Health Care Administration Certification and Requirements

Effective coordination and delivery of health care services can sometimes be the difference between life and death. Health care administrators, also known as health care executives or medical and health services managers, learn the specialized skills necessary to keep hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities running smoothly in the face of a changing regulatory climate and consistently high-volume demand.

Health care administration comprises several specialized roles -- clinical management, nursing home management and health information management, to name a few -- wherein professionals must be especially knowledgeable about a single area of health services delivery. Each specialization comes with its own standards of educational attainment and licensing that candidates for employment are expected to meet.

Educational requirements for health care administrators

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) indicates that most medical and health services managers earn at least a bachelor's degree before entering the field, and education data provided by the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) bears out that claim. A full 93 percent of respondents polled in an O*NET survey indicated that they held a bachelor's level of education or higher:

  • Bachelor's degree: 53 percent
  • Master's degree: 31 percent
  • Post-baccalaureate certificate: 10 percent

Requirements for certification and licensing of health care administrators are often up to the individual employer, but certain occupational specialties are subject to licensing regulations at the state level. Administrators at nursing care facilities, for example, are required in every state to pass a certification exam and undergo a post-baccalaureate training program approved by the state.

Elective certifications may not be required, but they can distinguish candidates in the hiring process. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) requires that certification candidates complete an accredited health information management program and submit a transcript for evaluation before they may take their exam. The Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM), which offers a general health care administrator certification, requires three years' experience on the job and at least twelve credit hours in college-level business or healthcare management courses.

The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) offers multiple certifications, each of which focuses on a particular management skill, and maintains a different set of educational requirements for each one. Check the websites of these organizations for more details.

Benefits of health care administrator certification

For aspiring nursing care administrators, the benefits of licensing and certification are perfectly clear: It's likely a mandatory condition of employment. For health information managers and other administrative specialists, the benefits may be less obvious but come in many forms:

  • Demonstration of dedication. Earning a certification in your field may help show employers that you have acquired experience in your field and you're committed to doing the best job you can.
  • Skill building. Certification courses and study materials are designed to help you refine the knowledge and skills gained during your education for better application to the challenges of the workforce.
  • Professional development. Some health care administrator certifications may unlock exclusive continuing education activities that can help you stay on the cutting edge.
  • Career advancement. Certifying bodies and professional organizations may provide access to exclusive professional networks that can help you make advantageous career moves.

It's also the case that some employers may prefer candidates with health care administration certification from a particular certifying body. If you've got your sights set on a particular position or institution, find out about their requirements and preferences to ensure that you take the right steps toward certification.

Sources:

Certification, American College of Health Care Administrators, http://www.achca.org/index.php/development/certification

Certified Medical Manager (CMM), Professional Association of Health Care Office Management, https://www.pahcom.com/cmm/qualifications.html

Medical and Health Services Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/Management/Medical-and-health-services-managers.htm

Medical and Health Services Managers, O*NET OnLine, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/11-9111.00

Overview of AAHAM Certification, American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management, http://www.aaham.org/Certification/OverviewofAAHAMCertification.aspx

Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), The American Health Information Management Association, http://www.ahima.org/certification/RHIA

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