Earning a Ph.D. in Healthcare Administration Online

If you want to pursue an advanced career in the healthcare administration field, earning your online doctorate in healthcare administration can help you achieve that goal. Students who already possess a master's-level education in healthcare administration or a related field can earn their Ph.D. in healthcare administration or doctor of healthcare administration (DHA) degree online and potentially open pathways to more advanced positions and higher salaries within the industry.

With an online doctorate in healthcare administration, students may choose a degree path that prepares them to work in advanced positions within healthcare systems, or in advanced healthcare administration research or education. Learn how earning your degree online can streamline the process and begin advancing your career.

What Can You Do With an Online Doctorate in Healthcare Administration?

Healthcare administration professionals can work in a variety of environments, such as hospitals, insurance companies and in other public and private healthcare systems. Those who are undecided about which career path to pursue should start by understanding the differences between the doctoral degree paths in healthcare administration, which are explained below.

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Healthcare Administration:

    Designed for students interested in conducting and developing original academic research and/or teaching at the university level.

  • Doctor of Healthcare Administration (DHA):

    Focused on applying research, this program prepares students interested in working in high-level administrative positions related to the healthcare industry.

Typically, online doctoral students in healthcare administration are focused on a narrow set of career advancement options. Below are more details on these common career paths.

Healthcare Administrator

Degree Path: DHA

Annual Median Salary: $64,356

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Healthcare administrators manage healthcare operations in hospitals, primary care facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and correctional institutions. Ph.D. graduates tend to earn much higher salaries in these positions than those with the minimum required master's degree.

Director of Operations (Hospital)

Degree Path: DHA

Annual Median Salary: $88,835

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

The director of operations at a hospital handles the management of all staff, which could entail hundreds of employees. They often handle planning and purchasing for new facilities and equipment, and assist in hiring new employees.

Postsecondary Teacher (Health Specialties)

Degree Path: Ph.D.

Annual Median Salary: $76,000

Projected Growth Rate: 15%

A doctorate in healthcare administration provides the credential necessary to teach at colleges and universities. These instructors teach courses in healthcare administration programs, and may also serve in administrative roles in their academic departments.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics / PayScale

The Top-Paying Industries for Medical and Health Services Managers

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Traits of a Successful Healthcare Administrator

Successful healthcare administrators can manage large groups of employees across a spectrum of healthcare departments. They possess strong administration, management, and verbal and written communication skills, plus a working knowledge of clerical procedures, like managing records and files. These professionals excel in judgement and decision-making and work well with computers and handheld technology devices, such as tablets. Read on to learn more about necessary skills for a career in healthcare administration.

Speaking
Healthcare administrators often represent the healthcare systems they manage, so the ability to speak and communicate effectively becomes crucial for both day-to-day management and public relations.
Critical Thinking
Professionals in administrative positions generally possess strong critical thinking skills, which allow them to make informed decisions, plan effectively, and address the larger needs of their facilities and the community they represent.
Active Listening
Public administration managers handle daily staff-related operations, and must therefore know how to listen actively and responsively to their staff members. This allows them to effectively manage any issues that may arise.

Salary by Experience Level

Healthcare administration professionals can leverage prior work experience to earn promotions and advance in their careers. Some online Ph.D. programs in healthcare administration require that applicants hold a certain amount of experience in the field. Experience level also contributes to earning potential, with professionals in the field earning more the longer they work in the industry.

Pay by Experience Level for Healthcare Administrators

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $49,000

  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $64,000

  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $77,000

  • Late Career (20+ Years):
    $78,000

Source: PayScale

Certifications and Licenses a DHA Degree Prepares For

  • Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional: This certification, provided by the Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals, entails continuing education courses and an examination. The certification demonstrates a healthcare administrator's experience, skills, and ongoing knowledge of the field. Applicants must have at least seven years of experience in the field.

  • Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems: The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society offers this certification to professionals in the information and technology sectors of healthcare administration. Qualified candidates hold a graduate degree and at least three years' experience in the field.

  • Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Professional: This certification from the American Hospital Association verifies competence in areas often managed by healthcare administrators, including hospital compliance with federal regulations, administrative issues, and hospital finances. Eligible candidates must hold a bachelor's degree and at least three years' experience in the field.

Steps to Earning an Online Doctorate in Healthcare Administration

The process for earning a Ph.D. in healthcare administration online differs between schools, but most programs feature common elements in their application processes, graduation requirements, and core courses.

number one

Find the Right Program for You

Different DHA online programs may come in different delivery formats. When selecting the best program for you, consider the format options, including whether the program requires any on-campus coursework or if you must complete online coursework synchronously. Hybrid programs, for example, require a mix of on-campus and online courses. Also consider program length, whether work experience counts as degree credit, and tuition cost.

number two

Apply

The application process for earning a DHA degree online is often more involved than that of master's and undergraduate programs. Online doctorate in healthcare administration applicants usually supplement the standard application with documentation of work experience, a formal personal statement about their career goals, professional letters of recommendation, and GRE scores from the last five years.

number three

Capstone, Dissertation, or Thesis

Graduation requirements may differ depending on whether you pursue the DHA or Ph.D. in healthcare administration. The Ph.D. proves more research-intensive, culminating in a formal dissertation. Dissertations are research projects students must plan, implement, analyze, and present in their final year of study. Some DHA programs culminate in dissertations, as well, but they often offer less formal options, such as a thesis project or a capstone seminar course designed to demonstrate knowledge of the material.

number four

Fellowship or Internship

Generally, students earning their DHA degrees online won't have the same internship or fellowship requirements or opportunities as those in on-campus programs. Most doctorate-level internships in this field entail a graduate assistantship, teaching undergraduate courses in healthcare administration or assisting a professor in doing so. However, some online programs match students with opportunities in their respective communities, should they express interest.

Curriculum for an Online Ph.D. in Healthcare Administration

Keeping in mind that actual course offerings differ between institutions, the below courses serve as examples of common requirements for healthcare administration programs.
  1. Healthcare Policy: This course may come in separate parts, each emphasizing unique aspects and levels of healthcare policies at the state, local, and federal levels. It also explores how professionals can influence change in these sectors, and provides information on crafting and proposing new healthcare policies.

  2. Community and Global Health: This course touches on epidemiology, or the study of the spread of diseases, tying it in with the local and community aspects of working within a healthcare system. Students explore existing policies in place to manage diseases, plus various strategies to improve community health and the social aspects of healthcare.

  3. Research Methods: All graduate students must demonstrate research proficiency, so this research methods course emphasizes healthcare studies and the best practices for research in this field. It may come in separate parts emphasizing qualitative and quantitative methods, and may also culminate in a research project the student will create and implement during the course.

  4. Statistics: Statistics go hand-in-hand with quantitative research methods, which account for most research in the health field. This course covers statistical methods commonly used in research, and helps students gain a working knowledge of statistics to understand existing research.

  5. Writing: Writing and communication are crucial parts of earning any doctorate degree in healthcare administration online. Graduate-level writing courses may emphasize writing for research, APA Style, and writing for healthcare administration. Students may also practice writing their curriculum vitae to apply for jobs.