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What Degree is Best for Healthcare Management?

Let's explore the best degrees for a career as a healthcare manager in Australia.

Hospital staff in busy lobby area


Everyone follows a unique path to health care management. It's not typically a direct entry from university. Educational choices are key. By selecting the right undergraduate major, and later, a healthcare management degree, you can position yourself for leadership roles.

You can take either a clinical or non-clinical route via bachelor programs. The clinical approach involves qualifying as a health professional and then transitioning to management. Top majors here include nursing, medicine, and allied health. Alternatively, the non-clinical route is essentially to qualify in business or IT before moving to health care, with finance, HR, and marketing being standout majors.

For experienced professionals, especially those with hands-on healthcare exposure, master's degrees such as the Master of Health Management and Master of Health Service Management are on offer.

Undergraduate Majors

The best bachelor-degree majors for a career in health care can be categorised into health and non-health subjects. Health majors allow you to select a field of work you're passionate about. Good non-health majors provide transferable skills of value within medical and welfare organisations.

(a) Health degrees

The most common path to becoming a healthcare manager is to (a) do a bachelor degree in a health discipline, (b) qualify to work in this field, (c) gain experience, and (d) transition into management through on-the-job experience and postgraduate education.

Which bachelor's degree you choose is a big decision and hinges on your academic achievements and career preferences. Suitable majors to eventually work as a manager include:

  • Nursing
  • Medicine
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Public Health
  • Social Work
  • Medical Imaging
  • Dentistry
  • Health Informatics
  • Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Paramedicine
  • Speech Pathology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Biomedical Science

Your choice of major will not only shape the early stages of your career but will also influence the trajectory of future managerial roles.

Related: Health Degrees in Australia

(b) Non-health degrees

Another pathway to becoming a health care manager is to gain experience in business administration or other fields that are not exclusive to the health industry. Typically, the steps are to (a) earn a non-health bachelor degree; (b) gain experience, preferably in a health organisation; and (c) advance into healthcare management through experience and professional development.

Majors that can set the foundation for this path include:

  • Business Administration
  • Finance
  • Human Resources Management
  • Marketing
  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Technology

Opting for these majors provides a solid business foundation and creates opportunities across industries. However, it limits your ability to perform roles that rely on hands-on healthcare experience.

Related: Best Business Degrees in Australia

Master's Degree Programs

In Australia, aspiring health managers have four main Master of Healthcare courses to choose from: a specialist master's in Health Administration, Health Management, or Health Services Management, or an MBA in Health Management. While these are the most common, other programs with similar titles are also available.

The differences in course content can be subtle. Education researcher Emma Davies weighed in on these programs, telling us, "An MBA is different in that it will focus on building general business administration skills. Specialised health leadership courses, on the other hand, can be harder to differentiate. There tends to be a convergence in curriculums since they ultimately all serve a similar purpose: training the healthcare leaders of tomorrow."

A Master of Health Management is designed to advance the managerial careers of health industry professionals.

Courses are well-rounded but may emphasise health system practicalities, such as balancing patient safety with budget concerns and navigating regulations.

Graduates are prepared not just to be managers, but also leaders attuned to the unique needs and demands of Australian healthcare.

A Master of Health Services Management highlights the consumer's perspective in healthcare delivery.

Courses centre on service quality, patient safety, and making healthcare both accessible and affordable.

Graduates are trained to meet the challenges of delivering excellent care while balancing stakeholder needs, often working close to the front line.

A Master of Health Administration prioritises business-oriented skills for healthcare management.

Courses focus on day-to-day operations, such as coordinating health services, financial management, and team leadership.

Graduates are poised to manage hospitals, aged care facilities, and beyond, ensuring efficient and quality healthcare delivery.

An MBA in Health Management combines business topics with health-focused subjects at a ratio of about 2:1. MBA stands for Master of Business Administration.

Students develop their understanding of both general management practices and the specific challenges of the patient services industry.

The degree program has the advantage of preparing you for almost any managerial role, both within the medical and wellness field and beyond.

A Master of Nursing (Management) or similar program prepares nurses to take on senior roles within clinical environments.

Courses blend nursing professional development with managerial skills, containing subjects such as finance in medicine, leadership, and patient service ethics.

Bridging the gap between direct patient care and leading staff, jobs for graduates include nurse unit manager, nursing coordinator, and facilities manager.

A Master of Public Health (MPH) offers a foundational platform for professionals interested in public and community health.

Improve your undertanding of broad issues such as health policy, community engagement and education, epidemiology, biostatistics, and more.

Graduates often seek senior roles in Australia's healthcare system or public service, potentially as a specialist in a public health field.

A Master of Medical Science Leadership is ideal for those supervising or managing in medical research and laboratory contexts.

Courses address challenges in scientific research, exploring technological trends, medical innovations, and leadership strategies.

Graduates are well-positioned to manage and lead in areas of medical research, biomedicine, and scientific exploration.