UNLV is working to educate the next generation of healthcare administrators who will take on the responsibility of developing innovative solutions to the challenges facing the industry, including keeping costs low, increasing the quality of care for patients and expanding access to healthcare.
Two graduate programs at UNLV’s School of Public Health — the executive Master of Healthcare Administration (EMHA) and the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) — are providing the foundation students need to assume healthcare leadership roles following graduation.
What is a Master’s in Healthcare Administration?
Through the curriculum of the two master’s programs, students learn to develop and lead a workforce, analyze the organization’s finances, and comply with ethical and legal guidelines. They also learn to develop organizational strategic plans, increase quality of care, control costs, and expand access to care.
“Our goal is to create competent healthcare leaders,” said Maire Simington, a healthcare administration and policy assistant professor. “The healthcare world is very complex, and having people understand various approaches to solving problems, to doing research, to interacting with colleagues is all very important.
As the only two graduate healthcare administration programs in the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), both are accredited by the coveted Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). This accreditation ensures the programs offer a rigorous curriculum and high-quality student experience, while demonstrating graduate success in the job market.
Additionally, the accreditation allows graduate students to pursue post-graduate administrative fellowship opportunities with top-notch healthcare organizations.
“The end goal is that they’d be hired on by the organization,” said Erin Rosenberg, director of graduate programs for the healthcare administration and policy department. “Being accredited by CAHME is a great perk of our programs.”
The School of Public Health also offers a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration.
What Can You Do with a Master’s in Healthcare Administration?
With the medical and health services management field expected to grow 28 percent by 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are a plethora of career opportunities for healthcare administration graduates.Rosenberg said many EMHA graduate students often get promoted while they’re working on their degree. “It’s not uncommon for me to hear from a student [that tells me] ‘I just moved because I got a promotion with my organization,’” she said.
Because the EMHA program is completely online, they’re easily able to move and keep working toward their degree, Rosenberg added.
Medical and health services managers earned an average of $101,340 in 2021. Professionals with master’s degrees have increased advancement opportunities, especially for top executive roles.
“We are encouraging our students to think beyond a healthcare executive,” Simington said. “They can be an administrator for a physician, they can work in long-term care or surgery centers. There’s plenty of work to go around for anyone with an advanced degree.”
Many of the program’s graduates work in hospitals, large group physician practices, accountable care organizations (ACOs), managed care companies, health insurance, long-term care, and government agencies.
Fellowship Opportunities Give Students the Edge
Kristina Eddy, a first-generation graduate student and Colombian American, received her MHA in December 2022 and will begin a fellowship with the University of Colorado School of Medicine this summer.
Although Eddy’s background was in retail management, she was accepted into the MHA program because it is open to those without a healthcare background. The program itself prepared her with the experience she’ll need including an internship and help in securing a post-graduate fellowship.
“When I applied to the MHA program, Erin discussed the fellowship opportunities post graduation,” Eddy said. “We were super strategic about everything I did within the program so that I could position myself to apply for these fellowships.”
It paid off because she was offered not one, but two fellowship opportunities.
She described the process as being very competitive with one fellowship having 200 applicants; many of them from Ivy League and other prestigious schools.
In the end, Eddy took a fellowship at the University of Colorado. “I really want to build my career within an academic setting, working for a teaching hospital. It aligns more with how I want to grow personally and professionally, so it was the best fit.”
EMHA Program’s Flexibility Helps Mid-Career Professionals Advance
The school’s EMHA program is designed for mid-career healthcare professionals who want to advance in their career.
To make it easier for working professionals to balance their education and job, the program is taught completely online, requires only 40 credit hours, and takes two years to complete if going full time. As an added bonus, the GRE has been waived for admittance to the program, and an internship isn’t required because students admitted into the EMHA already have professional experience.
“Students seem to like the flexibility of the program,” Simington said. “It takes into consideration busy schedules, and we try to make it convenient because we know these are busy working professionals.”
Students who are new to the program have a one-day, in-person immersion to get to know one another. “I think it helps with camaraderie,” Rosenberg said. “We show them how to use Canvas so they are comfortable with the online learning environment. We have our health sciences librarian come in, and she teaches them how to access library resources and they meet some of the faculty who will be their instructors.”
To be accepted into the EMHA program, professionals should have at least three years of management experience regardless of their industry. Clinicians with at least five years of clinical experience, but who lack the management experience, are also encouraged to apply.
“So maybe they are looking to move out of clinical medicine and move into more of an administrative role,” Rosenberg said. “This would be a great opportunity for them to get more of the business and legal background behind offering healthcare services.”
The EMHA is offered in a block-course format. Students take one course every six weeks in the fall and spring semesters. In the summer they take one course every four weeks. The exception being the leadership and capstone courses which span an entire semester.
Because it’s an online program, out-of-state students are not expected to pay the full out-of-state tuition. Rosenberg encourages students from other states who are interested in the program to contact her for more information.
Healthcare Newcomers Gain Experience Through MHA Program
The 45-credit residential MHA program is intended for students with little or no healthcare experience and offers in-person, online, and hybrid courses. The GRE is also waived for admittance into this program.
Students are advised to take a job in healthcare as soon as they enter the program so that they can begin gaining experience. And to make it easier for students to work during the day, all of the MHA program’s classes are at night.
A key component of the program is a 250-hour internship that allows students to gain real-world, industry experience. Eddy completed her internship under the direction of the chief operations officer at Sunrise Children’s Hospital. There, she was able to shadow clinician leaders, C-suite executives, and network with leadership in every department.
“The internship allowed me to be in the hospital full time,” she said, “to really get to know every aspect of the hospital and what makes it run. I made the most out of the situation.”
Eddy said the academic counseling provided by Rosenberg was essential to her success. But she says building that relationship is a two-way street. “There are students who don’t take advantage of the counseling services, but there are students who do and use Erin’s guidance to get where they need to be,” she explained.
Eddy added that in addition to UNLV’s outstanding curriculum and professors, the opportunities outside the classroom were invaluable. She cited networking opportunities, UNLV’s partnerships with local healthcare organizations, and the local chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) as examples of the extracurricular tools offered by the college.
“UNLV does an incredible job of offering students all of the resources for them to build their career in healthcare,” she said. “They have a really strong focus on elevating the next generation of healthcare leaders.”
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