Appropriate Preparation for Healthcare Executive
Management Positions for All New Entrants to the Field

March 2013

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. (CAHME was known as Accrediting Commission on Education for Health Services Administration (ACHESA) until 2005.) There are 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 role of graduate vs. undergraduate healthcare management programs. Students must also be aware of the value of attending CAHME-accredited programs, which require face-to-face instructional time and field experience, allowing students to interact with a variety of healthcare professionals and organizations.

For the organization, employers contribute to the success of the new entrant to the field if they understand the difference between CAHME-accredited programs and non CAHME-accredited programs, and 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.

Having a strong educational background that includes a degree from a CAHME-accredited graduate program along with face-to-face instructional time and field experience is key to the success for new entrants to the field of healthcare management.

If unsuccessful in securing a fellowship or job, new entrants to the field risk diminished prospects for further career advancement, economic hardship, and emotional distress.

Policy Position

The American College of Healthcare Executives believes the placement of new entrants to the field of healthcare management can be enhanced through encouraging students to attend CAHME-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. These components contribute to the success of the student and his/her future development as a healthcare executive:

  • When considering enrolling in a health administration program, students should carefully consider the advantages of attending CAHME-accredited graduate programs. Attending a CAHME-accredited program is optimal, but if not feasible, at a minimum, students should attend regionally accredited programs that require face-to-face instructional time and field experience, allowing students to interact with a variety of healthcare professionals and organizations.
  • 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.
  • Leadership and communication skills essential to healthcare managers are acquired and enhanced through face-to-face interactions. Programs should require at least 120 hours of face-to-face instructional time at the graduate level as required by CAHME, even if the program is not CAHME-accredited.
  • 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. Fellows can make a meaningful contribution to the organization when the fellow is assigned real projects that cross organizational lines. Employers are encouraged to offer these opportunities to assist the entry of students to the field of healthcare management. Employers must also be aware of the rigor of CAHME-accredited programs and the advantages of hiring graduates of CAHME-accredited programs. 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.
    • Training on interviewing skills.
    • Working with alumni and others in placing students.
    • Offering alumni and healthcare executive contacts.
    • Publishing 90-day, post-graduation placement rates.

Students should recognize the importance of attending a CAHME-accredited graduate program in health administration that requires 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 hiring graduates from CAHME-accredited programs and providing fellowship and job opportunities. The combination of these activities will help ensure that 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 March 8, 2013.