Guide to Healthcare Administration Certifications - AHIMA, HCCA, AHA, HFMA & More
Professional certifications demonstrate that a job candidate has competence in a particular set of skills. And in a dynamic field like healthcare administration, they are particularly vital. Healthcare administration sits at the nexus of technology, policy, business, and medicine. As each of those sectors evolve, the rules of the game, along with the pieces on the board, change in turn.
Professional certification in a particular area of healthcare administration not only proves that the holder is competent in a specialized area, it also shows one’s commitment to continued education, professional networking, and industry-recognized best practices. In a fast-growing and quickly evolving field, professional certifications are the best way to differentiate oneself as an exceptional healthcare administrator.
Each healthcare administration certification is a little different and targeted to emphasize a particular focus. But a lot of overlap exists in the benefits. These certifications are resume-building and salary-boosting, and they open the door to integration with the wider professional community.
To get a look at the best healthcare administration certifications, and how to get them, read on.
Healthcare Administration Certifications in Compliance & Risk Management
The Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) offers the CHC designation through the Compliance Certification Board (CCB). This certification verifies a compliance professional’s dedication to staying up-to-date and taking a proactive approach to healthcare compliance. Those interested in further specialization can look to the Certified in Healthcare Research Compliance (CHRC) and Certified in Healthcare Privacy Compliance (CHPC) designations, also offered through the HCAA.
- Eligibility: To be eligible, prospective CHCs must have either one year of full-time healthcare compliance work or 1,500 hours of direct compliance job duties in the last two years, as well as 20 continuing education units (ten of which consist of live training) in the previous year.
- Testing: Eligible candidates for the CHC designation may sit for a 100-question, two-hour exam that covers seven critical areas: standards, policies, and procedures; compliance program administration; screening and evaluation of employees, vendors, physicians, and other agents; communication, education, and training on compliance issues; monitoring, auditing, and internal reporting systems; discipline for non-compliance; and investigations and remedial measures.
- Fees & Renewal: Exam fees are $275 for HCCA members, and $375 for non-members. CHC holders will need to recertify every two years by completing 40 continuing education units (20 of which must come from live training).
The CPHRM designation, offered through the American Hospital Association (AHA), is the top certification in healthcare risk management and a prerequisite for many top jobs in the field. Testing for competencies across several areas of healthcare risk management, applicants may turn to the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) for assistance in preparing for the certification process.
- Eligibility: To be eligible, aspiring CPHRMs must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, five years of experience in a healthcare setting, and 3,000 hours of healthcare risk management experience in the previous three years.
- Testing: Once deemed eligible, candidates will need to pass the CPHRM exam, which covers the core concepts of healthcare risk management: clinical/patient safety; risk financing; legal and regulatory issues; healthcare operations; and claims and litigation.
- Fees & Renewal: Exam fees are $275 for AHA members and $425 for non-members. Every three years, CPHRM holders will need to renew their certification by completing 45 contact-hours of continuing education.
Healthcare Administration Certifications in Finance
Offered through the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), the CFHP is geared towards financial professionals, clinical leaders, and others whose jobs require them to have a deep understanding of the financial realities of healthcare. The credential verifies one’s understanding of business, collaboration, financial strategy, and future trends in healthcare finance.
- Eligibility & Testing: Candidates may earn the CFHP credential by completing two modules. Module one is a self-paced course on the business of healthcare, and candidates can expect to spend a minimum of 14 to 20 hours on completing it and its 90-minute final exam. Module two is a three-hour exam on operational excellence, and it consists of eight case studies with seven questions each.
- Fees & Renewal: All fees for these modules are waived for HFMA members. CFHP holders can maintain their credential by remaining an active HFMA member in good standing and completing 60 contact-hours over each three-year period.
The CRCE designation is available through the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) for all senior and executive leaders in revenue cycle management. Meant to demonstrate one’s mastery of the subject, earning a CRCE is, according to the AAHAM, akin to a lawyer passing the bar or an accountant getting their CPA.
- Eligibility: Eligibility requirements include AAHAM membership and four years of experience in a healthcare-related field (two of which may be substituted with an associate’s degree).
- Testing: Candidates must pass an eight-hour exam that covers four core subjects: patient access; billing; credit and collections; and revenue cycle management.
- Fees & Renewal: Exam fees total $299, and include a CRCE study outline. Every two years, CRCE holders will need to renew their certification by completing 40 hours of continuing education (20 of which must come from AAHAM-sponsored events).
Healthcare Administration Certifications in IT & Informatics
Healthcare administrators wishing to prove their knowledge and ability in informatics can look to the RHIA certification from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
- Eligibility: All one needs to be eligible is a bachelor’s degree or higher in health information management from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). Alternatively, a candidate may be eligible by holding AHIMA’s Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification.
- Testing: Once deemed eligible, RHIA candidates will need to pass a four-hour, 180-question exam. The exam focuses on four domains: data content, structure, and standards; information protection; informatics, analytics, and data use; and revenue management.
- Fees & Renewal: Exam fees are $229 for AHIMA members and $299 for non-members. RHIA holders will need to recertify every two years by completing 30 continuing education units.
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is one of the largest and most active professional organizations for leaders in health informatics. Their CPHIMS designation is built to demonstrate that one meets international standards of professional competence in several areas of healthcare information and management systems.
- Eligibility: Eligibility requirements include either a bachelor’s degree and five years of information and management systems experience (three years of which must be in a healthcare setting) or a graduate degree and three years of information and management systems experience (two years of which must be in a healthcare setting).
- Testing: Eligible candidates will need to pass a 100-question online exam to earn the CPHIMS designation. HIMSS offers a candidate handbook for exam preparation, and its Competency Gap Assessment helps candidates determine which areas they need to strengthen.
- Fees & Renewal: Exam fees are $405 for HIMSS members, and $525 for non-members. CPHIMS holders will need to recertify every three years by either completing 45 continuing education units (25 of which must be obtained through HIMSS) or retaking the certification exam.
Healthcare Administration Certifications in Management
The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) offers the gold-standard of board certification for healthcare administrators through its FACHE program. Those who earn this designation have demonstrated an in-depth understanding of the fundamental competencies necessary to lead and excel in the field of healthcare management.
- Eligibility: Aspiring FACHEs must have a master’s degree, three years of ACHE membership, five years of executive healthcare management experience, 36 hours of continuing education in healthcare management, two examples of community/civic engagement activities in the last three years, two examples of healthcare-related engagement activities in the last three years, a character reference interview with a current FACHE-holder, and a character reference from a senior-level executive in one’s own organization.
- Testing: Once deemed eligible, candidates may sit for the Board of Governors Exam. Numerous resources for exam preparation are available on the ACHE website.
- Fees & Renewals: The exam fee is $250. If passed, a candidate will earn the FACHE designation. Recertification is required every three years, during which a Fellow must complete 36 hours of healthcare management continuing education, 12 of which must be ACHE Face-to-Face Education. Those seeking re-certification must also demonstrate participation in two community/civic engagement activities, and two healthcare-related engagement activities.
For those looking for a management certification that’s slightly less intense, the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM) offers the CMM designation.
- Eligibility: While the eligibility requirements are more lax than some other certifications, the CMM exam is no cakewalk: candidates will need to be proficient in 18 different areas of medical practice management. Applicants will need two years of healthcare experience in a clinical environment or medical practice, and 12 college credits in courses pertinent to healthcare or business management.
- Testing: Eligible candidates may sit for the three-hour, 200-question CMM exam. The exam covers domains of medical practice management such as 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.
- Fees & Renewals: Fees total $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.
Healthcare Administration Certifications in Quality Assurance
The CPHQ designation, offered by the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ), is the industry standard for certification in healthcare quality. Over 12,000 healthcare professionals currently hold the CPHQ designation, verifying their competency in leadership, information management, quality measurement, and patient safety.
- Eligibility: While there are no strict eligibility requirements, it’s recommended that candidates have at least two years of experience in healthcare quality. Candidates can assess their level of readiness through NAHQ’s candidate handbook.
- Testing: The CPHQ qualifying exam is written with a two-year executive in mind, and it covers four main areas: organizational leadership; health data analytics; performance and process improvement; and patient safety.
- Fees & Renewals: Exam fees are $423 for NAHAQ members, and $529 for non-members. CPHQ holders will need to recertify every two years by completing 30 hours of continuing education that conforms to NAHAQ standards.
The National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM) offers the CHAM designation for patient access managers who meet the highest standards of the profession. It builds on the Certified Healthcare Access Associate (CHAA) designation and targets itself towards those looking to become leaders in the field.
- Eligibility: In order to qualify for the CHAM exam, candidates must have two years of management experience in healthcare or finance; a bachelor’s degree in healthcare, business, or a related field; one signature from a current CHAM holder; and one signature from a supervisor or course instructor.
- Testing: Once deemed eligible, candidates must pass a competency exam that covers three areas: pre-arrival, arrival, and access management.
- Fees & Renewals: Exam fees are $200 for NAHAM members, and $400 for non-members. Every two years, CHAM holders will need to renew their certification by demonstrating completion of 60 contact hours (10 of which must come from NAHAM-approved sources) and 1,500 hours of relevant work experience.