earning this degree prepares you for careers in administrative positions, such as managing a doctor’s office or physician group practice, as well as entry-level roles in other settings.

Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration

A bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration meets the educational requirement for many healthcare administrator roles. As a healthcare administration major, you’ll learn how to apply healthcare-specific concepts to teams and processes.

Coursework typically includes healthcare-focused classes in economics, finance, marketing, ethics, and organizational management, as well as general business courses in human resources, communication, organizational behavior, and human relations. Degree programs may also require coursework in medical terminology, epidemiology, and anatomy and physiology, as well as an internship or practicum.

Some healthcare administration degree programs offer additional specializations that prepare you for specific roles within organizations. Specializations might include health information management, health law and policy, patient safety and care quality, or marketing.

Master’s in Healthcare Administration

If you’re aiming for a leadership role within a healthcare organization, a master’s in healthcare administration (MHA) degree can help you reach your goals. Earning an MHA positions you for roles in the executive suite, including chief executive officer or chief nursing officer.

Graduate coursework focuses on giving you the tools and skills you need to manage the business aspects of healthcare, as well as manage teams. More specifically, master’s programs typically include courses in management, finance, and strategy, as well as healthcare law, ethics, and policy.

Depending on your experience and the requirements of your program, you may complete a fellowship or practicum. Other programs require an original capstone project. You may also choose to specialize with a concentration. Some of the most common specializations include management operations and leadership, health policy, health financial management, health information technology, quality of care, and compliance.

Doctorate in Healthcare Administration

A doctorate in healthcare administration (DHA) builds theoretical and practical expertise. The highest degree in healthcare administration, DHA graduates often pursue leadership or executive roles.

At the doctoral level, you can choose between a DHA or a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in healthcare administration. The DHA is an applied research degree in which candidates apply existing evidence and knowledge to problems in the field. Ph.D. candidates conduct original research to add new knowledge to the field.

Generally speaking, a Ph.D. program is best if you want to work in academia or research, while the DHA is well suited for those who wish to work as leaders in healthcare organizations.

What Can You Do With a Healthcare Administration Degree?

Should you earn a degree in healthcare administration? Studying healthcare administration can prepare you for a variety of career paths. RNs with a healthcare administration degree can become nursing directors, clinical nurse managers, or chief nursing officers. And those with no prior healthcare experience can break into this fast-growing industry with a healthcare administration degree.

With programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, you can find a healthcare administration degree that matches your qualifications and career goals. During your degree, you can also specialize in areas such as healthcare finance, human resources, or health policy to move into specialized career paths. Many careers with a healthcare administration degree report strong growth and above-average salaries.

Earning a degree in healthcare administration doesn’t limit you to a career in a healthcare organization. Your skills and experience can lead to careers in other fields, including entrepreneurship, media, government, nonprofit management, public health, and more.

Careers With an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Administration

With a two-year or four-year healthcare administration degree, you’ll qualify for entry-level roles in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare settings.

Here are some of the many career paths you can take with an associate or bachelor’s in healthcare administration:

Medical coders ensure that all procedures and patient conditions are properly coded for billing, analytics, and patient care purposes, while billers submit insurance claims and bill patients for services. They may work with hospitals, doctor’s offices, or insurance companies.

  • Minimum degree required: Associate
  • Certification required: Varies by organization but may include Certified Professional Coder (CPC), Certified Coding Associate (CCA), or Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)
  • Salary: $48,780

Medical administrative assistants put their specialized knowledge of medical terminology and healthcare administration to work in healthcare settings. They might make appointments, manage medical records and documentation, and oversee billing, in addition to other tasks.

  • Minimum degree required: Associate
  • Certification required: None
  • Salary: $40,640

Health office managers coordinate the daily operations for healthcare practices or clinics. They may provide administrative or clerical support, coordinate scheduling of staff and patients, handle insurance verifications, and oversee staff hiring and training.

  • Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s
  • Certification required: Optional Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM) or Certified Medical Manager (CMM)
  • Salary: $96,940

Medical transcriptionists convert physician voice recordings taken during office visits or procedures into written reports.

  • Minimum degree required: Associate
  • Certification required: Optional Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) or Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS)
  • Salary: $37,060

Careers With a Graduate Degree in Healthcare Administration

Graduate-level training in healthcare administration prepares you for leadership roles. For example, you can become a clinical nurse manager, director of nursing, or chief nursing officer with a graduate degree in nursing or healthcare administration.

Here are some executive-level roles in healthcare administration:

Regulatory affairs directors ensure that healthcare organizations are compliant with all applicable rules and requirements. They communicate with regulatory agencies and coordinate an overall strategy that prevents non-compliance. Directors also oversee the completion of all applications for licenses and approvals and liaise with the leadership team to ensure compliance throughout the organization.

Hospital CEOs are the ultimate authority in the organization, overseeing finances, policy development, leadership training and staffing, and relations with stakeholders outside of the hospital. CEOs supervise a team of executives who share the same goal of delivering high-quality, efficient healthcare to patients.

  • Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s; advanced degree preferred
  • Certification required: None
  • Salary: $161,607

Insurance directors oversee health insurance programs and operations within the healthcare organization. This might include contracting, managing claims and payments, and developing strategies to limit the organization’s risk.

  • Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s
  • Certification required: None
  • Salary: $128,140

Clinical informatics managers collect and analyze healthcare data and turn it into actionable insights for leaders. They are focused on improving quality and efficiency, helping develop, design, and implementing data-driven programs.

Nursing home administrators oversee operations of long-term care facilities. This includes facility maintenance, finance, staffing, admissions, and patient care.

  • Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s
  • Certification required: Requirements vary by state
  • Salary: $90,935

Healthcare consultants work independently or as part of an agency, sharing their expertise and guidance with healthcare organizations. They may work with hospitals, healthcare systems, insurance companies, biotech companies, and more to help with strategic planning, quality improvement, problem-solving, or other issues.

Clinical directors are experienced nurses who oversee a specific clinical area, such as women’s health or surgery. They oversee staff, set goals and policies for the department, develop budgets, and evaluate quality.

  • Minimum degree required: RN, Master’s
  • Certification required: None
  • Salary: $110,680
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Frequently Asked Questions About Healthcare Administration Degrees

Yes, a degree in healthcare administration can be worth it. With a bachelor’s or master’s in healthcare administration, you’ll qualify for medical and health services management roles. These careers report a median annual salary of $110,680, according to May 2023 BLS data.

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Portrait of Shrilekha Deshaies, MSN, CCRN, RN

Shrilekha Deshaies, MSN, CCRN, RN

Shri Deshaies is a nurse educator with over 20 years of experience teaching in hospital, nursing school, and community settings. Deshaies’ clinical area of expertise is critical care nursing and she is a certified critical care nurse. She has worked in various surgical ICUs throughout her career, including cardiovascular, trauma, and neurosurgery.

Shri Deshaies is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network. Learn more about our review partners.


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