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MHA vs MBA in Healthcare Administration: What's the Difference?

Sonya Krakoff

If you're a healthcare professional looking to take the next step in your career, considering a master's degree is a smart place to start. Education level directly impacts earning potential; those with a master's degree can, in general, earn an average of $400,000 more over their lifetimes than those with just a bachelor's degree. Additionally, having a master's degree (especially in a competitive field such as healthcare administration) can help you qualify for more jobs, particularly those with more seniority and higher pay. In fact, many of today's upper-level healthcare administration jobs require a master's degree.

When looking into graduate-level healthcare administration programs, you have probably noticed that the majority fall into two categories: a master's degree in healthcare administration, or an MBA with a concentration in healthcare administration. While the differences between these two programs might not be immediately clear, there are actually some significant distinctions that are important to take into consideration when deciding which one is right for you.


MHA vs. MBA in Healthcare Administration

To best understand the differences between these two types of programs, we'll explore each of them in depth.

Master's in Healthcare Administration

A master's in healthcare administration is a deep immersion into the HCA field. While the core classes in the program curriculum are similar to the healthcare-focused classes in the MBA in healthcare administration program, you will build on them with highly-focused courses that take your understanding of the field to the next level. The master's in healthcare administration is designed for individuals already working in healthcare, who foresee continuing their career path within the field. An MHA will challenge you to think boldly and innovatively, and give you the strategies and knowledge to enact measurable change (on both the macro and micro levels) within healthcare organizations.

Because we know our MHA students are already experience in healthcare and understand the complexities and challenges of the field, our master's in healthcare administration is focused on finding new ways to bring fresh thinking to old ways of doing things. Building on the basics of healthcare planning and management, a good master's program in healthcare administration will give students experience in quality and process improvement, human resources, finance, leadership, technical and information systems, business analytics, and design thinking.

A master's in healthcare administration is a great option for those looking to be fully immersed in all things healthcare - all of your classmates will be healthcare professionals, giving you plenty of opportunities to have deep discussion about topics relevant to your daily work life. Many programs are also built on a cohort model, which will allow you to develop and grow with the same group of people from day one of your program.

MBA With a Specialization in Healthcare Administration

An MBA is one of the most popular degrees in today's higher education landscape. However, as a healthcare administration professional with advanced knowledge of the field, you might be wondering if this degree would be applicable to you. The answer is yes - not only does an MBA impart essential business knowledge that can be directly applied to the healthcare industry, an MBA with a specialization in healthcare administration will allow you to deepen your knowledge of your field.

So what is an MBA in healthcare administration? This program will deliver the technical skills and business concepts you'd get in a traditional MBA, but adds an emphasis on the essential knowledge you need as a mid-career healthcare professional to truly enhance and advance your career. You'll get the name-recognition of an in-demand degree as well as a credential that highlights your healthcare specialization - in short, you get both the breadth to build a well-rounded business skillset and the depth to truly become a healthcare administration expert.

An MBA in healthcare administration program will help you develop the competencies required in today's business professionals, including managing risk, leadership, understanding the impact of globalization, financial decision-making, business analysis and performance measurement, understanding customers and markets, and process integration and performance. From there, you'll dive into the principles of upper-level healthcare administration, such as healthcare system design and innovation, healthcare information systems, healthcare finance, healthcare law, and healthcare project management.


The Skills You'll Build in a Graduate Healthcare Administration Program

Now that we've highlighted some of the differences between the two programs, it's important to highlight some of the similarities - namely, that both degrees will prepare you for success in the healthcare administration field. Both degrees will equip you with the essential skills required of advanced healthcare administration professionals today, including:

  • Design and innovation of healthcare systems
  • Management of healthcare information systems
  • The principles of healthcare finance operations
  • Application of healthcare regulations, laws, and ethics to a variety of settings
  • Planning, organizing, and controlling healthcare projects  


When it comes to the value of each degree, both are well-respected by employers, and offer great job prospects to those looking to advance in their careers. Graduates of either program could go on to work in roles such as:

  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Chief Administrative Officer
  • Director of Practice Administration
  • VP of Provider Contracting
  • Director of Operations
  • Practice Administrator
  • Director of Client Administration


In terms of the time it will take to finish your degree, the master's in healthcare administration typically takes around twenty months to complete (if taking two courses per semester), while the MBA in healthcare can be completed in under a year.


Choosing the Right Program

Ultimately, the choice between these two programs comes down to your goals and preferences. If you are looking for a more broadly-applicable degree with a more generalized skillset, an MBA might be the way to go (for example, if you eventually see yourself changing careers, or want the flexibility to eventually leave the field). If you know that healthcare is where you want to spend the rest of your career, and you are looking for a more focused, immersive experience, an M.S. in healthcare administration might be the better choice.

One thing's for certain - both programs would be an excellent way to take the next step toward advancement in your healthcare administration career.

About the Author

Sonya Krakoff

Senior Content Marketing Specialist

Sonya Krakoff is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Champlain College Online, where she is the voice behind the CCO blog and helps tell the school's story across multiple digital platforms. Sonya has extensive experience in writing, content marketing, and editing for mission-driven businesses and non-profit organizations, and holds a bachelor's degree in English (with a focus on creative writing) from St. Lawrence University.

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