What Is Health Care Administration?

Woman working in health care administration

A growing population of older adults. The exploding development of urgent care centers. An urgent need to provide better rural health care services. Rapidly advancing medical technology. These are just some of the factors contributing to the high demand for health care professionals today. According to HealthLeaders, in 2018, health care outpaced nearly every other sector of the economy in career growth — and a big part of that growth includes health care administration jobs.


Sharon Hunt, assistant professor and former program director of the Master of Science in Healthcare Administration (MSHA) program at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), has an insider’s view into the growth of health care management and the educational programs that can provide entry into a rapidly expanding career field.

“There are a lot of opportunities for promotions and advancement in health care,” she explains. “Plus, it’s a growing field, and it’s forecasted to continue growing.”

What is Health Care Administration?

It’s a challenge to define succinctly a career field with as much breadth as health care administration. In general, health care administrators are professionals who lead and manage organizations, departments, or teams within a medical environment. However, specific roles and responsibilities can vary greatly from position to position, employer to employer. You’ll find health care administrators pretty much everywhere that health care is provided — from the executive team of a hospital system to a private medical practice, from small residential care facilities to large government medical centers.

What Can I Do With a Master’s in Health Care Administration?

According to Hunt, many master’s in health care administration students come into the program with a goal of advancing their current careers. But, she says, opportunities for growth and advancement aren’t limited to students with administrative experience on the clinical side of health care. She cites finance, marketing, creative, and patient care departments as examples of the variety of career options within the field. Hunt herself is an example of the possibilities for moving up the health care leadership ranks. She started out in accounting after graduating from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s of business administration.

“I took a job at a community medical center as an accountant,” she says. She advanced to financial director and, ultimately, became a hospital CEO.

Hunt later took her skills and experiences to the classroom, first as a professor of health care management. After about four years of teaching, Hunt took on an additional role at TTUHSC’s  School of Health Professions: She now also serves as a program director, where she’s able to combine her skills in health care leadership with her experience in educational leadership.

Other students come to the program looking to begin their careers in health care. “We have students who come directly from undergrad looking to get their foot in the door,” says Hunt. And, in fact, there are many points of entry into a career in health care administration.

With various levels of management within a health care system, there are opportunities for both budding leaders and those with many years of experience. Within a hospital or hospital system alone, there are numerous possibilities for leadership and health care administration jobs, including:

● Executive management.
● Financial management.
● Human resources management.
● Information management.
● Nursing administration.
● Patient care administration.
● Marketing and communications leadership.
 

While working in a hospital environment may be an obvious choice for a career in health care administration, it’s not the only option. Other career opportunities an MSHA could open for you include group or private practice, public health organizations, health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, research, consulting, and long-term care facilities, to name just a few. In short, the list of career options is as varied as the profession itself.

Which Health Professions Provide a Good Background for Health Care Administration?

As Hunt explained, many students entering Texas Tech’s health care administration master’s program are already in the medical field in some capacity.

“We’ve had hospital CEOs, chief experience officers, doctors, lab directors, chief operations officers,” she says of the variety of the students who enroll in the program.
 
For instance, while a physician might not choose to go directly into administration, a  health care leadership and administration program provides a doctor with the business acumen to broaden their understanding of the nuances and challenges of the broader health care delivery system. For instance, says Hunt, a finance course can give a physician the opportunity to learn to think like a CEO. Given the wide responsibilities that many physicians now have in addition to patient care, they need to know about forecasting, budgeting, and reading a financial statement to be effective leaders. These are all skills developed in the MHSA program.

Other medical professionals who are looking to transition into administration may find a master’s in health care administration helpful in filling in some gaps of knowledge. Hunt says one former student, already a chief nursing officer when she entered the program, told her, “‘I use on a daily basis what I learned in the program.’”

Hunt explains that many times, a student with years of business experience may enter the program to gain specific knowledge that may help them transition into a new industry. This means it’s not uncommon for MSHA students to already have an MBA or other professional degrees.

“That’s one of my favorite parts of the program; we have a diverse student body,” she explains. The mix of students — some with 20 to 30 years experience and others who are early in their careers —  makes for dynamic and wide-ranging in-class discussions.

“They do learn from each other,” she says. “That’s one of the things I think they really enjoy.” Hunt says it’s even common to see someone with decades of experience take on a mentoring role for other students in their class.

Not only is the curriculum of the MSHA program aptly suited for anyone working (or looking to work) in the health care field, but so is the design of the program.

Recognizing that many students at TTUHSC already work full-time — and in jobs that often require varying shifts and at all hours of the day — the program format is designed to be flexible and convenient. The Master of Healthcare Administration at TTUHSC is offered entirely online, allowing working professionals who already have busy personal and career lives to fit education into a schedule that adapts to their unique needs.

What Will I Learn in a Health Care Administration Master’s Program?

Health care is continually evolving, and Hunt says it’s vital for schools like TTUHSC to keep up — and keep coursework relevant. In the health care administration master’s program, she says, “We really try to make it application-based and specific to the industry’s needs.”

An evolving health care system means that today’s health care administration challenges are different than those in the past. For example, Hunt explains there is much more collaboration within an organization — and with others — than there used to be. That heightened sense of teamwork is likely a natural result of an emerging focus on taking a holistic approach to patient care. According to Hunt, this means caring for the whole patient and coordinating care “from beginning to end, instead of in silos.”

This holistic approach to care extends into the community. For example, focusing on health education and awareness — and on population health in general — can help improve home environments for vulnerable patients and, in time, reduce unnecessary emergency room visits.

Hunt explains that many health care organizations today base their model on “outcomes-based, value-based care. And that’s driving the types of professional roles that are needed.” For instance, a greater emphasis on the full spectrum of the patient care experience is high on the priority list in many health care organizations. This has led to the creation of a relatively new senior-level role in health care administration —  the chief experience officer who focuses on ensuring the quality, safety, and performance of patient care services delivered. Similarly, a greater focus on measuring patient care outcomes has spurred the growth in positions related to health care data and analytics.

Today, a health care administration degree program must be both wide-ranging and skills-oriented to meet the needs of an evolving health care system. The TTUHSC master’s program focuses on helping you develop the analytical, communication, interpersonal, technical, financial, and leadership skills you’ll need to succeed in the profession. In the program, you’ll take  classes such as:

● Principles of Management and Leadership in Healthcare.
● Healthcare Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
● Strategic Planning and Marketing in Healthcare.
● Health Informatics and Data Analytics.
● Medical Sociology.
● Healthcare Operations and Supply Chain Management.
● Health Systems Engineering.
● Healthcare Economics and Policy.
● Human Resources Management in Healthcare.
● Organizational Behavior and Theory.

Looking at this list, you can see why there’s not a short answer to “What is health care administration.” The topics covered in the master’s program are relevant to nearly every corner of a hospital or medical facility and to every management need in a health care organization.

Admissions and Bachelor’s Degree Opportunities in Health Care Management

To be admitted into the MSHA program at TTUHSC, you must have a bachelor’s degree, but in line with the broad scope of the profession, your degree does not have to be a science, business, or health care-related degree. Instead, you must meet one of several options for a minimum GPA requirement and/or a combination of professional work experience.

What about, if you want to get into health care administration but do not yet have a four-year degree? In that case, you could consider focusing on health care right from the start. For example, a bachelor’s in health care management would serve as a good foundation for an entry-level  career position and for later admission into a master’s program and the career potential an advanced degree can bring.

TTUHSC’s online Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management, also part of the School of Health Professions, offers two main concentrations: Healthcare Professional and Executive Management. The Healthcare Professional concentration is an ideal next step if you have an associate degree in a field such as radiology technology, emergency medical services, lab technology, licensed vocational nursing, and physical and occupational therapy. The Executive Management track is an option if you don’t have a two-year degree or prior experience in health care.

In addition to health care-specific courses like Community Health Issues and Principles of Health Systems Policy and Management, students in the bachelor’s program can also choose business and management-related electives such as Fundamentals of Project Management and Principles of Organizational Behavior and Theory to round out a solid foundation in business skills necessary to thrive in today’s complex health care organizations.

Who Teaches in a Health Care Leadership Program?

With such a broad range of courses, you can imagine the experience of the teaching faculty of a health care administration program would be just as varied. And you would be right.

A master’s level program typically includes full-time professors and adjunct instructors who are current or retired practitioners. Hunt says TTUHSC’s program has attracted high-quality, well-qualified adjuncts.

“We try to find the best people in the industry,” she says. TTUHSC looks for instructors with proven expertise in the areas in which they teach. “A CFO would teach a finance course, the person teaching a health care law and ethics class would be a health care attorney with a J.D.,” explains Hunt.

Hunt’s own entry into education serves as a great example of teaching from experience. Her practical accounting skills and senior health care leadership expertise qualified her to teach several courses within the MSHA curriculum.

All the core and adjunct teaching faculty in both the TTUHSC master’s and bachelor’s health care administration programs bring decades of insight and real-world experience in patient care and organizational leadership to the classroom — a fact that has a great impact in helping develop job-ready skills for every student in the program.

Careers in Health Care Administration: Salary and Demand

Clearly,  health care administration is a field with a lot of career potential, whatever specific area of focus may be your interest. Naturally, you want to make sure your educational investment is a good one, and you may also be wondering, “How much can I earn with an MSHA?” Like so many other types of careers, the answer is, “It depends.”

Your educational background, previous employment, skill level, location, and type of organization you work for, are some of the factors that will help determine your salary.
To give you some benchmarks, though, let’s look at some of the occupational data collected by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Demand

The BLS provides its data by defined occupations or sets of occupations. In health care leadership, these positions come together as “Medical and Health Services Managers.” According to the BLS, this occupation is projected to grow by 20% between now and 2026. This falls into the “much faster than the average for all occupations” category, reserved only for the most in-demand jobs in the nation, those for which job growth is 15% or higher. (By comparison, according to the BLS, the average occupational job growth is between 5% and 9%.)

Salary

In 2018, the median national annual salary for medical and health services managers was $99,730. The BLS also breaks that down by place or condition of employment:

● Government: $110,460.
● Hospitals: $108,730
● Outpatient care: $92,390
● Physician offices: $90,920
● Nursing and residential care: $84,260.

Geography is also a consideration when looking at salaries. The BLS also provides data by state, metropolitan regions, and non-metropolitan areas. Let’s take a look at the median annual wages for medical and health services managers in the Lone Star State as of 2018:

● State of Texas: $105,450.
● Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington: $103,430.
● Houston-The Woodlands-Sugarland: $117,830.
● West Texas Non-metropolitan area: $110,500.
● North Texas Non-metropolitan area: $94,880.
● Amarillo: $99,550.
● Lubbock: $100,500.

As with many professions, the more experience and education you have as a health care administrator, the better the potential for career advancement and for earning a salary on the higher end of the spectrum.

Continuing to Explore Health Care Administration Jobs & Programs

Health care, in general, has always been considered a rewarding career path and today is no exception. Health care services are in more demand than ever — which means the need for skilled administration and leadership positions also continues to grow.

If you’re looking to start, expand, or advance your career in health care administration, we invite you to visit our program page to learn more about the TTUHSC Master of Science in Healthcare Administration and our various graduate certificate options.

School of Health Professions

School of Health Professions

The School of Health Professions offers 19 different academic degree programs, making it one of the most diverse schools of health professions in the nation.

Among the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center campuses of Amarillo, Lubbock, Odessa and Midland with opportunities in distance learning, our programs are divided among specialties in Laboratory Sciences and Primary Care; Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences; Rehabilitation Sciences; Health Care Management and Leadership; and Clinical Counseling and Mental Health.

Led by top researchers and clinicians, our faculty provide challenging educational opportunities for our students to excel in their fields.

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