March 2013
November 2014 (revised)

Statement of the Issue

The proliferation of healthcare management programs has made the pathway to employment as a healthcare executive confusing and complex. Without the benefit of being fully informed, students often enter programs that do not adequately prepare them for the challenges ahead. As a result, new health administration graduates are having difficulty finding positions or postgraduate fellowships that will contribute to their skill enhancement to help them succeed as future leaders. Their frustration and disappointment are often expressed through social media or when they seek career advice from seasoned executives.

Part of the difficulty may be attributed to the increase in the number of health administration programs, specifically the number of non-Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)-accredited programs. There is an unknown number of non CAHME-accredited graduate programs, both on-site and distance learning that are producing more healthcare management graduates. There has also been an increase in enrollment in undergraduate health administration programs.

When considering enrolling in a health administration program, students can enhance their success in finding fellowships or jobs upon graduation if they understand the importance of completing an accredited graduate program. They should also be aware of the value in attending programs such as those that are CAHME accredited and ensure standards for quality, appropriate content and the opportunity to interact with a variety of healthcare professionals and organizations.

Employers can play important roles that contribute to the success of the new entrant in the field particularly by expending the resources to develop new graduates through postgraduate fellowships. Similarly, health administration programs contribute to the transition of students into the field by effectively assisting students in finding postgraduate fellowships or jobs.

For students, having a strong educational background that includes a degree from a program backed by accreditation status, such as CAHME, along with face-to-face instructional time and field experience, is key to success.

Health administration programs can contribute to the transition of students into the field by effectively assisting students in finding postgraduate fellowships or jobs. A postgraduate fellowship can play an important role in bridging graduate education and practice experience. 

Policy Position

The American College of Healthcare Executives believes the placement of new entrants into the field of healthcare management can be enhanced through encouraging students to attend accredited graduate programs, encouraging employers to develop new graduates through postgraduate fellowships and encouraging programs to actively assist students in finding postgraduate fellowships or entry-level positions. The following considerations contribute to the success of the student and his/her future development as a healthcare executive:

  • While bachelor's degree programs serve as an introduction to healthcare management, a graduate degree is the minimum requirement for entry to executive healthcare management.
  • Accreditation can be an important differentiator when considering program choice because of the accredited program's commitment to ensuring quality standards. In preparing for healthcare administrative roles, accredited programs, such as those accredited by CAHME, are considered optimal.
  • Face-to-face instructional time and field experience are important components of education and are needed to prepare leaders for the demands of leadership. Communication and leadership skillsessential to the success of healthcare managers todayare enhanced through face-to-face interaction.
  • Adding a structured experiential learning experience to one's formal academic education leads to more skillful and fully developed professional practitioners. It is preferred that graduate students complete a postgraduate fellowship or residency, but at a minimum, the program should require field experience attained through project-based work or an internship that requires the student to interact with healthcare professionals and organizations. In addition to early careerists, clinicians and executives transitioning from other fields should seek hands-on healthcare executive management experiences that give them exposure to the management challenges and best practices that are needed to run a successful healthcare organization.

Healthcare executives and employers contribute to the success and development of future leaders by providing postgraduate fellowship experiences. Fellowships help transition a young professional from the world of academic learning to real-world experiences. A Fellow can make a meaningful contribution to the organization when he or she is assigned real projects that cross organizational lines. Employers are encouraged to offer these opportunities to assist the entry of students into the field of healthcare management. Employers must also be aware of the rigor of accredited programs, such as those accredited by CAHME, and the advantages of hiring accredited programs' graduates Healthcare executives share responsibility to elevate both students and stakeholders on the best pathway for success.

Programs in health administration are in the unique position of providing direct assistance to students before graduation. While some programs provide specific placement of students upon graduation, programs must also offer assistance through:

  • Training on resume writing and job search preparation and interviewing skills.
  • Working with alumni and others in placing students in healthcare organizations.
  • Offering alumni and healthcare executive contacts.
  • Publishing 90-day, post-graduation placement rates.

Students should recognize the importance of attending an accredited graduate program in health administration that includes face-to-face instructional time and field experience with healthcare organizations. Programs should take an active role in assisting students with fellowship and job placements. Healthcare executives and employers should recognize the advantages of providing fellowship and job opportunities. The combination of these activities will help ensure students can attain, and are adequately prepared for, positions that lead to future leadership roles in the field.

Approved by the Board of Governors of the American College of Healthcare Executives on November 10, 2014.

Related Resources

Commission on Accreditation Healthcare Management Education (CAHME

Healthcare Management Careers

ACHE Higher Education Network

ACHE's Directory of Postgraduate Administrative Fellowships