Despite the recent economic downturn, the health care industry has continued to experience strong growth. For this reason, an online associates degree in healthcare management could be an excellent opportunity. Students will learn about health care delivery systems, medical terminology, medical records management, industry software, health care law and ethics, health care finance and economics, medical insurance, health care reimbursement, and business communication, among other topics. Graduates of this type of program are prepared to fill entry-level administrative positions in medical offices, hospitals, nursing homes, or other similar facilities.
Why an Associate Degree?
For prospective students interested in entering the workforce relatively quickly, an associate degree can be a great option. This usually takes about two years of full-time study, depending on your level of enrollment throughout the program. In addition, students will receive a combination of industry-relevant instruction and general education courses. Upon graduation, they are equipped with valuable job skills as well as a solid educational foundation, should they choose to continue on to a bachelor’s degree program in the future. Possible job opportunities are available in medical office administration or medical records management, among others.
Getting Into an Associate Degree Program
When researching potential programs, it is important to understand what you will need to submit as part of your admissions application. Below are a few common requirements for this type of program:
- A high school diploma or GED test scores
- Any transcripts from other college course work
- Application form and fee
- Application essay (if required)
Inside a Healthcare Management Associate Degree Program
Aan associate degree in healthcare management will usually take about two years to complete. Of course, any transfer credits or breaks taken from the program can influence time to completion. Common curriculum elements include medical terminology, medical records management, health care delivery systems, medical billing and coding, health care law and ethics, health care finance and economics, patient relations, computer technology, and business communications. General education courses in English, mathematics, natural science, social science, and humanities will also be required.
Students have the freedom to work around busy personal and professional schedules with an online program. Since most schools offer distance learning courses in an asynchronous format, there is no specified time students must log in to “attend” class. They can review materials, turn in assignments, post in discussion boards, or communicate with their professors at any time that is convenient for them. In some cases, students may also complete externships to gain real-world experience. These can be organized in the student’s local area.
What’s Next for Healthcare Management Associate Degree Holders?
Graduates can pursue entry-level administrative positions at doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other health care facilities. They will typically perform standard administrative duties such as scheduling, greeting patients, filing, records management, and answering phones. In some cases, medical office administrative assistants may take more specialized courses in medical billing and coding or health information technology. They may then pursue professional certification to qualify for these specific types of positions.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for administrative assistants and secretaries in medical settings is expected to grow by 41% from 2010 to 2020. This estimate was 21% growth for medical records and health information technicians. In 2011, medical secretaries earned a mean annual wage of $32,430. However, it is important to keep in mind, actual job availability and starting pay will depend on experience, location, economic climate, and the specific employer.