The Basics: Q&A


1. What is a postgraduate administrative fellowship?

A postgraduate administrative fellowship is a preceptor-directed program designed to nurture independence and experiential learning by an individual who has recently obtained a master’s degree. As such, it represents a way to assist new entrants to the profession in their transition from academically acquired knowledge to the actual management of healthcare organizations. The best fellowships are well structured, typically lasting from one to two years, and involve a mix of rotations in specific departments as well as general assignments and exposure to senior leadership and strategic thinking. While the sponsoring organization may offer the fellow permanent employment, it is not required to, nor is the fellow obliged to accept such an offer.

2. What are the organizational benefits of offering a postgraduate administrative fellowship?

There are several benefits for organizations offering administrative fellowships. Foremost among those is the value that fellows contribute through their actual work. Postgraduate fellowships attract highly qualified early careerists. Through their projects they provide concrete benefits, often resulting from work on cross-functional projects that might be difficult to accomplish in another manner. Second, offering an administrative fellowship can serve as an organizational development strategy, providing the organization with a low-risk opportunity to evaluate the work of a potential addition to the staff. Third, there is a strong sense of professional fulfillment when contributing to the development of future leaders. This is true not only for the preceptor, but also for the staff members who may mentor fellows during departmental rotations and typically look forward to the teaching/mentoring environment.

3. What is the role of the preceptor?

The preceptor is a coach in a formal relationship with the fellow who coordinates and structures the learning process and provides appropriate resources. Preceptors are senior leaders, such as the chief executive officer or the chief operating officer. The effective preceptor will ensure that the fellow is guided by a clear action plan that includes an in-depth orientation, establishes a timeline of activities and rotations, delineates required skills, provides periodic performance appraisals and specifies the nature of the day-to-day supervisory and subordinate relationship. In addition, the plan should address the professional development of a fellow, including participation in continuing education and general dialogue about professional ethics and career development.

4. What is the role of the fellow?

Administrative fellowships are designed to attract individuals who are prepared to be challenged and learn from diverse assignments, as well as deal with a certain amount of ambiguity. They typically experience rotations across several departments and engage in projects involving cross-functional teams under various degrees of direct supervision. While fellows learn by observing senior management interactions, they also experience how to achieve specific results on concrete projects that contribute to the organization. In the process, guided by their preceptors, fellows are expected to gain new competencies, including interpersonal and managerial skills. Fellows are also expected to develop their identities as members of the healthcare management profession, committed to ongoing continuing education and ethical decision making.

5. What are some common characteristics of effective fellowships?

Information about best practices is contained throughout the Administrative Fellowship area of ache.org, which also includes links to resources such as fellowship handbooks developed by other organizations. Some of the key features of fellowships are:

  • They are well planned, with enough flexibility to allow fellows to develop their own learning opportunities consistent with their needs and that of the organization.
  • They include a high degree of involvement by the preceptor.
  • They offer a number of ways that the fellow can take part in active, hands-on, substantive projects that foster development of verbal, interpersonal and analytical skills. Exposure to management decision-making processes and board of trustee activities also is important and integral to the fellowship.
  • Fellows are able to observe effective leadership and develop leadership skills.
  • Fellows learn to work independently as their management skills grow and develop.
  • Fellows are treated as professionals and colleagues, not as students or interns.
  • Fellows are able to integrate healthcare management theory and application.
  • The fellowships offer maximum and effective use of the fellow’s time.
  • There are measurable growth and development objectives for fellows, as well as timely, candid, outcome-oriented evaluations by the preceptor and other leaders in the organization.

6. What is the typical compensation for postgraduate administrative fellows?

Organizations typically offer a competitive salary appropriate for a master’s-prepared new entrant to the healthcare management profession and the fellow receives the same benefit package as a full-time employee. Administrative fellows receive some support to pursue continuing education through attendance at professional meetings. An ACHE survey of administrative fellows in early 2010 found a median annual salary of $49,800 with three-fourths of the fellows earning between $45,000 and $60,000.

7. How can I recruit a postgraduate administrative fellow for my organization?

Before you start recruiting for a fellow, determine how the fellowship fits into your organization and your expectations of the fellow, as well as the basic structure of the fellowship. It is recommended that you review the additional materials provided in the Administrative Fellowship section of ache.org. Once you have defined your fellowship opportunity, post it in ACHE’s online Directory of Fellowships in Health Service Administration. You can also contact healthcare academic programs in your region, as well as your local ACHE chapter. Positions are generally listed by late summer, just before students who will graduate the following spring are returning to campus.

8. How do I post a fellowship opportunity in ACHE’s Directory of Fellowships in Health Services Administration?

There is no charge to post a position in the directory. Simply go to the Career Services section of ache.org and click on the appropriate link. You will be asked to include:

  • Your organization’s name and contact information specific to the fellowship
  • The program title, description of the program and number of positions
  • Applicant qualifications
  • The length of the position
  • The application deadline and selection announcement date

9. What information should an organization request from an applicant?

An organization should request the following:

  • Statement of interest explaining the applicant’s qualifications
  • Objectives for the fellowship and how the experience will contribute to career advancement
  • Current resume
  • Copies of undergraduate transcripts
  • Most recent graduate school transcripts
  • Letter of recommendation the academic program director
  • At least one professional recommendation

10. Who do I contact if I have additional questions about posting a position in ACHE’s online Directory of Fellowships in Health Services Administration?

If you have any questions, please contact Erika Joyce, assistant director, Division of Member Services, at (312) 424-9373 or ejoyce@ache.org. Also, if you know of any other fellowships offered in your area, please encourage those organizations to submit their listings.