How is a Health Administration Degree Different from a Business Management Degree?

To succeed, all businesses need strong leaders with both the drive and the know-how to navigate through today’s complex economy. For many managers and administrators, the know-how begins with a college education, with academic paths varying depending on individual career goals. While a degree in business management may seem like the obvious choice for an aspiring business leader, a health administration degree is an excellent option for those with the goal of working in the healthcare industry. Most people think of doctors and nurses when they think of healthcare professionals, but the fact is that healthcare is a booming business, one which accounted for $1.75 trillion in revenues and employed 9 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2010, according to theĀ U.S. Department of Commerce. Still, it’s not quite business as usual in the medical field. The industry comes with a unique set management challenges, and a health administration degree is more specifically tailored toward meeting them.

The Business Management Curriculum

A business management degree provides a fundamental education in the theory and practice of managing a business, making it a versatile degree applicable to any number of job settings, not excluding healthcare settings. Core coursework typically includes management principles, microeconomics and macroeconomics, accounting, marketing and business law. Students also typically enroll in electives that build on their career interests, such as operations and logistics, labor and public policy or international management. Though business administration is usually a more generalized degree, some programs do offer different concentrations or specialization tracks.

The Health Administration Curriculum

Unlike the business management degree, a health administration degree is directly targeted toward work in a healthcare setting, whether a hospital, a nursing care facility, an outpatient center or a community health organization. Students in a health administration program will typically start out with generic introductory classes such as intro to business or management principles, just like their academic peers in a business administration program. From there, however, students will delve deeper into healthcare-specific issues and topics such as healthcare policy and regulation, health unit coordination, care quality management, health informatics, and healthcare finances. Any required internships or practica will take place within the healthcare field.

Career Differences

Both business management graduates and health administration graduates can look forward to a variety of possible job titles, though, as might be expected, health administration job titles will be more specific to the healthcare field. Popular and fast-growing occupations for business management graduates include financial analyst, human resource specialist, marketing manager and community service manager. Common health administration job titles include health services manager, health information manager, clinical manager or nursing home administrator. Typical job settings for health administration professionals range from private practices to large hospitals and outpatient centers to government agencies such as the Center for Disease Control or national organizations such as the Red Cross.

Ultimately, the decision between a business management degree and a health administration degree will come down to the student’s leadership goals and aspirations for life after college. A business degree is the more versatile option, and will serve a motivated graduate well in many work environments. Business management degree graduates can indeed apply for and acquire management positions in healthcare settings. Management professionals who choose this path should look for elective coursework and internship opportunities specific to healthcare where possible. For degree candidates who feel certain that their ideal workplace is within the healthcare industry, a health administration often provides an extra edge and a greater level of confidence when pursuing that dream job.