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MHA vs. MBA in Healthcare Management: Which One is Best for You?


Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

The medical field offers many opportunities for great career choices. If you are interested in a career in this industry and management is something you think you would like to pursue, MHA or MBA in healthcare management can be great options! A Master’s in Healthcare Administration (MHA) is a master’s degree that includes study in the knowledge and skills needed to perform in an administrative capacity in the healthcare industry. An MBA in Healthcare Management is a master’s degree that includes specialization in healthcare management matters. The overall focus of the program is business, with courses that teach skills that are transferrable to other industries. In this article, we will discuss differences between MHA and MBA degrees and look at the benefits and similarities of MHA vs MBA.


1. MHA vs. MBA in Healthcare Management: Program Outcome


Program outcomes are established to represent the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that a student is expected to achieve after completing a specific program. The program outcomes that are set for MHA or MBA in Healthcare Management are based on best practices and current standards.

Upon completion of a Master’s in Healthcare Administration degree, you should possess the following skills and abilities:

• Demonstrate effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills
• Demonstrate professional behavior including an awareness of diversity, ethics, generational and multi-cultural dynamics
• Evaluate operational performance across a diverse system of healthcare organizations
• Develop recruiting, retention, and training strategies to help foster an effective healthcare workforce
• Evaluate techniques and financial strategies that are necessary to meet organizational needs within the healthcare environment

MBA in Healthcare Management program outcomes include, but are not limited to:

• Use critical thinking and evidence-based approaches to demonstrate ethical decision-making
• Disseminate and communicate important information to multiple healthcare audiences
• Use analytical skills to evaluation and disseminate solutions related to core challenges associated with the delivery of healthcare (health outcomes, value, and revenue)
• Develop and demonstrate approaches to population-level health care that is practical


2. Program Length


Both the Master's in Healthcare Administration and MBA in Healthcare Management programs take an average of eighteen to twenty-four months to complete. Both programs are graduate-level degrees. Therefore, you must first complete a bachelor's degree and then enroll in one of these graduate programs. Although both programs can be completed in two years or less, students who enroll as part-time should expect the program to last longer than twenty-four months.


3. Program Cost


The difference between MHA and MBA program costs vary depending on several factors. For instance, online classes are usually less expensive than in-person courses. Additionally, students who choose to enroll in online programs may see reduced costs related to travel, dorm rent, and textbooks. Out-of-state tuition fees may be applied to individuals who wish to enroll in a program that is not in their home state.

The average cost for an online MBA in Healthcare Management is approximately $23,000. An MHA degree may cost $36,000 or more.

At times, especially if enrollment numbers are down, schools may offer incentives such as waiving out-of-state tuition fees or other fees, to help boost enrollment. Therefore, it is always good to speak with a financial aid advisor at any school where you hope to enroll.


4. MHA vs. MBA in Healthcare Management: Curriculum


The Master’s in Healthcare Administration and MBA in Healthcare Management curriculum share some similarities. The most significant difference between MHA and MBA curriculum is the diversity of content covered in each program. Master of Healthcare Administration courses are typically more specialized, and MBA programs have a broader range of content areas and required courses.

Courses required for an MHA degree may include, but are not limited to:

• Global health systems
• Healthcare Finance: Analysis and Decision-Making
• Healthcare marketplace strategies
• Health systems management: organization and delivery
• Health policy: Policy, regulation, legal and ethical issues
• Principles of leadership in health systems management
• Decision making for managers

Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) degrees require students to successfully complete a variety of classes designed to help give a wide range of understanding of business operations. Unlike a general MBA, an MBA in healthcare management is typically focused on leadership courses that fit into the healthcare realm.

Some of the classes that students enrolling in an MBA in healthcare management course may be required to take include the following:

• Healthcare economics
• Healthcare accounting and finance
• Business ethics related to healthcare
• Human resource management
• Data analysis
• Marketing and advertising communication
• Information and technology management
• Organizational change management


5. Admission Requirements


Both MHA and MBA in Healthcare Management degrees require students to hold an undergraduate degree. After having completed a relevant undergraduate degree, you can apply for admission to an MBA program focused on healthcare management or an MHA program.

Most programs require students to have a cumulative 3.0-grade point average (GPA) from all undergraduate studies. Additionally, many schools ask for at least three letters of recommendation with at least one letter coming from someone with at least a master's degree.

Some universities require students to take the GRE or GMAT. Therefore, it is essential to verify if the college you hope to attend requires this for admission.


6. Can you Pursue it Online or Part-Time?


Master’s in Healthcare Administration and MBA in Healthcare Management programs can be pursued both online and on-campus, depending on each college’s guidelines. Some schools, like John Hopkins University, require students to attend classes on campus the first year and then transition to online courses for the remainder of the program. Additionally, it is up to a student whether to enroll in a program part-time or full-time. It is important to keep in mind that part-time enrollment means it will take longer to complete the program.


7. MHA vs. MBA in Healthcare Management: Career Options for Graduates


MHV vs MBA in Healthcare Administration degrees position candidates for upper-level administrative, executive, and managerial roles.

An MHA is designed to help expand opportunities for people who have experience in areas such as healthcare finance, human resources, information systems, marketing, and public affairs. Career options for individuals who achieve a Master of Health Administration degree (MHA) include:

• Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
• Nurse Manager
• Hospital Administrator
• Program Manager
• Facilities Manager
• Group Practice Administration

An MBA in healthcare management is a business degree that offers focus on health care specialization. The following career options are among choices after successfully attaining an MBA in Healthcare Management:

• Management consultant
• Chief operations officer (COO)
• Chief executive officer (CEO)
• Human resources manager
• Healthcare administrator


8. Work Hours


Typically, people with an MHA or MBA in Healthcare Administration work what most consider "average office hours." Because these are administrative positions, work hours will likely be weekdays with nights, weekends, and holidays off work. Of course, this is not to infer that having an MHA or MBA in Healthcare Administration will mean that you never have to work those hours. Those in leadership positions are expected to be available in an emergency requiring upper management advice or leadership.


9. Work-Related Stress


There is a great deal of responsibility for those who work in a healthcare administrative/management position. Unfortunately, with great responsibility, there is often a higher risk of stress. It is safe to say that in either of these positions, you will be expected to provide direction and vision for your facility and staff, perform business planning and budgeting and maintain an awareness of changing trends within the healthcare industry.

Although there are some things that may cause work-related stresses, it is possible to learn effective ways to manage stress and improve your overall job performance and satisfaction. Practicing self-care, getting plenty of sleep and rest, and following a healthy diet and exercise regimen can help relieve stress and improve your health.


10. Job Satisfaction


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there is little difference between MHA and MBA in Healthcare Management job satisfaction. MHA and MBA in healthcare management professionals have an average of eighty-nine percent overall satisfaction rate with their current jobs. Of those individuals polled, ninety-two percent said they have no intention of changing careers or shifting to non-management roles.


11. Job Outlook for Graduates


As the baby-boomer population grows older and as individuals are remaining more active later in life, there is increased demand for healthcare providers and services. When there is an increased need for healthcare facilities, healthcare providers, and medical procedures, there is also a greater need for qualified people to manage healthcare facilities in staff.

The typical satisfaction of people with an MHA vs MBA in Healthcare Management, coupled with an expected growth rate of eighteen percent from 2018 to 2028, indicates that either of these career paths is promising for long-term satisfaction and job security.


12. Starting Salary


The entry-level salary for someone with a Master’s in Healthcare Administration is approximately $26.61 per hour, which is a little more than $55,000 annually. An MBA in Healthcare Administration averages about four thousand dollars more each year.

Degree Hourly Monthly Annual
MHA $26.61 $4,610 $55,340
MBA in Healthcare Management $28.37 $4,920 $59,010


13. Average Hourly Pay


The difference between the hourly salary for professionals who hold an MHA vs MBA is often close to two dollars. As both professionals gain experience, wages typically increase. The two to three dollar per hour difference usually remains steady with the same amount of experience.

DegreeHourly Pay
MHA$36.55
MBA in Healthcare Management$38.98
(Source: payscale.com)


14. MHA vs. MBA in Healthcare Management: Average Annual Salary


According to PayScale.com, the average difference between MHA vs MBA salary is just over $5,000 per year, with the MHA degree holders earning around $76,000 every year. The same report states that income is approximately $81,073 for professionals who hold an MBA in Healthcare Management.

DegreeAnnual Salary
MHA$76,023
MBA in Healthcare Management$81,073
(Source: payscale.com)


15. Salary by Level of Experience


As is common with most careers, the more experience you have in a specific field, the higher your earning potential.

With a Master's in Healthcare Administration (MHA), you can expect an entry-level salary of around $55,340. With five to nine years of experience, some people may see an increase of about eight thousand dollars in annual income. Each five to ten years after that, there may be an increase of seven to twelve thousand dollars.

If you obtain an MBA in Healthcare Management, you can expect to see similar increases with experience. As reflected in the chart below, if you have an MBA in Healthcare Management, you may begin your career with a salary of about $59,000. After ten years, earning potential increases by over thirty thousand dollars.

Degree Level of Experience Hourly Monthly Annual
MHA Starting (Entry-Level) $26.61 $4,610 $55,340
1-4 Years of Experience $30.32 $5,260 $63,070
5-9 Years of Experience $35.89 $6,220 $74,650
10-19 Years of Experience $41.51 $7,200 $86,350
20 Years or More Experience $49.73 $8,620 $103,430
MBA in Healthcare Management Starting (Entry-Level) $28.37 $4,920 $59,010
1-4 Years of Experience $32.34 $5,610 $67,260
5-9 Years of Experience $38.27 $6,630 $79,610
10-19 Years of Experience $44.27 $7,670 $92,080
20 Years or More Experience $53.03 $9,190 $110,300


The Bottom Line


Whether you choose to pursue an MHA or MBA in Healthcare Administration, there is a broad range of career opportunities with a great outlook. The MHA vs MBA in healthcare administration paths provides an opportunity for advancement to upper-level positions within the healthcare industry, as well as the potential to earn a healthy, steady income.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What should I look for when choosing an MHA vs MBA program?


There are a few things you should consider when choosing an MHA or MBA program. Perhaps one of the most important things is to choose an institution that offers academic and career support. If you select an MBA path, it is important to verify that the school gives students the choice of specializing in healthcare administration.

Do all MBA in Healthcare Management programs require students to take the GMAT?


While some schools still require prospective students to take the GMAT, many now offer test exemption waivers. Waivers are typically offered to qualified applicants whose potential for success can be backed by relevant academic and professional experience.

Can I complete an MHA in less than two years?


Because many professionals need to continue working to provide for their families, many universities have designed their programs to accommodate prospective students' needs. Some MHA programs can be completed in as little as twelve to eighteen months.

What are some schools that offer a Master’s in Healthcare Administration program in less than two years?


U.S. News and World Report lists a few Masters in Healthcare Administration programs that students can complete in two years or less:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - This university offers an online Master of Healthcare Administration through a program called 2U, Inc.
The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities - The University of Minnesota offers an Executive MHA for individuals who have professional healthcare experience.

What schools offer a two-year MBA in Healthcare Management degree in two years or less?


Like the Master’s in Healthcare Administration degree, an MBA in Healthcare Management can usually be completed in about two years of full-time enrollment. A few examples of colleges that offer this program include the following:

Baylor University (Waco, Texas) - Baylor University is a Christian college with students enrolled from all fifty United States and other countries. U.S. News and World Report recognized the MBA Healthcare Program at Baylor as being ranked as the 17th in the nation for an MBA in Healthcare Management program. Students can attend on-campus classes or online.
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) - The University of Pennsylvania also offers students the option of in-person or online classes. Prospective students can apply for admission any time during the year and, once accepted, move through the program as a cohort.
John Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland) - John Hopkins University is ranked by the Academic Ranking of World Universities as #17. It is a private university focused on research.


Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels.