What is an MHA Degree?

A master of health administration (MHA) can set a graduate apart from the healthcare employee pack, making one eligible for higher-paying jobs with more responsibilities. Potential roles for those with MHAs include health administrator, health service manager, healthcare manager, and even chief executive officer. These professionals are responsible for all aspects of the healthcare industry, including managing facilities, services, budgets, programs, partnerships, and staff.

Those looking to advance their careers in healthcare can benefit from an MHA, especially if they plan to take on an executive or operations role. Even those with experience in clinical roles can transition to one with leadership capabilities.

With an MHA, students learn essential skills, such as efficiently collecting, maintaining, and analyzing data. As a result, they can become highly-trained health informatics specialists, clinical analysts, or clinical informatics managers to lower costs, improve patient outcomes, and boost communication.

MHA programs also teach students how to make a positive difference in healthcare organizations and patient outcomes. They learn how to approach healthcare administration from patient-centered, policy, and business perspectives and how to make lasting changes in high-quality healthcare for patients.

Active health administration professionals teach many programs, supplying students with insider knowledge and perspective. As a result, students can prepare for executive-level decision-making by exploring complex moral and ethical issues. In addition, because they learn the skills necessary to lead healthcare organizations in patient-centered care, they can help manage costs at the same time.

Since healthcare is a heavily regulated field with many practical and professional challenges, an MHA is ideal for healthcare professionals seeking advancement into leadership and executive positions.

Differences Between an MHA, MBA, and MPH

When on a path toward healthcare management, three great degrees will often come into a healthcare professional’s radar: the master of health administration (MHA), the master of business administration (MBA), and the master of public health (MPH). Although each can lead to some of the same positions in healthcare leadership, there are distinctive differences.

Future managers consider MBA in healthcare programs as management degrees with a healthcare focus. An MBA is viewed as a generalist degree, with programs designed to broadly apply to different industries and professional contexts. MBA candidates can also specialize in specific fields, sectors, or concentrations, adding about two or three elective courses to the core curriculum.

Future healthcare leaders can think of a master of public health (MPH) degree as a healthcare research degree with a sprinkling of management. Because the MPH focuses on population health, MPH students study epidemiology, environmental health, public health biology, health policy and ethics, statistics, medical ethics, global health, and disease prevention. In addition, leadership coursework, if included, often focuses on the capacity to manage scientific research and influence public policy.

An MHA is a leadership degree tailored to meet the healthcare industry’s needs, opportunities, and administrative challenges. Courses cover topics like finance, accounting, policy, law, management, and marketing. Like an MBA, an MHA program uses real-life examples, case studies, projects, presentations, and more. In addition, the MHA degree focuses on models related to impact healthcare.

They can choose from an on-campus or online program or a mixture of hybrid or blended programs. Some curriculums are accelerated or full-time, while others are part-time. In addition, specialization options are available in population management, senior services, data management, and more.

Benefits of Earning an MHA

One of the biggest perks of obtaining an MHA is the potential for a higher salary. The median annual pay for medical and health services managers was $101,340, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.

According to the BLS (2022), opportunities for medical and health services managers are expected to grow 28 percent nationally between 2021 and 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations (5 percent). This growth is partly attributed to the aging population, leading to an increased demand for healthcare services.

Without a doubt, an MHA can help professionals advance in their careers. However, even with decades of experience in the healthcare field, it can be difficult to progress further in the industry without a master’s degree.

An MHA can help graduates achieve more responsibility on the job as well, putting them in line for positions that could dictate the future of a healthcare organization. The decisions MHA graduates make in these positions can affect the careers of hundreds of people and the lives of thousands of patients. Because healthcare is such a profound and competitive business, it takes a confident and decisive individual to run a healthcare organization.

What to Expect from an MHA Program

From accelerated and executive to full- and part-time, there are many avenues students can pursue when considering which MHA program is best for them.

Full-time programs can be completed in as little as one year, while part-time programs—ideal for working professionals—can be completed in two or three years and often up to five or six. Accelerated programs are just what their name implies: a fast track to graduation. Topics cover the same curriculum but at a quicker pace, usually within 12 to 18 months.

An executive MHA is a highly competitive environment where students learn to be visionaries in their field, even when faced with a fast and profound change in the following areas: technological advancements, economics, ethical situations, finance, policy, and management. These programs generally require applicants to have several years of leadership experience within healthcare.

In general, MHA programs range from 36 to 64 credits and provide instruction in:

  • Ethics of healthcare
  • Healthcare law
  • Health policy
  • Research methods for the health professions
  • Epidemiology and community health
  • Managed healthcare
  • Healthcare informatics
  • Risk management
  • Healthcare quality management
  • Health services research
  • Financial management of healthcare organizations
  • Healthcare organization
  • Accounting for healthcare organizations
  • Capstone course and field experiences

Additionally, some MHA programs offer concentrations, including specialized coursework in:

  • Data management
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Health systems management
  • Healthcare strategies
  • Human resources
  • Informatics
  • Health policy and administration
  • Nursing home administration (senior services)
  • Population management

On-Campus, Online, and Hybrid MHA Programs

With the growing number of MHA programs available, students have various options regarding how their education is delivered.

Students who thrive in a traditional classroom setting can choose on-campus programs. Busy professionals who need more schedule flexibility cannot stop working for a school or for those who can’t relocate for an MHA program. Students seeking the flexibility of an online program with the networking opportunities of an on-campus program may find themselves at home in a hybrid program.

University of Cincinnati – Online MHA

The University of Cincinnati offers a 100 percent online master of health administration designed to train busy working professionals to become the next generation of executive healthcare leaders. This 40-credit-hour program is delivered asynchronously, requires no prior work experience, can be completed as a part-time program, and does not require GMAT or GRE scores for entrance.

Coursework in the program includes global health systems, evidence-based decision-making for managers, emerging issues in health systems management, and total quality management.

  • Location: Cincinnati, OH
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $769 per credit

University of Southern California – Hybrid MHA

The University of South California (USC) offers a hybrid online/on-campus executive master of health administration for seasoned clinical professionals with a minimum of five years experience at the mid-to senior-level who wish to lead within the global healthcare industry.

The course content of USC’s 36-credit-hour program is delivered online, and coursework includes leading people and healthcare organizations, managing the organization’s financial health, operations management accountability, and quality care concepts. In addition, the on-campus part of USC’s program includes two five-day on-campus residencies where students will discuss the future of the healthcare industry, life in the C-suite, current and future trends, and the evolution of healthcare leadership.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
  • Tuition: $76,932 total (estimate)

University of Minnesota – On-Campus MHA

Since 1964, The University of Minnesota School of Public Health has offered a top-ranking full-time master of healthcare administration (MHA) that fully integrates business acumen with the complexity of healthcare delivery needs. The Commission accredits this full-time, 60-credit, 21-month program on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). It is delivered in a cohort model and requires students to complete a hands-on summer residency with a healthcare organization.

Coursework in the program includes managerial accounting for health services, innovation of healthcare services, and healthcare management ethics, among other classes.

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Duration: 21 months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
  • Tuition: $1,070 per credit (residents); $1,406 per credit (non-residents)
Becca Brewer, MEd
Becca Brewer, MEd

Becca Brewer is building a better future on a thriving earth by healing herself into wholeness, divesting from separation, and walking the path of the loving heart. Previously to her journey as an adventurer for a just, meaningful, and regenerative world, Becca was a formally trained sexuality educator with a master of education.

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