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Online Ph.D. in Healthcare Administration

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Healthcare administrators ensure that patients receive the highest quality of care by managing their organizations' materials and personnel. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for healthcare administrators should rise by 20% from 2016 to 2026. With the average salary approaching $100,000 per year, earning a doctor of health administration (DHA) online represents an investment in your future career as a healthcare manager. Keep reading to learn more about DHA online programs, degree requirements, and career paths.

Reasons to Pursue an Online Ph.D. in Healthcare Administration

When researching graduate-level healthcare administration programs, your first decision involves whether to pursue a master's or Ph.D. Master's programs prepare you for hospital administration careers. Depending on your specialization, this degree may also qualify you to work as a non-tenure-track lecturer or professor.

Online doctoral degrees in healthcare administration include much of the same core curriculum as master's programs. However, doctoral students go in-depth with research methodology, which are crucial courses that prepare them to write their dissertations. Ph.D. graduates use their dissertations to gain attention from potential employers. They typically work in academia as tenure-track professors or researchers. Others who graduate with an online Ph.D. in healthcare administration go on to work as policy advisers or lawmakers. However, Ph.D. graduates can still work in hospital administration if they choose. Some Ph.D. programs offer concentrations specifically for this group of doctoral students. Students who select this route usually want to gain additional professional experience before moving into an academic or advisory position.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Healthcare Administration?

Online doctorate in healthcare administration graduates go on to pursue academic, advisory, and managerial careers. To determine if a doctoral program can help you achieve your career goals, investigate its concentrations. Concentrations provide doctoral students with specialized knowledge and skills that narrow their career paths to a single track. As not all programs offer concentrations you find appealing, you can quickly create a shortlist of possible universities.

As you research your doctorate degree in healthcare administration online, also consider which careers might interest you. As job titles vary between two positions that possess nearly identical responsibilities, pay close attention to each position's job duties. Once you decide on a career, match its duties with the skills and competencies that potential doctoral programs emphasize. Using this method, you can select the best Ph.D. program that matches your future goals.

Continue reading to learn more about popular careers and how to maximize your salary after graduating from a Ph.D. in healthcare administration online program.

Common Career Paths and Salaries

Use this section to explore careers that online Ph.D. in healthcare administration graduates may pursue. These and related careers may require you to possess a Ph.D. and relevant work experience as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional.

Practice Manager

Practice managers oversee medical offices' daily operations. They hire and train new staff and play a vital role in ensuring that their offices meet all regulatory compliances. Other responsibilities include maintaining all patient and financial records.

Vice President, Quality

At major organizations, the VP of quality ensures that employees provide professional and high-quality services to clients. In healthcare settings, VPs must possess extensive healthcare administration education and experience.

Salary Progression

When researching potential career paths, keep in mind that your future salary depends on much more than your experience and degrees. The company or organization you work for and the state where you work both play important roles in determining your starting salary and salary progression. The most populous states typically boast the highest starting salaries due to their higher cost of living. However, as you research salaries across the nation, you may discover that more affordable cities and states offer even higher salaries. No matter where you want to live, expect major hospitals and universities to offer the best salaries.

Healthcare Administration Ph.D. Program Requirements and Outcomes

When researching potential programs, you may discover different admission requirements. Some programs require work experience as a nurse, physician, or other healthcare professional. Others may ask you to possess a master's in hospital administration. Nearly all programs require test scores, a minimum undergraduate GPA, and recommendation letters from either work supervisors or professors.

If you already possess a master's degree, expect to earn 45-60 credits during your doctoral program. For the first 2-3 years, students complete foundation and concentration courses. Other common courses include those that teach you how to write your dissertation. Most students spend 3-5 years working on their dissertations.

Your program may require you to complete one or more on-campus components to complete preliminary research, meet with professors, or defend your dissertation. Before applying to a program, discuss on-campus components with program officials to ensure that you can meet these requirements.

Common Courses

  • Managing Employees in Healthcare Settings

    Healthcare administrators require strong interpersonal skills. This course stresses leadership best practices and how to integrate them in different situations and settings. Just as important, students learn how to mediate disputes and how to promote inclusive working environments.

  • Organizational Finance

    This course conveys crucial information healthcare administrators need to balance their organizations' budgets while simultaneously improving patient outcomes. Students analyze financial documents to identify trends and develop solutions to problems. Finally, students learn how to use financial information to create long-term business plans.

  • Healthcare Marketing and Investments

    This course focuses on topics related to capital investment such as return on investment and inflation. Students apply their knowledge by analyzing marketing and investments' role in healthcare settings. By the end of the course, students understand how to plan and implement long-term investments.

  • Creating Budgets

    Healthcare administrators ensure their organizations' financial health and profitability. This course teaches both budgeting and cost accounting skills. Students analyze budgets and other financial documents to identify problems and propose solutions. The course also stresses strategies that students can use to plan their future employers' long-term budgets.

  • Improving Healthcare Performance and Quality

    In this course, students analyze how to improve the care patients receive while increasing organizational efficiency. Course topics include methods to improve staff performance and how to analyze failures. Finally, the course stresses not only ways to improve patient outcomes, but also methods administrators use to raise patients' satisfaction with the care they receive.

  • Healthcare Economics

    Healthcare economics courses teach students how to use business best practices in healthcare settings. Students learn how cost reductions, contract negotiations, and maximizing efficiency all help organizations succeed financially. Like many healthcare administration courses, healthcare economics stresses that patients' safety and care come first.

  • The Healthcare Regulatory Environment

    Government regulations affect how healthcare organizations operate at every level. This course covers both specific government regulations and how healthcare managers keep their organizations within regulatory compliance. Students review case studies covering organizations' reactions to medical malpractice or error.

  • Administering Complex Healthcare Systems

    Healthcare organizations include multiple departments and hundreds, sometimes thousands of employees. In this course, students study strategic planning fundamentals and different healthcare administration theories. Students apply their new knowledge through organization restructuring simulations and similar exercises.

Other Requirements

Practicums and Internships

Although many doctoral students earning their DHA degrees online possess professional experience, the best programs include practicum and internship experiences so students may hone their new knowledge and skills. Depending on the program, working students can complete these experiences at their job sites. Completing an internship typically requires a research project.

Concentration

Doctoral students select a concentration that affects their educational experiences, as well as their future career paths and salary potential. As you research programs, pay close attention to those that offer concentrations that align with your interests. Completing one involves taking specific courses. Many doctoral students also base their dissertations on their concentration topics.

Dissertation

In most online doctorate in healthcare administration programs, students plan, research, write, and defend a dissertation. The entire process can take 3-5 years depending on the objective and scope of the dissertation. When students finish writing the dissertation, they defend it in front of their dissertation adviser and other professors. Some students may need to revise their dissertations after their first defense.

Residency

Although you take courses online, your DHA online program may occasionally require you to visit campus. These visits typically last 1-2 weeks and involve meetings with professors, specialized courses, and the dissertation defense. Ensure that you can attend residencies before applying to any program that requires them.

Skills and Competencies

Throughout your Ph.D. program, expect to develop skills and competencies necessary for your future professional success. Continue reading to learn more about six skills and competencies Ph.D. programs in healthcare administration emphasize.

  • Collaboration

    Healthcare administrators must know how to work with other managers and the employees they oversee. Accredited online doctoral programs in public health convey these skills through managerial courses.

  • Financial Skills

    Healthcare administrators plan their organizations' budgets, make investments, and determine long-term financial forecasts. In class, students hone their financial skills through drafting budgets and other financial documents.

  • Innovative Thinking

    Innovative thinkers use their curiosity and interpersonal skills to identify potential problems and craft solutions. Ph.D. students improve their innovative thinking skills by working with peers and considering all viewpoints.

  • Professionalism

    As managers, healthcare administrators must stay professional when working with employees and clients. Professionalism also requires managers to expect professional behavior from all employees.

  • Talent Development

    Excellent healthcare administrators know how to identify and develop talent. In healthcare settings, they mentor new nurses and doctors by providing feedback.

  • Team Leadership

    Healthcare administrators lead teams to solve problems, implement new policies, and ensure that their organizations run smoothly. Team leadership skills often overlap with professionalism and collaboration skills.

Healthcare Administration Licensure

No matter your career aspirations, you must attend a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education. Employers may not recognize your degree if you earn it from a university that lacks this important accreditation. Also, ensure that each university you consider holds accreditation by a regional accreditation agency and a national accreditation agency that oversees online or distance learning programs.

If you plan to work as a university professor, researcher, or policy adviser, you do not need to possess a healthcare administration certificate. These professionals do not directly interact with patients or affect the care patients receive. However, as open positions in academia typically attract many highly qualified candidates, a professional certification can boost your resume. Continue reading to learn more about these certificates and what it takes to earn one.

Doctoral students who plan to work in a healthcare setting may need to earn a certificate depending on their state and employer. Healthcare administrations earn a certificate by passing a certification exam. Three organizations offer certification exams: the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management, the American College of Health Care Administrators, and the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management. Each organization's website includes exam descriptions and study materials. To find out which exam(s) you may need to pass, explore open job application requirements in the state where you plan to work.

Healthcare Administration Professional Organizations

As an experienced healthcare professional, you might already hold membership in a professional organization. These organizations provide you with career essentials such as networking events, continuing education (CE) courses, and other valuable resources. As a returning student, professional organizations can help you in new and exciting ways. When you enroll as a student member, expect to pay a lower membership fee than active members. Also, many organizations provide their student members exclusive scholarship opportunities, job boards, and career centers.

The five professional organizations below represent a mix of those that appeal to all healthcare administrators and those that cater to professionals in a specific healthcare administration subfield. As you review these organizations, pay close attention to the benefits they provide student members.

  • American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management

    AAHAM members receive access to more than a dozen essential benefits that include certification exams and invitations to networking events. Members can review the association's private job bank and access the national directory to build their professional contacts.

  • American College of Healthcare Executives

    ACHE student members benefit not only from networking and mentoring, but also the chance to earn ACHE board certification in healthcare management. Student members save approximately 50% on their memberships compared to active members.

  • American Health Information Management Association

    The AHIMA's student and career centers help student members and nonmembers plan their careers and obtain their first jobs after graduation. All members save 20% on credential preparation materials.

  • Healthcare Financial Management Association

    The HFMA's 38,000 members represent the nation's healthcare financial managers. HFMA members participate in webinars and other CE courses. Student members who do not work in healthcare administration at the time of joining do not pay a membership fee.

  • National Association of Healthcare Access Management

    Patient access healthcare administrators and students preparing for these careers join the NAHAM. Membership includes exclusive scholarships, a career center, and discounts on CE courses. Prospective members can preview the NAHAM's member benefits at no charge.