What Is the Master of Health Care Administration (MHA)?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

If you'd like to take on managerial or other types of advanced roles as part of a health care administration team, an MHA may be beneficial.

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When you go to a hospital, clinic, or health care facility, the medical professionals you interact with are just a fraction of the personnel who work to keep everything running smoothly. Behind the scenes, you will also find a health care administration team that handles the business of health care so the medical team can focus on you.

If you'd like to move into a leadership role as part of this team, a Master of Health Care Administration (MHA) may be beneficial. The graduate degree merges the fields of health care and business, focusing on the skills necessary to manage the unique needs of health care facilities and their various personnel.

Careers in health care administration are on the rise, especially at the managerial level. The demand for medical and health service managers is expected to grow by 32 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [1]. That’s much faster than average. 

Let’s review key facts about an MHA, including what it takes to earn the degree, what you’ll study, and the careers you can pursue after graduation. 

What is a Master of Health Care Administration degree?

A Master of Health care Administration or MHA is a master’s degree intended to prepare individuals for managerial and leadership roles in health care administration. The curriculum for this degree program includes aspects of both business (markets, finance, accounting) and health care. 

How long does an MHA take?

On average, a master’s degree takes about two years to finish when you’re able to attend full-time, though some programs can be completed at a faster pace. Other factors that may affect how long it takes you to complete an MHA include how many credits your program requires and the types of courses they offer each semester.

What does an MHA cost?

The cost of earning your MHA will depend on the school you attend, your student status, and whether you learn in person or online. The average in-state tuition for in-person MHA programs in the US costs between $13,395 and $117,609 [2].

The average total cost for an online MHA is between $6,500 and $36,000 for in-state students and between $26,000 to $7,5000 for out-of-state students [3]. It’s worth noting that some programs offer a flat rate for all students, no matter their location. 

Learn more: Your Guide to Master’s Programs

What do you learn in an MHA program?

Studying for an MHA involves an advanced curriculum that focuses on furthering your knowledge of health care systems and strengthening your leadership skills. Your coursework will involve a range of administrative, financial, statistical, and health care subjects. The exact coursework will depend on your program. 

Sample courses can include: 

  • Foundations of health care management

  • Issues in health care

  • Introduction to public health

  • Financial and managerial accounting

  • Health economics 

  • Health policy and management 

  • Global health systems 

  • Managed care and contractual services

  • Principles of leadership 

  • Public health ethics

Your Master of Health Care Administration program may also expect you to complete a capstone project or internship. Both will allow you to gain real-world experience. Under the guidance of a professor, the placement should provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and knowledge in health care administration.

Residential MHA vs. Executive MHA

Many programs are split into two options, Residential MHAs and Executive MHAs. The one you choose will depend on your subject matter knowledge and experience level. 

A residential MHA program is designed for students without much previous health care management experience. In addition to taking coursework, you will complete a residency that should give you additional experience in the field. 

This style of program usually requires more credit hours, with classes offered on campus to more fully immerse you in the curriculum. After graduating from your MHA residential program, you may be placed in a fellowship group that can help you transition into your health care career. Not all schools offer this option. 

An executive MHA is designed for those already working in health care administration who want to advance their skills and subject knowledge. These programs are typically offered online or in a hybrid form, so that students can continue working while earning their degree. 

This program typically requires fewer credit hours so you can finish their education quickly. Again, not all schools offer executive programs. 

What are the entry requirements for an MHA?

The entry requirements for an MHA will vary by school, but generally you must already have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a related field such as health care administration, health science, health information management, or business. 

If you’re interested in transitioning into health care management and studied a different subject for your undergraduate degree, you may have to complete prerequisite coursework to show you’re ready to keep building on that foundational knowledge. Some schools may also want to see that you have some professional experience. 

A few other common entry requirements for an accredited MHA program include:

4 careers you can pursue with an MHA

You’ll likely have several career prospects after graduating with your MHA degree. These options range from helping to manage a department within a hospital to the entire hospital itself. You can also find administrative positions in nursing home facilities, outpatient surgical centers, and other medical facilities. Most of what you will be doing in health care administration is keeping health care facilities running smoothly; adhering to rules, regulations, policies, and procedures; and ensuring patient care and provider satisfaction. 

1. Hospital administrator 

As a hospital administrator, you might do a little bit of everything when it comes to managing the operations of a hospital or health care facility. Your duties may include managing staff, working with budgets, monitoring quality assurance, and implementing policies and procedures. 

  • US Annual median salary: $93,777{4]

2. Clinical director 

As a clinical director, you will focus on improving patient care by training clinical staff members and reviewing patient feedback. You may be in charge of personnel concerns like staffing, training, and scheduling. 

  • US Annual median salary: $101,304 [5]

3. Pharmaceutical executive

While health care administrators usually work in medical facilities, a pharmaceutical executive works for a pharmaceutical company. This role incorporates marketing and management duties as you acquire clients and manage patents and ensure compliance with laws. 

  • US Annual median salary: $83,239 [6]

4. Health services manager 

In this role, you manage a specific department or office, performing duties similar to other health care administration jobs. Health services managers advocate for patient care by liaising between care providers and administrative staff members. 

  • US Annual median salary: $73,956 [7]

Alternative degrees to the MHA

When you’re interested in working in health care administration or exploring a career in the business of health care, you can also earn your Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Business Administration (MBA)

MPH vs. MBA

An MPH program is for those who want to work in an aspect of public health, such as community health, global health, environmental health, and epidemiology. The degree also emphasizes leadership skills for advanced careers, but may involve fewer courses about financial management and business. 

It’s still possible to become a health care administrator with an MPH degree, but you may need to round out your education with work experience or take a few electives related to health care leadership. 

An MBA program focuses on business, management, and leadership, and you have the option to concentrate on a subset of that larger subject matter by focusing on health care. In this way, an MBA tends to be a more general degree than an MHA program. But an MBA may be more practical if you’re interested in eventually considering jobs outside the health care industry, like sales manager, HR manager, or chief operations officer. 

It’s worth noting that full-time MBA programs typically expect you to be a full-time student and not work while earning your degree. However, part-time and online MBA programs allow you to keep working. 

Learn more: What Can You Do with a Master’s in Public Health (MPH)?

Get started

Earning your MHA is a great way to start your career in the dynamic field of health care management. Whether you’re new to the field or looking to increase your knowledge, consider enrolling in the University of Pennsylvania’s The Business of Health Care or Rutgers’ Healthcare Organization Operations on Coursera.  

You can also earn your Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan or your Master of Business Administration online from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Both offer numerous specializations, and you can try a class before applying.

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Article sources 

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Medical and Health Services Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm.” Accessed July 26, 2022. 

2. Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education. “MHA Programs, https://www.cahme.org/advance3.0/SELECT.php.” Accessed May 11, 2022.  

3. US News & World Report. “Online Master’s Degree in Health Care Administration, https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/healthcare-administration-management-masters-degree.” Accessed May 11, 2022. 

4. Glassdoor. "Hospital Administrator Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/hospital-administrator-salary-SRCH_KO0,22.htm." Accessed July 20, 2022.

5. Glassdoor. "Clinical Director Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/clinical-director-salary-SRCH_KO0,17.htm." Accessed July 20, 2022.

6. Glassdoor. "Pharmaceutical Executive Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/pharmaceutical-executive-salary-SRCH_KO0,24.htm." Accessed July 20, 2022.

7. Glassdoor. "Health Services Manager Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/health-services-manager-salary-SRCH_KO0,23.htm." Accessed July 20, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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