MHA vs. Master's in Public Health Programs

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The healthcare industry in America sits at a unique crossroads between public policy, academic science, and private business. Already the largest employer in the country, the healthcare industry is set to grow further in the next few decades due to the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation and there’s a dire need for more experts and leaders. Those who aspire to take on leadership roles in the healthcare sector have their choice between two paths: a master of healthcare administration degree (MHA), or a master of public health degree (MPH).

The MHA degree prepares young professionals to take on leadership and management roles in healthcare facilities. The coursework in these programs often includes a robust education in business principles as they apply to healthcare, covering areas such as healthcare finance, healthcare marketing, and strategic management. Graduates of MHA programs often go on to manage long-term care facilities, private clinics, and hospitals. This is a degree for those interested in the business side of healthcare.

The MPH degree prepares students to become experts in the causes, effects, and policies behind issues of public health. MPH curriculums often include courses in epidemiology, healthcare policy, the social determinants of health, and biostatistics. Those who graduate with an MPH often go on to work as researchers, policy analysts, biostatisticians, and social workers. This is a degree for someone who wants to drive better public health outcomes through policy and research.

Whether you decide to pursue an MHA or an MPH, you’re placing yourself in an in-demand field, and moving your resume towards the top of the stack. To figure out which degree is right for you, check out our side-by-side comparison chart below.

Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) Master of Public Health (MPH)

Typical Admissions Requirements

Admissions requirements vary from program to program, but often include some combination of the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree in a healthcare-related field from an accredited institution
  • Competitive undergraduate GPA (3.0 or greater)
  • Personal essay
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • GMAT or GRE scores
  • Two years of healthcare work experience (varies)
Admissions requirements vary from program to program, but often include some combination of the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Prerequisite classes (e.g., statistics, biology, chemistry)
  • Competitive undergraduate GPA (3.0 or greater)
  • GMAT or GRE scores
  • Personal essay
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • Two years of public health experience (varies)

Accreditation

  • 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)
  • Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)

Specializations

  • Acute care
  • Business administration (dual degree combined with an MBA)
  • Data management
  • Executive leadership
  • Healthcare innovation
  • Health management
  • Healthcare policy
  • Human services
  • Population management
  • Public health
  • Healthcare finance
  • Nursing home administration
  • Senior services
  • Biostatistics or biometry
  • Environmental health
  • Epidemiology
  • Health policy
  • Health promotion and behavioral science
  • Population management
  • Family health
  • Sociomedical science
  • Social work (dual degree combined with an MSW)

Curriculum Overview

  • Epidemiology
  • Financial accounting for healthcare managers
  • Long-term care management
  • Health information management
  • Human resource management
  • Healthcare economics
  • Healthcare marketing
  • Healthcare policy and regulations
  • Practicum and/or capstone
  • Behavioral science
  • Biostatistics
  • Determinants of health
  • Environmental health
  • Epidemiology
  • Global health
  • Health communication
  • Health management
  • Health policy
  • Occupational health
  • Public health research methods
  • Program planning and evaluation
  • Practicum and/or capstone

Typical Duration

A full-time MHA program, which typically consists of between 36 and 60 credits, can often be completed in one to two years. A full-time MPH program, which typically consists of between 40 to 80 credits, can be completed in one to three years.

Tuition

Tuition rates vary widely depending upon residency status, public or private schools, concentration options, and the number of credits needed for completion. Of the schools below, tuition rates can range from $714 to $1,672 per credit-hour. Tuition rates vary widely depending upon residency status, public or private schools, concentration options, and the number of credits needed for completion. Of the schools below, tuition rates can range from $525 to $1,660 per credit-hour.

Examples of On-Campus Programs in Healthcare Administration and Public Health

Examples of Online Programs in Healthcare Administration and Public Health

Career Opportunities for Graduates

Those who graduate with an MHA can go on to manage clinics, long-term care facilities, non-profits, and hospitals. They can also work for insurance companies, government agencies, or consulting firms. Those who graduate with an MPH can find work as biostatisticians, epidemiologists, policy advisors, public health educators, researchers, and social workers.

The Bottom Line

Those who earn their MHA go on to run the business side of healthcare. While they almost always work in a setting that administers healthcare-related services, they drive outcomes through shrewd business management and organizational leadership. Those who earn their MPH go on to work with policy, services, and initiatives that impact public health. Even in research or policy advisement roles, they work hands-on with public health related-matters, and use their public health knowledge to drive better population health outcomes.