is it better to get an mba or mha

MBA in Healthcare Management vs. Master’s in Healthcare Administration (MHA)

What’s the Difference?

If you are a student looking for a career in the healthcare field or a healthcare professional seeking to expand your career opportunities, you will most likely be considering either a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Both options open students up to many possibilities as they prepare for leadership roles in healthcare management. But, how do you know which path is right for you?

Both MBA and MHA programs cover many of the essential hard and soft skills that healthcare managers need, however, there are some key differences.

In this article, we’ll explain what an MBA in healthcare management is, what an MHA is, as well as the key differences between the two degrees so you can determine which path is right for you.

MBA in Healthcare Management

The MBA in healthcare management is a specialized degree that prepares students with comprehensive knowledge in business processes and best practices, as well as exposure to healthcare leadership, healthcare quality, population health, and evidence-based care.

This degree path is ideal for students who see themselves pursuing a career in healthcare, but also want to broaden their skill set with general management capabilities.

Typically, universities offer a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in a specialized area like healthcare management. An MBA with a concentration in healthcare management or administration will prepare you to oversee operations and drive strategy in hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities.

Therefore, it is widely considered to be the case that graduating with an MBA makes it easier to transition into a broader range of industries. This is because you are not solely focused on healthcare; you will also gain a robust understanding of organizational behavior, financial management, marketing, and other core business topics outside of healthcare alone.

By the end of your MBA in healthcare management, you will enhance your business and leadership skills to advance your career, meet the complex challenges of an evolving environment, and have the experience needed to successfully serve diverse healthcare stakeholders and your community.

Master’s of Healthcare Administration

The MHA is a more targeted master’s degree option focused on the specific needs, opportunities, and challenges in the healthcare industry.

While students do learn the essential business fundamentals needed to succeed as administrators in the healthcare field, all of the program materials and activities (i.e. case studies, projects, presentations, exams, etc.) in the MHA program will be healthcare specific.

If you are on the healthcare track or wish to evolve your healthcare knowledge alone, the MHA probably makes the most sense. However, if you are not certain and prefer to keep your options open for a high-level administrative career in other fields, the MHA might not be the best choice for you. In the latter case, you might consider the MBA with a specialization in healthcare.

Curriculum in an MBA vs. an MHA

An MBA in Healthcare Management curriculum will often include courses in leadership, healthcare administration, entrepreneurship and innovation, data analysis, capital finance and accounting, operations management, value chain, supply chain, and revenue cycle considerations.

While every college and university will have some differences, MBA students at the University of Bridgeport can expect to take concentrated courses in:

  • Managerial & Cost Accounting
  • Advanced Financial Management & Policy
  • Information Systems & Knowledge Management
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Marketing & Branding
  • Global Programs & Project Management
  • Healthcare Quality, Outcomes, & Evidence-Based Care
  • Healthcare Leadership and Business Administration
  • Epidemiology, Population Health, & Data Analytics
  • A choice of several capstone courses

On the other hand, the curriculum of an MHA includes classes specifically focused on the healthcare industry, such as:

  • Economic Issues and Applications in Healthcare
  • Experiential Learning in Healthcare Management
  • Financial Issues and Applications in Healthcare
  • Healthcare Decision Making
  • Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Healthcare
  • Introduction to Population Health

Both degrees are generally between 35-60 credits and typically take one to two years to complete.

Should I get my MBA in Healthcare Management or my MHA?

There is no shortage of jobs in healthcare administration and management these days. Thus, the decision between pursuing an MBA in healthcare management or an MHA is dependent on you and your goals.

Envision your dream career. Do you specifically want a career in healthcare? Or, do you want the flexibility and freedom to pursue a career outside of healthcare?

In addition, think about your current level of knowledge and skill sets. Do you have a foundation in healthcare, but are you lacking business-oriented skills? If so, a concentrated MBA degree may be best for you. On the other hand, are you knowledgeable in business, but starting fresh in healthcare administration? If so, you may require the experience offered in an MHA program.

Once you answer these questions, we recommend looking at the curriculum for each program. The curriculum will be the deciding factor to see if the degree program and coursework will align and support your career goals.

If you are set on a career in healthcare, the MHA might be the best choice for you as healthcare administration differs significantly from other fields with its own unique rules and regulations related to business structures, payment systems, policies, regulations, life and death issues, and ethical and privacy considerations.

Conversely, if you want a broader or expanded understanding of general business practices and the ability to specialize in healthcare, an MBA in healthcare management would be the better choice. An MBA provides students with an in-depth understanding of the world of business and positions candidates for future leadership or entrepreneurial positions in a variety of careers and industries.

Furthermore, you also should consider the time and commitment required to complete each degree. Currently, no accredited MHA programs are offered entirely online whereas there are accredited online healthcare MBA programs available, including the one at UB.

We find that many students choose the MBA in Healthcare Management not only for the maximum flexibility in career advancement but also for the flexibility to take classes at a time and place that is convenient for them (in-person or online).

If you are still determining whether an MBA or an MHA is the right choice for you, reach out to us here at the University of Bridgeport. We would love to share more information about our Master’s in Business Administration and our Master’s in Business Administration Online degree. Both degree programs are accepting applications and allow students to concentrate in healthcare management.

Don’t wait, your future as a healthcare administrator starts today!