What is Healthcare Administration?
Health administration is an important but often overlooked part of the healthcare system. Doctors and nurses work directly with patients. But in order for them to work effectively, they must be part of organizations that are managed effectively. That is where health administrators come in.
These professionals handle everything from accounting to marketing to human resources. And they work in settings as diverse as hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and nursing homes. In all cases, their job is to ensure that healthcare organizations operate in a way that is sustainable and up to standards.
Healthcare is a booming industry, and the demand for qualified health administrators is growing rapidly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will the 32% more health administrators in 2030 than there were in 2020. That represents an increase of 139,600 healthcare admin professionals, suggesting that demand will be strong across the country.
Healthcare Administration Education in Virginia
Bachelor's Degree in Healthcare Administration (BSHCA)
It may be possible to find administrative or clerical work in a hospital with just a high-school diploma or associate’s degree. But a bachelor’s degree is typically required to get professional health administration jobs, even at the entry level. And in order to move up the career ladder, a four-year degree is essential.
Follow these steps through your undergraduate program:
Step One – Find a Program
Many colleges and universities inside and outside of Virginia offer a health administration bachelor’s degree. It’s not necessary to attend school in state in order to work in state, giving students a lot of flexibility over where they attend. The right option is one that fits your learning style, budget, schedule, and career ambitions.
Here are some diverse options to consider:
- In-Person: Take classes on campus and work face-to-face with instructors and students.
- Online: Work with digital resources and enjoy more flexibility over your schedule.
- Hybrid: Combine elements of online and in-person classrooms into one program.
- Nights/Weekends: Attend classes that fit into the schedule of a working professional.
- Accelerated: Complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree as part of one accelerated program.
Step Two – Get Accepted
Every school sets its own admission standards, and some are more selective than others. No matter where you choose to apply, expect to have to meet certain minimum standards:
- Show a diploma from a high school or GED program
- Meet a minimum high-school GPA requirement
- Meet a minimum score on the SAT or ACT
- Write a personal essay or provide a letter of recommendation
Step Three – Pick a Major
Some professionals enter the field of health administration with a general degree in business, social work, or a scientific discipline. Having a dedicated health administration degree is not always a requirement, but it is always an asset, especially for professionals eager to move up the career ladder.
Here are some popular degree options that relate specifically to health administration:
- Bachelor of Science in Health Care Management
- Bachelor of Arts in Health Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Health Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Public Health
- Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Health Administration
Step Four – Complete the Curriculum
Requirements vary, but a four-year bachelor’s degree typically requires students to complete around 40 courses and earn at least 120 credit hours. Completing an internship, practicum, or capstone project may also be required.
The exact curriculum students take depends on the institution and the major, but in all cases students will take classes like these:
- Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare
- Introduction to Health Policy
- Financial Analysis and Management
- Management of Human Resources and Health Professionals
- Strategic Management and Marketing in Healthcare
- Public and Community Health for Businesses
- Healthcare Economics
- Research and Evidence Based Practices
- Operations Management
Health administrators are not rarely required to have any kind of license or certification in order to work legally in Virginia, though there are exceptions for nursing home administrators. That means graduates with a fresh bachelor’s degree are equipped to begin searching for serious jobs and kickstarting their career.Learn More
Master's Degree in Healthcare Administration (MHA)
A bachelor’s degree is enough to begin a career in health administration, and it’s often enough to earn a promotion too. But high-level health administrators take on significant responsibilities – leading large teams of staff, administering huge budgets, organizing major initiatives etc. Professionals at that level must have specialized expertise and a demonstrated level of accomplishment, which is why a graduate degree is often required for high-level health administration jobs.
It may not be necessary to earn a PhD., but a master’s degree should be considered mandatory. Follow these steps as you navigate your program:
Step One – Get Admitted
There are lots of options for health administration master’s degrees in as many different formats as at the undergraduate level. The same school selection criteria apply – budget, schedule, learning needs, and degree options.
Once you have singled out some programs, plan to provide the following information with your admission:
- Proof that you have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year institution
- A college transcript with a GPA at or above a minimum level.
- Proof of your score on the GRE or GMAT exams
- Letters of recommendation
- Proof of English proficiency if studying from abroad
Step Two – Pick a Program
It is possible to pursue a master’s degree in just health administration, or to focus on a specialized discipline instead. A more general degree may open up more job opportunities, but having a specialty creates more opportunity for advancement. Ultimately, the right program for you is one that aligns with your personal and professional goals.
Here are some popular options to consider:
- Master of Health Administration
- Healthcare MBA
- Master of Science in Healthcare Administration
- Master of Health Policy and Management
- Master of Public Health
- Master of Long Term Care
- Master of Health Care Systems
- Master of Acute Care
Step Three – Earn a Degree
Students must typically earn 30-60 credits to complete a master’s degree, depending on how credits are awarded. Full-time students usually finish in two years, and most programs require an internship or independent research project.
The curriculum consists of both elective and required courses, and most programs will include courses like these:
- Accounting for Health Care Managers
- Health Care Economics
- Health Care Data Analysis
- Health Care Informatics
- Health Care Policy and Ethics
- Health Care Cases and Politics
- Health Care Law
- Population Health and Epidemiology
- Health Care Reimbursement Systems
- Human and Organizational Development in Health Care
Careers and Salary Outlook
Salary and Earnings Potential
The data indicates that Virginia will be a particularly strong state for job opportunities. Demand is projected to grow by 32% between 2020 and 2030. The BLS estimates that around 300 healthcare administration jobs will open up each year in Virginia.
Salary is another factor that makes Virginia a compelling state for health administrators. In 2020 the median salary for health administrators nationally was $104,280 per year. In Virginia, by contrast, the mean salary was $118,530. The top-earning professionals in the state earned $195,600 per year.
Health administration is an interesting option for many people wanting to start a first career or transition into a new career. Use this overview to plan a path to your goals.
Demand for health administrators is projected to be strong and steady into the near future. Here are some examples of potential job titles you may be applying for after you graduate and gain some experience.
- Practice Manager: A rheumatology clinic is looking for a health administrator to manage all aspects of the practice. Responsibilities include managing and training staff, maintaining budgets, handling marketing, and overseeing inventory. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in health administration or a related discipline, along with 4+ years of relevant experience.
- Nursing Home Administrator: A nursing home with over 100 beds is looking for a lead administrator. Responsibilities include financial management, quality assurance, business development, and revenue maximization. Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in health administration and relevant work experience.
Additional Helpful Resources
Prominent Employers in Virginia
Health administrators work throughout Virginia in facilities large and small as well as rural and urban. However, there are a number of employers that keep a large number of health administrators on staff and regularly have job openings.
Keep these organizations in mind:
- Heart and Vascular Institute, Winchester, VA
- VCU Medical Center, Richmond, VA
- Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, VA
- VCU Health System, Richmond, VA
- University of Virginia Medical Center, Charlottesville, VA
- Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Roanoke, VA
- Inova Fairfax Hospital, Falls Church, VA
- Lynchburg General Hospital, Lynchburg, VA
Health Administration Associations
Education and work experience are great, but they are not all you need to be a successful professional. Professional associations offer access to information, training, networking opportunities, and professional development courses that are all valuable assets to any health administrator.
Consider joining one or more of these state-specific associations:
- Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Organization
- Mental Health Association of Virginia
- Virginia Public Health Association
- Virginia Health Information Management Association
- Virginia Medical Group Management Association
- Virginia Association of Health Plans