When one considers educational options, Alaska may rarely be one of the states that come to mind. But in addition to being one of the most beautiful states in the nation, Alaska is also home to a number of prestigious universities, and ranks in the upper half of states in terms of public health.
And while issues like obesity and diabetes continue to pose threats to the Alaskan population, health coverage has gone up in recent years due to the ACA.
If you live in Alaska, or would like to pursue a career in the famous "Last Frontier", an administrative and health-related degree may be a good fit for you.
While there are no Alaskan universities which offer accredited MHA degrees, there are several options for those wishing to pursue a policy and management heavy degree plan in the field of health.
University of Alaska at Anchorage
The University of Alaska at Anchorage offers an accredited MPH (Masters in Public Health) degree with an optional specialization in Administration and Planning.
With a special emphasis on the issues which face Alaska and the circumpolar north, students gain knowledge of myriad facets related to community health, and experience working with local health organizations helping real Alaskans.
A minimum total of 42 credit hours are required for graduation, and the track is generally completed within two to three years.
With textbook fees and estimations of room and board included, the total cost of an in-state student's degree is estimated to be $27,360. For an out-of-state student, this number rises to $37,450. Note that this total may vary from student to student.
Students in Anchorage may take on-campus classes, but all required coursework is also offered in a distance format, which means professionals can balance their work schedule with their studies.
Generally, students are required to attend an on-campus session once a year in coordination with the Alaska Public Health Summit: as of the writing of this article, this has been suspended until further notice.
Students who wish to pursue the Administration and Planning specialization may have to take elective coursework at the campus. In addition, all students will have to orally defend their thesis or practicum project before a faculty board at the university before graduation.
Designed for both mid-career professionals and entry-level students alike, this degree plan is meant to prepare students for work both in the public and private sector, with a solid understanding of the concepts and precedents of the regional and national health system.
The George Washington University’s (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences offers online Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (BSHS) programs for healthcare professionals, including a BSHS in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management.
Click for program information.
Alaska Pacific University
APU offers an MBA program with a concentration in Health Services Administration. The program is meant to provide students with foundational, integrated knowledge of the health service industry, in addition to the business and management skills necessary to be an effective administrator.
Coursework is arranged to accommodate working schedules, and with as little as two courses a semester a student may complete their degree in two years time.
The average cost per credit hour for the university's graduate programs is $650.
Though costs may vary between colleges and from year to year. It is worth noting that the university offers a number of scholarships to its graduate students, especially those who are members of Alaska's Native American community.
The program has a special emphasis on the workings of the Alaska health industry, and issues specific to Alaskan businesses. The degree is offered through the university's Institute of Business & Public Policy, with online coursework available for certain classes.
What Can a Health Administrator in Alaska Do?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Alaska employs less than 1,000 health managerial professionals, who enjoy a mean annual salary of $122,760.
The estimated growth of the healthcare industry in the coming years likely means that these jobs will be in ever-higher demand: and in low population states like Alaska, the shortage of such professionals is likely to translate into higher salaries for those willing to brave the frontier and serve Alaskan communities.
A recent job search found health-related administrative openings with the Alaskan state government, with the VHA, and with a private medical research institution, though the majority of those employed in the field find work in public and private hospitals and clinics.
Regardless of your particular interest, if you are passionate about community health and wish to make a difference for Alaskans, a degree related to health administration may be one of the best steps you can take.