Which MHA Program Specializations are Available Online?

A master of healthcare administration (MHA) degree is an ideal option for those who wish to learn about the business side of healthcare. The graduate degree prepares them for leadership and management positions across many different kinds of healthcare institutions. Some of the industries and places of work include healthcare consulting firms, nursing homes, hospitals, insurance companies, clinics, and public health agencies; however, there are many more options that MHA graduates can explore.

Those who pursue this type of degree may have experience providing direct care to patients for several years. Others have worked in a business setting and want to direct the course of their career towards healthcare. Since some schools require previous work experience in a healthcare setting, it is important for students to carefully consider their career goals as well as the requirements of an online MHA degree program before enrolling in a program.

One particularly attractive element of an MHA degree is that it allows students to choose an area of specialization if they wish. All students take general foundational classes on topics such as clinical issues for health services management, healthcare marketing, financing healthcare, health economics, health law, quality improvement in healthcare, and information systems in health services administration.

Here is an overview of some in-demand MHA specializations.

Online MHA in Data Management

As patient health records have gone digital, there is an increasing demand for MHA graduates with skills in data management. Understanding medical records, coding, healthcare statistics, and reimbursement tracking are imperative to inform best practices and central to the smooth functioning of a healthcare setting.

Maryville University offers an online MHA in data management with specialized coursework in healthcare analytics and healthcare informatics. Additionally, students must complete 18 credits of core coursework in healthcare financial management; healthcare quality and performance improvement; and population health management, among other foundational areas.

Online MHA in Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is a common specialty in graduate business degree programs, but most students do not realize that some schools provide an entrepreneurship concentration within their healthcare administration programs as well. Healthcare organizations need staff who have specialized in entrepreneurship so that they can help write grants, develop new prevention and screening programs, and create standards to improve patient outcomes, among other projects.

The MHA program at Walden University has four specializations, one of which is social entrepreneurship and innovation. Students in any of the five tracks must complete 50 credits of core courses and 15 credits of specialty courses. Those in the entrepreneurship track take electives in grant writing, global social entrepreneurship and innovation, and improving healthcare performance through social entrepreneurship.

Online MHA in Health Systems Management

This specialty is typically designed for students who wish to become healthcare executives or take on other leadership positions in the future. The health systems management track provides students with a solid background in strategic analytics and decision-making as well as knowledge of the healthcare industry and operations.

Some online programs, like the one offered by George Mason University, focus their curriculum on several key competencies. These include communications and interpersonal effectiveness, knowledge of the healthcare system and healthcare management, leadership and management, and ethics and professionalism. At George Mason, students complete 47 credits, including a practicum in health systems management and a one-week on-campus health policy leadership course in Washington D.C.

Online MHA in Healthcare Strategies

Another in-demand specialization of online MHA programs is healthcare strategies, the high-level study of economic policies and overall institutional functioning. Graduates with advanced knowledge of healthcare strategies are positioned to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare organizations.

Maryville University provides an online MHA program in healthcare strategies with coursework in healthcare marketing, health policy and economics, and core MHA classes. Notably, Maryville’s program was patterned to follow the ten key knowledge areas from the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), which include professionalism, leadership, and communication and relationship management, among other strategic areas.

Online MHA in Human Resources

Every business regardless of industry needs human resource managers, but the needs of healthcare organizations differ considerably from most. These professionals recruit doctors and nurses, which means that they must have in-depth knowledge about what someone in such a position would need to know to best serve patients as well as foundational knowledge in human resources and operations.

Liberty University offers a specialized degree for those interested in pursuing human resources management within the healthcare industry. This online MHA in human resources can be completed entirely online and focuses on business, informatics, public health, and nursing. In the program’s HR electives, students learn about workforce planning and employment, human resources development, compensation management, and health policy and ethics. The school offers a few sample career options, including corporate health director, nursing director, and practice administrator.

Online MHA in Informatics

An MHA with a specialization in informatics allows students to build on previous experience in technology or healthcare to prepare them for a career that combines the two. It teaches them how to plan, design, implement, and maintain various health information systems.

Saint Joseph’s University offers an online MS in health administration with a focus on informatics. In this program, students learn how to collect, analyze, and interpret data, which can help improve patient outcomes and advance research in a healthcare setting.

Online MHA in Health Policy and Administration

This MHA specialty prepares students for management and organizational roles within the healthcare industry. Some of the specific areas of emphasis include critical thinking skills, ethical leadership, oral communication, and written communication. Examples of employers and industries include public health agencies, insurance companies, hospitals, home healthcare facilities, and skilled nursing facilities.

Pennsylvania State University offers an online MHA in health policy and administration, in which students complete online coursework as well as two on-campus residencies. Students take common core classes as well as specialty courses in health economics, strategy development, project management, and information systems in healthcare administration.

Online MHA in Nursing Home Administration

Those who graduate from an MHA program with a specialty in nursing home administration are prepared to take on roles as senior-level health services managers. Some of the specific duties of nursing home administrators include managing patient admissions and staff, advocating for patients, planning the finances for the entire facility, and maintaining and improving care standards. Their primary goal is to protect the dignity and health of the elderly residents living in assisted-living facilities.

Maryville University provides an MHA with a concentration in senior services. In this program, students will learn how to provide care for an aging population through courses in gerontology and assisted living and senior services management. Courses include an introduction to gerontology and assisted living and senior services management.

Online MHA in Population Management

Understanding how diseases spread and how to prevent them are the central tenets of public health. Having an online MHA in population management teaches students the fundamentals of the discipline, including how to create a healthcare system tailored to the needs of specific populations, paying thought to assessing risks and other factors which impact healthcare outcomes.

Maryville University provides an online MHA in population management with courses in managerial epidemiology and community health, as well as foundational MHA topics such as healthcare law, ethics, and risk management.

Executive MHA Programs

As a final note, an executive MHA is an advanced degree that typically requires students to have several years of healthcare experience before they can apply. For example, the Price School at the University of Southern California offers an online executive MHA program, which is open to applicants with at least five years of experience. Students enrolled in the executive program learn about healthcare economics, management and leadership, health information technology, quality of care, organizational behavior in healthcare, research methods, and current topics in healthcare management.

Farheen Gani
Farheen Gani

Farheen Gani has written many how-to career, online program, and scholarship guides related to master of healthcare administration degrees since 2018. Some guides she has written include online healthcare management programs, master's in regulatory science programs, and health administration scholarships. She writes about healthcare, technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).