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Healthcare administration certifications are a mark of professional distinction within the industry. Administrators who hold advanced certification have demonstrated their mastery of key aspects of the profession and signaled their commitment to continuing education.
While certification is not a requirement to practice for healthcare administrators, except in areas such as long-term care, it represents a level of expertise beyond that available in graduate-level programs, and employers are increasingly requesting that administrators be certified.
Certification comes in many forms for healthcare administrators. Some certifications are related to healthcare administration in a general and overarching sense, while others are designed for the particularities of the profession’s sub-disciplines. Each has its own eligibility requirements, renewal criteria, and parent organization. But despite their differences, certifications do share something in common: they are often linked to higher salaries and roles of greater responsibility for those who hold them.
Healthcare administrators who hold professional certification have proven themselves to be competent in the skills and knowledge necessary to reach the top of their field. Employers choosing between certified and non-certified candidates may not encounter much of a choice at all: the former group is often seen as more reliable and more committed to the profession.
For every sub-discipline of healthcare administration and for every stage of one’s career there’s a corresponding certification that can boost one’s resume and reaffirm one’s skills. To get a comprehensive look at all the kinds of certifications available for healthcare administrators, read on.
American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
The AAPC offers certification for healthcare administrators who wish to distinguish themselves as experts in compliance with the Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO) credential.
CPCO candidates will need to be current members of the AAPC. The AAPC strongly recommends that candidates have at least two years of experience working with compliance programs, but no official experience requirement exists. The AAPC also recommends candidates have at least an associate’s degree in a healthcare-related field.
Those seeking the CPCO credential must pass a 4-hour, 100 multiple choice question exam that covers a wide variety of compliance topics: healthcare compliance program history; OIG compliance program guidance for physicians and small group practices; compliance program guidance for third-party billing companies and clinical laboratories; OIG supplemental compliance program guidance for hospitals; risk areas; fraud and abuse laws; other laws and regulations; investigations process and audits; and references and resources.
Exam fees are (one attempt – $299; two attempts – $399). CPCO-holders must renew their AAPC membership annually, and renew their credential every two years through the completion of 36 continuing education units.
American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
The AAHAM’s elite certification program is designed for administrators working in patient financial services and the revenue cycle. The premier credential is the Certified Revenue Cycle Executive (CRCE) designation, intended for senior leaders in the revenue cycle industry. Mid-level supervisors and managers may look to the Certified Revenue Cycle Professional (CRCP) designation.
To be eligible for this credential, candidates will need to be members of the AAHAM. CRCP candidates need two years of professional experience in a healthcare-related field, while CRCE candidates need four. In both instances, an associate’s degree can be substituted for two years of relevant experience.
Once deemed eligible, candidates will need to pass a qualifying exam. Both the CRCP and CRCE exams cover four areas: patient access; billing; credit/collections; and revenue cycle management. The CRCP exam is four hours long, while the CRCE exam is eight hours long, Exam fees total $199 for the CRCP exam and $299 for the CRCE exam.
To maintain their credentials, CRCP-holders will need to complete 30 continuing education units, 15 of which come from AAHAM-sponsored events, every two years. CRCE-holders will need to complete 40 continuing education units, 20 of which come from AAHAM-sponsored events, every two years.
American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
The ACHE offers the industry’s premier health administration certification, the Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) designation, for healthcare executives who are recognized leaders in the field.
Eligibility requirements are strict. Candidates will need to have ACHE membership, earn a master’s or another post-baccalaureate degree, hold an executive healthcare management position, and have five years of healthcare management experience. They also need to have completed four volunteer activities and 36 continuing education hours (12 of which must be ACHE face-to-face education) in the last three years. Finally, they’ll need to obtain two references: the first reference is a structured live interview with a current FACHE; the second reference is a structured written interview with either a current FACHE or a senior leader within the candidate’s organization.
Once deemed eligible, candidates will need to pass the Board of Governors Exam in Healthcare Management. This is a six-hour, 230-question multiple-choice test, the content of which is defined by a national role delineation study. Said study involves surveying practitioners within the field to identify tasks that are performed routinely and considered important to competent practice. The application fee is $250, and the exam fee is $225.
ACHE Fellows must recertify every three years by either completing 36 hours of continuing education, 12 of which must be ACHE face-to-face education, or re-taking and passing the exam, with a re-exam fee of $350. Within the three-year recertification window, ACHE Fellows will also need to complete four volunteer activities, including two civic/community activities and two healthcare-related activities. There is a recertification fee of $200.
American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
AHIMA offers the Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) credential for administrators who wish to distinguish themselves for their competence and commitment to health informatics.
Eligible candidates must have either: a bachelor’s degree in health information management (HIM) from an institution accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM); a master’s degree from a CAHIIM-accredited HIM program; or a post-baccalaureate HIM certificate program accredited by CAHIIM.
Once deemed eligible, candidates must pass a four-hour, 170 to 200-question exam. The exam is divided into five domains: information governance; compliance with uses and disclosures of PHI; data analytics and informatics; revenue management; and management and leadership. Exam fees are $229 for AHIMA members and $299 for non-members.
Those who earn the RHIA designation will need to recertify every two years by completing 30 continuing education units, 80 percent of which must be relevant to the HIM domain.
American Hospital Association (AHA) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
Healthcare administrators who specialize in risk management can look to the AHA’s Certified Professional in Healthcare Risk Management (CPHRM) designation, which is developed in collaboration with the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM).
Candidates will need a bachelor’s degree or higher, plus five years of experience in a healthcare setting. They also need at least 3,000 hours of experience, or 50 percent of their current full-time job duties, specifically related to healthcare risk management.
Once deemed eligible, candidates need to pass a 110-question exam that covers the following five domains: clinical/patient safety; risk financing; legal and regulatory; healthcare operations; and claims and litigation. The ASHRM offers numerous resources on its website to help candidates prepare. The exam fees are $275 for AHA members and $425 for non-members.
CPHRM-holders will need to recertify every three years through the completion of 45 contact hours of continuing education. The renewal fee is $135 for AHA members and $225 for non-members.
Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
The Compliance Certification Board (CCB), in partnership with the HCCA, offers the gold standard in compliance credentials for healthcare administrators.
Three credentials are available: the Certified in Healthcare Compliance (CHC) designation is for healthcare compliance professionals of all levels; the Certified in Healthcare Research Compliance (CHRC) designation is for healthcare compliance professionals with a research focus; and the Certified in Healthcare Privacy Compliance (CHPC) designation is for healthcare compliance professionals with a privacy focus.
Eligible applicants will have at least one year of experience in a full-time compliance position or 1,500 hours of direct compliance job duties within the last two years; those applying for the CHC designation may instead demonstrate the completion of a CCB-accredited certificate program in the last two years. All applicants for these credentials must have completed 20 CCB continuing education units, ten of which must come from live training events, and earned within the last year.
To earn their credential, candidates will need to pass a two-hour, 120-question exam. While each credential has its own specialized exam, they are all split into the same seven knowledge areas: standards; policies and procedures; communication, education, and training on compliance issues; compliance program administration; discipline for non-compliance; screening and evaluation of employees, vendors, physicians, and other agents; monitoring, auditing, and internal reporting systems; and investigations and remedial measures.
Exam fees for each credential are $275 for HCA members and $375 for non-members. Those who hold the CHC designation will need to recertify every two years by completing 40 CBB continuing education units, 20 of which must come from live training.
Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
To earn the credential, candidates will need to complete two modules. Module 1 consists of training focused on the following areas: the big picture; financial accounting concepts; cost analysis principles; strategic financial issues; managing financial resources; and looking into the future. After approximately ten to 14 hours of study, candidates must pass a 90-minute, 75-question assessment.
Module 2 is an operational excellence exam that covers the following areas: business acumen; collaboration; financial strategy; and understanding future trends. The exam consists of 56 questions on eight case studies.
Fees for both modules are waived for HFMA members. To maintain their credential, CFHP-holders will need to complete 60 contact hours every three years.
Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
HIMSS is one of the largest professional organizations for healthcare informatics, and their Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) credential is designed for healthcare administrators who wish to demonstrate competence with healthcare information and management systems.
Eligible candidates will have either a bachelor’s degree and five years of information management experience, three of which occurred in a healthcare setting; or a graduate degree and three years of information management experience, two of which occurred in a healthcare setting; or have at least ten years of information and management systems experience, with 8 of those years in a healthcare setting.
Once deemed eligible, candidates must pass a two-hour, 115-question exam on common knowledge and skills related to the competent practice in health IT. Exam fees are $499 for HIMSS student members and $599 for non-members. CPHIMS holders will need to recertify every three years by completing 45 hours of continuing education (25 of which was completed through HIMSS), or by retaking the certification exam.
National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
The Certified Healthcare Access Manager (CHAM) credential, offered by NAHAM, is for healthcare administrators who are dedicated to the highest standards of patient access services.
Eligible candidates will need two years of management experience in the healthcare finance industry, and either a high school diploma or GED equivalent with 90 professional development contact hours earned within the past three or a bachelor’s degree in healthcare, business, or a related field. They also need the signatures of one CHAM-certified individual and one supervisor or course instructor.
To earn the CHAM credential, eligible candidates must pass a competency exam that covers three areas: pre-arrival, arrival, and access management. Exam fees are $225 for NAHAM members and $420 for non-members. To maintain the credential, CHAM-holders must complete 60 contact hours every two years, with ten of those hours coming from NAHAM-approved sources.
National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
There are no established requirements for the CPHQ credential, but it is recommended that candidates have at least two years of experience in healthcare quality, as the qualifying exam is designed for an executive with at least two years of experience. The exam covers four areas: organizational leadership; health data analytics; performance and process improvement; and patient safety. Exam fees are $479 for NAHAQ members and $579 for non-members.
CPHQ-holders will need to recertify every two years by completing 30 hours of continuing education, as defined by NAHQ’s standards.
National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB)
Long-term care is one area where healthcare administrators need certification to practice. While requirements vary from state to state, the NAB oversees the conferment of the Nursing Home Administrator (NHA) designation, as well as certification for Residential Care and Assisted Living (RCAL) and Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS).
Currently, 38 states require that NHAs have at least a bachelor’s degree, but some states only require an associate’s degree. Whether or not one has to take a qualifying exam is also state-dependent; Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming do not require candidates to complete an exam to obtain official NHA licensure, while the remainder of states does. The core exam fees are $300. When adding an NHA exam, the price rises to $425, while adding an RCAL or HCBS exam only brings the total to $400.
To maintain their certification, NHAs, RCALs, and HCBSs will need to complete a certain number of continuing education hours, which, again, vary from state to state.
Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
Eligible candidates will need two years of healthcare experience in either a clinical environment or a medical practice, as well as 12 completed college credits relevant to healthcare or business management. They must then pass a three-hour, 200-question exam that covers 9 domain areas of medical practice management. Topics include revenue management; risk management; human resources; finance; contract management; business management; technology and data management; clinical performance reporting; and patient clinical education and practice marketing.
Exam fees are $385 for PAHCOM members and $770 for non-members. CMM-holders will need to recertify every two years by completing 24 hours of continuing education.
Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS) – Certification Eligibility, Testing & Renewals
Eligible candidates will hold either a bachelor’s degree and three years of regulatory experience; a master’s degree and two years of regulatory experience; or a doctoral degree and one year of regulatory experience.
Once deemed eligible, candidates must pass a two-hour, 100-question test, with the questions falling into three categories: application, analysis, and recall. There are 2 different RAC exams, which include RAC Drugs (knowledge of the full product development and lifecycle for pharmaceutical and medicinal and related products, APIs, biologics, and biotechnology products) and RAC Devices (knowledge of the full product development and lifecycle requirements for medical devices, and IVDs). Candidates will take an exam that corresponds to their geographic area of expertise: either the US, Canada, the EU, or global. Exam fees are $490 for RAPS members and $615 for non-members.
RAC-holders must recertify every three years through the completion of 36 RAC credits, which can come from continuing education, professional writing, public speaking, or involvement with professional organizations.
Matt is a writer and researcher from Southern California. He’s been living abroad since 2016. Long spells in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America have made the global mindset a core tenet of his perspective. From conceptual art in Los Angeles, to NGO work on the front lines of Eastern Ukraine, to counterculture protests in the Southern Caucasus, Matt’s writing subjects are all over the map, and so is he.