MHA vs. MBA in Healthcare Administration/Management: How to Choose

Class for MHA or MBA in healthcare administration/management

Are you in the healthcare field and interested in continuing your education to gain more knowledge for your current or a future managerial role? Do you feel like you need additional skills to advance and ultimately earn a higher wage? If you have started looking into what degree options are out there you may have noticed that there are a lot of different types of programs available at the graduate level. 

A master’s in a health-related discipline can have coursework in healthcare policy and procedure, law and ethics, leadership and management, and program development utilizing data and information systems. The Master of Health Administration (MHA) and the Master of Business Administration (MBA) in healthcare or with a concentration in Healthcare Administration or Healthcare Management will help with advancement and skill development for future healthcare executives. I will explore the differences and similarities to help you decide which path to pursue. 

Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)

A Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) offers a knowledge base specific to the healthcare field and is best suited for professionals looking to advance their existing career. Students will learn specifics on how to manage, implement, and review policies and procedures to create positive impacts in healthcare related organizations. Key coursework consists of health systems management, healthcare finance, health economics, healthcare law, policy, and ethics. The MHA focuses on developing skills to help the professional learn to manage the complex relationships in community, public, and population health. It is designed to assist students in obtaining roles such as hospital administrator, health service manager, chief executive officer, nurse manager, director of health operations, as well as other health related administrative positions. 

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An MBA program is intended to assist students with achieving management, executive, and administrative roles in almost any business sector. You can specialize your MBA in healthcare administration or healthcare management to gain specific knowledge when it comes to health law, ethics, policy, healthcare systems, and health economics. The MBA focuses less on policy and more on business practices, business fundamentals, strategic leadership, and financial management skills. 

Depending on your institution and program, you may take a handful of healthcare related electives or an MBA in healthcare where all your courses would be related to healthcare in some capacity. An MBA will also often include coursework regarding leadership, organizational development, and human resources. An MBA in healthcare will weave healthcare topics into every business course. An MBA with a healthcare concentration will have a core of business topics that all students will take and generally 2-3 elective courses related to healthcare. Typically, if you do an MBA in healthcare that is what your diploma will say. If you do an MBA with a healthcare concentration, usually your diploma will just say MBA. This is important to anyone that may not see themselves spending their career in healthcare. Take a look at curriculum differences with the Florida International University MBA in Healthcare and the Ball State University MBA with a healthcare concentration for example.  An MBA in healthcare is not as common as an MBA with a healthcare concentration, but there are still quite a few schools that offer this option at different levels of accreditation. When choosing an MBA program be sure to learn about the different levels of accreditation. Check out our two-part MBA blog series: MBA 101: Is It Right For Me? Part I and MBA 101: Is It Right For Me? Part II

Salary Implications

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2020, medical and health services managers earned an average salary of $104,280. And among those in the top 10% – likely those with graduate-level degrees and a number of years of relevant experience – the average salary goes up to $195,000. The average salary for positions that could stem from MHA and MBA degrees are quite comparable. 

Which One Is Right for You?

While the health and business sectors certainly overlap, you will want to consider long-term career options as well. Earning an MHA will certainly make you more marketable, specifically in the healthcare field. However, earning an MBA could open up an even wider array of options inside or outside of healthcare. If you would like the option of other business opportunities outside of healthcare, yet still have the option to be eligible for healthcare types of positions, the MBA in healthcare could be the best fit.

Written by: Courtney Sallee

September 26, 2021

About the Author

Courtney Sallee headshot

Courtney joined the EdAssist coaching team in 2021. She previously served as an academic advisor for the University of Maryland Global Campus where she worked closely with a variety of students, many of whom were active-duty military or veterans. Courtney holds a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration.