How to Choose Healthcare Management Specialization
In order to run effectively, the healthcare system requires a complex network of doctors, nurses, administrators, and other medical professionals working together at all levels to provide patient care. For this reason, the range of opportunities available to graduates looking to enter the field after completing a healthcare management degree can sometimes seem overwhelming. One of the ways to better prepare yourself for a specific career path in healthcare management may be to choose a specialization while pursuing your degree.
While there's no one right method for how to choose a healthcare management specialization, spending some time to think through the following questions may help you narrow your focus to the specific parts of the field you want to prepare yourself for the most.
Where Do You Want to Work?
One of the first things to consider when choosing a healthcare management specialization is where you ultimately hope to work. There are administrative and patient services roles to be filled in large hospital networks, local clinics, doctors' offices, nursing homes, and even healthcare-affiliated businesses like insurance or pharmaceutical companies. Deciding what kind of medical organization you're interested in working for can help you narrow down the types of courses and experience you need to pursue while completing your degree.
According to Burning Glass, the top industries currently in need of healthcare management graduates are:1
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
- Insurance Carriers
- Offices of Physicians
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
Who Do You Want to Work With?
In addition to the healthcare setting in which you want to work, you may also spend some time thinking about with whom you want to work on a daily basis and what role you hope to play in the complex healthcare system. Do you want to work with doctors and nurses providing administrative support? Is your goal to advocate for patients and their families as a patient services representative? Maybe you'd rather remain behind the scenes maintaining records and medical databases, working with other offices and hospitals to coordinate lab results and other patient information?
There is a wide variety of entry-level healthcare administration roles you can help prepare for with the right degree specialization. Planning the types of roles you're interested in ahead of time may help you make the most of your coursework and experience prior to graduation.
Are You Interested in Policy and Regulations?
Privacy laws and other regulations continue to play an increasingly important role in our modern healthcare system, and certain positions deal more directly with remaining updated on and helping to implement new policy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates one such position, that of medical and health services managers, to grow by 17% from 2014 through 2024.2 Furthermore, labor market analytics company Burning Glass listed medical and health services managers as the most in-demand position seeking a healthcare management degree in 2015.3 If you're interested in playing a role in the implementation of new healthcare policy, you may consider a specialization that emphasizes these legal and regulatory elements.
Research Current Job Growth and Market Trends
In addition to medical and health services managers, Burning Glass also lists clinical managers, practice managers, program directors, home health aides, and medical records and health information technicians among the top titles and occupation descriptions currently hiring healthcare management graduates.3,4 While demand and potential for job growth shouldn't be the only motivating factor in how to choose a healthcare management specialization, it is important to have a clear picture of the job market you'll be entering upon graduation.
One potential healthcare management degree specialization, gerontology management, may also be of interest for those looking to prepare for upcoming shifts in the field. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, there will be an increased elderly population in need of some form of medical care. A gerontology specialization may help students prepare for this additional demand in hospital, clinic, nursing home, and private care positions.
Available Healthcare Management Specializations
Common healthcare management specializations include:
Remember also that you have a team of advisors and instructors at your disposal within your program. Don't hesitate to ask them for help or advice when trying to decide whether a particular specialization is right for you and your career goals.
1. Labor/Insight (Burning Glass Technologies), "Top Detailed Industries," 1/1/15-12/31/15
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, "Medical and Health Services Managers," on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm (visited Jan. 17, 2017).
3. Labor/Insight (Burning Glass Technologies), "Top Detailed Occupations," 1/1/15-12/31/15
4. Labor/Insight (Burning Glass Technologies), "Top Titles," 1/1/15-12/31/15
AIU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Find employment rates, financial obligations and other disclosures at www.aiuniv.edu/disclosures.