GUIDE
April 1, 2021
The Complete Guide to Healthcare Administration Degrees
Kathleen Gaines
By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, BA, CBC

By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, BA, RN, CBC

Healthcare administration is one of the fastest-growing professions in the healthcare field with ample opportunities for those with degrees. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the industry will add over 4 million jobs between 2021 and 2022. 

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to earn entry-level and advanced degrees in healthcare administration. With so many available career paths, it’s important to pursue a degree that aligns with your goals.

This guide will break down the different types of healthcare administration degrees along with their prerequisites, relevant coursework, costs, career opportunities, and study options.

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Part One Types of Healthcare Administration Degrees

Determining which healthcare administration degree to pursue depends on your career goals. A career in leadership will likely require a master’s degree or higher, while an academic career generally requires a doctorate degree. 

While advanced degrees open more doors, they require more time, money, and effort to earn than associate's or bachelor’s degrees.

Types of Healthcare Administration Degrees

Healthcare Administration Degree Prerequisites Total Program Cost Program Length Career Opportunities
Associate Degree in Healthcare Administration 

High School Diploma or GED

Minimum GPA

$5,000 to $20,000 16-24 months

Entry-level healthcare careers such as:

  • Medical administrative assistant
  • Medical records assistant
  • Medical transcriptionist
Bachelor's Degree in Healthcare Administration 

High School Diploma or GED

Minimum GPA

Standardized Test Scores

$30,000 for in-state and upwards of  $100,000 for private universities 4 years

Mid-level healthcare administration careers such as:

  • Community health manager
  • Healthcare consultant
  • Health insurance analyst
  • Health policy analyst
  • Health promotion specialist
  • Health services manager
  • Medical reimbursement analyst
  • Medical services administrator
  • Nursing home administrative assistant
  • Private practice officer manager
Master's Degree in Healthcare Administration (MHA)

Bachelors Degree in Business or Healthcare Administration

GPA minimum

GRE or GMAT scores

Relevant work experience

Resume or CV

Letters of recommendation

$10,000 to $100,000 12 months to 3 years

High-level roles as healthcare executives including:

  • CEO or COO
  • Clinic director 
  • Department or division director
  • Facility manager
  • Healthcare consultant
  • Health services manager
  • Hospital administrator
  • Long-term care manager
  • Medical records manager
  • Nurse manager
MBA in Healthcare Management

Bachelors Degree in a related field

GPA minimum

GRE or GMAT scores

Relevant work experience

Resume or CV

Letters of recommendation

$10,000 to $100,000 12 months to 3 years

An MBA in Healthcare Managament focuses on business management and leadership for healthcare professionals.

High-level roles as healthcare executives including:

  • Policy analyst
  • Clinical director
  • Hospital chief executive officer
  • Medical records manager
  • Health and social services manager
  • Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)
  • Chief Financial Operator (CFO)
  • Medical Manager
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Health information manager
  • Healthcare administrators
  • Pharmaceutical project manager
Doctorate Degree in Health Administration (DHA)

Master's Degree

CV or resume

Interview

Letters of recommendations

Minimum GPA of 3.0

Personal statement

Relevant work experience

$60,000+ 3 to 5 years Earning a doctorate degree in healthcare administration qualifies individuals for all of the same jobs as having a Master’s degree. However, most DHA holders are interested in careers in research and/or academia.
PhD in Healthcare Administration

Master's Degree

CV or resume

Interview

Letters of recommendations

Minimum GPA of 3.0

Personal statement

Relevant work experience

$60,000+ 3 to 5 years Similar to a DHA, this is a terminal degree that focuses on research and education. The main purpose of this program is scientific and investigative research, especially through experiments and research. 

 

Part Two Associate Degree in Healthcare Administration

An associate degree in healthcare administration is the most basic level healthcare administration degree. This option is suited for people that are unsure about their career choice or goals, or who want to take the first step in their education, before moving on to a bachelor's degree. 

An associate's degree provides the fundamentals to start working in healthcare services and pursue an advanced degree.

Prerequisites 

The requirements for entry into an associate program are typically:

  1. High school transcripts 
  2. Application fee
  3. Letters of recommendation
  4. Minimum GPA or GED score as required by the program
  5. Online application
  6. Personal essay 
  7. Provide proof of a high school diploma or GED
  8. Standardized test scores such as the SAT

Coursework

Courses in an associate degree program are more general than advanced degrees. The coursework focuses on a broad knowledge of healthcare administration. 

Courses may include:

  1. Conflict Resolution
  2. Healthcare Customer Relations
  3. Health Policy
  4. Medical Coding
  5. Medical Ethics
  6. Medical Office Management
  7. Medical Terminology 
  8. Patient Privacy
  9. US Healthcare Systems

Career Opportunities

The associate degree grants quicker entry into the workforce for healthcare administrators than advanced degrees. Associates degree holders are qualified for entry-level healthcare careers including:

  1. Customer relations representative
  2. Insurance customer representative
  3. Medical administrative assistant
  4. Medical biller
  5. Medical coder
  6. Medical records assistant
  7. Medical scribe
  8. Medical secretary
  9. Medical transcriptionist
  10. Office assistant

How Much Does an Associate Degree in Healthcare Administration Cost?

Associates degrees are usually offered at community colleges and are typically the cheapest healthcare administration degrees.

  • Program costs can range from $5,000 to $20,000 depending on the college and your location.

It’s most cost-effective to attend a community college in your county of residence. Online programs tend to be more expensive because of their convenience. 

How Long Does it Take to Get an Associate Degree in Healthcare Administration?

Associate degree programs typically require 30-45 credits and can be completed in as little as 16 months. However, most community colleges recommend 24 months due to course offerings and required general education courses.

Online programs allow students to work at a faster pace as classes are offered year-round.

Online vs In-Person Associate Degrees in Healthcare Administration

Most community colleges offer associate degree programs for healthcare administration and healthcare management.

Typically, this degree is earned in person because local community colleges cost less than online programs. However, there are online programs available to individuals that prefer the online learning environment. 

Show Me Healthcare Administration Programs

Part Three Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Administration

A bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration provides students with a broad range of information, but allows for more specialization than an associates degree. This entry-level degree is earned through traditional four-year programs.

There are two types of bachelor's degree programs for healthcare administration:

  1. Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  2. Bachelor of Science (BS)

A Bachelor of Arts focuses more on humanities and social sciences, while a Bachelor of Science revolves more around technical skills.

Upon earning a bachelor’s degree, individuals will be able to analyze financial and economic data, enhance operations through strategic planning, and assess healthcare policies and procedures for efficiency and ethical considerations. 

>>Related: Bachelor’s in Healthcare Administration Degree Guide 

Prerequisites 

The requirements for entry to a bachelor’s program are:

  1. High school transcripts 
  2. Application fee
  3. Letters of recommendation
  4. Minimum GPA or GED score as required by the program
  5. Online application
  6. Personal essay 
  7. Provide proof of a high school diploma or GED
  8. Standardized test scores such as the SAT

Coursework

Courses in a bachelor’s degree program include:

  1. Communication and Technologies
  2. Ethical Considerations of Healthcare
  3. Healthcare Administration
  4. Healthcare Data Management
  5. Healthcare Finance
  6. Healthcare IT Infrastructure and Network Management
  7. Healthcare Quality Management
  8. Healthcare Regulatory Compliance and Accreditation
  9. Healthcare Reimbursement
  10. Legal Considerations of Healthcare
  11. Managing and Leading
  12. Organizational Behavior
  13. Patient Safety Systems and Strategies
  14. Performance Improvement Measurement and Methodologies
  15. Principles of Epidemiology
  16. Public Health and Safety

Career Opportunities

Individuals that earn a bachelor’s degree will be better qualified for the following roles.

  1. Community health manager
  2. Healthcare consultant
  3. Health insurance analyst
  4. Health policy analyst
  5. Health promotion specialist
  6. Health services manager
  7. Medical reimbursement analyst
  8. Medical services administrator
  9. Nursing home administrative assistant
  10. Private practice officer manager
  11. Social worker

How Much Does a Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Administration Cost?

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration can cost $30,000 for in-state tuition to upwards of $100,000 for private universities. 

How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Administration?

This degree is typically earned in four years. It’s possible to achieve a bachelor’s degree in three years by taking summer classes and completing the coursework in proper progression. However, it’s very uncommon to earn this degree in three years.

Online vs In-Person Bachelor's Degrees in Healthcare Administration

Most major universities and colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in healthcare administration. While it is possible to also earn the degree online, most students find in-person programs more beneficial for their knowledge and career goals. 

Top accredited programs include: 

  1. Auburn University
  2. California State University, Long Beach
  3. East Carolina University
  4. James Madison University
  5. Texas State University
  6. University of Alabama
  7. University of Massachusetts
  8. West Chester University

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Part Four Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration (MHA)

A Masters in Healthcare Administration (MHA) is a master’s level degree for professionals looking to get into management or leadership positions in the healthcare industry. 

Prerequisites

The first and most important prerequisite is having a bachelor’s degree in business or healthcare administration. Other requirements include:

  1. GPA greater than 3.0
  2. GRE or GMAT scores
  3. Letters of recommendation
  4. Proficiency in the English language
  5. Relevant work experience
  6. Resume or CV
  7. TOEFL Score (if applicable)
  8. Written personal statement

Coursework

Classes for Master’s in Healthcare Administration vary based on the program, but most degrees require a minimum of 30 credits to a maximum of 65 credits. 

Specific coursework includes:

  1. Budgeting and Financial Management 
  2. Business Model Innovation
  3. Business Strategy in Global Environment
  4. Consulting Practicum
  5. Epidemiologic Inference Public Health
  6. Epidemiology
  7. Financial Accounting
  8. Healthcare Consulting
  9. Health Finance and Management
  10. Leading Organizations
  11. Managed Care and Health Insurance
  12. Marketing in Healthcare Organizations
  13. Medical Practice Management
  14. Population Health
  15. Power, Influence, and Negotiation in Organization
  16. Project Management
  17. Quality and Patient Safety
  18. Quantitative Tools for Managers
  19. Statistical Learning

Career Opportunities

An MHA opens doors to a number of high-level roles as healthcare executives. From hospital CEO to nurse manager, it’s a highly versatile degree. Some of the job titles for a professional with a master’s degree in health administration include:

  1. Chief executive officer
  2. Chief operations officer
  3. Clinic director
  4. Clinic manager
  5. Department or division director
  6. Department or division manager/supervisor
  7. Facility manager
  8. Healthcare consultant
  9. Health services manager
  10. Hospital administrator
  11. Hospital admissions director
  12. Long-term care director
  13. Long-term care manager
  14. Medical records manager
  15. Nurse manager
  16. Nursing director
  17. Operations manager
  18. Practice manager
  19. Program manager
  20. Social Worker

How Much Does a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration (MHA) Cost?

Cost can vary a lot for a Masters's in Healthcare Administration. According to U.S. News and World Report, an MHA can cost as little as $200 per credit hour for in-state tuition. Out-of-state residents may pay upwards of $1,500 per credit hour. 

The cost of an entire program can range from $10,000 to $75,000.

How Long Does it Take to Get an MHA?

An MHA can be completed in as little as 12 months or as long as 3 years. Duration varies depending on if the program is completed full-time or part-time. Most individuals work during the program, so very few complete it within 12 months. 

Some programs can be taken online through a series of seven-week classes. Individuals can complete multiple courses back to back or take time off in between courses. 

Online vs In-Person MHA Programs

Programs across the country offer MHA programs both in-person and online. Due to the ongoing pandemic, more and more programs are being offered online.

Top accredited programs include:

  1. Cornell University 
  2. Georgetown University
  3. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
  4. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  5. University of Pennsylvania

Part Five MBA in Healthcare Management

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Healthcare Management focuses on general business and financial practices rather than those specific to the healthcare industry. This degree is one of the hottest degrees in healthcare because it opens a wide variety of opportunities for healthcare professionals.

Prerequisites

In order to be eligible for a program in an MBA in healthcare administration or management, the following admission requirements must be met.

  1. Bachelor’s degree in a related field
  2. GPA
  3. GRE/GMAT test scores
  4. Letter of intent or personal statement
  5. Letters of recommendation
  6. Personal interview
  7. Relevant work experience
  8. Resume or CV
  9. TOEFL score (if applicable)

Coursework

Some of the core courses include:

  1. Healthcare Law
  2. Healthcare Finance
  3. Strategic Organization in a Healthcare Organization
  4. Marketing Management
  5. Business Computing
  6. Executive Skills Development & Decision Making
  7. Financial and Managerial Accounting
  8. Fiscal Issues in Health Systems Management
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Contemporary Issues in Healthcare Policy
  11. Issues in Quality Management for Healthcare Systems
  12. Principles and Strategies for Managed Healthcare
  13. Community Health Assessment and Planning
  14. Human Resources
  15. Public Health
  16. Informatics
  17. Operations Management
  18. Capstone 
  19. Information Systems
  20. Electives

Career Opportunities

AN MBA in Healthcare Management qualifies you for high-level roles as healthcare executives including:

  • Policy analyst
  • Clinical director
  • Hospital chief executive officer
  • Medical records manager
  • Health and social services manager
  • Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)
  • Chief Financial Operator (CFO)
  • Medical Manager
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Health information manager
  • Healthcare administrators
  • Pharmaceutical project manager

However, because this degree focuses on business, individuals can also use the degree for non-healthcare-related jobs such as financial management and marketing. 

How Much Does an MBA in Healthcare Management Cost?

There are a wide range of affordable options for pursuing an MBA in Healthcare Administration.  According to Best Colleges, an MBA in healthcare administration can cost as little as $10,000 for an online program at a public university. 

However, according to U.S. News and World Report, this degree can cost upwards of $100,000 for Ivy League Universities. 

It is important to consider the reputation of the program as well as accreditation. Generally, these programs will be accredited through the university or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which accredits roughly 5% of business schools. 

How Long Does it Take to Get an MBA in Healthcare Management?

The length of programs will vary greatly depending on if the program is completed full-time or part-time. It typically takes 1-3 years to earn an MBA in healthcare administration.

Additionally, some online programs can be completed in a series of seven-week classes. Individuals can complete multiple courses back-to-back or take time off in between courses. 

Online vs In-Person MBA in Healthcare Management Programs

The U.S. News & World Report 2020 identified the top online MBA Healthcare Administration programs. 

Top accredited programs include:

  1. University of Delaware
  2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  3. University of Pennsylvania
  4. Villanova University

Part Six Doctorate Degree in Healthcare Administration (DHA)

Doctorate in Healthcare Administration or Doctor of Health Administration (DHA) programs are designed to help expand the knowledge of healthcare administration and business. This is a terminal degree and the capstone for healthcare professionals pursuing top executive positions, and those in academia and research. 

DHA programs focus on taking knowledge and applying it to current practices in order to improve the healthcare profession. 

Prerequisites

In order to be considered for a DHA program, individuals must meet the following requirements.

  1. A master’s Degree
  2. CV or resume
  3. Interview
  4. Letters of recommendations
  5. Minimum GPA of 3.0
  6. Personal statement
  7. Relevant work experience
  8. TOEFL scores (if applicable)

Coursework

Courses required during the doctorate program include:

  1. Communications, Marketing and Public Relations
  2. Finance
  3. Global Health
  4. Health Education
  5. Health Informatics
  6. Health Leadership
  7. Issues in Disease Prevention
  8. Patient Quality and Safety
  9. Research
  10. Research Design and Data Analysis
  11. Strategic Planning and Change
  12. Systems Thinking
  13. Writing Assessment

Career Opportunities

Earning a doctorate degree in healthcare administration qualifies individuals for all of the same jobs as having a Master’s degree. However, most DHA holders are interested in careers in research and/or academia.

  1. Chief nursing officer
  2. Chief operating officer
  3. Education
  4. Health informatics manager
  5. Health services manager
  6. Health services manager
  7. Hospital administrator
  8. Hospital admissions director
  9. Long-term care director
  10. Long-term care manager
  11. Medical records manager
  12. Nurse manager
  13. Nursing director
  14. Nursing home director
  15. Project manager
  16. Research director

How Much Does a Doctorate in Health Administration Cost?

DHA programs vary in cost depending on the school and whether the program is online or in-person. In-state tuition is typically less than out-of-state and Ivy League programs. Doctorate programs can start at $60,000 and go up from there.

Interestingly, some major university programs will pay for the doctorate program and a stipend in return for service at the university. This can happen either through academic teaching and/or research. 

How Long Does it Take to Get a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration?

A doctorate degree generally takes 3 to 5 years to earn with programs being offered full and part-time. The first several years are classroom-focused while the end of the program is spent working on a dissertation and then defending in front of a panel. 

The true length of the program depends on the depth of the dissertation and associated project. Students are unable to graduate without defending their dissertation.

Online vs In-Person Doctorate in Healthcare Administration Programs

Doctorate programs are less common than master’s degree programs. This is due in part to an ongoing need for faculty to teach the course and an overall lack of applicants. Most programs are offered online, both synchronously and asynchronously. 

Top programs for a DHA include:

  1. Colorado Technical University
  2. Northcentral University
  3. Thomas Jefferson University
  4. University of Alabama at Birmingham
  5. University of Mississippi
  6. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Show Me Healthcare Administration Programs

Part Seven Ph.D. in Healthcare Administration

Similar to a DHA, this is a terminal degree that focuses on research and education. The main purpose of this program is scientific and investigative research, especially through experiments and research. A Ph.D. focuses on original research and finding new knowledge. 

Prerequisites

In order to be considered for a Ph.D. program, individuals must meet the following requirements.

  1. CV or resume
  2. Interview
  3. Letters of recommendations
  4. Master’s degree in a related field
  5. Minimum GPA of 3.0
  6. Personal statement
  7. Two or more years of healthcare industry experience
  8. TOEFL score (if applicable)

Coursework

Coursework is focused on research in a Ph.D. program. Courses may include: 

  1. Comparative Health Policy
  2. Ethical Considerations
  3. Healthcare Education
  4. Health Economics
  5. Health Informatics
  6. Legal and Regulatory Challenges in Healthcare
  7. Research Methods

Career Opportunities

Individuals can be hired for a variety of jobs with a Ph.D. However, most typically work in research and/or education, often as tenure-track professors.

How Much Does a Ph.D. in Healthcare Administration Cost?

Similar to the Doctorate in Healthcare Administration program, costs for a Ph.D. program can vary greatly depending on the institution and type of program, and start at around $60,000. 

Some universities will pay for a Ph.D. program and a stipend in return for service at the university. This can happen either through academic teaching and/or research. 

How Long Does it Take to Get a Ph.D. in Healthcare Administration?

A doctorate degree generally takes 3 to 5 years, depending on whether courses are taken full and part-time. The first several years are classroom-intensive while the end of the program is spent working on a dissertation and then defending in front of a panel. 

The true length of the program depends on the depth of the dissertation and associated project. Students are unable to graduate without defending their dissertation. This dissertation is based on new research and new knowledge. For that reason, this advanced degree can take a little longer. 

Online vs In-Person Ph.D. in Healthcare Administration Programs

Online degrees are fairly common for this type of advanced degree. However, because a dissertation and research is required most individuals find it easier to attend in-person. This will give a student access to lab space, physical libraries, and students that could potentially be used as part of the research. 

A Ph.D. in healthcare administration programs can be earned at the following accredited programs.

  1. Capella University
  2. Central Michigan University
  3. Franklin University
  4. University of Illinois at Chicago
  5. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Show Me Healthcare Administration Programs

Part Eight Accredited Healthcare Administration Degree Programs

While there are many factors in determining the right program, especially an advanced healthcare administration degree program, accreditation is the MOST important. This is even more important when choosing between online and in-person. 

Non-accredited universities should be a red flag for all nurses and students. If you are unsure if the program is accredited, check with the Accredited Commission for Education in Nursing website to see if the school is listed.

Why Accreditation is Important

Attending an accredited nursing program allows students to:

  1. Receive federal financial aid
  2. Transfer credits towards the program
  3. Attend a graduate nursing program
  4. Job market competitiveness

Accrediting Bodies

There are currently two accrediting bodies for programs in the United States. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) evaluate programs to determine if they meet specific state and national standards. 

What Accreditation Means

According to the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation is meant to:

  1. Assess the quality of academic programs at institutions of higher education.
  2. Create a culture of continuous improvement of academic quality at colleges and universities and stimulate general raising of standards among educational institutions.
  3. Involve faculty and staff comprehensively in institutional evaluation and planning.
  4. Establish criteria for professional certification and licensure and for upgrading courses offering such preparation.

Show Me Healthcare Administration Programs

Part Nine Healthcare Administration Resources

For more information on healthcare administration degrees and careers, check out these other articles!

  1. Masters in Healthcare Administration (MHA) Degree Guide
  2. MBA in Healthcare Management Degree Guide
  3. Bachelor's in Healthcare Administration Degree Guide
  4. Top 10 Online Healthcare Administration Programs 2021
  5. Top Entry-Level Healthcare Administration Jobs

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