What is a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) Degree?

With a master of health administration, graduates can stand above the competition and become eligible for higher-paying jobs with a wider scope of responsibilities.

The MHA holders can land the positions of health administrators, healthcare managers, health service managers, and even a chief executive officer.

All these professionals are in charge of all aspects of the healthcare field, including management of services, programs, budget, staff, partnerships, and facilities in general.

Those who wish to advance their careers in the field of healthcare can benefit from obtaining an MHA, especially if they are looking into operations or executive roles.

Even those who only have experience in clinical positions can move to one of the leadership roles.

In the MHA program, students learn an array of essential skills, e.g., how to collect, maintain, and analyze data efficiently.

They can become clinical analysts, highly-trained health informatics specialists, or clinical informatics managers who work to lower the costs, improve patient results, and promote communication.

Students can also learn how to make a positive difference in patient outcomes and healthcare organizations.

They are taught how to approach the administration from policy, business, and patient-centered perspectives.

Students also learn how to make long-term changes in high-quality healthcare for patients.

Active health administrators teach many programs, providing students with an insider perspective and knowledge.

Students are trained for decision-making at the executive level through the exploration of complex ethical and moral issues.

Since they learn the skills necessary to be executives in leading healthcare organizations on patient-centered care, they also help manage costs.

Healthcare is a heavily regulated industry with many professional and practical challenges, so MHA is considered ideal for those professionals who seek advancement to executive and leadership positions.

Differences between an MHA, MBA, and MPH

On the way to healthcare management, there are three big degrees that often grab the attention of healthcare professionals:

  • The master of health administration (MHA).
  • The master of public health (MPH).
  • The master of business administration (MBA).

While each of them can lead to the same healthcare leadership positions, there are vital differences between them.

An MBA in healthcare is considered by future managers as a management degree with a healthcare focus.

An MBA is a general degree, in which programs are designed to apply to multiple industries and professional context.

All programs in an MBA include a similar curriculum that covers fundamental business, opportunities, needs, and challenges leaders can face.

The MBA students can also specialize in specific sectors, fields, or concentrations, such as healthcare, which come in two or three additional courses.

Master of public health (MPH) is more of a healthcare research degree with bits of management.

Since the MPH focuses on the health of the population, students study such topics as environmental health, epidemiology, health policy and ethics, public health biology, statistics, global health, medical ethics, disease prevention.

If leadership coursework is included, it focuses on the abilities to influence public policy and manage scientific research.

An MHA is a leadership degree designed to train professionals that will meet specific needs, administrative challenges, and opportunities of the healthcare industry.

Courses include such topics as accounting, finance, law, policy, management, and marketing.

Similar to an MBA, this program uses real-life case studies, examples, tests, presentations, and instruction materials.

Just like MPH, it focuses on examples that relate to and impact healthcare.

When it comes to earning the MHA, students have a variety of options.

They can choose an online or on-campus program as well as a combination of the two (blended or hybrid programs).

Some curricula are full-time or accelerated, others are part-time.

Specialization options are also available in areas like senior services, population management, data management, and more.

Benefits of Earning an MHA

One of the biggest advantages that come with an MHA is a higher earning potential.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data of May 2019, the average pay for medical and health services managers was $115,160.

As the BLS reports, the employment of these professionals is expected to increase by 18% through 2028, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations nationwide (5%).

The reasons for this growth include the aging population, which increases the demand for healthcare services.

Undoubtedly, MHA is a great way for professionals to advance their careers.

Even with a solid experience in healthcare, it can be difficult to move up without a master’s degree.

With an MHA, graduates can get more responsibilities on the job, which puts them in line for positions that would determine the future of a healthcare facility.

The decisions they would make in those positions can influence the lives of thousands of patients as well as the careers of hundreds of healthcare employees.

Since healthcare is a competitive and serious field, a healthcare facility should be run by a decisive and confident person.

What to Expect from an MHA Program

When considering which MHA program is the best fit for you, you can find a variety of options, including full- and part-time as well as executive and accelerated programs.

One can complete a full-time program in as little as one year while part-time programs last for two or three years (or up to five or six) and are a good choice for working professionals.

Accelerated programs are a fast track.

Typically, they cover the same curriculum but at a faster pace and can be completed within 12-18 months.

An executive MHA program is a competitive environment, in which students learn to be visionaries even if they face profound and fast change in such areas as economics, finance, technology, ethics, policy, or management.

The applicants for these programs are usually required to have a few years of leadership experience in the healthcare field.

MHA programs generally range from 36 to 64 credits, covering such topics as:

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

Some MHA programs also offer concentrations, which include specialized subjects, such as:

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

On-Campus, Online, and Hybrid MHA Programs

The number of MHA programs is growing, so students can choose how their education is delivered.

Students who enjoy a traditional classroom setting can enroll in on-campus programs.

Those who are busy and need to combine work and education and seek more flexibility (or can’t relocate) can enroll in online programs.

Students who are looking for the flexibility of an online program as well as networking options can enroll in a hybrid program, which combines online and on-campus learning.

Below, there are a few examples of online, hybrid, and on-campus programs.

University of Cincinnati – Online MHA

The MHA program offered by the University of Cincinnati is 100% online.

It is designed to train working professionals to become executive healthcare leaders.

The program is delivered in an asynchronous format, includes 40 credit hours, and doesn’t require relevant work experience.

The program can be completed on a part-time basis and doesn’t require the GRE or GMAT scores for admission.

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

University of Southern California – Hybrid MHA

A hybrid online/on-campus executive MHA program is offered by the University of South California (USC) for seasoned clinical professionals.

Candidates should have at least five years of experience at the mid- to senior-level.

The program is designed for those who wish to lead in the global healthcare field.

The 36-credit-hour program content is taught online.

The coursework covers leading people and healthcare organizations, operations management accountability, managing the organization’s financial health, and quality care concepts.

The on-campus component of the program includes two on-campus residencies for five days when students discuss the future of the healthcare industry, current, and future trends, life in the C-suite, the evolution of healthcare leadership.

University of Minnesota – On-Campus MHA

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health has been offering a top-ranking full-time MHA since 1964.

The program integrates the complexity of healthcare delivery needs with business insight.

This program is full-time, includes 60 credits, and lasts for 21 months.

It is accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

The program is taught in a cohort format and requires students to take a hands-on summer residency in a healthcare facility.

The coursework covers managerial accounting for health services, healthcare management ethics, the innovation of healthcare services, and more.

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