Online PhD in Health Administration

Earning a PhD in Health Administration or a Doctorate in Health Administration (DHA) can help you develop the leadership and problem-solving skills required to effectively manage the administrative systems within the continuously evolving health care industry. Through coursework that blends the theoretical with the practical, online PhD and DHA programs help students gain the knowledge necessary to transition into careers that can improve and influence not only the healthcare industry, but also pose political, economic and social implications as well. Online Health Administration PhD and DHA programs typically take three years or longer to complete. Students are expected to enter the program with master's degrees in related fields such as management, human resources, public administration, public health or business administration. Online doctoral programs in Health Administration are offered by traditional bricks-and-mortar institutions such as Central Michigan University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which both offer the programs online and on campus. Popular online schools like University of Phoenix and Capella University also offer these programs online along with some on-campus requirements to earn the degree. Coursework in online doctoral programs in Health Administration provides instruction in finance, ethics, public policy and research methods to prepare doctoral candidates for the managerial responsibilities necessary for success in the field of health administration.

About Online PhD Programs in Health Administration

Online doctoral programs are usually more interactive than traditional courses. Candidates are expected to participate in weekly discussion boards, group projects, study scholarly readings, and write lengthy papers. In addition to course work, PhD in Health Administration candidates must conduct in-depth research within their area of interest and write a dissertation reporting the findings and discussing future implications. Some online PhD programs in Health Administration, such as the one offered by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, offer cohort-based programs that allow online students to take the same courses with the same group of online classmates.

Year One:

  • Leadership Foundations & Strategies for Healthcare. This basic course examines the relationship between situational leadership strategy, organizational culture, communication and performance.
  • Epistemology of Practice Knowledge. Available through Capella University's online Health Administration PhD program, this course encourages students to critically analyze and evaluate the methods used to develop social science theory as a precursor to examining and applying the scientific method, as well as study the ways scholar-practitioners apply the scientific method.
  • Organizational Theory and Behavior for Health Professions. Offered by Central Michigan University's online doctoral program in Health Administration, this course integrates theory and concepts from organizational theory and behavior literature.

Year Two:

  • Comparative Health Systems. This capstone course taught at Central Michigan University focuses on the global challenges and comparative effectiveness between different health systems.
  • Health Economics. This course covers the foundational economic and specific health trends, market issues and applications within health insurance, payment theory and other applications.
  • Communication within Health Organizations. This course examines the different methods of message exchange practiced within health organizations, such as conflict, negotiating, networks, channel selection, knowledge management and public relations.
  • Seminar in Health Dynamics: Current Issues, Trends and Change. This seminar examines the current issues, trends and necessary changes for improving health systems. Online students are expected to take part in presentations, group projects and discussions.

Year Three:

  • Ethics and Decision Making in Healthcare. Offered at Capella University, this course focuses on the substantive ethical principles and procedural methodologies by which managers can understand, analyze, and resolve ethical problems.
  • Health Care Marketing. Offered by University of Phoenix, this course examines key marketing concepts through a market share perspective including pricing, promotion and distribution of services.
  • Dissertation Design, Implementation, Defense and Reporting. Central Michigan University refers to this dissertation course as the “capstone research event” of the program curriculum.

Candidates in online doctoral programs in Health Administration are expected to take a series of courses followed by comprehensive examinations. Once the exams have been passed, students can propose their dissertation topics. Some schools have additional requirements, like Capella University, which requires that candidates attend three four-day colloquia over the course of their program. At these colloquium seminars, students can interact with faculty and peers and take part in self-reflection exercises, research and critical thinking activities, and a final assessment. University of Phoenix's online doctoral program requires residencies in select cities that consist of seminars. Residencies typically last about three to eight days. An example of a dissertation completed at Central Michigan University's doctoral program is “Activities and Societies: Completed Quantitative and Didactic portions of DHA and An Exploration of Employee Burnout in the Ambulatory Care Setting,” which was completed at Capella University.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Health Administration

An online PhD or Doctorate in Health Administration can be a beneficial asset as the healthcare industry continues to evolve and rapidly grow due to shifting demographics, political legislation and technological advances. By focusing on ways to improve both the business and human aspects of patient care, graduates from an online doctoral program can help shape the future of healthcare on both a personal and a global scale. The PhD or DHA can also help you to earn higher wages or gain a more prominent job position in a healthcare organization, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment in this field will grow and continue to have favorable job prospects. While learning in an online classroom puts you at the forefront of a technologically expanding method of teaching, one of the drawbacks of earning your doctorate in health administration online is that you will be lacking the one-on-one interaction with instructors and classmates. Fortunately, in programs such as UNC Chapel Hill's cohort-based program, you do have the option of taking the same classes with the same students from start to finish, which can give you more of an understanding of management and leadership skills.

Application & Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission into Capella University's PhD program in Healthcare Administration, applicants must hold a master's degree from an accredited institution, and must have maintained a 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA and submit official transcripts, a completed application, a detailed résumé, and a statement of purpose. University of Phoenix's DHA online program also requires a master's degree and a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA on graduate degree transcripts for admission. Applicants to the DHA program must also have three years of professional work experience in a leadership position and membership in a research library. Admission to University of Carolina at Chapel Hill and Central Michigan University's online PhD programs in Health Administration have the same requirements in addition to GRE scores, three letters of recommendation and a personal statement. UNC Chapel Hill, however, requires at least five years of work-related experience in mid-level or higher healthcare management or health policy positions.

Career Options & Job Market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for health administration professionals is fairly positive and employment is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual wage for health system administrators in May 2008 was $87,040 for medical and surgical hospitals; $74,130 for outpatient care centers; $74,060 for physician's offices; $71,450 for home health care services; and $71,190 for nursing care facilities. The highest ten percent of health administrators earned $137,800 in 2008. Individuals who earn online PhD degrees in Health Administration can transition into the following occupations (among many):

  • Administrative Services Manager direct and coordinate support services within residential health facilities and hospitals, and roughly earn $81,530 a year.
  • Medical and Health Services Manager plan, direct and coordinate services within hospitals, managed care facilities and public health agencies. Medical and health service managers earn on average $90,970 with job growth expected to increase 16% by 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Where to Find Information

  • AUPHA, Association of University Programs in Health Administration
  • CAHME, Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education
  •, an organization run by the American College of Healthcare Executives
  • AHIMA, American Health Information Management Association

How to Get Funding

In-state tuition for online students at University of North Carolina is $163 per credit hour and $792 per credit hour for non-residents. Per credit tuition at University of Phoenix is $770, while Capella University students currently pay $4,485 per quarter for coursework classes and $3,945 per quarter for dissertation courses. Tuition at Central Michigan University currently has a set rate of $850 per credit hour. Students are guaranteed the same rate that was established at the time of enrollment throughout the course of the entire program. There are also several Health Administration scholarships, fellowships, assistantships and grants available for online students at Central Michigan University.

  • UNC Chapel Hill Fellowships. Both incoming and established doctoral students can apply for fellowships, assistantships and grants that usually provide a competitive stipend, tuition, fees and health insurance each academic year.
  • William R. Gemma Memorial Scholarship. For online students in Central Michigan University's Health Services Administration, International Administration or Public Administration programs, this scholarship awards various amounts annually.
  • Stuart A. Wesbury, Jr. Fellowship. Offered by the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), this fellowship allows the fellow an opportunity to work within a major ACHE division for one year.

Essential Advice

  • Weigh your options and do the research. You'll need to know for sure whether an additional degree will increase your earning potential more than a bachelor's or master's degree in a similar field would.
  • Try to obtain a scholarship, fellowship or grant. Studying at a PhD level is costly, and you may not be able to predict how many years it will take you to complete it.
  • Talk to current PhD candidates and graduates about course load, time management, what admission materials they submitted, and so on. This is the best way to learn if the program is right for you.
  • Check the school's credentials. Once you find a program, make sure it is accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.