Guide to Part-Time MHA Programs - Duration, Eligibility, Coursework & Tuition
The short answer is yes! For students who need more time than the typical two years it takes to complete an online master of health administration (MHA) program, part-time enrollment options are available through some universities.
While some programs require students to start and finish an MHA program in a cohort comprising one group of students, other programs are more flexible with individual student needs to extend degree completion timelines. For students researching MHA programs, learning as much as possible about a program’s completion timelines and asking an academic advisor specific questions before applying for admission is essential.
For example, some MHA programs offer cohort programs that can be completed in two years and offer specializations that require additional semesters to complete. Other programs may advertise their completion timelines with phrases such as: “as little as two years” which could mean part-time completion options are available. The point is that unless specific information about part-time completion options is clearly stated on a program’s website, prospective applicants are highly encouraged to ask about part-time enrollment options before applying to an MHA program.
There has never been a better time to earn a master’s degree. In fact, the number of students completing master’s degree programs is at an all-time high. A study released in 2020 by the U.S. Department of Education says that the total number of conferred master’s degrees increased by 43 percent between academic years 2003-04 and 2016-17. It shows the number of projected conferred degrees is projected to increase by 4 percent between the academic years 2016-17 and 2028-29.
Universities are responding to this explosive enrollment trend by expanding their graduate program offerings through online courses and accelerated and part-time completion options. Interestingly, Forbes (2023) reported that in 2020, primarily online schools enrolled over 1.2 million part-time degree seekers. From these two sets of data, it seems likely that part-time enrollment in master’s degree programs is a trend that will continue to grow in the coming years.
So what factors influence deciding whether to enroll as a full-time or part-time online MHA student?
Most people who enroll in part-time MHA programs do so to balance their other responsibilities with the desire to further their education. Typically, graduate students have more work and family responsibilities than undergraduates. Enrolling in a part-time program may be the best option to balance their work and family commitments. Students with established careers may find that they can balance their work and school time more effectively with part-time enrollment.
Some companies offer employee tuition assistance which can help part-time students offset the tuition and fees. And while it’s true that part-time enrollment means it will take longer to complete a degree, part-time students can sometimes use the challenges they are facing in the workplace as a case study in their course which gives students authentic problem-solving practice. Documentation of this applied real-world knowledge could contribute to career advancement in higher-level positions with the current company and be used as a negotiation point if asking for a promotion.
Read on to learn more about part-time online MHA programs.
Part-Time MHA Programs
George Washington University – Milken Institute School of Public Health
Ranked number 11 in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2023 list of best graduate schools in healthcare management, the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University offers an online master’s of health administration program also known as MHA@GW.
This 50-credit program prepares health services professionals for administrative and leadership positions in healthcare. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) and can be completed in as little as two years. With four start dates offered throughout the year in January, April, July, and September, this program is organized into eight ten-week learning modules and includes three on-campus immersions and one off-campus immersion.
An organizational research project is required as a culmination of academic and leadership studies. Live weekly classes are limited to small groups of 15 students. Applicants to this program must have two years of full-time employment experience in the health sector or three years of full-time experience in another industry.
The curriculum includes courses such as healthcare management and strategy; healthcare financial management; medical informatics and decision management; community and public health; quality and performance improvement; health economics and quantitative methods; systems thinking and learning; and law and policy.
- Location: Washington, DC
- Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE); Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH); Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
- Expected Time to Completion: Two years, part-time
- Estimated Tuition: $1,835 per credit
Ohio University Online offers a fully online master of health administration program. This 36-semester program can be completed in six semesters (fall, spring, and summer), and most students spend 20 to 25 hours per week on their MHA coursework. Students connect with other classmates and faculty members via video office hours, email, discussion forums, and online chats.
The program is designed specifically for existing healthcare administrative professionals who want to advance their careers in leadership and professionals with two years of experience in the healthcare industry are welcome to apply.
Applicants to the program must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Application requirements include official transcripts for all previously attended graduate and undergraduate institutions, one letter of recommendation, a current resume, a personal statement, and TOEFL or IELTS test scores for international students. GRE or GMAT scores are not required for admission.
Courses in this 36-credit program include introduction to the U.S. healthcare delivery system; information systems for health services; health policy; health law; strategic planning and marketing in health services; and leadership of healthcare organizations. Program faculty are made up of leading healthcare leadership professionals and academics in the field of healthcare administration.
- Location: Athens, OH
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); in candidacy for CAHME accreditation
- Expected Time to Completion: Two years, part-time
- Estimated Tuition: Ohio resident ($658 per credit); non-resident ($677 per credit)
The Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina offers a fully online master of health administration (MHA). This hands-on program features an applied curriculum that gives future healthcare administration leaders real-world practice to become effective leaders who can grow healthcare organizations.
The framework for the curriculum is based on the five core competencies outlined by the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) and includes instruction in communication, leadership, professionalism, healthcare knowledge, and business expertise. This program is ideal for applicants who have some healthcare experience and want to become effective, knowledgeable leaders in growing healthcare organizations.
Courses in this program include organizational behavior in healthcare organizations; financial management; quality improvement for healthcare organizations; clinical issues in health services management; healthcare economics and policy; and healthcare law and ethics.
- Location: Charlotte, NC
- Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Expected Time to Completion: Two years
- Estimated Tuition: $830 per credit
Students at Regis College’s online master of health administration program can choose from three start dates every year (Fall, Spring, or Summer). Providing students with expert-level business, policy, and healthcare skills, this fully online program helps students advance their knowledge of key concepts like health information systems, financial analysis, and health ethics. Graduates emerge with the expertise and skills needed to pursue leadership roles in a variety of settings. The program opens up career opportunities in the private and public sectors at clinics, government agencies, hospitals, and insurance companies, just to name a few. Notably, students will be required to complete field experience locally and waivers are available for those with healthcare experience.
Applicants to the program must possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution and the program accepts students from all professional and educational backgrounds. GRE scores are not required for admission.
This 36-credit program includes courses in health ethics and law; concepts in health administration; healthcare quality management; economics of healthcare; management accounting in healthcare; financial analysis in health administration; research methods for the health professions; sociological, political, and economic perspectives in gerontology; and strategic management of healthcare organizations.
- Location: Weston, MA
- Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Expected Time to Completion: 20 months to two years
- Estimated Tuition: $850 per credit
Lindenwood University’s self-paced online master’s in healthcare administration (MHA) program can prepare graduates for leadership paths in various healthcare and medical settings. The program’s accelerated format allows students to graduate in as little as two years. Focusing on key topics in healthcare, this program helps graduates gain a well-rounded approach to leadership in healthcare.
The 36-credit curriculum of this online degree enhances core coursework in healthcare leadership and covers areas such as research methods in healthcare, quality improvement & management in healthcare, issues in public healthcare administration, and administration of healthcare law & case study analysis.
- Location: Saint Charles, MO
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Expected Time to Completion: 14 months to two years
- Estimated Tuition: $597 per credit
Bottom Line: Part-Time MHA Programs
While it’s true that most degree students—1.5 million according to Forbes (2023)—are enrolled full-time and are typically taking more than nine credits per semester or quarter, part-time students also comprise a large percentage of the student population in the United States, with 1.2 million of online students being enrolled part-time.
These statistics are worth repeating since the numbers speak volumes about educational enrollment trends and the willingness of universities to meet the unique work/life balance needs of students in the 21st century. Prospective graduate students considering part-time versus full-time enrollment often consider finances, future professional opportunity, and the personal impact of attending school while maintaining full-time employment.
Finances are a major consideration when thinking about enrolling part-time in a degree program. Although taking classes one at a time on a per-semester basis can seem cheaper, tuition models for each university may incentivize full-time enrollment. An article from the U.S. News and World Report breaks down the financial cost for two online universities. Students enrolled at the Penn State World Campus pay by the credit if they are enrolled in fewer than 12 credits, but pay a flat tuition rate once they are enrolled 12 or more credits, providing an incentive for students to enroll full-time.
By comparison, students enrolled at the University of Florida Online pay the same amount per credit regardless of part-time or full-time enrollment, meaning there is no financial incentive for students to enroll full-time. Another financial factor to take into consideration is the terms of student loans; certain loans may require full- or part-time enrollment and students are advised to research the terms of their loans carefully.
As for professional opportunities, going back to school to get a master’s degree could be favorably looked upon depending on the employer. Some companies offer employer tuition assistance as part of their benefits packages. This provides tax-free tuition assistance from employers to employees.
An example of a company that offers tuition assistance is Baxter, which offers tuition assistance for graduate coursework with approval from management. Companies may also offer flex-time benefits or workplace policies to provide the option to work from home. Students could opt to use this benefit and attend school full-time for one or two semesters if their university program allows flexible enrollment options per semester.
Lastly, while having a master’s degree offers opportunities for advancement, the personal impact of pursuing part-time graduate studies with a full-time job and other responsibilities can be difficult. Fortunately, there are numerous resources on time management and communicative strategies to help part-time graduate students organize and use their time effectively as well as communicate their needs to their colleagues, friends, and family:
- The Mayo Clinic features a list of suggestions for how to streamline tasks and set boundaries at home and work in order to be productive.
- Coach, vlogger, and podcaster The Professor Is In has specific advice for graduate students building up their physical, mental, and emotional capacities to withstand the challenges of graduate school.
- Lean In, an organization inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s New York Times best-selling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, has a plethora of resources on how to have conversations with family members about dividing household responsibilities equitably and emphasize the importance of communicating about how daily tasks are shared amongst couples.