Masters in Health Services Administration Programs (MHSA)
As the baby boomers age, the demand for skilled health care workers is increasing at an exponential rate, including the need for those who work on the administrative side of the industry. For those interested in pursuing careers in this field, a masters in health services could be an ideal degree choice. Curricula frequently include courses in medical terminology, health care systems, public health policy, business, statistics, law, ethics, and information technology.
This type of program may appeal to those already working in allied health care who are looking to advance, or to those interested in changing career paths. With a growing number of opening (even at the management level), as well as relatively good job stability, this industry is attractive to professionals from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds. Potential career opportunities include jobs as medical and health services managers, social and community service managers, or insurance underwriters, to name a few options.
Completing an Online Master’s Degree in Health Services
Most online master’s programs are designed with working adults in mind and are structured asynchronously. This means rather than having a scheduled time they are required to "attend" a class, students can complete assignments, read course materials, and participate in discussion boards whenever fits it in with their schedule. There are typically weekly deadlines for completing assignments, but students are left to manage the rest of their study time on their own.
Course work will typically cover medical terminology and health care procedures, as well as business, statistics, and management concepts. These classes prepare students to work with scheduling, budgeting, and the general management of health care facilities, ranging from hospitals to doctors’ offices. Some programs may also include courses in psychology and human behavior, which can help when supervising other employees as well as working with diverse patient populations. Some specific courses that may be included in this type of curriculum are:
- Health Care Management
- Health Care Policy and Administration
- Business Operations
- Health Law and Ethics
At the master’s level, most programs require students to demonstrate advanced research skills. This typically takes the form of a capstone research course requiring field research near the end of the program. In some cases, internships may also be included in the curriculum to help students exercise the knowledge and skills they have learned throughout the program. This may be most useful to students entering the health care industry for the first time. While eligibility requirements will vary based on the specific program, some general points of consideration are listed below:
- A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school.
- Minimum GPA, as required by the school.
- GRE scores (if required).
- Application form with personal statement.
- Application fee.
Career Opportunities for Health Services Graduates
Graduates with a masters in healthcare services are prepared with the industry knowledge and business administration skills they need to pursue leadership positions in clinics, hospitals, physicians’ offices, and other facilities. These job openings may be available in the private sector or with government-run facilities or agencies. Other potential employers include non-profit organizations or insurance companies. Keep in mind that the following figures are estimates, and wages and employment opportunities vary by location. Some information on possible occupations is listed below:
Medical and Health Services Managers
Medical and health services managers are responsible for improving efficiency, managing staff, reviewing finances, creating work schedules, and monitoring adherence to laws and regulations for health care facilities. These managers may also be in charge of meeting with investors and governing boards to report on the facilities’ operations. Positions can be found with private health systems, clinics, or government agencies.
Social and Community Service Managers
Social and community service managers may work for private non-profit groups or government agencies. Those with a health services background will likely work to develop, implement, and manage public health initiatives and educational programs. Individuals in a supervisory position will also be in charge of managing staff and schedules.
Graduates with a degree in health services may also go on to work for insurance companies. Underwriters are in charge of analyzing information on insurance applications, screening, determining risk, and ultimately deciding whether the company should offer insurance and for what type of premium and coverage. With this in mind, it is important that individuals pursuing this career path develop strong mathematical, business, and analytical skills in addition to their knowledge of the health care system.
Additional Benefits of a Master’s Health Services Degree
While many adults may be looking to transfer into the growing field of health care from an unrelated industry, those already working in the field can often benefit the most from this type of degree. With some experience already under their belt, the potential for advancement within their existing organization is greater. In addition, some health care systems offer tuition reimbursement programs for their employees, as long as the degree program is in a related field. This can cut down on the upfront investment you would need to make to try to earn a higher salary. Please be sure to check with your human resources department to see if this is a benefit offered by your employer.