Online Healthcare Administration Associate Degree

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

When looking at prospective online paths for healthcare administration associate degrees, some students may wonder about the difference between healthcare administration and healthcare management. While the former tends to focus on management of the staff specifically, the latter concentrates more on general oversight of the organization as a whole.

Healthcare administration professionals work primarily in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and the offices of physicians. This field is particularly attractive at present, thanks to rapid growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that positions for medical and health services managers will expand by 20% between 2016 and 2026. The median salary in the field was $99,730 in 2018. Students hoping to fulfill these roles must possess a bachelor’s degree, but graduates of associate programs can work in several supporting roles if they decide not to pursue a four-year diploma.

The following guide highlights what it takes to earn an associate degree in healthcare administration online, including admission requirements, common coursework, job and salary outlooks, the importance of accreditation, and scholarships that can help you save money along the way.

Earning Your Associate in Healthcare Administration Online

For many busy individuals, earning a healthcare administration associate degree online allows them to graduate without neglecting their professional and personal responsibilities. Given the flexible nature of distance learning, degree seekers can complete assignments without ever visiting campus, saving them both time and money. Many schools with online degrees use asynchronous learning formats, meaning students can log in and watch pre-recorded lectures, turn in assignments, and interact with their peers and professors at times that suit their schedules.

Affordability also plays into the choice to attend an online program. Students save money on transportation, on-campus housing, and meal plans. Some schools also provide in-state tuition for distance learners, regardless of where they live.

If the program requires an internship or work experience component, program administrators typically work with students to find a suitable location in their region. If a particular test requires supervision, the school should provide a list of approved nearby proctors.

How Long Does It Take to Earn Your Healthcare Administration Associate Degree Online?

Many prospective students wonder how much time they need to carve out in order to undertake a healthcare administration associate degree online. The simple answer? It depends.

Most programs require two years of full-time study, but there are other paths. Some learners find they need to enroll on a part-time basis to balance other responsibilities. Additionally, students who completed a number of Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school can generally transfer those credits to the program and lessen their time to graduation. Some schools provide accelerated paths that allow learners to move through requirements more quickly. Degree seekers should take all of these factors into consideration. Regardless of these options, almost all programs require 60 credits.

Admission Requirements for an Online Associate in Healthcare Administration

Degree programs at the associate level tend to feature less strenuous admission requirements than four-year institutions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t set specific expectations. Students hoping to gain admission should possess either a high school diploma or GED. They should also supply transcripts from any schools they've previously attended. Some community colleges require scores from standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT, while others maintain an open-door policy. Check with a school's admissions coordinator if the website does not adequately explain the process.

Students may also need to submit a personal statement detailing their reasons for enrolling or ask trusted advisors, supervisors, or teachers to write letters of recommendation on their behalf.

Courses in an Online Associate in Healthcare Administration Program

Online associate degrees in healthcare administration encourage students to immerse themselves in both medical care and facility operations. On one hand, they need to comprehend basic topics such as human anatomy and medical terminology, but they must also understand the business functions of running a large, organized team of professionals. These degrees cover both areas to ensure that graduates enter the industry with competency and confidence. When reviewing the courses highlighted below, remember that plans of study differ by school.

  • Medical Office Management: Typically taken in the first semester, this introductory course provides learners with a baseline understanding of common office procedures. Specific topics covered include processing and coding insurance requests, managing records properly, understanding medical terminology, maintaining professionalism with staff and patients, and following ethics requirements.

  • Health Records Management: Given the sensitivity of patient records and medical histories, this class teaches students how to properly and securely manage documentation. Topics include the use of records, common database systems, and how to properly share health records across internal and external networks.

  • Medical Coding: This course hones in on the specifics of billing and insurance claims management and teaches students about intricate coding methods for keeping everything organized. Students look at common insurance plans to understand how to process them before studying topics such as reimbursement and extenuating claims.

  • Healthcare Human Resources: Students in this class learn about the basics of managing human resources in a healthcare setting. Specifically, they cover topics such as recruitment and hiring, development of training programs, affirmative action, equal access to employment, labor relations, benefits packages, setting compensation, and handling complaints.

  • Healthcare Law and Regulations: This class takes a close look at the local, state, and federal laws governing healthcare delivery and administration, emphasizing both settled and pending legislation. Healthcare administrators must understand the legal implications from a staffing and managerial perspective; this class provides that context.

Job and Salary Outlook for Online Associate in Healthcare Administration Graduates

Completing one of the many online healthcare administration associate degree programs available qualifies graduates for several entry-level positions in administrative support or medical administrative assistance. To qualify for work as a healthcare administrator, you need a bachelor’s degree at minimum. At this level of their careers, most people work standard 9-to-5, 40-hour weeks.

Secretary and Administrative Assistant

Median Salary: $38,880

These professionals work in several types of office settings to support the clerical needs of other staff. They create and oversee budgets, arrange staff meetings, schedule appointments, maintain and update calendars, coordinate travel plans, edit internal and external documents, and keep track of receipts and other business reimbursements.

General Office Clerk

Median Salary: $32,730

Similar to administrative assistants, office clerks ensure their workplaces run smoothly. They answer and process phone calls, handle incoming and outgoing mail, complete data entry, welcome visitors and clients to the office, collect and type meeting notes, and maintain both paper and digital files.

Medical Transcriptionist

Median Salary: $34,770

Medical transcriptionists work with doctors and other medical professionals to transcribe recordings of healthcare notes or other relevant information. They use dictation software to collect information and correct errors, and they use their knowledge of medical terminology to provide the long-forms and layperson’s terms of medical jargon.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Accreditation for a Healthcare Administration Degree Online Program

Before enrolling in an online healthcare administration associate degree program, prospective students should ensure their school maintains proper and current accreditation. Accreditation matters greatly in that it can affect a student’s ability to transfer credits to another school, receive admission to a four-year program, compete with other job candidates from accredited schools, and seek licensure and/or certification.

When looking at accreditation, notice that it exists in two forms: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation further divides into two sections: regional and national. While national accreditation may sound more legitimate, most nonprofit schools are regionally accredited.

There is no programmatic accreditation for associate degree in healthcare management online programs, but students considering bachelor’s programs should look for a seal of approval from the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education.

Online Associate in Healthcare Administration Scholarships

Like many other careers, many positions in healthcare administration require applicants to hold a degree. Fortunately, you can pursue a variety of relevant scholarships to help allay the costs. Before applying for student loans, try to maximize the amount of money you receive from scholarships and grants, since these do not require repayment. Take a look at the scholarships highlighted below and conduct additional research to find more opportunities for lessening your financial burden.