Online Master of Public Administration (MPA)

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Advancements in healthcare result from thousands of hours put in by unsung heroes. Whether they’re well known in the press or spend most of their time out of the public eye, health policy and healthcare leadership professionals sign up to make healthcare, a fundamental human right, more accessible and equitable for all. To make a difference in local and global communities, many people start their healthcare leadership careers with a master’s degree in public administration (MPA).

High-profile professionals with MPAs include actor Ashley Judd who graduated from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government with a master’s in public administration (MPA). After graduation, she continued her work for several humanitarian health-focused groups, such as YouthAIDS. The eighth Secretary-General for the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, also graduated from Harvard with an MPA degree and has focused much of his political career on advocating for women and children’s health, campaigning to eliminate violence against women, and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.

In the United States, healthcare leadership careers are experiencing unprecedented growth. Data from the BLS shows that openings across all healthcare occupations will grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030, twice as fast as the national average for all occupations (8 percent).

By comparison, positions for medical and health services managers are expected to swell 32 percent during the same period, four times as fast as the national average for all occupations and double the rate for all healthcare jobs in the same decade.

The umbrella of a master’s degree in healthcare includes several programs that teach research and leadership skills. While most master’s programs prepare graduates for careers in healthcare administration, there are unique differences between programs.

According to Monster.com (2022), a master of public administration (MPA) degree is one of many programs in graduate studies that promote general wellbeing as it relates to public policymaking. Not all MPA degrees are related to healthcare, but some MPA programs offer specializations in health policy. After graduation, MPA graduates from health-focused programs typically hold a bachelor’s degree in any discipline and pursue careers in leadership, including public and private healthcare.

A second common healthcare degree is the master of public health (MPH), which attracts students with bachelor’s degrees in any field and clinicians (e.g. nurses and physicians). MPH programs also offer concentrations in health services administration. However, graduates from MPH programs often pivot into leadership positions focused on disease prevention and treatment or leadership roles in healthcare facilities.

Due to in-person requirements for leadership training, there are very few fully online MPA programs. For this reason, MHAOnline has included MPA and MPH programs in this guide, which prepare graduates for leadership in a wide array of healthcare organizations.

Some MPA and MPH programs may be fully online, and others hybrid (on-campus and online instruction). Some programs may require three- or seven-day residencies, such as the health policy leadership course at George Mason University which offers students the opportunity to attend an in-person or virtual networking forum in Washington D.C. Some hybrid programs require in-person mentorships or internships as requirements for graduation.

The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is the leading accrediting organization for healthcare management programs and serves to “advance the quality of healthcare management education globally.” CAHME classifies MPH and MPA degree programs in the same category and differentiates other types of healthcare leadership degrees (e.g. MSHA, MHA) in its database of accredited programs. As of June 2022, CAHME has accredited 131 programs, three of which are featured below.

Read on to learn more about eight accredited online master of public administration and master of public health degree programs and three professors who teach, mentor, and administer these programs.

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