MHA vs. Master's of Science in Healthcare Informatics Degrees

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Healthcare administrators are professional shape-shifters in their abilities to run hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. They manage staffing, regulation compliance, insurance billing systems, and ensure that a facility runs smoothly for patients and practitioners. Since administrators work for both small and large healthcare organizations, some healthcare administrators specialize in specific areas while others serve the multiple needs of daily business operations.

The average salary for medical and health services managers is around $99,730, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2018). Salaries are commensurate with years of work experience with the lower paying healthcare management roles starting at $61,000 and pay rates differing based on location and the administrator’s area of specialized expertise.

As in several other fields, a healthcare administrator’s annual salary is determined by an individual’s career path, work experience, and academic qualifications. Examples of differentials in pay can be easily understood through comparison: someone with a master’s degree working as a healthcare consultant for a health insurance company will likely earn more than someone with a bachelor’s degree working for a not-for-profit hospital.

While a faster-than-average growth rate (BLS 2018) has created a high demand for educated healthcare administrators, more bachelor’s degree holders are choosing to pursue master’s degrees in healthcare administration (MHA) or healthcare informatics (MSHI) to give themselves a competitive edge in the job marketplace.

The inclusive admissions requirements of healthcare administration master’s degree programs are favorable for professionals from both clinical and non-clinical backgrounds. A typical applicant to an MHA or MSHI program may hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-healthcare related discipline and/or be a working clinical professional such as a nurse, EMT, phlebologist, or pharmacist seeking a career change out of clinical practice and into management.

Although MSHI programs are innately oriented towards electronic data management and information technology (IT), applicants to these programs range widely in their academic and professional backgrounds. Some may be pleasantly surprised to learn that previous IT experience is not required in order to apply to many MSHI programs. Working professionals from a variety of disciplines can choose to pursue an MHA or MSHI degree and open doors for career changes out of clinical practice and into management or administration positions.

While some bachelor’s degree holders do hold medical health services management positions, a master’s degree is required for most executive and upper-level management positions in healthcare administration. Some professionals with clinical healthcare backgrounds choose to enhance their practical experience and undergraduate degrees with an MHA. For example, a registered nurse with a four-year degree may choose to pursue an MHA to move into a leadership position within nursing. Others may choose to leverage their non-healthcare degree and professional experience into a healthcare-related position. An example of this path could be a social worker with a bachelor’s degree opting to enroll in an MHA program to learn more about patient advocacy or an MSHI program to make data-driven analytical decisions for patient care as a policymaker.

In addition to single healthcare administration degrees, some universities offer dual degree or accelerated programs such as a combined MHA and MBA or a dual MSHI and MBA degree option. Universities typically offer specialized programs that concentrate on subjects such as healthcare information management and healthcare informatics.

With such a wide array of options, it is crucial for prospective students to do thorough research to determine the right fit for their unique needs and professional goals before applying to an MHA or MSHI program.

To help prospective students understand their degree options, a side-by-side comparison chart highlighting the similarities and differences between MHA and MHSI degree programs follows.

Side-by-Side Comparison: MHA vs. MSHI Degrees

The chart below compares and summarizes key information about the similarities and differences to consider when choosing between a master of healthcare administration (MHA) and a master of healthcare informatics (MSHI) program.

Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) Master of Science in Healthcare Informatics (MSHI)

Typical Admissions Requirements

  • Completed application and fee
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited educational institution
  • Meet or exceed the program’s minimum GPA for undergraduate work (e.g., 3.0 or higher)
  • Personal statement
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Interview
  • Completed application and fee
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited educational institution
  • Meet or exceed the program’s minimum GPA for undergraduate work (e.g., 3.0 or higher)
  • Personal statement
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Interview

Accreditation

  • 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)
  • 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

    • Acute care
    • Data management
    • Gerontology
    • Executive leadership
    • Healthcare innovation
    • Health management
    • Healthcare policy and management
    • Public health
    • Healthcare finance
    • Assisted living administration
    • Dual degrees combined with a masters in business administration (MBA)
    • Clinical informatics
    • Health technology informatics
    • Health administration informatics
    • Dual degrees combined with a masters in business administration (MBA)

    Curriculum Overview

    • Regulations and ethics in healthcare
    • Quality improvement and the healthcare learning organization
    • Strategic planning and value creation in integrated healthcare
    • Healthcare management strategies
    • Policy, regulation, and the politics of healthcare
    • Capstone project
    • Health economics
    • Research and quantitative methods for health services
    • Medical terminology for health information management
    • Fundamentals of health information management
    • Healthcare data
    • Information sources in biomedical and health information sciences
    • Communication skills in health informatics
    • Ethics and legal issues in health informatics
    • Health information systems and design
    • Mobile health informatics
    • Health informatics capstone experience

    Typical Duration

    A full-time MHA degree program typically takes 18 to 24 months to complete. Programs typically require 38 credits and may require more credits for specializations. A full-time MHSI degree program typically takes 18 to 24 months to complete. Programs typically require 38 credits and may require more credits for specializations.

    Tuition Range

    Tuition varies depending on the college and residency status (in-state or out-of-state). Drawing from the programs below, tuition can range from $714 to $978 per credit hour. Tuition varies depending on the college and residency status (in-state or out-of-state). Drawing from the programs below, tuition can range from $615 to $900 per credit hour.

    Examples of Online Programs

    Career Opportunities for Graduates

    Advanced leadership roles in clinical, nonprofit, government, and corporate environments, including opportunities in healthcare organizations, the insurance industry, or consulting. Healthcare IT consultants, nurse informatics, medical records technicians, chief medical information officers, clinical data analysts, and multiple senior management roles.

    The Bottom Line

    MHA programs 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 degree programs build on previous professional experience and a bachelor’s degree in health or business related fields. MSHI degree programs train students to create health data systems and processes with the overall goal of improving patient care through healthcare delivery. Graduates from these programs go on to work as administrative healthcare professionals serving the data analysis and IT needs of patients, physicians, clinicians, and regulatory bodies. The goal of MSHI professionals is to improve the quality and streamline the delivery of patient care and facility operations.

    Every medical or healthcare facility requires skilled management to operate in today’s ever-changing environment of healthcare, as well as proficient data administrators to inform practice and policy.

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