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Master of Health Care

By Ysobel Croix

Who will be in charge of balancing operational costs of hospitals as new health care jobs are created? And who will ensure that electronic health records are secure and legally compliant?

Master of health care programs may prepare candidates to manage these aspects of a health care facility's operations or other business divisions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects management opportunities in health care to grow faster than average between 2010 and 2020, with job growth of 22 percent. Though some people may be able to break into these careers with a bachelor's degree, the BLS notes that the standard credential for these in-demand careers is a master's degree.

Master of health care degree programs

Diverse master's degrees may be available in health care, and they typically take about two years to complete. Institutions may award degrees from several schools, including schools of science, health and business. Some programs may require prerequisite courses, such as medical terminology. The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education, or CAHME, separates programs into these four groups, all with a program focus in health care:

  • Master of Business Administration or MBA
  • Master of Public Administration or MPA
  • Master of Public Health or MPH
  • Other degrees: for example, Master of Health Administration, or MHA, and Master of Health Services Administration, or MHSA

This CAHME notes that a degree program's name isn't as important as the program's content. The Commission recognizes approximately 80 degree programs at U.S. institutions as meeting the commission's accreditation standards.

Health informatics may also require well-educated managers. Master's degrees which may prepare these managers are sometimes called Master of Science in Health Informatics, or are offered as a specialty of a health administration master's program. Another accreditation body, the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education, recognizes five master's degree programs, three of which offer distance learning options.

Not all available master's degree programs in health care receive programmatic accreditation, including some that are offered as partially and wholly online degrees. Some online degree programs may offer an option that allows students to complete a master's degree more quickly.

Coursework for master of health care degrees

Because so many health care master's degrees are available, coursework may vary significantly, as shown in the following examples.

Courses for the MBA in health care may include the following:

  • Ethic and legal issues in health care
  • Health care finance
  • Health policy analysis and decision-making
  • Strategic management of health care systems

The curriculum for a master's degree in public health may span these subjects:

  • Biostatistics
  • Health informatics
  • Health policy and management
  • Public health communication

A curriculum for public administration of health could include these topics:

  • Health care administration
  • Health care economics
  • Health care issues and trends
  • Public policy and politics of health care

A health care management focus may offer these classes:

  • Effective information technology for health organizations
  • Health care policy and economy
  • Health care operations
  • Organization of health care systems

A degree in health care informatics could cover the following subjects:

  • Ethic and legal issues in health informatics
  • Health care communication systems management
  • Health care information security
  • Social and organizational issues in health informatics

Careers possibilities and earnings with a health care master's degree

Health care managers are typically well-educated, sometimes licensed by the state and certified by a professional organization, and often well-paid, according to the BLS. In 2010, the mean annual salary for medical and health services managers was $93,670, and the top 10 percent earned $144,880. Though the majority of health care managers may be employed by hospitals, the BLS expects more new jobs to be created in health care practitioners' offices than in hospitals. Health care managers may seek employment in outpatient facilities, nursing homes, physicians' offices, psychiatric and substance abuse treatment facilities, and medical laboratories.

Among the leaders involved in health care management and the politics of state and federal health care system reform, several have master's degrees in health care. Admiral John O. Agwunobi has both an MBA and an MPH, in addition to his medical degree. Agwunobi served as U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health under George W. Bush and as Florida Secretary of Health and State Health Officer under Governor Jeb Bush.

The health care degree programs that prepare these leaders are called by many names and may have a slightly different focus. No matter the name, health care master's degree programs may provide managers with the knowledge to implement change and keep facilities running, ultimately helping to provide critical services and health care to patients.


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