Online Associate Degree Programs in Healthcare Management

The Most Affordable Paths & Career Potential in Healthcare Management

Healthcare management is one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation. A field encompassing management, information technology, and patient care, the BLS anticipates a 20% growth rate nationwide for medical and health services manager jobs from 2016 to 2026. Earning an online associate degree in healthcare management provides an ideal route into this growing industry.

This guide details to what to expect when pursuing a healthcare management associate degree online, including the required skills and knowledge, how long programs take to complete, and financial and professional support resources.

What Will You Learn in an Online Associate Healthcare Management Program?

While coursework varies from program to program, the core concepts and principles are consistent across most online healthcare management associate programs. Healthcare management covers organizational behavior theory, information technology in healthcare, and the legal and ethical issues in healthcare delivery. This coursework equips graduates to successfully navigate a healthcare environment, understand principles of healthcare delivery, and show leadership and teamwork in a managerial role.

Healthcare management majors also take foundational courses in economics, statistics, and action research. The concepts from these courses assist students in understanding the financial concepts managers deal with regularly, along with methodologies for improving workplace productivity.

Common Classes and Coursework

Organizational Development and Human Resources

Students explore the mechanism for organizational change through the lens of organizational psychology and applied behavioral science. Eventually, they learn techniques for practically applying this theoretical knowledge in a human resources role. The course often encompasses action research, phases of consulting, and intervention and conflict resolution techniques.

Health Information Systems

This course overviews health information system issues such as security, project development, and health information exchanges. Students develop fundamental skills in handling electronic medical records (EMR), electronic health records (EHR), and personal health records (PHR). They leave better prepared for technician or management work in healthcare IT.

Healthcare Ethics

This course investigates ethical issues in healthcare, including patient concerns, staffing challenges, and issues in biomedical ethics. Students complete the course with a firm grasp on the importance of principles such as autonomy, trust, nonmaleficence in health care delivery, and balancing fiscal and ethical concerns.

Legal Issues in Healthcare

Students explore the legal issues that intersect healthcare delivery. Topics include professional liability, patient privacy, and payment system management. The course equips learners with the skills to gage legal issues they may encounter as healthcare management professionals, especially those relating to government regulation and healthcare industry reform.

Economics for Management and Policy

The course covers concepts of economic theory and analysis as they pertain to healthcare management, including but not limited to healthcare resource allocation, healthcare consumption, and supply and demand. The course equips learners for specialized work as a financial manager in the healthcare industry and may accompany coursework in healthcare finance.

Skills You Will Gain

A healthcare management degree equips you with a broadly applicable skillset you can use in a variety of industries and areas of professional life. For starters, pursuing a healthcare management associate degree teaches skills in leadership and conflict resolution through coursework in organizational behavior and management. A healthcare management degree program teaches you to work effectively in directing your coworkers to accomplish goals and working through complex issues that can decrease productivity.

The field also encompasses important skills in understanding legal and ethical issues. Studying these complex aspects of healthcare delivery prepares you to navigate nonprofit and corporate environments relating to healthcare and public health. Healthcare managers also study data analysis, including how to install and maintain firewalls for protecting confidential information. These skills can help in information technology-related roles in industries other than healthcare.

Mentoring and teamwork skills are crucial in a healthcare management-related job. Your coursework covers how to train new hires, work effectively as a team, and foster professional growth in your relationships. Finally, your degree helps you form practical business skills in budgeting, quality control, and understanding basic economics. These skills are important in a typical upper management career, or can even help you specialize in financial management.

Average Degree Length

A healthcare management associate typically consists of 60 semester credits taken through a two-year community college or four-year college or university. How long it takes to earn an online degree depends on your specific needs as a learner. Three main timelines exist for earning a healthcare management associate degree online:

  • Part-time: Around two years, taking one or two courses per semester/quarter.
  • Full-time: One to two years, taking a full course load each semester/quarter.
  • Accelerated: Less than one year, taking the maximum course load each semester/quarter.

Many nontraditional and returning learners may opt for a part-time timeline. An online degree does not require relocating or commuting, and a part-time course load allows learners to balance practical obligations such as family or work. Recent high school graduates typically take a full-time course load or even an accelerated one to finish earlier and transition directly to a paid position.

Career Opportunities With an Associate Degree in Healthcare Management

Healthcare management jobs encompass career options in a range of settings. Many may imagine healthcare managers stereotypically working in large hospitals managing finances or the human resources division. However, work in the field encompasses areas such as information technology and often takes place in smaller clinics and nonprofits. Which career you choose to pursue ultimately depends on where your interests lie. Read on for some useful information on potential careers, work settings, and salaries available to healthcare management majors.

Potential Careers and Salaries

An associate degree in healthcare management prepares you to work in health and medical services settings. Healthcare management graduates most often work in hospitals, private clinics, and outpatient care centers. They may work in a specific wing of a larger facility or in a smaller office setting, sometimes finding employment as information technology managers or technicians within these facilities.

Expertise in health services delivery, patient care, and effective organizational development can come in handy outside of typical healthcare settings such as these. Your skills could help you find work in long-term care facilities or nonprofits relating to public health.

Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers plan and oversee medical and health services in settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, and private practices. Typically, they hold at least a bachelor's.

Average Annual Salary: $99,730

Top Executive

Top executives/CEOs plan, coordinate, and oversee the operational functions of organizations and companies at the highest level. An executive role at a hospital generally requires at least a bachelor's, but often holds at least a master's.

Average Annual Salary: $104,980

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Medical records and health information technicians manage, organize, and safeguard confidential health information data including patient records and clinical registries. The position usually requires a nondegree award such as a certificate.

Average Annual Salary: $40,350

Revenue Cycle Manager

Revenue cycle managers in healthcare oversee billing accounts and help departments resolve revenue cycle issues relating to insurance, collections, and billing transactions with patients. These managers usually hold at least a bachelor's.

Average Annual Salary: $65,335

Human Resource Manager

Human resource managers plan, oversee, and coordinate the administrative functions of organizations such as hospitals, acting as go-betweens between management and staff. They usually hold at least a bachelor's degree.

Average Annual Salary: $113,300

Source: BLS, Payscale

Five Healthcare Management Scholarships to Apply For

Funding a healthcare management associate degree program can create stress for many. Fortunately, many resources exist aside from student loans to help you make the financial burden more affordable. Scholarships can alleviate the cost of your ideal healthcare management program, and unlike loans do not need to be repaid.

Campus Safety, Health, and Environmental Management Association (CSHEMA) Scholarship Award

  • Who Can Apply: Full-time undergraduate and graduate students in majors related to public health, including health administration, may apply for this scholarship. The award includes free entrance to the CSHEMA annual conference. Candidates must present a minimum GPA of 2.5.
  • Amount: $2,000


Elizabeth and Sherman Asche Memorial Scholarship/Association on American Indian Affairs:

  • Who Can Apply: Students of Native American ancestry in undergraduate or graduate health administration programs can apply for this scholarship, which requires candidates to submit their tribal ID and a personal essay on their commitment to improving healthcare delivery in the American Indian community.
  • Amount: $1,500


Jack Kent Cook Foundation College Scholarship

  • Who Can Apply: High school students can apply for scholarship awards from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for their undergraduate and graduate studies. The program accepts students interested in pursuing any area of study at a four-year university.
  • Amount: $40,000


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP)

  • Who Can Apply: Undergraduate students with a 3.3 minimum GPA demonstrating financial need may apply for this scholarship. The NIH requires award recipients to complete a 10-week residency, and work for the NIH for at least a year after graduation.
  • Amount: $20,000


The Vivian Drenckhahn Student Scholarship

  • Who Can Apply: The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) offers three $2,500 awards annually to full-time undergraduate and graduate learners in public health-related majors, including health administration. Candidates must have completed a third of their required coursework.
  • Amount: $2,500

Educational Advancement in Healthcare Management

For most, an associate degree in healthcare management represents the first step in a progression toward a more advanced degree that will lead to greater specialization and responsibility in addition to higher pay. By earning an associate degree first, you can decide whether you want to pursue a bachelor's or master's in healthcare management. Associate degree credits can be used toward whatever more advanced degree interests you, provided you plan your course of study carefully.

Should You Transfer to a Four-Year Degree Program?

An accredited associate degree program in healthcare management offers the advantage of transferable credit. The credit you earn in a two-year program can count toward a bachelor's or master's degree. In order to maximize the success of your transfer, consider working with an academic advisor in advance to customize your course track for maximum transferable credit. You should also strongly consider transferring to a school that holds a reciprocity agreement with your current school.

What Degree Paths Should You Consider?

A few different degree paths exist once you complete your associate degree in health management. You could go on to earn a bachelor's in health management, probably with a greatly reduced curriculum, thanks to your associate degree credit. You may also opt for a master's or MBA in health management, depending on your future plans.

    Bachelor's in Health Management

    A bachelor's degree in health management represents the standard educational level for healthcare management professionals.

    Master's in Health Management

    A master's degree in health management is a terminal degree for many, and typically prepares you for executive roles. It also grants more freedom to specialize by taking a custom track of electives.

    MBA With a Concentration in Health Management

    An MBA with a concentration in health management may appeal more strongly to learners who want to keep their options open to branch out into other management-related fields outside of healthcare, such as financial management or consulting.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Consider joining a professional organization after you have graduated. Organizations such as the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) provide access to continuing education and networking opportunities that will aid your professional development.

American College of Healthcare Executives

ACHE represents over 4,800 executive healthcare administrators nationwide across its local chapters, which meet for an annual Chapter Leaders Conference. Members enjoy access to job opportunities, continuing education, and numerous publications.

American Health Information Management Association

AHIMA advocates for health administration professionals specializing in health information management through resources such as its annual conference and online and in-person continuing education opportunities that include its innovative Vlab experiential learning portal.

Association of University Programs in Health Administration

Since 1948, AUPHA has promoted quality health administration education nationwide. Members can take advantage of professional certification and a range of scholarships tailoring to health administration majors sponsored by the nonprofit.

Healthcare Administrators Association

Established in 1980, HCAA occupies the forefront of organizations for healthcare administrators. This nonprofit's member benefits include seminars/webinars for continuing education credit, an annual summit, and the newly inaugurated TPA Connect conference.

Medical Group Management Association

MGMA supports healthcare management professionals working in private practices and small office settings. Members can access career advancement resources such as fellowships, free resume review, and webinars, along with local chapter and national events.

National Center for Healthcare Leadership

NCHL advocates for excellence in healthcare leadership through research, initiatives, and professional development. Three membership programs comprise the NCHL: the Leadership Excellence Networks (LENS), US Cooperative of International Patient Programs (USCIPP), and National Council on Administrative Fellowships (NCAF).

Professional Association of Healthcare Office Management

PAHCOM represents healthcare professionals in small office and private practice settings through resources such as its certified medical manager certification, continuing education, and bimonthly magazine on contemporary issues.

The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management

Established in 1968, AAHAM offers a variety of professional certifications for healthcare administrators, including its certified revenue cycle and certified compliance technician credentials. Members can use the organization's certification webinars/seminars for continuing education credit.

The Healthcare Financial Management Association

HFMA advocates for healthcare administrators specializing in financial management, offering members professional certification, career assistance, and live seminars and conferences. The organization offers special membership programs for students and professionals, respectively.

The National Association of Healthcare Access Management

NAHAM promotes excellence among healthcare management professionals specializing in patient access services such as scheduling, registration, and patient finance. This nonprofit's resources include professional certification, webinars, and an annual conference.