Health Care Management Degree: Picking the Right One For You

Written by Coursera • Updated on

A career in health care management begins with obtaining the right degree. Learn more about the degrees that will prepare you for a range of health care management jobs and how to pick the right one for you.

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Health care managers oversee the big-picture operations of health care facilities and systems. To qualify for this impactful position, health care professionals should have adequate training and the right degrees to ensure they have the knowledge and skills necessary to manage effectively within a health care environment. 

While either an undergraduate or graduate degree in health care management will prepare you for a career in the field, there are other degrees that can equip you with the skill set you need to qualify for this in-demand position. The one you decide to pursue will likely depend on your goals and resources. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about health care management as a career, explore different degree options, and find a list of common things to consider before deciding which degree is best for you. At the end of this article, you’ll also find some suggested courses to help you get started today. 

At a glance: Healthcare management 

As its name implies, health care management refers to management positions within health care systems and health care facilities, such as hospitals and clinics, that are focused on organizational-wide initiatives. It is related, though distinct, from health care administration, which typically focuses on overseeing the day-to-day tasks performed within a health care environment. 

Nonetheless, individuals who enter health care management might possess degrees in health care administration and have prior experience in administrative positions.

Health care manager salary 

Individuals working in health care management can expect a higher than average salary. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical and health services managers in the US make a median annual salary of $101,340 as of May 2021. This pay is more than double the national median salary for all positions, which was $45,760 as of May 2021 [1]. 

Health care management job outlook  

Positions in health care management are expected to grow at a much faster rate than average for all occupations in the United States. 

According to the BLS, the number of job openings for medical and health services managers is projected to grow by 28 percent between 2021 and 2031, with approximately 56,600 new jobs added each year. This job growth is much faster than the national average for all occupations in the US, which are projected to grow by just eight percent during the same period [2].

Overall, the demand for health care is projected to increase for foreseeable future due to an aging baby boomer population requiring increased medical attention.    

Read more: Is Health Care a Good Career Path? Outlook, Jobs, and More

Health care management degrees 

Multiple degrees can prepare you for a career in health care management. 

While a degree in health care administration might be the most applicable to the position, many other degrees can equip you with the knowledge and skills you’ll need to succeed in the field. Here are some of the higher education degrees you should know about as you consider your future career path: 

Undergraduate degree 

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most health care management positions. In fact, according to research conducted by Zippia, 39 percent of health care administrators hold bachelor’s degrees, while only 22 percent hold an associate degree [3]. 

Different degrees can prepare you for management roles in health care settings. For example, while a BS in Health Care Management might prepare you for most managerial positions, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) with a minor in business management might be suitable for you to become a clinical manager. Some common undergraduate degrees held by health care management professionals include:

  • Bachelor’s of science (BS) in Health Care Management

  • BS in Health Care Administration 

  • BS in Health Information Management

  • BS in Nursing (BSN)

  • BS/BA in Social Work (BSW)

  • BS/BA in Public Health 

Graduate degree 

Master’s degrees are common among health management professionals. While some employers might just prefer candidates with a master’s degree, others might actually require that applicants possess one. 

Regardless of what you studied for your undergraduate degree, a Master’s degree in health care management or a related subject can prepare you for a position in the field. Typically, graduate programs that prepare you for a health care management position will equip you with knowledge of health care systems, the business of health care, and practical managerial experience. 

Some of the most common graduate degrees for health care management include: 

  • Master’s in Health Care Management  

  • Master’s in Health Care Administration  (MHA)

  • Master’s in Public Health 

  • Master’s of Business Administration (MBA)

Healthcare management degree considerations 

There are many considerations that you should make when deciding on the right health care management degree program for you. From where you go to school to how much it costs and what it covers, there is much to think about when picking the right path for you. 

Here are some of the most important considerations you should think about when pursuing a health care management degree:  

1. Online or in-person 

Your learning environment is one of the most important aspects of any educational program. When comparing multiple health care management degree programs, consider whether you want an online, in-person, or hybrid course. 

Typically, online programs offer the opportunity for a more flexible course of study, can more easily fit into your current work and life schedule, and are often cheaper than their in-person counterparts. Traditional in-person programs, meanwhile, allow for increased opportunities to meet faculty and peers, provide a social environment that might help improve your studies, and could offer more opportunities to pursue extracurricular activities. 

You might also consider a hybrid program that is partly completed online and partly in person. Each program type has its own merits. 

2. Subject focus 

Health care management is a specialized field that pairs knowledge of health care systems with business and managerial experience. As a result, when comparing different programs, it’s important to consider how different degrees might prepare you for a successful future in the field. 

In some cases, the program you attend might be specifically geared toward a career in health care management, such as a course of study to achieve a BS in Health Care Management. These programs should equip you with much of the skills and knowledge you will need in the field. 

In other cases, though, you might have to mix and match areas of focus to prepare yourself for a career in health care management. For example, someone working toward their Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree might take courses related to health care to supplement their business and managerial training with relevant health care knowledge. 

Each path has its benefits. While a program explicitly focused on health care management or health care administration will prepare you for a career in the field, a degree in a related field with job-specific specializations could provide you with wider knowledge that could also open doors to careers in other fields too. 

3. Cost 

It’s well known that college can be expensive. It’s important to consider the cost of the program you will be attending. 

You should consider how much you believe you will make after you graduate and enter the field. Resources like Glassdoor, the BLS, and Payscale can be helpful. 

Find out if there are financial aid or scholarships available to you that will reduce the cost of attendance. You might also consider paying for school with private or public loans, or a combination of both. And, of course, you should consider whether there is any other way for you to support yourself through your education such as working part-time. 

There is no one right answer to these questions. Each of us has unique financial considerations, so think carefully about what works best for you before you jump into any program. 

Read more: How to Pay for Graduate School: 8 Ways

4. Career goals 

Your career goals will play a central role in determining whether or not you should pursue a health care management degree. This is particularly true if you feel that you want to make yourself more marketable by obtaining a graduate degree such as a Master’s in Public Health.   

Whatever your larger career goal, make sure to clearly understand what your goals are and how your degree can empower you to achieve them. 

5. Time to completion 

One often overlooked consideration for any degree program is the time it will take to complete it. While some Master’s programs can be as short as two years, most undergraduate programs generally take four years to complete. 

The exact amount of time it will take you to obtain your health care management degree will depend on the type of program you are attending, whether you are a part or full-time student, and whether or not you enter your program with transfer credits. 

Prepare for your career

Health care management pairs knowledge of the health care industry with business, managerial, and leadership skills. Start gaining the right skills and knowledge today with a flexible, online course through Coursera. 

Rutger’s Healthcare Organization Operations Specialization introduces course takers to the health care foundation for administrative careers and equips them with actionable insight that ensures they can better contribute to the effective administration of the health care organization’s operations.     

Northwestern’s MS in Management: Digital Transformation in Healthcare will empower you to master the technical skills, regulatory frameworks, and managerial competencies to lead the digital transformation of health care in your current or future organization. 

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Article sources


US BLS. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Medical and Health Services Managers, Pay,” Accessed August 17, 2022. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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