The Difference Between a Healthcare Administration Degree and a Certificate
Someone has to be the boss, and that’s the role for the myriad executives in healthcare, too.
In healthcare they may be called administrators, managers or directors, but they are the people who supervise a department or lab or maybe run an entire hospital, handling budgets, schedules, personnel, and even implementing policy decisions from a board of directors.
People in the field can be in charge of nursing homes, departments such as surgery or nursing, handle the increasingly vital health information systems or work as assistant administrators to a top manager, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
It’s also a field in demand with job growth pegged at 22%, according to the BLS. The surge is expected as part of the overall growth in the health field as the population ages and health services expand.
The job paid a median salary of $84,000 in 2010, according to the BLS.
The first step on the career ladder is usually a bachelor’s degree, typically in health administration, with courses that including human resources, health finances, health information and how hospitals are organized.
But to really advance, a master’s in healthcare administration is almost a necessity, according to the American College of Healthcare Executives. That’s especially true if your career goals include supervisory or management positions.
If a master’s puts you on the ladder for a career in healthcare administration, a graduate certificate may mean put you on the escalator by focusing on a specialized area beyond your degree or let you move into the field from a career outside healthcare.
Healthcare Administration Degrees
Though there are associate degree programs in healthcare administration, a bachelor’s is usually considered the basic entry into the field.
And a master’s is almost always needed. Graduate classes can cover marketing, financing in healthcare, human resources and policy, according to American College of Healthcare Executives website. They usually take two years, though some include a residency or a supervised internship, the site said.
Usually students come with undergraduate degrees in healthcare but schools have started offering possible hybrid programs such as courses following a more typical master’s degree in business with a focus on health management, the site said.
Some even have dual degree programs such as law and healthcare management, the site said.
The Association of University Programs in Health Administration lists 116 healthcare management degree programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education and 84 with undergraduate programs.
Healthcare Administration Certificate Programs
Healthcare administration certificate programs are usually aimed at workers with a degree. Some schools offer certificates for those with a bachelor’s degree and other schools seek master’s level students. Most, though, are for people with a graduate degree.
But all are designed to burnish knowledge and experience in the field to make you more employable or give a boost into healthcare management. They also can bring healthcare management knowledge and credentials to someone who wants to get into the field.
They also can help healthcare workers who may have a degree move into management positions or delve into specialized areas such as finance, personnel or information technology. Workers with degrees in business can use certificates as a bridge into healthcare specialties.
Schools offer traditional and online certificate courses, though the length and cost vary according to the program.
Certification through a professional organization is also available but not the same as a graduate program certificate. It can, however, provide more credentials in a special field.
For example, the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management offers certifications as a patient account manager and clinical account manager.
The American College of Healthcare Executives offers a board certification in healthcare management.
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