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MHA vs MBA vs MPH: What’s the Difference?

Master in Healthcare Administration icon.

Health professionals who want to advance their career might consider earning a MHA, MPH, or an MBA in Healthcare. Each of these degrees offers students the chance to gain the skills and knowledge to hold management roles in the healthcare sector. However, candidates must understand how each degree works — their similarities, differences, disadvantages, and advantages. Here, we will help you determine the best degree for you by comparing MHA vs. MBA vs. MPH degrees.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Master’s in Healthcare?

It takes as little as a year to a maximum of five years to complete a master’s degree in healthcare. This is dependent on the institution offering the program and the intensity of the specialization area. On average, it takes about 2 to 3 years to complete a master’s program in healthcare.

What is an MHA?

A Master of Health Administration (MHA) is a leadership program that prepares graduates to handle specific administrative challenges in the healthcare system. An MHA program advances graduates to take leadership positions in healthcare administration or executive operations roles. Professionals with MHA degrees manage healthcare facilities and services, partnerships, finances and budgets, and the staff. While covering courses on finance, accounting, policy, law, management, and marketing, an MHA program teaches specific leadership skills.

Students taking an MHA program learn about operational performance evaluation in diverse work settings, staff development, efficient recruitment and retention strategies, and financial management strategies. After completion, MHA graduates can pursue careers in various organizations. They often assume leadership positions in payor organizations, pharmaceutical companies, or work as consultants. When hired in healthcare facilities, MHA graduates take job titles such as healthcare manager, chief executive officer, health service manager, and health administrator.

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Pros of an MHA Degree

While medical doctors and nurses are essential and get most of the spotlight, healthcare administrators are also valuable to the healthcare system. With an undergraduate degree in healthcare administration or management, you have opportunities to impact lives on a grand scale. However, with a Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree, the opportunities to impact lives and make a difference skyrocket.

  • Variety of Career Choices

One of the pros of an MHA is that it prepares professionals to take various roles in healthcare administration. Graduates with an MHA can work as chief nursing officers, admissions coordinators, clinical directors, health services managers, government healthcare consultants, department managers, health insurance administrators, and health network administrators. They could even decide to work as informatics managers and maintain the clinical information systems at a health facility.

  • Gain In-demand Skills

While studying for an MHA degree, students have the opportunity to gain soft and technical skills in high demand. Students learn business administration, data analysis, budgeting, quality assurance, and operations. They also develop problem-solving skills, effective verbal and written communication, and teamwork. Furthermore, they learn about patient care to understand the work of nurses and physicians.

  • Prepares Professionals for Executive Leadership

An MHA provides a clear and defined path for professionals to land executive leadership positions. With dedication, a Master in Health Administration graduate can land job roles as a pharmaceutical executive, chief executive officer (CEO) of a hospital, chief operations officer (COO), executive director, vice president of clinical quality, or director of health services.

What is an MBA Degree with a Concentration in Healthcare?

An MBA focusing on healthcare is a business degree that specializes in healthcare. It serves as a pathway to managerial, executive, and C-suite jobs. To an extent, an MBA with a concentration in healthcare and an MHA degree are similar. They are both graduate-level degrees, and they prepare health personnel for advanced positions in the healthcare sector. Also, both degrees have a completion duration of two years.

However, there are accelerated MBA programs that run for one year. Since MBA programs offer different concentrations across industries, they are the most popular graduate-level degree.

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Difference Between an MBA Healthcare Concentration and an MHA

The main difference lies in the degree curriculum. While the courses in MHA programs are more specialized in healthcare, MBA programs cover a wide range of courses within business. Students with an MBA concentrating in healthcare will learn how to use evidence-based approaches to make decisions, communicate effectively with health personnel, and provide solutions to healthcare challenges. All these duties fall under managing the business-side of healthcare.

Pros of an MBA Degree with a Concentration in Healthcare

For decades, MBA programs have been the popular choice for professionals seeking to advance their careers. A Master of Business Administration in Healthcare prepares professionals in the health sector to take up leadership and mentorship roles.

  • Increase Your Income

One of the primary reasons for applying to an MBA program is that it serves as an avenue for career advancement — and the higher the job position, the higher the pay. Adding an MBA to your qualifications increases your value, and employers are willing to pay more.

  • Increased Job Opportunities

Having an MBA with a concentration in healthcare opens doors and increases the number of jobs you can apply for. Health professionals with an MBA degree can apply for managerial and administrative roles in various health facilities. Some of the positions they could occupy include hospital administrator, policy analyst, health services manager, administrator, and pharmaceutical project manager.

Cons of an MBA Degree with a Concentration in Healthcare

  • Time Commitment

Most schools now offer online MBA programs, and there are even accelerated programs of one year. However, you still have to spend a lot of time working on the program. In addition, some employers are only impressed if the MBA degree is from a famous school.

  • Generic Knowledge

MBA programs are well known for covering a wide range of courses. The curriculum is often broad and doesn’t target a particular area. Most MBA programs cover business courses like accounting, finances, management, and marketing. Then, if the program has a concentration like healthcare, they add healthcare courses to the curriculum. If your primary focus is not business-related, then an MBA degree might not be specialized enough for you.

What is an MPH Degree?

A Master of Public Health (MPH) is most suitable for health professionals interested in assuming leadership roles in public health. While an MHA and MBA degrees focus on training students for managerial and administrative functions in various health facilities, an MPH prepares students for leadership positions in public health. MPH graduates learn to improve the health of entire communities and populations.

Most MPH programs build upon the students’ existing knowledge of public health. However, some schools cater to professionals with no prior experience in public health. Usually, MPH programs teach five main medical disciplines, and specialization areas are available. These five core disciplines are:

  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental health
  • Health policy and administration
  • Social and behavioral sciences
  • Epidemiology

After the program, graduates can pursue careers as community outreach coordinators, health educators, clinical dieticians, epidemiologists, and environmental health scientists.

Pros of an MPH Degree

Earning a master’s degree is one of the routes for professionals to advance in their careers. Health personnel who already work in public health will improve their knowledge in the field by taking an MPH program.

  • Build a Professional Network

Like other graduate-level degrees, it takes two years to acquire an MPH. Some schools have accelerated programs that span a single year. While studying for the degree, students build a lot of connections. Most students seeking this degree are already working professionals, so the network you create can be beneficial in the future.

  • Opportunity to Make a Difference

As a public health practitioner, you work directly with communities needing help. If you are interested in making a difference, you should consider getting your MPH. Public health practitioners with MPH degrees often work in higher positions, and it’s much easier to make a difference from the top. These professionals can also work with the government or private organizations. As a leader in such settings, your decisions can significantly impact people’s lives and well-being.

Cons of an MPH Degree

While getting a Master of Public Health (MPH) can be exciting and rewarding, you will find out that it has its disadvantages like every other thing.

  • High Level of Competition

Public health is a multifaceted field, and apart from public health graduates, other professionals are working in the area. This is because the job market for public health is somewhat saturated. As a result, the competition for entry-level jobs is high. Graduates with internships and work experience have a higher chance of getting hired.

  • Lack of Funding

Some graduates can work as clinical research coordinators, but there is a minor problem. Most laboratories, non-profit organizations, and public health programs rely on government funding and donations. The budget for public health programs is low. If a laboratory loses funding, the practitioners working there can lose their jobs.

Difference Between MHA and MPH

The significant difference between an MHA and MPH is that an MHA focuses more on the business aspect of healthcare. MPH work focuses on social conditions, including factors such as culture, employment, support networks, and education. These two degrees point in two separate ways. Your choice of positions within healthcare will determine which path is best for you.

An MPH, which has more coursework in health research, development, and education programs, is best suited for those who wish to be involved in research for most of their careers. On the other hand, an MHA is more suitable for those who prefer management and administrative duties to science-based research.

MHA vs. MBA vs. MPH Salaries

Many people consider the potential earnings as a significant factor when deciding on which master’s degree to pursue. Master’s degrees in the health sector are among the highest paying degrees anywhere.

According to Payscale, workers with a Master of Health Administration degree earn an average of $79,000 annually. Those with an MPH earn at least $66,000 annually. Finally, MBA holders with a concentration in healthcare earn an average of $84,000 every year.

All three degrees offer students the opportunity to take on management positions. However, MBA holders have a broader education and can work in different organizations in various sectors. In contrast, MPH and MHA holders move into management roles in the healthcare industry.

How to Choose the Best Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration or Management for You

With so many master’s programs and the expense of time and money to earn a degree, it is crucial to make the right choice. Taking a master’s program is a turning point for many professionals. Still, it could turn into regret if you have not done your research. Depending on your educational background and where you see yourself in the future, you can choose between getting an MHA, MBA, or MPH degree.

A Master of Health Administration program teaches administration, management, and important aspects of healthcare. Typically, an MHA program covers finance, accounting, policy, law, management, and marketing courses. Amongst all the master’s programs, it’s the best choice for professionals who intend to be specialists within healthcare. Students should look for a program accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education or CAHME.

Master of Business Administration programs are the most popular graduate-level program. Like MHA programs, an MBA concentrating in healthcare prepares professionals to lead in the industry. Subjects covered include management, finance, accounting, and marketing with some health-related courses. However, MBA programs touch on an extensive range of topics without going too deep. An MBA with a primary focus in healthcare is best suited for professionals interested in managerial roles.

The Master of Public Health is ideal for health personnel who want to advance their public health careers and assume leadership and mentorship positions. This includes health practitioners who are interested in transitioning to public health.

What You Learn in an MHA, MBA, or MPH Program

The core courses in an MHA program are usually business courses like management, finance, economics, and strategy. Then there are health-related courses such as health administration, healthcare ethics, legal aspects of MHA, health policy, healthcare insurance and managed care, and human resources in healthcare. The coursework depends on what the university focuses on. Some schools have a residency program for students to put into practice what they learned in class.

Like every other MBA program, an MBA with a concentration in healthcare is composed of core business courses, including:

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Economics
  • Operations management.

Students then take courses like healthcare practice management, financial management for healthcare, strategic management in healthcare, and organizational information systems. There are also electives for students to broaden their scope of study.

The US Department of Education recognizes the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). They decide which curriculum is appropriate for an MPH program. When choosing a school for an MPH program, it’s essential to select a CEPH-accredited school. The introductory courses in this program include:

  • Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental Health Services
  • Health Services Administration
  • Social and Behavioral Services.

Admission Requirements for MHA, MPH, and MBA

The admission requirements for a Master of Health Administration, Master of Public Health, and Master of Business Administration with respect to healthcare vary from school to school.

For all three degrees, the standard admission requirements are:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • A minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • At least two letters of recommendation
  • Letter of intent
  • Resume or CV
  • TOEFL or IELTS (for international students)

In addition to this, MPH admission requirements also include:

  • One course each in college algebra (or calculus) and biology
  • Statement of purpose
  • Mission and values statement
  • GRE scores

An MBA also requires:

  • At least two years of professional experience
  • GRE or GMAT scores

The Benefits of a Master’s Degree in Healthcare

Healthcare is one of those fields with great job opportunities wherever you look. As a result, it is common to see graduates with a bachelor’s degree in healthcare who do not wish to advance beyond that level. However, having a master’s degree in healthcare has perks and privileges. Some of them include:

  • More Attractive Pay

It is a well-known fact that those with graduate degrees earn more than bachelor’s degree holders in any work environment. This is not far-fetched as employers prefer candidates with master’s degrees for their advanced skills, knowledge, and experience.

  • Better Networking Opportunities

Attending a master’s program is one way to connect with professionals, industry experts, and colleagues in the healthcare industry. This is a tremendous opportunity to communicate with other healthcare workers regarding information and connection. Networking is often the best way to find a new job.

  • Career Advancement

Earning a master’s degree in healthcare is an indication that you are serious about your professional development. People pursue a master’s degree for various reasons, but the result remains the same in most cases. Employers naturally favor workers with a higher degree when considering leadership appointments and promotions in general.

Aside from a better edge in the office, healthcare workers who get a master’s degree stand a greater chance of leading specialized projects that focus on research or administration. This is a big boost for a healthcare worker’s career. Most healthcare employers would prefer to hire a healthcare professional interested in learning and specializing in research or specific administrative duties.

  • Specialized Knowledge

Every candidate going for a master’s degree has to choose an area of specialization. The coursework concentrates on this area of specialization, which gives the master’s student an edge in knowledge and expertise over people with lesser degrees.

Pursue a Master’s Degree in Health Today!

A master’s degree in health is ideal for individuals with a background in healthcare and interested in a leadership position in the industry. They should be passionate about helping others from the administrative or executive side. Sometimes, people get their master’s degree immediately after completing their BS degree. Other people prefer to work and gain experience before completing their master’s degree.

A master’s program improves the knowledge level and opens career opportunities. However, it is important to consider the cost of master’s programs, the time commitment, and graduation requirements.

Managing a healthcare facility or service is challenging as it involves balancing different facets of the role. Because of that, the position demands that professionals be confident and capable. Earning a master’s degree is the best way to prepare yourself for these positions. You can visit our educational resource center to get more insight as you consider the available options.

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