Starting in the fall, SUNY Cortland students who are interested in working on the business side of healthcare can pursue a new undergraduate major in a fast-growing field.
The College will offer a bachelor of science in healthcare management as one of the first four-year programs of its kind within the State University of New York system. For current students, the degree provides foundational training for roles that include finance, human resources or business management across various settings — hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and larger healthcare systems among them.
In other words, SUNY Cortland is adding a high-demand major that officially links the College’s strong reputations in business economics and public health.
“While the name of the major is new, it’s important to remember that the training is built upon the excellent work that we as a college have been doing for a long time,” said Bonni Hodges, SUNY distinguished service professor and chair of SUNY Cortland’s Health Department. “Our offerings have been retooled and reimagined to make a more relevant degree program for the 21st century.”
Hodges and Professor Kathleen Burke, chair of the Economics Department, worked closely over the past several years to shape the new program. SUNY Cortland’s Economics and Health departments will share the cross-disciplinary major, which requires 120 credits and replaces the healthcare administration and planning concentration that previously existed within the College’s community health major.
“We wanted to make sure that we followed the right process in determining the courses that are most important for an entry-level person to have,” Hodges said. “The course requirements are pretty even across both departments, with an updated combination of economics and management courses that fit well together.”
Examples of required courses include Human Resource Management; Health Economics, Leadership and Ethics in Business; Organization and Administration of Health Programs; and Introduction to Health Infomatics and Communication.
“Adding a new major in a high-opportunity field made sense for several reasons,” Burke said. “Healthcare management has shown promising job growth and our campus already had many of the most important pieces in place.”
Three significant findings inspired SUNY Cortland to create the new major. First, the healthcare administration and planning concentration within the community health major saw a steady increase in enrolled students over the past eight years. Second, new graduates are working in a variety of roles and settings, including hospitals, physicians’ offices, outpatient care centers, rehabilitation facilities and home healthcare service agencies.
And third, several projections suggest significant career growth over the next decade. The projected growth rate for health services managers by 2024 is 17 percent nationally and 12.5 percent in New York state, with an average annual salary of $128,470 for hospital administrators statewide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A full-time, semester-long fieldwork experience will be required of all healthcare management majors. In the past, SUNY Cortland students have worked closer to campus with Cortland Regional Medical Center and SUNY Upstate Medical University or further away at Northwell Health and Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island.
Students also will be encouraged to explore a specific healthcare interest through several elective offerings within the major. Someone who is interested in working primarily with medical clinicians may choose to take a health course in chronic and communicable disease. A person looking for an introduction to community-based, non-profit health clinics could pursue an elective in sociology.
“There are so many different healthcare settings,” Hodges said. “Then there are different areas within those settings. We want students to think about the areas they’re most interested in and find elective coursework that speaks to their interests.”
Barbara Barton, an assistant professor of health and a registered nurse with healthcare management experience, will serve as program coordinator for the new major. Two new full-time faculty positions that came with the major included a health economist in the Economics Department and a healthcare management expert in the Health Department.
“To ensure that we were aligning the curriculum with the needs of the field, we also questioned a panel of alumni working in the healthcare management profession,” Burke said. “We utilized their feedback to develop a program that will prepare our students to succeed after completing their degree.”
All told, several years’ worth of planning, analysis and development has established a more visible major in a growing professional field.
“We want students to know that healthcare management could be an exciting option if they’re interested in health or business or both,” Hodges said. “And we’re not pulling it out of thin air. Instead, we’re building on SUNY Cortland’s success in two disciplines. We’re introducing a well-designed entry point to a fulfilling career.”