Chances are, you’re probably aware of some recent changes in the healthcare industry. Whether it’s the widely reaching effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the aging of the United States population, increased healthcare access for underserved populations such as transgender people and those with pre-existing conditions, and fluctuations in drug prices, the landscape has shifted drastically over the last three decades. Forbes Magazine reported on the decline of HMOs in recent years. And with a concerted effort to make more insurance options available, there are more insured individuals now.
However, the number of medical professionals in the field has not kept pace with this growth. Evidence of this is the trend of retail clinics, which are rising up to help fill these lacunae by operating inside pharmacies, malls and some big box retailers. With such a high demand for care options, health service managers are needed to lead hospitals, medical practices and care networks. Additionally, as government interest in promoting wellness among its citizenry increases, public health officials will be needed to advance its agenda by making policy, conducting research and improving care for disabled and low-income individuals.
Education Tooled for Working Professionals
The pressing need for medical services managers and public health employees is reflected by reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the BLS’ Job Outlook for health services administrators, employment is anticipated to increase between 2014 and 2024 by about 17%. This is substantially better than its predictions for all total occupations, which is 7% for the same projected time period. Additionally, jobs for various positions in the public health field are expected to grow anywhere between 10% and 36% in the next several years.
Taking advantage of this upsurge in the immediate future are higher learning programs in both health administration and public health. Examples of these include the USC EMHA (Executive Master of Health Administration) and the USC MPH (Master of Public Health) programs. Many of these kinds of curricula are offered in online learning formats to support degree pursuers who are already employed full-time.
Earnings Potential Improved With Advanced Degrees
The minimum for entry in most health service management and public health positions is a bachelor’s degree. However, hiring managers strongly prefer candidates with master’s degrees. Additionally, those with more advanced education earn more than their other counterparts. The BLS’ reports from 2013 indicate that medical managers with master’s degrees make on average of 29% more, and public health officials who are similarly educated rake in between 19% and 44% more depending on the specific job.
Financing Your Education
Depending on your personal finances, you may need some monetary assistance to return to school. If you’re planning to attend a degree or certificate program at least part-time, you will be eligible for federal financial aid at most institutions. It’s a good idea to check your school’s specific requirements to be certain, and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the appropriate school year. Also, its financial aid department may have information about scholarships for which you may qualify. Finally, check with your employer’s benefits department about any tuition reimbursement programs it offers.
Outlook for Healthcare Specialists Appears Positive
With changing trends, government efforts to expand healthcare and promote wellness, and potential opportunities to fill gaps in patient care, medical services managers and public health professionals will be in greater demand. While at times events in the industry can be unpredictable, such as new laws and regulations or the presence of insurers in the ACA marketplace, people will do what they can to stay well. Practices, care networks and other types of clinics would be wise to grow to service the market, and experienced professionals will be needed to manage available resources to provide the best care possible.