Health care administration programs are increasingly attractive to both students and employers. Between the 2016-17 and 2020-21 academic years, bachelor’s-level health care administration programs grew by 9.41%, in part to meet rising employer demand for health care administration professionals. Over the next 10 years, employment for medical and health services managers is projected to grow 28%, far outpacing projected growth for other management occupations (7%).
But not all programs are created equal. As more schools will likely develop and offer health care administration programs due to high student demand, zeroing in on the core components of a high-value degree will be essential. Here are four components of a successful health care administration program—and profiles of five institutions succeeding in this market.
Our researchers investigated five different programs, chosen based on high completions (e.g., over 100 completions reported in the 2020-21 academic year) and whether the program offered a distance-delivery option. Specifically, our research team examined two institutions (i.e., St. Petersburg College and Monroe College) reporting bachelor’s-level completions under the CIP code 52.2211 (“Health Services Administration”) and three reporting completions under 52.0701 (“Health Care/Health Management Administration”): Purdue University Global, Florida International University, and University of Central Florida.
1. Focus on “Flexible and Accessible”
Programs with flexible options (e.g., online delivery, weekend classes) appeal to students concerned with balancing family and work-related commitments with further education. Offering flexible, asynchronous options allows students to complete courses on their own schedule, which may encourage busy adult students to continue their education and increase enrollments.
All five programs we profiled offer an online modality; Monroe College alone offers three different modalities for their health care administration program (i.e., on campus, online, hybrid).
2. Create “Personalized and Customized” Options
Concentrations meet the needs of both students and program administrators; they allow students to better align their education to their goals while simultaneously allowing program leadership to support less program variety. While all five of the reviewed programs offer room for elective courses, only two featured concentrations or specified curricular focus areas (e.g., “subplans”).
Focus on developing concentrations that confer the skills employers most often seek in health care administration professionals. In our analysis of in-demand skills nationwide, EAB found that the 10 most commonly requested skills for bachelor’s-level health care administration professionals include: Healthcare Industry Knowledge, Medicare, Longterm Care and Workflow Management, Finance, Auditing, and Billing.
Skills Employers Most Often Seek in Health Care Administration Graduates
March 2022-February 2023, National Data
Profiled programs include the following specialization opportunities:
- Monroe College offers a BBA Health Services Administration: Medical Coding Specialization. Students learn about classic Diagnosis Related Groups (i.e., systems that categorize patients with similar diagnoses to better minimize care costs) software and other medical coding software.
- St. Petersburg College offers multiple Subplans, such as Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialist, Compliance and History, Management, Human Services, Public Relations and Marketing, and Respiratory Care.
3. Provide Students with Relevant Industry Experience
Students desire a high return-on-investment and increasingly seek opportunities for internships. Internships and other experiential learning opportunities allow program graduates to demonstrate real-world expertise before launching into their career. When thinking about credential design, focus on creating experiential learning opportunities that work with the student’s schedule. Here’s a look at the capstone and internship opportunities profiled programs offer:
- Not offered.
- Advertises optional employer partnerships (internships); students previously completed internships with the U.S. Department of Health, Jacobi Medical Center, etc.
- 16-week capstone course; students work with a mentor in the first term and implement a design proposal.
- Not advertised.
- Internship required
- University of Central Florida states that the internship provides “hands-on experience” and tangentially advertises the networking opportunities the program (and internship) offers.
- Not offered.
- Optional internship.
- Students must complete 210 hours at a placement organization. The internship is offered every semester and students meet with a BHSA faculty member regularly. During the internship, students will further create a portfolio detailing all completed activities.
- The required Capstone course is completed in the student’s final semester and “provides students with the opportunity to integrate the knowledge and skills acquired.. into an original comprehensive project.”
- Optional internship.
- Described as “an option [allowing] the student to develop professional skills and add valuable experience to your resume”.
Interestingly, no profiled program showcases how their experiential learning opportunity or internship fit into students’ current work experience. However, our research suggests that prominently marketing a well-designed, adult learner-friendly internship or experiential learning opportunity could set a health care administration program apart, especially as students who receive credit for prior learning graduate at 2.5x the average rate.
4. Demonstrate Program Quality through Accreditation
Securing and advertising accreditation for your health care administration program could demonstrate high academic value and set your program apart. EAB research found that students ranked accreditation second in their list of priorities when selecting an academic program.
The University of Central Florida and Florida International University advertise accreditation by the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA). Notably, no profiled program advertised accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). The University of Central Florida stood out from other profiled institutions by prominently advertising accreditation and relevant career statistics in bold, bright colors. Here are a few other highlights from UCF’s program webpage:
Before implementing any of these program features, it is crucial to assess whether a health care administration program is likely to perform well at your institution and in your specific market. When designing your health care administration program, first investigate student and employer demand in your region to ensure there is enough interest to support program launch or program revitalization.
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