By Scott Wilson
Healthcare is one of those industries that everyone has to engage with at some point in their lives. Right up there with food and clothes, it’s a business that has universal demand. But that very constant presence means that it also sometimes fades into the background.
Until, that is, there’s a global pandemic.
American healthcare spending accounted for nearly 20 percent of overall GDP for the country in 2020.
In the turmoil and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare management is once again in the spotlight. And more and more business professionals are considering high-paying jobs in healthcare.
Healthcare is a fast-paced environment that combines the demands of a market-driven economy with matters of life and death. That makes taking on a high-level leadership role in this field both fascinating and challenging for any business executive.
The explosion in demand for qualified healthcare executives also means it’s a field that is overflowing with opportunity. But there’s a problem: most people climbing the ladder to healthcare leadership positions spent most of their college studies honing their medical skills. Doctors, nurses, and specialists in every technical area of treatment understand health… but they need to also master business concepts.
That’s where a graduate certificate in executive management for healthcare professionals comes in. With only a few months of intensive, focused study, you can bridge the gap between your current healthcare provider skills and the highly specialized expertise you need to take the American healthcare system into the 21st century.
Understanding the Difference Between Healthcare Management Certifications and Certificate Programs
Before you pull the trigger on one of these programs, though, you will want to make sure you understand the differences between certificate programs and certifications.
Certification is a big deal in every aspect of healthcare. Americans want to know their healthcare providers hold the highest levels of ability and expertise, and certification is designed to verify that.
Certifications validate education, experience, and professional skills through qualifications and testing.
The same is true in healthcare management. Certification offers a way for you to have your skills verified by independent organizations like the American Hospital Association or the American College of Healthcare Executives. They include:
- Certified Medical Manager
- Certified Professional in Healthcare Risk Management
- Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems
- Certified Healthcare Financial Professional
Certificate programs, on the other hand, are all about education. They are one place to get the kind of training you need to qualify for certification. They are typically conducted by colleges or specialized educational providers. They’re more about learning and academic growth than resume polishing.
Both certifications and certificates may have a role in your healthcare executive career. But a certificate program is a better place to get started.
Healthcare Management Professionals Lead a Critical, Fast-Growing Industry
The Census Bureau found in 2019 that the American healthcare industry employed around 14 percent of all American workers, some 22 million in all. And as new technologies, an aging population, and a growing number of patients enter the system, it’s poised to grow even further.
And in an industry where you have 22 million employees, you need a lot of managers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for medical and health services managers will hit 28 percent between 2021 and 2031, a much faster than average rate of growth.
Medical and health services managers exist at every level of the healthcare system, and in as many different specialized fields as there are healthcare specialties. They run billing departments, manage facilities maintenance, organize nursing staff, oversee pharmaceutical orders, and negotiate services contracts.
It takes a keen understanding of both basic principles of business management and special factors like:
- Medical billing and compensation practices
- Ethical and regulatory obligations
- Health science
Moving into management from treatment is a goal for many providers. But it’s a hard jump to make without the right kind of training to bridge the gap.
Healthcare Management Salaries Outstrip Even Provider Compensation
The healthcare field is known for offering high salaries for expertise, and healthcare management is no exception.
In 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median annual salary for medical and health services managers was $101,340.
That lucrative six-figure salary is just the median; in the top ten percent of the field, folks running big multi-state healthcare networks and major insurance companies, earned more than $205,620 per year.
And that’s only the baseline salary. Benefits and incentives take total compensation even higher.
Of course, in a field as diverse as healthcare, there are a wide range of salaries offered to managers depending on their expertise. In the most common industries employing health service managers, BLS found median salaries of:
- Hospitals – $119,450
- Government – $117,000
- Outpatient care centers – $99,540
- Offices of physicians – $98,230
- Nursing and residential care facilities – $83,550
Getting the right qualifications for any of those positions is critical, however. So, picking the right graduate certificate program to get you there is pretty important.
Choosing the Perfect Certificate Program for Your Healthcare Management Training
That starts with looking at the school that offers the certificate in the first place.
It’s pretty natural to look to a certificate program offered by a business school when you are looking to get a business education. Just as if you were considering a full graduate degree, such as an MBA, you will want to take a look at factors like:
- Specialty accreditation – Just as reputable medical schools are accredited by the ACCM, LCME, ACCM, and other international accreditors, business schools that meet the standards of the community will hold a specialty accreditation from one of three recognized organizations: AACSB, IACBE, or ACBSP.
- Instructor credentials and experience – Solid certificate programs have solid faculty standing behind them. That means individuals who have both picked up real experience in healthcare management, and who have developed strong academic and research chops.
- Industry connections – Healthcare management is a very specialized aspect of business, so it’s important to find business schools that have cultivated strong relationships with healthcare organizations. The kind of projects, guest speakers, and institutional knowledge you have access to will ride on these.
- Reputation and rankings – There is a hierarchy of quality among business schools just as there is in nursing or medical schools. You’ll hear good things about schools that are the most highly respected, and see them consistently at the top of third-party rankings, like those of the Princeton Review.
- Student support and academic resources – Finally, a school that offers you the kind of resources and guidance you need is important. Look for those with access to scholarly journals, research materials, tutoring, and academic advising services.
Online Certificate Programs Put You in a Better Position to Complete Your Studies
By the time you get to the point where you might consider an executive position in healthcare management, odds are you will already have a thriving career going. You may be in graduate school or have a family.
What you probably won’t have is a lot of spare time.
So, looking to online executive healthcare management certificate programs might be your best bet. These kinds of programs not only allow you to pick from schools around the country to find the best fit, but also offer their studies asynchronously and with part-time options.
That gives you a chance to fit challenging coursework in around the other daily demands you face. You might stream a lecture while cleaning up after dinner, finish up your homework between shifts, answer questions on an online message board during your commute.
Online options are increasingly common and you’re more likely to find a good fit for your goals while looking at a wider variety of programs.
What You Learn in a Certificate Program for Executive Management in Healthcare
Graduate certificates in executive healthcare management typically go right to the heart of high-level management and leadership training in the field. They offer courses aimed at:
- Developing leadership skills for teams of healthcare professionals and support staff
- Using high-level analytical and assessment tools to evaluate organization performance
- Building your knowledge of healthcare industry economics and trends
- Teaching decision-making skills to help you make the hard calls in healthcare leadership
Most programs devote a healthy amount of time to looking at the macro environment for healthcare service. Things like demographic trends, technological and pharmaceutical therapy developments, and high-level government policy are all important for healthcare executives to understand.
You may also find certificate programs in this area that are aimed at a specific aspect of healthcare, such as in executive nursing or health informatics.
In addition to the coursework that is offered on these subjects, certificate programs in this area often include symposia or other interactive opportunities to discuss challenges with active leaders in the field. You may have guest lecturers who work in healthcare management, or engage in real-world projects aimed at addressing challenges for a healthcare organization.
A Fast-Paced Curriculum Brings High-Level Understanding of Modern Healthcare Leadership
With only a few months at most to get through a certificate program, you won’t have time for a great variety of different courses. Anywhere from three to six core courses are typical. Because of the great diversity of roles in healthcare management, most also offer a variety of electives for you to build your studies to support your personal career goals.
The foundations for most certificate programs rest on courses in:
- Healthcare analytics – Modern technology has created not just new and revolutionary treatment options in healthcare. It also offers managers and executives new ways to look at health problems and care delivery systematically and efficiently. Understanding the big data environment in healthcare and how to leverage it is an important part of becoming an effective leader in the field today.
- Principles of management and leadership – Ascending to high levels of clinical competence doesn’t necessarily make anyone a leader. Classes that teach the scientific principles of management and the moral and classical components of leadership are important to round out the skills required to build health services teams to last.
- Healthcare strategy and planning – The big picture perspective is also one that many people need to develop to take on management roles. You’ll learn about decision-making processes and how to develop and execute plans at a high level, accounting for risks and benefits along the way.
- Human resources in healthcare administration – With staffing becoming a critical part of success for most healthcare organizations today, executives have to be trained in HR concepts around recruiting, training, and retention. These courses offer an overview for future executives for whom staffing is likely to be a key strategic talent, regardless of specialty area.
- Healthcare economics and finance – For providers, understanding healthcare accounting usually goes no further than filling in the right ICD-10 codes and letting billing take care of the rest. For executives, understanding the broader macroeconomic system of financing and compensation in American healthcare is critical. These courses take you through the complex background of American insurance and medical billing as well as increasing cost centers in staffing, equipment, and supplies to help you balance the budgets.
With the right coursework and a background that includes some healthcare experience, the sky is the limit in healthcare administration. Graduate certificate programs offer the balance you need to aim for the top in healthcare executive management roles.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market figures for Medical and Health Services Managers represent national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed in September 2022.