How Hard is MHA Program – (15 Biggest Challenges & How to Overcome)

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you interested in a nonclinical healthcare career? Do you have a knack for, or interest in, business? Have you completed an undergraduate degree? If so, a career in healthcare administration may interest you. With a master's in healthcare administration, you can work for hospitals, physicians' offices, large corporations, and many other healthcare facilities.

Maybe you considered becoming a Master of Healthcare Administration but wondered, “How hard is an MHA program?" In this article, I will answer that question and offer insight into the 15 biggest challenges you will face in MHA programs and how to overcome them. When you finish reading, you will have enough information to decide if this is the right career path to help you achieve your goals.



If you work in healthcare or business and dream of becoming a high-level administrator, completing an MHA degree can help you achieve your goals. However, the question of whether an MHA program is hard may be holding you back.

MHA programs are known to be challenging. Whether you find an MHA program hard will depend on various factors, including your educational background and previous work experience. The coursework for most MHA programs contains a challenging combination of high-level finance, economics, business, and strategic planning courses. Therefore, familiarity or passion for these subjects can set you up for success in an MHA program.


While a master's degree in healthcare administration can be a great way to advance your career, it is not for everyone. Here are three top reasons you might find an MHA program hard.

1. The coursework in an MHA program is challenging.

The curriculum of an MHA program covers topics like how management, planning strategies, laws, and regulations affect healthcare and how healthcare funds should be properly allocated. The programs prepare students for leadership roles overseeing healthcare services delivery, risk management, human resources, staff development, and legal issues related to healthcare. It takes a genuine interest to learn these topics and succeed.

2. A master's in healthcare administration is time-consuming.

It can take 18 months to several years to complete an MHA program. The length of your degree program will depend on whether you are a full-time or part-time student. You will not only attend classes and have assignments and tests to study for but must also participate in field training. It takes good time management skills and dedication to succeed in the program.

3. You must look at healthcare from a business standpoint.

When most people think of healthcare, they think of doctor visits, physical examinations, illness, medications, or treatments. Although this is accurate, MHA programs approach healthcare from a business view. One of the things that make MHA programs hard is that you must find the intersection of healthcare and business and learn how to make the two work together.


(The following are the 15 biggest challenges you will face in MHA Program and ways you can successfully overcome them.)

CHALLENGE #1: First step... You must get in!

About the Challenge:

Getting admitted is one of the hardest things about an MHA program. In general, prospective students are expected to have a GPA of at least 3.0 and must have educational and work experience relevant to the field. However, although the minimum GPA is usually around 3.0, favorable candidates have averages of 3.5 or higher, which makes it challenging to get in with “average grades.”

How to Overcome:

Getting into an MHA program is hard, but you can prepare and make yourself a more viable candidate. First things first...Get good grades. Although most MHA programs accept applicants with a 3.0 grade point average, the higher your college GPA, the better. Be sure to verify the admission criteria at each school of interest to you and do your best to exceed their minimum requirements. Consider taking a few business classes to boost your academic portfolio. Also, previous work experience in the healthcare and business administration fields can help you stand out among other applicants.

CHALLENGE #2: Completing an MHA program requires great organizational skills.

About the Challenge:

One of the reasons someone may find an MHA program hard is that it requires excellent organizational skills. The curriculum covers a wide range of topics, and at times, your classes may have overlapped material. This can make keeping track of all your assignments difficult.

How to Overcome:

One way to stay organized throughout your MHA program is by having an agenda dedicated to school. This will help you keep track of all your assignments and avoid distractions from external commitments. In addition, staying connected with your professors and classmates can help you stay in the loop on updates and upcoming lessons.

CHALLENGE #3: An MHA program requires you to understand business laws and ethics.

About the Challenge:

One of the main challenges of an MHA program is that it requires an understanding of how business laws and ethics affect the healthcare field. If you are not particularly interested in learning about these subjects, you may struggle to connect and retain information from the coursework in MHA programs.

How to Overcome:

While the coursework in an MHA program is challenging, you can master the material with practice and dedication. Consider reading about the laws and ethics of the healthcare industry before enrolling in an MHA program. This will help you decide if the degree program is right for you.

CHALLENGE #4: An MHA program can be time-consuming.

About the Challenge:

All graduate programs require a significant time commitment, and an MHA program is no exception. Typical MHA programs require the completion of 30 to 60 credits to earn your degree. This can take one year to several years, depending on whether you are a full- or part-time student.

How to Overcome:

First, you need to make sure you realistically have enough time to pursue an advanced degree. Consider your personal obligations, including whether you need to work while enrolled in an MHA program. Based on your other responsibilities, decide whether you want to study full-time or part-time. From there, you can choose a program that aligns with your personal and academic goals, then apply, and create a class and study schedule that works best for you.

CHALLENGE #5: Finding the intersection of business and healthcare can be challenging.

About the Challenge:

Some may find an MHA program hard because it requires you to learn about two very different fields, healthcare, and business. Many candidates for MHA programs have a background in one of those fields but not both.

How to Overcome:

The first step in overcoming this challenge is understanding you do not have to know everything about healthcare and business to succeed in this program. If you feel concerned about a lack of knowledge in one area or the other, consider taking an introduction to business or an introduction to healthcare ethics class. This is a simple step you can take to introduce you to the world of healthcare administration and prepare you for classroom learning.

CHALLENGE #6: You must learn to make difficult, often unpopular decisions.

About the Challenge:

As an MHA degree holder, you will be responsible for making important decisions that affect patients, staff, and your healthcare organization. One of the reasons MHA programs are hard is you must learn to make difficult decisions objectively.

How to Overcome:

If you are not accustomed to working in a leadership or management role, it can feel overwhelming learning to be the primary decision-maker. The first step in overcoming this challenge is practicing self-reflection. While MHA programs provide you with the theoretical knowledge and practical training skills needed to make tough decisions and succeed as a Master of Healthcare Administration, you also need the personality traits that a career in healthcare administration requires. Be honest about what it takes to be a healthcare administrator and decide if you want to put in the effort to take on this role.

CHALLENGE #7: Learning about economics and finance.

About the Challenge:

Part of an MHA program's curriculum consists of advanced economics and finance coursework. These classes can be challenging, especially if you do not have previous experience in economics or finance.

How to Overcome:

While the coursework in an MHA program is hard, you can master these subjects with hard work and preparation. If you do not have a strong finance or economics background, taking a few college-level courses in these subjects can help you prepare. In addition, it can help you decide if an advanced degree in healthcare administration is right for you.

CHALLENGE #8: You must learn to control personal biases.

About the Challenge:

Let’s face it; we all tend to be opinionated or pass judgment in certain situations. When you pursue a career in healthcare administration, you will manage people from various walks of life with diverse beliefs, work ethics, and personalities. It is natural to assume that, at some point, you will encounter people with whom you disagree. As a Master of Healthcare Administration, you must learn to harness your emotions and feelings and work for the good of your organization and those you serve.

How to Overcome:

The first step in overcoming personal biases is accepting that people are different. As a healthcare administrator, you will be in the perfect position to lead by example. As a student in an MHA program, you have the perfect opportunity to learn ways to improve your emotional intelligence, which can help you prepare for a future as an effective leader. Talk with your peer groups and faculty about issues and discuss ways of handling situations with a leadership mindset. Last, do not be so hard on yourself! You are human. You can learn to manage your emotions and quell personal biases to become successful in your career.

CHALLENGE #9: MHA degree holders must have excellent communication skills.

About the Challenge:

MHA degree holders work in a variety of settings with all types of people, from business and medical professionals to stakeholders. Due to this, graduates from an MHA program need to have great communication skills.

How to Overcome:

If you are considering pursuing an MHA degree, there is a good chance you already have good communication skills. However, if that is not the case, communication skills are something that you can develop. Consider taking a professional development course to hone your skills.

CHALLENGE #10: The career options for MHA degree holders can be limited.

About the Challenge:

An MHA degree is an excellent pathway to an advanced career. The degree can open the door for various degrees in healthcare management. However, an MHA degree may not open as many doors as a Master of Business Administration degree. If you know you want to work in administration but are not set on healthcare as a field, the challenges of earning an MHA may not be worth it to you.

How to Overcome:

The first step in addressing this issue is to decide if healthcare is the path you want to pursue. If you think of your future and imagine working with healthcare professionals, for a medical corporation, or in a large hospital, an MHA is worth the challenges you face. Conversely, if you desire a job in business administration but do not feel committed to healthcare long-term, you could find the challenges of MHA programs too much. Consider your short-term and long-term goals. Think of where you hope to be professionally in two, five, ten, or twenty years. When you have a solid plan for your future, it is easier to choose a degree program and face the challenges because you know the end result will be worth your effort.

CHALLENGE #11: Not only is an MHA program hard, but it can also be expensive.

About the Challenge:

Earning a graduate degree, like a master’s in healthcare administration, can be expensive. Tuition costs can average per year of $50,000 or more. If you are not prepared for the financial commitment, it could be overwhelming.

How to Overcome:

While an MHA program can be expensive, resources are available to reduce tuition costs. If you plan ahead and use available resources, it can reduce the financial burden of an MHA program so you can focus your energy on your studies. Check with the schools that interest you to see if they offer scholarships, grants, or other programs to offset expenses. There are also a number of private scholarships for healthcare administration students, like the Corris Boyd Scholarship, David A. Winston Health Policy Scholarship, and Foster G. McGaw Graduate Student Scholarship that you may be interested in applying for.

CHALLENGE #12: An MHA program prepares students to think and make decisions under pressure.

About the Challenge:

Although healthcare administration does not typically involve a clinical role, as an MHA degree holder, you could be facing situations where you must make crucial decisions that impact the safety and well-being of staff and patients. Therefore, it is crucial that you can think critically and clearly even when under pressure. In an MHA program, you will learn to implement critical thinking and decision-making skills pertaining to healthcare administration.

How to Overcome:

First, taking inventory of your personal qualities and attributes is essential. You must be self-directed, disciplined, and willing to learn to become an effective leader in healthcare administration. Consider reading books about leadership and developing a leadership mentality. Develop good rapport with your instructors and preceptors, as they will teach you by example. You need a true desire to learn and develop the skills needed to succeed.

CHALLENGE #13: MHA degree holders must be dedicated to making a positive change in the world of healthcare.

About the Challenge:

Workers in the healthcare administration field are responsible for making decisions that affect patients, their loved ones, staff, and the organizations where they work. Because of this, MHA students need to be passionate about making positive change. Unfortunately, because healthcare administration is a stressful job, it can feel challenging being the person pushing for positive change.

How to Overcome:

If you are considering pursuing a master's degree in healthcare administration, it is likely that you already have a passion for improving the healthcare system. You can learn to remain positive and promote change by surrounding yourself with people with shared interests and goals. When you create a circle of friends and colleagues with similar interests, it is easier to remain motivated.

CHALLENGE #14: You may need a general understanding of business and healthcare before beginning the program.

About the Challenge:

One of the biggest reasons an MHA program is hard is because it requires students to have a general understanding of business concepts and the healthcare field before beginning the program. This can pose a challenge for students coming from different backgrounds.

How to Overcome:

You can overcome this challenge by familiarizing yourself with business concepts and healthcare principles before beginning your MHA program. This will give you a good foundation to continue building new skills and learning new information.

CHALLENGE #15: It can be hard to juggle the course load of an MHA program while working.

About the Challenge:

It can be challenging to handle the course load of an MHA program if you have a job. This is especially true if you choose to study full-time while working full-time.

How to Overcome:

Although working while in an MHA program is hard, it may be a necessity. It is possible to work and succeed in the program. Carefully consider your options before deciding to work while in school. Look at your financial obligations to determine if you need to continue working and, if so, how much money you need to earn. Then you can weigh the advantages and disadvantages of part-time and full-time enrollment to choose the best option.


Deciding whether to return to school and earn a graduate degree is not a decision to be taken lightly. If you are considering becoming a Master of Healthcare Administration, it is natural to have questions, like, “How hard is an MHA program?” In this article, I shared the 15 biggest challenges you will face in the MHA program and how to overcome them.

Despite the challenges, if a career in healthcare administration is what you desire, you can face the challenges and overcome them. I encourage you to carefully consider the challenges and weigh the pros and cons to decide if this is the right career for you. If it is, go for it! The best time to start working on your future is now!


1. How Long Does MHA Program Take?

An MHA program can generally be completed in 12 to 18 months if studying full-time. For part-time students, an MHA program can be completed in two to five years.

2. Is It Normal To Struggle In MHA Program?

The challenges you face in healthcare administration programs make an MHA program hard. It is normal to struggle at times. However, with hard work, you can succeed.

3. Which Year Of MHA Program Is The Hardest?

Opinions vary regarding which year of an MHA program is hardest. If you do not have healthcare or business experience, the first year may be the most difficult. If you are experienced in healthcare or business, you may find the last year most challenging as you complete field experience.

4. What Are The Hardest Classes In MHA Program?

Each student is different, and the classes that you feel are difficult may be easier for another student. Some of the hardest MHA classes you will take include Evidence-Based Decision Making for Managers, Emerging Issues in Health Systems Management, and Health Policy: Legal & Ethical Issues.

5. How Many Hours Do I Need To Study In MHA Program?

The number of hours you need to study depends on your learning style and how easily you retain information. College faculty typically encourage students to study two or three hours each week for each credit hour of coursework. For instance, if you are enrolled in eight credit hours, you should prepare to spend 16 to 24 hours each week dedicated to school.

6. Is It Hard To Work During MHA Program?

It can be challenging to work during an MHA program. However, enrolling in classes part-time is a great option for students who are employed.

7. What Percent Of MHA Students Drop Out?

The percentage of MHA students who drop out is not known. In general, the average dropout rate for all graduate students is 12 percent.

8. Is It Common To Fail MHA Program?

MHA programs are challenging. While it is fairly common for graduate students to fail a test or class, it is not as common for graduate students to fail out of their program.

9. What Next After Failing MHA Program?

If you fail a course in an MHA program, you may be able to retake the course. At some universities, you may be put on academic probation. It is important to communicate with your professors and program director if you are worried about failing. Remember, a dream worth having is worth pursuing. You can do this!

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).