Are you a high school student interested in one day working as a healthcare administrator? From taking the right classes in high school to volunteering at a hospital, here are some ways to prepare for a healthcare administration career before you start college.
Why Study Healthcare Administration in College?
A healthcare career can be appealing for several reasons, such as the chance to make a difference, interesting work, differing education requirements and various career paths, according to ExploreHealthCareers.org.
In terms of career prospects, healthcare is considered a growing field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 1.9 million new healthcare jobs from 2018 to 2028*.
Healthcare administrators can be found in hospitals, health networks, healthcare systems, long-term care centers or research facilities. Some may work in public health or a nonprofit healthcare organization, promoting community wellness initiatives or developing policy to address health issues on a larger scale.
Healthcare jobs can vary by education level. Some people may pursue careers as medical scribes (documenting patient interactions) and community health workers (assisting people by referring them to local resources), which may only call for an associate degree.
Others may continue their studies to earn a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration before gaining professional healthcare experience in finance, marketing, medical records, human resources or patient care services, among others, according to the American Council of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
Is Healthcare Administration for Me?
If you’re not entirely sure about deciding to study healthcare administration in college, the following questions from ACHE may be helpful:
- Do you enjoy problem-solving?
- Do you like helping people?
- Are you looking for a career that is rewarding and meaningful?
- Do you care about people’s health?
How to Prepare for a Healthcare Administration Degree Program
High school students who target this career path early by focusing on the necessary educational requirements and gaining hands-on experience may be prepared to take on a degree program.
The Association of University Programs in Health Administration points out a college with a healthcare administration degree program may focus on three areas:
- Management skills and concepts
- Healthcare industry information
- Application of your course material (as a project, research paper or exam)
Classes in biology, chemistry and math may come in handy for a healthcare administration major in college, according to ACHE. Business classes are also important, as healthcare administrators regularly make leadership and management decisions that may impact their facilities, such as approving budgets or increasing staff.
Courses in English, writing, history, social science, foreign language and literature can also help you develop soft skills needed for addressing issues.
Gaining Experience Outside the Classroom
It’s one thing to learn about healthcare in class. It’s another to study the day-to-day work of healthcare. That can make a difference between a passing interest and a potential career path.
You can read about industry trends on healthcare websites, or check out trade journals from the library, according to ACHE. Other ways to learn more include talking to healthcare professionals, visiting hospitals and participating in education programs.
“Exposure to various healthcare fields is crucial to the development of career interests for adolescents and young adults who plan to enter the world of medical practice,” Brandon Muncan, Nomrota Majumder and Nicolae Tudose wrote in a 2016 paper published in the International Journal of Medical Education.
They found that healthcare programs aimed at high school students that show what it is like to work in a hospital or another medical facility (e.g., volunteering or job shadowing) spurred greater interest in pursuing medical education in college.
One way to gain experience and help improve a college application is to participate in a healthcare internship program at your local hospital or another healthcare facility that aligns with your career goals.
Private companies may have internships available for high school students or recent graduates. Large healthcare organizations or nonprofits that may have internships include:
- American Red Cross
- Doctors Without Borders
- World Health Organization
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Institutes of Health
State and local health departments may also be another potential source for internships.
Volunteering at a Medical Facility
Some volunteer programs at hospitals or other medical facilities may give high school students the chance to help administrative staff, assisting nurses or other medical personnel. Nonprofits such as the Red Cross, American Heart Association or local organizations also have opportunities to volunteer your time and to learn about healthcare.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Healthcare Occupations, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm (visited 11/8/2019).
National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Information provided is not intended to represent a complete list of hiring companies or job titles, and program options do not guarantee career or salary outcomes. Students should conduct independent research for specific employment information.