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, it is essential to learn as much as possible about a program’s completion timelines and ask an academic advisor specific questions before applying for admission.
For example, some MHA programs 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 2019 by the U.S. Department of Education says that the total number of conferred master’s degrees increased by 51 percent between academic years 2002-03 and 2015-16. It shows the number of projected conferred degrees is projected to increase 4 percent between the academic years 2015-16 and 2027-28.
Universities are responding to this explosive enrollment trend by expanding their graduate program offerings through online courses as well as accelerated and part-time completion options. Interestingly, a survey conducted in 2015 by the Aslanian Market Research and the Learning House shows that 39 percent of online students were enrolled part-time. 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 are the factors that go into 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 compared to undergraduates and 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 12 on U.S. News and World Report’s 2019 list of best graduate schools in healthcare management, the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University offers an online masters 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 October, 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 cost per credit is $1,765.
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. Courses include the U.S. healthcare delivery system, information systems for health services, health policy and 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. The cost per semester-credit is $654 for Ohio residents and $673 for out-of-state residents.
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 in healthcare organizations, clinical issues in health services management, healthcare economics and policy, and healthcare law and ethics. The cost is $760 per credit-hour.
Bottom Line: Part-Time MHA Programs
While it’s true that the most masters degree students—60 percent according to the 2015 Aslanian Market Research and the Learning House study—are enrolled full-time and typically taking more than nine credits per semester or quarter, part-time students comprise a large percentage of the student population in the United States, with 39 percent 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 three factors: 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 it can seem cheaper to take classes one at a time on a per-semester basis, 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-hour if they are enrolled in fewer than 12 credit-hours, but pay a flat tuition rate once they are enrolled 12 or more credit-hours, 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 are 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 opportunity, 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.