Online Health Services Degree Programs

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Driving the Business
Side of Healthcare

With strong organizational skills and a desire to help people, it’s possible to work in the upper echelons of healthcare as a manager, administrator or executive. Online health service degree programs prepare individuals for successful careers in private medical practices, clinics and other healthcare facilities. This guide provides an overview of available degree programs and the steps involved in securing a job in this growing field.

Health Services Administrator: Milestone Map

Those interested in making a career in health services administration can start as early as high school by taking relevant courses and volunteering in healthcare environments. Those who pursue a degree in a medical field, such as by becoming a registered nurse, may be able to transition to health services administration fairly easily. Here is an example career path of a health administrator professional:

High School

Exceled in information technology; volunteered at local hospital.

Online Bachelor’s Degree

Completed four-year bachelor’s degree in health administration.

Work Experience

Worked as night manager at 24-hour urgent care clinic.

Online Master’s Degree

Completed online master’s while continuing to work at clinic.

Management
Role

Took a job at regional hospital system managing outreach to rural populations.

Promotion

Got promoted to executive role coordinating all outpatient programs between hospitals.

Completing Your Health Services Degree Online

Whether they work as an administrative professional in an office or as a floor nurse in a hospital, working people often need a flexible educational schedule to accommodate their jobs. Online programs in health services make it much easier for working professionals or busy parents to achieve their educational goals. Since these degrees generally require little if any labs or fieldwork, students can usually complete their degrees entirely online, working at their own pace as long as they meet assignment deadlines.

The online degree program is typically comprised of online lectures and presentations, as well as a virtual dashboard where students can interact with instructors and other students. Participating in online discussion forums and submitting assignments through a dedicated portal are common elements of an online degree program, so students need to be comfortable communicating online, downloading materials for various projects, and conducting independent research on the Web.

Online Health Services Degrees by Level

Depending on the degree level, students should expect to spend at least two years, and up to seven, obtaining their education in healthcare services. Once all required courses are complete, some schools may assist with job placement opportunities and provide other resources to students.

  • Associate
  • Bachelor’s
  • Master’s
  • Doctorate

A graduate degree in health services administration gives students the skills to conduct research and interpret data related to health policies. They learn how to make policy decisions that affect clinical care, and will work with advisers and mentors to complete a thesis. In most cases, students need to submit a thesis proposal by the end of the first year of the program. Advanced courses center on the economic and political environments of healthcare, healthcare policies, and research studies.

Individuals who are interested in a leadership role in the field of healthcare administration, or who want to engage in scientific research, can complete a doctoral program that focuses on an area such as community health, healthcare administration, or public health policy. Programs typically include foundational courses, core courses in research, specialization courses and electives, and a dissertation; completing a master’s degree first can shorten the time needed to obtain a PhD.

Learning Outcomes for Health Services Students

Online degree programs in health services administration usually include courses in general education and business—such as sociology, natural science and financial management—to give students a strong foundation for the specialized courses that follow. More advanced courses give graduates a strong grasp of current healthcare policies, decision-making processes, healthcare organizational structures, and healthcare management processes. Examples of courses available in various online healthcare administration degree programs include:

Healthcare Policies

An analysis of public healthcare policies that govern various organizations and institutions across the country. Students examine various policies in detail and evaluate their impact on how healthcare services are delivered.

Healthcare Marketing

A look at identifying target markets, developing healthcare marketing plans, and implementing marketing strategies across healthcare organizations. Students learn the key principles, strategies and methods for marketing healthcare services.

Data Analysis in Healthcare

Covers research methods and data analysis processes used in the healthcare field. Focuses on the skills necessary to formulate research hypotheses, review data critically, and conduct high-level research.

Leadership in Healthcare

Because many healthcare administrators and managers lead teams, this course trains students in the key principles of leadership in a healthcare organization.

Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare Management

This course outlines common issues encountered in various healthcare settings, both public and private, and explores effective ways to solve problems legally and without compromising ethical standards.

Online Programs Must-Have Checklist

Schools across the country offer accredited online health services degree programs; the student’s first task is to select one that is aligned with their educational, career and personal goals. Following are some things to consider when choosing an online health services program:

  • Decide which type of degree and level of education suits your career and personal goals. Undergraduate health sciences degrees allow graduates access to entry-level and mid-level jobs, while graduate-level students are prepared for leadership roles, teaching, and research-oriented positions.
  • Confirm that both the school and the program under consideration meet accreditation standards
  • Make sure you meet all academic requirements
  • Determine whether the school offers job-placement assistance programs, internships, or fellowship opportunities. Education and training can go a long way, but nothing compares to real-life work experience in health services.
  • Learn about support services available to online students, such as tech support, career services, and access to campus libraries or research facilities
  • Check financial aid and grant options available to online learners
  • Evaluate tuition costs and payment deadlines, including any travel costs for in-person requirements

Online Health Services Degree Program Accreditation

Accreditation is a vital factor in selecting a program, as it holds schools and individual programs to high standards and ensures a quality education. In today’s competitive job market, employers seek out candidates who have graduated from accredited institutions, and may not even consider those who have not. Students planning to enroll in a health services administration degree program should ensure the school is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH); graduate students should also look for programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

  • Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)

    The Council on Education for Public Health accredits institutions that prepare graduates for public health practice in local, state, national and international settings. CEPH accreditation signifies that the school has maintained a high level of excellence in education and met all CEPH criteria.

  • Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)

    The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is committed to advancing the quality of healthcare management education by setting criteria for educational standards, assisting and advising programs to ensure continual improvement, and accrediting graduate programs that meet or exceed the criteria.

Online Program Enrollment Timeline: Health Services

After high school, the educational track to enter the field of healthcare administration can take between two and seven years, depending on the level of education the student wants to pursue. Planning ahead from one step to the step is essential for successful completion of a program. Here is a closer look at a tentative online doctorate program enrollment timeline for interested students:

Time to Complete
Step 1

Submit application for the Graduate Records Examinations (GREs) given in October.

9 to 10 months
Step 2

Take GREs. Choose programs for application submittal

8 months
Step 3

Submit requests for undergraduate transcripts to be sent to prospective programs. Request letters of recommendation from professors and other academic advisors.

7 months
Step 4

File the FAFSA application and other required documents. Sit for department interviews.

5 to 6 months

Step 5

Accept program of your choice and decline other offers.

3 to 4 months

Students interested in pursuing an education in health services administration can also take some extra steps to stand out to admissions committees. Beyond getting good grades, students can highlight their interest in the field by doing some of the following:

  • Network with peers, professors, and professionals in your area to learn more about the field and make connections that can lead to shining letters of recommendation.
  • Volunteer at a clinic or with a health-related agency such as the Red Cross or PATH over summers or semester breaks.
  • Take a standalone online class from a group such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the American Medical Association (AMA) to learn more about the field. Many classes are free.
  • Joining a student organization or club that focuses on public health demonstrates passion for the field and collaborative thinking. Taking leadership roles in such an organization is a major plus.

Health Services: Career Concentrations

Health service managers, administrators and executives are responsible for developing and executing strategies that help a healthcare organization run smoothly and achieve operational goals. They must have a comprehensive knowledge of healthcare laws and regulations, an understanding of current technologies, and strong communication and leadership skills. Most work in the offices of a healthcare facility, such as a hospital, nursing home, clinic, or a medical practice.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job growth for medical and health services managers is expected to be much faster than average through 2024, with a projected increase of 17 percent. That translates to more than 56,000 jobs being added to the market, bringing plentiful opportunities for healthcare managers and executives. Those with advanced degrees and several years of experience may find the job forecast even brighter.

Within the field, professionals can specialize in a number of different areas or environments. For example, it’s possible to work for a government agency developing public health policy, for a major hospital focused on marketing strategies, or at a long-term care facility finding ways to deliver efficient, cost-effective care. Below are some example careers in the field.

Career Description National Median Annual Salary (2014) Minimum Education & Licensure
Medical & Health Services Manager (Government) Oversees operations of a military hospital, veteran’s hospital, or similar organization . $98,310 Bachelor’s Degree
Medical & Health Services Manager (Hospitals) Directs and coordinates medical and health services organizations and ensures compliance with laws and regulations. $99,930 Bachelor’s Degree; state licensure to work in assisted-living facilities
Medical Administrative Assistant Handles administrative tasks for a medical services administrator or executive. $32,240 High school diploma; executive secretaries may need bachelor’s degree and work experience
Social & Community Service Managers Develops programs and services, manages budgets, and reviews effectiveness of various programs. $62,740 Bachelor’s degree; some positions may require a master’s
Nursing Manager Supervises nursing staff and implements appropriate training programs. May also develop systems for patient care initiatives. $81,095.00 Associate degree; RN license and training may be required

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics PayScale.com

Next Step: Licenses & Certifications

Individuals with a health services administration degree may choose to specialize in a certain field, such as nursing home administration, which may require state licensure. In addition, completing a certification program for professional development purposes can provide individuals with additional job skills and make them more relevant in the job market. Examples of certification programs include:

Similar Online Public Health Programs

If a career as a health services administration professional sounds interesting but doesn’t feel like the perfect career path, consider other online public health programs that provide opportunities to help people and work in the health or wellness industry. Similar degree programs include:

Online Health Education Degrees:

Takes an in-depth look at theoretical and practical issues affecting the nation’s healthcare system, as well as common challenges that individuals and communities face. Graduate degrees prepare students for a career in teaching, counseling or consulting.

Online Nutrition Degrees:

Studies food from a scientific perspective and how food affects the body. Programs prepare students to serve as nutritionists who advise individual clients or communities on how to meet their nutritional needs effectively and make sound choices at every stage of life.

Online Health Science Degrees:

Comprehensive, science-based programs that focus on human biology, quantitatie methods, nutrition, neuroscience and physiology. Students are prepared for careers in medicine, public health or research.

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