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

Are you interested in working as a clinical manager, hospital administrator, practice manager, director of patient safety, or CEO of a health system? Do you want to be at the forefront of a rapidly evolving industry that touches  entire populations? Do you want to make decisions that can help drive an organization’s strategic direction, support hundreds of employees, and affect thousands of patients?

A Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) degree enables students and professionals to advance their careers and take on leadership roles in healthcare delivery and financing organizations. These leaders plan, direct, and coordinate services in a wide variety of care delivery settings. MHA graduates also pursue career opportunities in consulting, medical device, pharmaceutical, and payer organizations.

They may manage an entire facility or a specific department. They must stay abreast of and help their organization adapt to ever-changing health care laws, regulations, and technology.

In short, an MHA equips graduates to:

  • Have a deep understanding of healthcare delivery and financing institutions.
  • Develop core competencies in problem-solving, strategic thinking, and innovation.
  • Become effective leaders.

How is an MHA different from an MPH or MBA?

There are three main master’s degree programs for healthcare management: Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and Master of Public Health (MPH). While the degrees can all lead to some of the same positions, they each have a different focus.

The first step in selecting the right program is to determine your career goals and natural aptitudes. From there, you can select the degree that will play to your skills and goals while filling in knowledge gaps.

Master of Healthcare Administration

  • Focus: Mastering leadership and management tools to effectively run the business side of healthcare delivery and financing organizations and to manage teams of healthcare professionals
  • Topics covered: Core business courses such as management, finance, and strategy, as well as health policy, law, and ethics
  • Types of jobs: Director of hospital operations, clinic manager, director of patient safety, director of business development, chief nursing officer, and chief executive officer

Master of Public Health

  • Focus: Preparing for a career in population health and community awareness; emphasis is on the practical aspects of public health, as well as in-depth information about disease and research methods
  • Topics covered: Public health core courses and a deeper science curriculum
  • Types of jobs: Community outreach coordinator, health educator, health engagement marketing manager, public policy coordinator, substance abuse counselor, clinical dietician, healthcare administrator, epidemiologist, health educator, and environmental health scientist

Master of Business Administration

  • Focus: Developing the skills to effectively manage a business in a wide variety of industries
  • Topics covered: Accounting, finance, marketing, organizational behavior, economics, management, and business ethics
  • Types of jobs: Marketing manager, financial advisor, management analyst, CEO, and investment banker

Benefits of earning an MHA

An MHA can open the door to higher paying jobs with greater leadership responsibilities. Many healthcare delivery and financing organizations require that job candidates have a master’s degree. Considering the long-term salary potential in these leadership roles, obtaining an MHA is worth the cost in time and finances.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare industry is expected to add more jobs than any other field in the coming decade. Health care jobs in general are expected to increase by 14 percent and management roles by 18 percent between 2018 and 2028.

Additionally, jobs that require an MHA typically offer much-higher-than-average salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median pay for medical and health services managers in the U.S. for 2019 was $100,980 per year.

The following chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the 2019 U.S. median annual wages for medical and health services managers in the top industries:

Government $111,520
Hospitals; state, local, and private 110,430
Outpatient care centers 95,320
Offices of physicians 91,600
Nursing and residential care facilities 86,820

Why choose an MHA program at the UMN School of Public Health?

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) is ranked #9 and its MHA degree program is ranked #2 in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Additionally, when the program was founded at the University in 1946, it was one of the first in the country and remains the model for other healthcare management programs around the U.S. and the world.

MHA founder James Hamilton believed the best way to learn was through action. He taught his students to never assume anything and encouraged them to probe into ideas rather than simply taking notes. His philosophy and rigorous problem-solving method, known as “The Minnesota Way,” are core elements of the UMN’s School of Public Health MHA program.

The curriculum emphasizes analytical and problem-solving skills, collaboration with interprofessional teams, and a deep understanding of health systems and hospital operations. Core business classes —management, finance, accounting, and economics — are designed for application to health care organizations.

The classes are cohort based, meaning the students work through problems and experiences together. The students also compete together in national case competitions that enable them to relate classroom knowledge to specific, real-world problems.

Historically, 100% of graduating residential students secure administrative fellowships or jobs by July of their graduating year.

Additionally, the MHA Alumni Association is the oldest, largest, and one of the most active of its kind in the country. More than 2,600 graduates are deeply committed to the program and support current students by hosting networking events, acting as mentors, and providing internship opportunities.

Which School of Public Health MHA program is right for me?

SPH offers two MHA programs, both of which are accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

Residential MHA

  • Designed for students with minimal health care management experience
  • Courses are delivered on campus* over 21 months
  • 60 credits (51 required and 9 electives) OR (48 required and 12 elective)
  • Students work through a real-life administrative clerkship project during a 10-week summer residency
  • Upon graduation, most students are placed in an administrative fellowship that helps them bridge the gap between being a student and becoming a junior executive

Executive MHA

  • Designed for working professionals who want to advance their skills and careers
  • Students spend 26 days on campus over 25 months
  • Program requires a minimum of 42 credits
  • Most coursework is online, allowing minimal interference with work and family
  • The students work with faculty members and advisors to design and conduct an innovative project with specific application to their organization
  • The average student is 37.5 years old and has 10 years of work experience
  • More than 55 percent of our Executive MHA students are promoted while enrolled in the program
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