A Master of Health Administration (MHA) can help prepare you for a broad spectrum of leadership and administrative opportunities in the health care industry. Many students who pursue an online MHA degree are already working professionals who have experience in business or health care, or those seeking career stability and mobility in a proven field.
What is health administration?
Health administration blends aspects of health care and business. Regardless of the degree obtained, health administration focuses on management, leadership, progressive vision, and daily administration of a health organization or system.
Health administrators can choose to pursue a variety of roles in the world of health care. Professionals entering the industry holding an MHA degree can quickly move into administrative or executive positions in a health system, clinic, hospital, or other healthcare facility.
Opportunities for health administrators are available in sectors and industries that include:
Policy-making and regulatory agencies
What is an MHA degree?
An online master's in health adminstration can help propel your career toward leadership roles in health care organizations, whether you have previous health care experience or not. These programs reflect and support the nature of the established trajectory of successful students and business professionals.
When earning your master's in health administration online, you will have the opportunity to explore all aspects of health administration and various external industry forces. Health administrators are in the position to help their organization and staff adjust to the massive transformations taking place in a data-rich environment.
As a health administrator, your primary focus will be to manage the impact of health trends, such as an aging population, that require special considerations. You’ll acquire the skills to meet patient demands, comply with legislative changes, adapt to technology advancements, and satisfy the expectations of multiple stakeholders.
A few characteristics and capabilities that a health administrator should have include:
A grasp of health care business technology trends
The ability to manage, train, and develop an interdisciplinary team of professionals
Problem-solving, customer service, and marketing proficiencies
Strong financial abilities such as budgeting, planning, billing, and logistics
Basic knowledge of health care law and regulations
What is the difference between an MHA and an MBA?
An MHA is an intensive health care management degree developed to help those with a passion for the health care industry to pursue medical leadership positions. This differs somewhat from a traditional Master of Business Administration (MBA), which focuses on business, with specialized coursework pertaining to health administration.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, both degrees are in high demand, as the need for health services managers is projected to continue its growth by 32% from 2019 to 2029. This rate of growth is significantly faster than the average for all occupations.
Due to the significant overlap between the two master's programs, deciding on the best path forward is a personal decision that depends on your career goals and aspirations. Here are a few important points to keep in mind when choosing between these degree types:
The online MHA program is intensive, with a focus on professionals coming from a health care or practitioner background. If you'd like to study the health care industry from a business and managerial perspective, then consider earning your master's in health administration online.
The MBA program appeals to analytical, business-oriented students who seek leadership within an organization, or manage a particular aspect of the enterprise, from a largely business-first perspective. If you'd prefer a more expansive approach to the application of business knowledge, strategy, and theory, an online MBA might be your best option.
Professionals holding either type of degree are critical to the future of health care, since they both bring unique perspectives.
Health administration concentrations
MHA degrees focus on the core area of health care and its principles. Here are some specialized concentrations you can expect to encounter when pursuing your master's in health administration online:
Informatics. Perhaps the modern cornerstone of health care administration is associated with patient information. Health administrators must work to ensure privacy, especially related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). With this MHA concentration, students commit to a learning path involving organization, storage, and use of information gathered from patient records.
Gerontology. The number of seniors aged over 65 in the U.S. is projected to double by 2050, so it is crucial for health administrators to begin planning now. As the baby boomer population —along with Generation X — continues to require more specialized medical care, those who plan to work in nursing homes or with the aging population are well positioned to help make a difference.
Operations. As a health administrative professional, you will wear many hats in your health care organization. By studying operations management, you can better help to realize overarching goals that provide the best conditions for patients, staff, and visitors. With a focus on operations, you can gain specific tools to help run a medical practice, a busy clinic, or regional health care organization. In this concentration, you will learn about the efficient management of an organization’s moving parts, including employees, patient records, electronic data, marketing, and finance.
Health policy. A health policy concentration is ideal for someone who has both health care experience and a strong business acumen. Here, you understand the needs of the facility and the community at large, but you have the practical business background to weigh decisions carefully to make the best possible decision for everyone’s best interests. Graduates with an online master's in health care administration often work for consulting firms, federal regulatory agencies, and public health agencies.
Master's in health administration curriculum
MHA programs require students to complete core courses on the theory and practice of health care management in areas such as:
Health care policy
Health care ethics
Health care law
Health care economics
Health care research
Choose your coursework wisely. It should serve as a map for your career goals to help increase your starting salary, job opportunities, career satisfaction, and professional longevity.
Some MHA programs give you the chance to specialize in a field by taking electives, which serve as a tool to help define your expertise and sharpen your knowledge in a health administration subset. Your choice of electives can also help position you to choose the right career path in your chosen field.
An elective gives you the chance to study a health administration or health care topic at a deeper level or take a related topic in classes within complementary programs such as law or business.
If you’re looking to build on your health care administration interest with practical expertise, a graduate degree can help broaden your abilities and skill sets in the following areas of study:
Business, legal, and technology knowledge and skills
Diversify your knowledge in specific areas such as:
Accounting and finance
While you may not encounter these areas each day, it is helpful to know about each one due to the fact that interaction with executives and decision-makers can help advance your career, as well as promote the mission of health care. Because much of the health administration field views the industry from a holistic viewpoint, you will benefit from learning as much as you can to remain solution-oriented and forward-thinking.
Your passion will likely drive your soft skills, which are important to day-to-day operations in a variety of working environments. These skills are essential when working with such a broad spectrum of the population. Enhanced skills and personality traits allow you to foster connections that lead to cooperation, comfort, and productivity.
Here are a few soft skills that will serve you well in health administration:
Communication. Communication tops the list for good reason. Depending on your role, you will probably spend much of each day connecting with a diverse population, including your colleagues and patients who enter your facility.
Cooperation and teamwork. Even if you take a more analytical approach to your role as a health administrator, you will still need to work with executives, IT leaders, and the health care staff to maintain your organization’s standards and achieve objectives.
Planning. A large part of your job involves planning for your health care organization’s short- and long-term goals. You may also work to fulfill duties in supply chain management to ensure that you have the necessary supplies and equipment to keep everyone safe.
Patient care. It is always important to remember why you and the rest of the staff are there: to serve your patients. You will need to understand the nature of your organization’s immediate community, as well as the needs of your patients.
Ethical principles and professional standards
You can learn the fundamental and vital principles of the health care profession, as well as how to implement those standards in team-oriented, busy health care environments such as:
Health care clinics
Physicians’ private practices
Mental health facilities
Prison health centers
Health administrators must remain vigilant, guarding and reinforcing their ethical principles and professional standards in all health care provider environments.
Critical thinking and problem solving
Health administrators operate across a range of complex environments and in advanced roles. You can strengthen the following baseline skills to prepare for those environments:
Teamwork and collaboration
Changing government and security regulations
The world of health care is tightly controlled and regulated. Consider the premium that hackers place on protected health information (PHI). Many of those regulations relate to data protection via HIPAA and HITRUST.
You will learn about the many varied regulations for which you may be responsible for in your health administrative position, including the specifics regarding each regulation and how to audit and enforce legal requirements to achieve and maintain compliance.
What is the industry outlook for health administration graduates?
Health care remains one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, thriving in an atmosphere brimming with innovation and disruption.
The health care sector now accounts for 15.3 million jobs, including nearly 5 million in hospitals. Studying for your master's in health administration online can prepare you to work in an industry that shows no signs of recession.
Take a moment to look closer at the state of health administration career opportunities and benefits:
Earning potential: Average median salaries for health administrators are $100,980 per year, as noted in May 2019 data provided by the BLS.
Career advancement: According to the BLS, there is a projected 32% growth rate from 2019 to 2029 in the job category of medical and health services managers, which includes health administrators.
Career shift: An MHA can be a natural fit for those outside of health care. Many programs are open to undergraduates who have degrees and/or experience in business, communication, or technology.
Job security: The health sector consistently adds new jobs each year, as baby boomers age, and with Generation X not far behind.
Effect change: By becoming a leader in health care, you’ll have the opportunity to develop and effect change within an organization, or in the industry as a whole.
Online vs. on-campus: Which is right for you?
There is no one-size-fits-all model for a graduate education. Degree programs come in various forms, each with its own benefits. Here are some of the most common questions you should ask when researching your online master's in health administration:
How long will earning my health administration degree take?
You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two years if you choose to study full time. Accelerated programs may also be available to help you finish more quickly.
Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.
How much will an MHA degree cost?
Tuition fees will vary depending on your study track and the institution you choose to attend.
According to FinAid.org, the average cost of a master’s degree is between $30,000 and $120,000. This will depend entirely on the institution and the program itself.
One key influencer of cost is the type of school. A public university with in-state tuition will cost less than a private university and/or out-of-state tuition.
Online MHA programs tend to be more affordable, but be sure to pursue a quality, accredited program.
ROI of an online MHA degree
Graduates with a master’s degree typically earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree. As a health administrator, you can improve your chances to advance in the health care field and position yourself for high-paying future roles that come with more responsibility and respect. Weigh your return on investment as well as simple cost.
All degree programs feature varying costs that relate to considerations such as field studies, technology, and course materials. One-time costs include incidental expenses, such as those associated with out-of-pocket travel for workshops, internships, and residencies.
Online MHA admission requirements
Each master’s program sets its admission requirements based on its own standards and criteria. Many admission requirements are universal across all programs.
Standard application materials you must provide, regardless of your area of study, include:
Transcripts from previous degrees or coursework
Standardized test scores
A personal statement or essay
Letters of recommendation
A resume or CV to demonstrate relevant work experience
Make sure to do your research since some of these requirements may be waived.
Online MHA accreditation
There are two types of accreditation — regional and specialized.
Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that a college or university can receive. Regional accreditation confirms the school has met and maintained adherence to a minimum set of academic standards.
Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.
Schools often apply to gain specialized accreditation for specific areas of study, departments, or degree programs. Enrolling in an accredited program makes you more marketable to employers and can affect your career growth over the long term.
Why accreditation matters
Accreditation is key if you want to:
Transfer your credits, as most schools will only accept transfer credits from accredited institutions
Apply for financial aid, as federal aid is only granted to students who are studying at recognized accredited institutions
Check for both national and regional accreditation at your university of interest. You may also find that your degree program or academic department of interest has additional and specialized accreditations.
CAHME-accredited online MHA programs
The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) sets measurable, competency-based criteria for excellence in health care management education. CAHME accreditation is the benchmark that ensures students are well prepared to lead in health care management.
CAHME-accredited programs have met high standards and criteria defined by leading academics and practitioners. CAHME is the only organization that grants accreditation to institutions who offer a master’s degree in health administration. If you decide this degree is right for you, be sure you're researching CAHME-accredited online MHA programs.
You have goals. We have a path.
Health administration is essential to our global economy. As the world’s learning company, we proudly partner with universities to offer a suite of online graduate degrees in the field of health administration. By understanding the fundamentals of business and combining that with health care industry expertise, you can help make an impact on the quality of care for patients in your community.