MHA vs. Bachelor's in Healthcare Management

Healthcare administrators run hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. They manage staffing, regulation compliance, insurance billing systems, and everything that maintains a smooth running facility. Since administrators work for both small and large healthcare organizations, some administrators specialize in specific areas while others juggle multiple roles.

The median salary for medical and health services managers is around $96,540, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Jan. 2018). However, salaries for the highest paying healthcare management roles range from $72,000 to $386,000 annually, depending on the administrator’s area of expertise.

Of course, a healthcare administrator’s annual salary depends on their career path and academic qualifications. For example, someone with a graduate degree working as a healthcare consultant generally earns more than someone with a bachelor’s degree who works for a not-for-profit hospital.

Those seeking a career in healthcare administration have several options. They can choose to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree, depending on their current career path and professional aspirations. A bachelor’s degree in healthcare management can open doors to entry-level positions, while a master of healthcare administration (MHA) can open doors for working professionals like nurses, EMTs, phlebologists, or pharmacists who are seeking a career change out of clinical practice and into management or administration.

A master’s degree is typically required for those seeking executive and upper-level management positions. Some professionals with healthcare backgrounds choose to supplement their practical experience and undergraduate degrees with an MHA. For example an experienced nurse may choose to pursue an MHA to move into an administration position within nursing.

In addition to a traditional healthcare administration degree, some universities offer dual programs such as a combined MHA and MBA program. Others offer specialized programs that concentrate on subjects like insurance management, public policy, or healthcare information management. With all of these different options, it is crucial for prospective students to do the proper research before enrolling in a healthcare management administration program.

Side-by-Side Comparison: Master of Healthcare Administration vs. Bachelor’s in Healthcare Management

This side-by-side comparison summarizes key information about the similarities and differences between a bachelor’s in healthcare management and an MHA program.

Bachelor’s in Healthcare Management Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)

Typical Admissions Requirements

  • Completed application and fee
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Grade point average that meets or exceeds institution requirements; this is usually at least 2.5 but many institutions require a 3.0 or higher, especially online programs
  • Some programs require an associate degree in a healthcare field such as nursing or medical assistance
  • Statement of purpose
  • Completed application and fee
  • Bachelor’s degree in a healthcare field from an accredited program
  • Meet or exceed the program’s minimum GPA for undergraduate work (e.g., 3.0 or higher)
  • Some programs require a minimum of two years professional experience in a healthcare setting
  • Essay
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Interview

Accreditation

  • Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management (CAHME)
  • Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM)
  • Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA)
  • Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
  • Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM)

Specializations

At the bachelor’s degree level, much of the coursework is at an introductory level and therefore the opportunities to specialize are limited. That said, some programs focus more on informatics, leadership, occupational therapy, nursing home management, or other subfields. Some programs offer an abbreviated “ancillary health management” degree program for people who already hold an associate degree in a healthcare field. Additionally, some schools like Cornell offer a fast-track BS-to-MHA program completing both degrees in five years.

  • Acute care
  • Data Management
  • Executive leadership
  • Healthcare innovation
  • Health management
  • Healthcare policy and management
  • Healthcare strategies
  • Healthcare quality
  • Human services
  • Population management
  • Public health
  • Healthcare finance
  • Nursing home administration (senior services)
  • Service organization
  • Dual degrees combined with a masters in business administration (MBA)

Curriculum Overview

  • Human resource management in healthcare organizations
  • Healthcare information management
  • Long-term care management
  • Principles of epidemiology
  • Healthcare marketing
  • Health law
  • Financial accounting
  • Health and disease
  • Internship or capstone project
  • Healthcare delivery systems
  • Health information management
  • Navigating the regulatory maze
  • Quality improvement and the healthcare learning organization
  • Strategic planning and value creation in integrated healthcare
  • Healthcare management strategies
  • Policy, regulation and politics of healthcare
  • Capstone project
  • Health economics
  • Research and quantitative methods for health services

Typical Duration

A bachelor’s of science (BS) program varies but it usually requires four years of full-time attendance, or two years for degree-completion options for associate degree graduates. The former often requires 120-126 credit-hours. Some BS in healthcare management programs offer an accelerated program or options to complete both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

A full-time MHA degree program typically takes 16 months with full-time attendance. This usually equates to around 48 credits.

Tuition Range (See individual programs as this varies widely by college, degree specialization, and whether you have resident status)

Tuition varies depending on the college and residency status (in-state or out-of-state). Drawing from the programs below, tuition ranges from $320-$596 per credit.

Tuition varies depending on the college and residency status (in-state or out-of-state). Drawing from the programs below, tuition ranges from $788 to $930 per credit-hour.

Examples of On-Campus Programs in Healthcare Management and Administration

Examples of Online Programs in Healthcare Management and Administration

Career Opportunities for Graduates

Entry-level jobs in the healthcare management field, including opportunities in hospitals, nursing homes, community clinics, public health organizations, and more.

Advanced leadership roles in clinical, nonprofit, government, and corporate environments, including opportunities in healthcare organizations, the insurance industry, or consulting

The Bottom Line

Bachelor’s degrees in healthcare management can prepare students to enter the healthcare management and administration field working for healthcare facilities, insurance companies, and related organizations. Some programs build on an existing associate’s degree in a healthcare field like nursing, while others prepare students for entry-level positions.

Master of health administration (MHA) programs can prepare candidates for senior-level management and leadership roles in the healthcare industry. Graduates can find work in healthcare organizations, consulting firms, non-government organizations, insurance companies, and government agencies. Some build on previous professional experience and a bachelor’s degree in health or business related fields.

In sum, healthcare professionals are in demand, and opportunities aren’t limited to doctors, pharmacists, or nurses. Every medical or healthcare facility requires skilled management to operate in a dynamic, ever-changing environment.

Professional Associations and Other Resources