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Master of Health Administration | Context - Context

Master of Health Administration

Master of Health Administration (MHA) Overview

A Master of Health Administration can help you prepare for leadership and administrative opportunities within the health care sector. Many students who choose an online MHA degree are working professionals with either business or health care experience.

An MHA degree will explore all aspects of health care administration along with external industry forces. Health administrators are on the front line of transformation in a data-rich environment that is impacted by health trends, consumer demands, legislative changes, technology needs, and the expectations of multiple stakeholders.

Health Administration in Context


  • What is Health Administration? Careers in health administration focus on leadership, management, and administration of health care facilities, hospitals, public health organizations, and larger health networks. Health administrators should possess a strong business and communication skill set, as well as an understanding of health care at all levels.
  • How do I earn an MHA? Most students looking to earn their MHA will be working professionals from the worlds of business and health care. An undergraduate degree or experience in these fields is not necessarily required, but it can be extremely helpful for admission as well as for knowledge retention.
  • How long does it take? Depending on how many courses you take each semester, earning your MHA takes around two years for full-time students and three to four years for part-time.
  • What else should I know? health care is a growing field full of potential for those with a master’s degree or higher. In fact, health care jobs accounted for 18% of the 2.6 million new jobs created in the United States in 2015. [1]

Exploring the Master of Health Administration

An MHA degree offers broad-spectrum appeal to leadership-minded professionals with and without health care experience. As such, the program focuses on the business, managerial, and technical aspects of day-to-day operations for a medical organization, as well as the social and ethical aspects of health care delivery. Specific learning outcomes include:

  • An understanding of health care business technology
  • The ability to manage and develop a multidisciplinary team
  • Problem-solving, customer service, and marketing proficiencies
  • Strong financial abilities such as budgeting, planning, billing, and more
  • Basic knowledge of health care law and regulations

In a 2014 article titled “Wanted: Hospital CEOs Without Health Care Experience,” U.S. News & World Report uncovered a trend toward hiring executives from business, banking, finance, insurance, and other non-traditional sectors. As the health industry goes through major changes with board members expecting quantifiable results, skills sets in productivity, business development, and financial management are in great demand.

Is an MHA right for me?

A Master of Health Administration program is designed to prepare students with the knowledge and competencies necessary to succeed in health care leadership. Accredited programs typically feature courses focused on both business and the unique intricacies health care policy, organizational behavior, health care economics, management, and communications. Most programs will require experience in either business or health care for admission, although there are other pathways to entry, such as a background in technology or communications.

The National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL) proposed these competencies in their Health Leadership Competency Model. [42] They can serve as a guideline for what you should expect to be addressed in an MHA program.

  • Achievement Orientation
  • Analytical Thinking
  • Community Orientation
  • Financial Skills
  • Information Seeking
  • Innovative Thinking
  • Strategic Orientation
  • Accountability
  • Change Leadership
  • Collaboration
  • Communication Skills
  • Impact and Influence
  • Initiative
  • Information Technology Management
  • Organizational Awareness
  • Performance Measurement
  • Process Management/Organizational Design
  • Project Management
  • Human Resources Management
  • Interpersonal Understanding
  • Professionalism
  • Relationship Building
  • Self-Confidence
  • Self-Development
  • Talent Development
  • Team Leadership

Why Earn an MHA Degree?

Health care remains one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, continuing to outpace previous performance and thriving in an atmosphere of innovation and disruption. The health care sector now accounts for 15.3 million jobs, including nearly five million in hospitals, which means that an MHA degree can prepare you to work in an industry that shows no signs of slowing down. [1]

    • Earning Potential: Average median salaries for health administrators range from $94,500 per year, with the highest 10% earning more than $165,380 (May 2015 data). [2]
    • Career Advancement: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a projected 17% growth rate from 2104 to 2024 in the job category of medical and health services managers, a category that includes health administrators.
    • Career Shift: A Master of Health Administration can be a natural fit for those outside of health care. Many programs are open to undergraduates who have degrees and/or experience in the worlds of business, communication or technology.
    • Job Security: The entire health sector created a record 474,700 new jobs in 2015, a 53% increase over 2014. The first six months of 2016 saw 234,600 new health care jobs created, equating to nearly 25% job growth. Hospitals reported 172,200 payroll additions in 2015, a 306% increase over 2014.
    • Create Change: By becoming a leader in the world of health care, you’ll have the opportunity to create change within an organization or in the industry as a whole.

How Do I Choose a Master of Health Administration

When you’re ready to pursue a master’s degree, you need to consider all information at your disposal. Pay special attention to the specific topics covered throughout the degree program and how they relate to the career you want to build. In addition, the factors below should contribute to your choice of programs.

  • Accreditation: The Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is the only accrediting body that specifically accredits MHA programs.
  • Faculty: Ideal MHA faculty will be a blend of both health care and business professionals. They should have leadership experience and specialized knowledge of their field of practice.
  • Delivery Method: You can pursue your MHA on campus, in a hybrid environment, or completely online. It all depends on which modality will best fits your life and schedule.
  • Program Length: Decide whether you want to attend classes part-time or full-time, and consider the number of credit hours, the prescribed completion time, and whether there are hours of experiential learning required.
  • Cost: For each health administration program you’re considering, weigh the cost of tuition and fees against the return you expect on your investment and investigate any loans, scholarships, or grants that may be available.
  • Curriculum and Specializations: Seek out online MHA programs with coursework that’s directly relevant to your goals and interests. Common specializations for MHA programs are:
  • Operations
  • Leadership and Management
  • Health Informatics
  • Policy and Law
  • Financial Management
  • Human Resources
  • Public Health
  • Research
  • Success of Previous Students: Compare the graduation rates and job placement rates of all MHA programs you’re considering.
  • School/Program Caliber: Consider regional and national rankings from reputable sources for the schools and programs you’re considering.

Master of Health Administration (MHA)

What is Health Administration?

Hospital administration is essentially the leadership, management and administration of a health system or organization. Health administrators fill many roles within the world of health care. Careers for those with a degree in health administration reach beyond simply becoming an executive or entering leadership in a hospital, health system or clinic. Opportunities include but are not limited to roles in government, policy-making and regulatory agencies, nonprofit, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, insurance, technology, organizational development, and more.

The History of Health Administration

When we think of a hospital or health care, we tend to think of the doctors and nurses who provide direct patient care. There are, however, myriad people who work in health care organizations mostly behind the scenes making sure health services are available and accessible. The growth of health administration as a career field has run tangential to the  development of medical science and the growth of hospitals in the United States.

According to the book Careers in Healthcare Management: How to Find Your Path and Follow It, by Cynthia Carter Haddock, Robert C. Chapman, and Robert A. McLean, “Early hospital administrators were called ‘superintendents’ and typically had little specific training for their jobs — many were nurses who had taken on administrative responsibilities.” [42]

This trend continued through the late 1800s and early 1900s until the number of hospitals had grown so significantly that the need for trained professionals became critical to the success of health systems across the United States. According to the book, “In 1929, Michael Davis [proposed] a two-year graduate degree curriculum in hospital administration. The first year of this curriculum was centered on coursework in accounting, statistics, management, economics and the social sciences, and the history of hospitals and the health professions, with limited practical observation. The second year was mostly spent in practical work with some coursework in business policy, public health, and labor relations.” [42]  

Awareness around the need for health administrators was evident and shortly thereafter, graduate programs in health administration began popping up across the United States throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Today, two-year MHA programs are common in universities across the world.

Degrees in Health Administration

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most common degree in health administration is a Master of Health Administration. This is considered the standard educational credential for health administrators in the United States. However, degrees also exist at both the bachelor’s and doctorate level.

  • Bachelor of Science in Health Care Administration: Many schools now offer an undergraduate degree in health care administration. These degrees combine health and business concepts to prepare students for an entry-level position in health systems or organizations.
  • Master of Health Administration (MHA): The standard educational credential for health administrators prepares experienced professionals with the knowledge and practical skills necessary to advance into leadership within a health system or organization.
  • Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA): The EMHA is designed for working professionals who are already in health care leadership positions and aspire to achieve greater prominence as C-suite executives. The degree is not suitable for leaders seeking a career change to the industry, because previous health care experience is required.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Health Administration and the Doctor of Health Administration (DHA): These degrees are recognized as research- and academic-based, doctorate-level degrees designed to prepare health care professionals with the knowledge necessary to practice, teach, and shape public policy and lead complex health organizations.

Areas of Practice

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that health administration employment will grow 17% between 2014 and 2024, much faster than average.  That growth will occur in the work spaces such as:

  • Hospitals, clinics, and health systems
  • Government programs and organizations
  • Community health centers
  • Public health, law, regulation and policy reform
  • Organizational development and human resources
  • Infrastructure
  • Technology and informatics
  • Finance and accounting
  • Insurance
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Nursing homes and hospice care
  • Education

Who is this Degree For?

The Master of Health Administration is designed for health, business, and technology professionals from a diverse range of educational backgrounds who want to build a career in leadership or management within the growing field of health care. The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates a 17% growth rate from 2104 to 2024 in the job category of Medical and Health Services Managers, a category which includes health administrators. Earning an MHA presents an opportunity for career advancement for those already working within the world of health care as well as those in other industries who are looking for a shift.

Things to Consider Before Choosing an Online MHA Program

  • Asynchronous or Synchronous: By the nature of online learning, most online MHA programs will be asynchronous. This means that you are able to complete your reading, discussions, and assignments at a time that is convenient for you. Synchronous program require you to be online at certain times for lectures or discussions. This is something you should pay close attention to when choosing your MHA program.
  • Cohort or Non-Cohort: Your cohort consists of your classmates. During some MHA programs, you will stay with the same classmates throughout the entire program — from the first class through graduation. In other programs, you will be introduced to new students each with class depending on your electives and what order classes are chosen.
  • Previous Work Experience: If you’re currently working in a health system or in a leadership position, you may have the option to enroll in an Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) program. Make sure to look through each program’s admission requirements thoroughly. In addition, many EMHA programs are specifically designed to accommodate working professionals.

MHA Curriculum

A master’s in health administration will focus on the business, managerial, and technical aspects of day-to-day health care operations, as well as the human aspects of health care delivery. All Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) accredited programs offer curricula that includes studies in analysis and critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration, interpersonal and organizational communication, leadership principles, and professional ethics. [3]

What should I look for in an MHA curriculum?

Typical MHA courses will focus on change management, accountability, professionalism, performance measurement, analytical thinking, communication, strategic thinking, human resource management, finance, and process improvement. While every online MHA degree is structured differently, there are foundational courses that frequently appear in the core curriculum: [4]

  • Health Care Economics
  • Health Care Ethics
  • Health Care Policy
  • Health Care Law
  • Health Care Research
  • Business Analysis
  • People Management
  • Organizational Dynamics
  • Leadership Effectiveness

Why would I choose an elective?

Electives are an additional tool to help you hone your expertise and knowledge in a particular subset of health administration. Many students will choose electives that align with their desired career path or that provide complementary education.

Electives will vary by university, but common topics include:

  • Finance
  • Accounting
  • Insurance
  • Information Systems
  • Informatics
  • Decision-Making
  • Research and Analytics
  • Human Resources
  • Law and Policy
  • Public Health
  • Marketing
  • Epidemiology
  • Management
  • Budgeting
  • Communications
  • Aging
  • Nursing
  • Pharmacy
  • Social Work
  • Poverty
  • Community Health

What are the overall outcomes?

Most MHA programs will consist of a combination of business and leadership courses put into the framework of health care. Much of the degree program will focus on building leadership competencies, improving technical skills, and preparing students to think about health care at both an organizational and a systemic level.

Experiential-based learning opportunities will depend on a student’s area of specialization but typically involve the implementation of health administration methods and concepts through practical application.

Upon completion of the degree program, graduates should be able to demonstrate vision, provide direction, innovate, influence change, and improve and optimize organizational performance from a position of leadership within a health organization. Additionally, graduates should be able to communicate effectively, manage relationships, and demonstrate an overall knowledge of the health care systems and policy.

Featured Degrees
Adventist University of Health Science – Master in Health Administration

Approach Healthcare From a New Angle. Find the Right MHA For You Now.

Ohio University – Master in Health Administration

Approach Healthcare From a New Angle. Find the Right MHA For You Now.

University of Cincinnati – Master in Health Administration

Impact Healthcare On a Larger Scale With a MHA. Find Yours Now.

University of Southern California – Master in Health Administration

Impact Healthcare On a Larger Scale With a MHA. Find Yours Now.

Concentrations and Specializations

What’s the difference between concentrations and specializations?

Depending on the online MHA degree program you choose, you may be offered the opportunity to choose a concentration, specialization, or track. While the term “concentration” is typically more commonly used, these terms typically refer to the same opportunity to direct the focus of your studies.

If applicable, the concentration or specialization you choose will dictate which courses you take. A concentration can help you specialize your practice and the direction of your career.

8 Ways to Specialize Your MHA Degree

Many schools will offer specialization tracks within their MHA programs to help you gain knowledge in a specific area of interest, such as:


This is an excellent option if you already have clinical experience in a hospital setting and understand the patient experience and delivery of quality care.

Leadership and Management

This specialization is focused on the behind-the-scenes operations of an organization, with an emphasis on the business of health care. Subject matter will include finance, insurance, human resources, marketing, and related topics.

Health Informatics

Health informatics will immerse you in the world of patient data. Curricula for this concentration will typically include information management, security, applications, electronic medical records regulations, and ethics surrounding data access. The demand for health informatics workers is projected to grow at twice the rate of employment overall. [6]

Policy and Law

This specialization focuses on legislation and regulation, with an emphasis on government policy, federal and state regulations, and the impact of health care laws.

Financial Management

If you have strong financial skills, consider an MHA degree specialization that delves into hospital accounting, budgeting, planning, analysis, cash flow, investments, donations, and related fiduciary activities.

Human Resources

An MHA with a specialization in human resources can teach you about assessing, recruiting, and hiring clinical and non-clinical talent. These curricula also cover the intricacies of payroll, benefits, training and development, employee communications, conflict management, labor law, unions, and other key HR topics.

Public Health

A public health specialization is concerned with disease patterns, preventive care, and the societal impact of health disparities. MHA courses might include epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, sociology, and related subjects.


The research specialization focuses on research teams, pharmaceutical company relationships, patient participation regulations, federal oversight, and the human impact of experimental treatments. This track can provide valuable skills in terms of pursuing a career in higher education where there is a research component to your work.

Experiential Learning and Field Placement

Real-World Experience for Online MHA Students

The curriculum of a Master of Health Administration program may require an experiential learning or field-study component. Often referred to as an internship, residency, practicum, or capstone course, this requirement can help fill the gap for students who do not have work experience in the health care or business sector.

It is also important to note that all CAHME-accredited programs, including online MHA degrees, require an on-campus or field learning component as way to build leadership skills and develop a collaborative workstyle. [7]

The Value of MHA Degree Field Studies

The Chronicle of Higher Education conducted a study in conjunction with American Public Media’s Marketplace to determine what employers look for in hiring new graduates. While education is an important focus, an internship or experience was valued at a higher rate than academic credentials. This is especially true for management roles. [8]

Examples of MHA Internship Opportunities

Health care employers value internships/experience (38%) over academic performance (30%). The Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) offers a short list of high-profile internships that are available for MHA students. These include: [9]

  • American College of Health Care Executives: Diversity Internship
    Three-month rotational opportunity
  • Health Administration Case Competition
    Capstone experience
  • The Institute for Diversity: Summer Enrichment Program (SEP)
    Ten-week paid internship
  • Medical Group Management Association/American College of Medical Practice Executives: Internship-Residency Program
    Didactic coursework structure

Licensure Requirements for Health Administration

There are a number of licenses and certifications that you can earn as a health administration professional. These credentials may be mandatory or optional, depending on factors like your role, responsibilities, or location.

Health Administration Licenses

The position of health administrator does not typically require licensure. The one exception is in the long-term care sector, where nursing home administrators must be licensed in the state in which they are employed.

Nursing home administrators are licensed by the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB), which oversees licensing, credentialing, and regulation throughout the sector. There are two types of licensure available via an exam process: Nursing Home Administrator (NHA) and Residential Care/Assisted Living Administrator (RC/AL). [10]

NHA licensure has been administered for decades, with more than 2,000 professionals sitting for the exam each year. RC/AL licensure was made available in the year 2000. Hundreds of long-term care professionals working in states that require licensure sit for the exam each year, along with others who voluntarily take the exam to improve their credentials.

Exam requirements vary by state in terms of required degree and number of contact hours. Information for your state can be found on the NAB web site.

Online MHA Degree Certifications

For some career positions, a specific certification may be a condition of employment. Certifications, required or not, can add value to your resume.

American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)

To achieve Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) credentials, a professional must meet strict standards for “academic preparation, health care management experience, ACHE tenure, passing the Board of Governors Examination in Healthcare Management, continuing education, references, and community and civic involvement.” [11] In 2015, 57% of new ACHE members held a Master of Health Administration degree.

American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM)

The AAHAM offers five different health care administration certifications that follow a “career ladder” structure. Exams measure steady improvement in patient financial service and revenue cycle proficiency, culminating with Certified Revenue Cycle Executive status. AAHAM certifications have the option to substitute a degree in lieu of work experience, which is good news if you seek a faster path to credentialing. [12]

Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals (AHCAP)

AHCAP certification has a strong academic focus, which makes it ideal for professionals who have earned a master’s in health administration. The AHCAP exam measures the substantive skills necessary to receive designation as a Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional (cHAP). Achieving this certification means that you demonstrate exceptional talent, commitment, and value in the field. [13]

Career Advancement

Health Administration Career Outlook

Several factors have convened over recent years to increase the number of career opportunities for MHA graduates. Ongoing influences and emerging trends include: [14] [15]

  • Transformation of the health care insurance industry in response to the Affordable Care Act.
  • Data-driven health care delivery in response to the government mandate for electronic medical records (EMR) under the HITECH Act.
  • Innovations in telemedicine and e-health, including wearable devices for self-monitoring of health conditions.
  • A growing consumer focus on health care as a product, with patients weighing cost and convenience when choosing elective procedures.
  • A population of approximately 75 million baby boomers who are living longer, despite increased incidences of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.

Job Growth and Salary Expectations for MHA Graduates

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates a 17% growth rate from 2104 to 2024 in the job category of Medical and Health Services Managers, which includes health administrators. In fact, the entire health sector created a record 474,700 new jobs in 2015, a 53% increase over 2014. [1] As of May 2015, the median salary for Medical and Health Services managers was $94,500, with the highest 10% earning more than $165,380. [16] According to the BLS, Medical and Health Services managers earned a median salary of $94,500 per year as of May 2015.

Top 10 Best-Paying States for Health Administration Careers [19]

  1. California          
  2. Connecticut    
  3. Florida
  4. Massachusetts
  5. New Jersey        
  6. New York           
  7. Rhode Island   
  8. Washington     
  9. Oregon
  10. Vermont            

Types of MHA Degree Jobs

The term “health administrator” is an umbrella phrase that actually encompasses several different types of roles with a wide range of median salaries: [17] [18]

  • Practice Manager: $58,750
  • Project Manager, Operations: $63,496
  • Outpatient Clinic Manager: $88,960
  • Hospital Administrator: $90,385
  • Health Care Administrator: $94,500
  • Home Care Services Director: $96,369
  • Director of Operations: $96,750
  • Behavioral Health Director: $109,132
  • Community Health Director: $123,367
  • Clinic Operations Director: $131,517

According to the BLS, 37% of Health Administrators worked in a traditional hospital setting as of May 2015. Physician practice offices and nursing home/residential facilities both came in at 10%of employment, with government agencies and home health care rounding out the rest. Locations and work spaces to consider in your career search include:

  • Hospitals and health systems
  • Ambulatory care clinics
  • Physician group practices
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Eldercare communities
  • Behavioral health facilities
  • Home health agencies

Knowledge gained through an online MHA degree and subsequent experience can also set you on an alternate path forward within a related field. Businesses that partner with hospitals and health systems can present opportunities for health administrators seeking to expand their scope. Some of these businesses include: [19]

  • Health management organizations
  • Insurance companies
  • Medical equipment/device manufacturers
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Biotechnology firms
  • Government agencies
  • Not-for-profit groups

MHA Program Details

How Long Does it Take to Earn an Online MHA?

Your online MHA degree timeframe will vary by number of hours you are able to commit to your studies. Degree programs also differ in the number of credits required. Some programs may require as few as 45 credit hours, while other institutions have structured their programs at 70 credit hours. [21]

Full-Time Study vs. Part-Time Study

It is expected that full-time students will be able to complete the required health administration courses in about two years, including summer sessions. However, many online students are working professionals with active careers who can only attend classes on a part-time basis.

For part-time students, the typical length of degree studies can be about three to four years. A three-year timeline is often achievable with summer sessions. Data indicates that 63% of online graduate degree students in 2015 were also working full-time, with another 15% working part-time. [22]

What about a fast-track EMHA?

Some colleges and universities offer accelerated “fast-track” MHA online course schedules through Executive MHA (EMHA) programs that can be completed in as little as one year.

These EMHA programs are restricted to students who demonstrate top academic performance, a high level of business savvy, and leadership potential within their current health care career. Studies are far more intense because of the compressed length, and courses typically require a greater commitment of time and effort over the short term.

Carousel and Non-Carousel Enrollment Periods

Most students are familiar with degree timelines that offer fall and spring enrollment periods. This remains the traditional structure for typical on-campus enrollments, and is known as a “non-carousel” program. Online MHA degree programs can offer up to six enrollment periods per calendar year.

The flexibility of online MHA degrees allows colleges and universities to extend enrollment throughout the calendar year. This “carousel” approach means that you do not have to wait to begin your studies, because enrollment periods are offered every eight weeks or so. Carousel benefits include: [23]

  • Less time between semesters so that you maintain your momentum and good study habits
  • Decreased waiting time for your prerequisite courses or desired electives to become available, or for you to put them on your schedule
  • Increased focus on the most important topics and learning outcomes over shorter periods of time

Tuition and Fees

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Scholarships for MHA Students

The Institute for Diversity in Health Management sponsors at least three scholarship opportunities for graduate students pursuing an MHA degree. These include:

  • Elliot C. Roberts Scholarship
  • Cathy L. Brock Memorial Scholarship
  • Transamerica Retirement Solutions Leaders in Health Care Scholarship
Featured Degrees
Adventist University of Health Science – Master in Health Administration

Approach Healthcare From a New Angle. Find the Right MHA For You Now.

Ohio University – Master in Health Administration

Approach Healthcare From a New Angle. Find the Right MHA For You Now.

University of Cincinnati – Master in Health Administration

Impact Healthcare On a Larger Scale With a MHA. Find Yours Now.

University of Southern California – Master in Health Administration

Impact Healthcare On a Larger Scale With a MHA. Find Yours Now.

Admission Requirements

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

An Overview of Online MHA Degree Admissions

Many students who choose an online MHA degree are working professionals with either business or health care experience. Others pursue the degree as part of a career change. What the vast majority have in common is that they possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

MHA Program Requirements

Students with business or finance degrees will be likely to have covered the essential mathematical concepts and basic principles of operations as part of their bachelor’s degree studies. Clinical health care professionals and others seeking the degree may find that they need prerequisite courses before enrolling in an MHA program.

Work Experience

With the popularity of online Masters of Health Administration degrees on the rise, schools are receiving applications from potential students who have diverse employment backgrounds. In many instances, hands-on work or internship experience in the health care or business sector is an expectation of many admissions officers, particularly for top-quality MHA programs that have strict enrollment requirements. [29]

Roles in accounting, technology, human resources, marketing and other functional areas may provide some of the practical experience and transferrable skills that MHA degree programs demand. Active membership in professional organizations, volunteer activities, certificate courses, and in-house continuing education can also prove beneficial.


Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online MHA degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

What to Look for in MHA Accreditation

There is only one organization recognized to grant accreditation for health administration degrees: the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). CAHME began offering online MHA program accreditation in 2015. Today, more than 90% of graduates from CAHME-accredited programs are placed in a health care management job within three months of graduation. [31]

The mission of CAHME is “to serve the public interest by advancing the quality of health care management education.” [32] The organization ensures that students receive a relevant and robust educational experience that has been fully vetted against the highest of standards.

Employers look to CAHME as the benchmark for quality when reviewing the academic credentials of prospective hires. There is a presumption that the MHA degree holder will have the necessary skills and competencies to lead in today’s complex and ever-changing health care industry.

Alternative Degrees

Choosing the Right Degree for Your Career Goals

The Master of Health Administration is part of a family of degrees designed to meet the needs of students interested in health care leadership careers. There are a number of MHA alternatives including: [36]

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An MBA provides a strong business operations background for aspiring executives. Some programs will offer a health care concentration. However, the health administration curriculum will not be as comprehensive as that presented by an online MHA degree.

Master of Public Health (MPH)

The MPH offers a broader focus on health care and its effect on people and communities in terms of disease patterns, preventive care, and societal impact. Coursework is rooted in science and the social sciences, with an emphasis on epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, sociology, and more. [37]

Master of Public Administration (MPA)

An MPA degree is similar to the Masters in Health Administration, except that it is directed at all types of public and nonprofit organizations, not just hospitals and health systems. Areas of emphasis include urban planning, community development and international relations, as well as foundational leadership skills.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Nurses have the option of moving into administrative roles by enrolling in an MSN program. Clinicians interested in leadership can find a path through nursing management, up to the highest level of achievement as a chief nursing officer.

Dual Degrees

Many colleges and universities offer dual degree choices for those who want expand their education across disciplines. Examples include:

  •       Juris Doctor/Master of Health Administration (JD/MHA)
  •       Master of Business Administration/Masters in Public Health (MBA/MPH)
  •       Master of Health Administration/Master of Business Administration (MHA/MBA)

MHA Degree FAQs

Q: What is most important when choosing an online Master of Health Administration?

A: When choosing your MHA, many factors come into play, such as cost, accreditation, program length, alumni placement rates, and other practicalities. Above all, your career goals should drive the selection process. The remaining pages in this guidebook give you an in-depth look at what to consider when choosing the right online MHA degree for you.

Q: How do I gauge the quality of an online MHA program?

A: To determine the quality of an MHA program, you’ll want to look for accreditation by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). This credential will help you identify a program that has been fully vetted against the highest of standards. Employers recognize CAHME as the benchmark for quality when reviewing the academic credentials of prospective hires.

Q: What career paths can I take upon degree completion?

A: Many MHA graduates go on to careers at hospitals, health networks, clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and similar settings to take on roles such as:

  • Behavioral Health Director: Leads multidisciplinary teams in inpatient or outpatient facilities specializing in mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral disorders.
  • Clinic Manager/Director: Provides oversight of daily operations, typically in an outpatient setting.
  • Community Health Director: Directs activities within a community-based agency that is likely to be operated with public funds.
  • Home Care Services Director: Manages people, procedures, and processes related to the delivery of in-home nursing and allied health care services.
  • Hospital Administrator: Serves in a leadership role over a specific functional area or over the hospital as a whole.
  • Practice Manager: Oversees private physician and group practices with responsibility for patient flow, staffing, billing, technology, and other daily operational needs.

Please see the Careers and Advancement section of this guidebook for salaries and other job-related information.

MHA Curriculum FAQs

Q: What kind of math or science courses will I have to take to earn an MHA?

A: Your core curriculum will likely include courses in statistical analysis, finance, and economics so that you can learn how health systems make and manage money. Online MHA degree courses do not typically demand science studies within the core curriculum.

Q: What should I look for when comparing curriculum from different schools?

A: In reviewing CAHME-accredited online MHA programs, there should not be major variations in the core curriculum. The courses may have different names, but the overarching content should be similar from program to program.

Q: What MHA classes are most intensive?

A: Today’s health care environment requires an in-depth understanding of everything from legal and ethical considerations to statistics and research. The intensity of the learning will have a lot to do with your previous education and the subjects in which you have strengths and weaknesses.

Q: What are learning outcomes of a Masters in Health Administration?

A: Upon graduation, you should feel confident that you have the skills to help shape the future in the face of an aging population and continued challenges to health care reform. The type of knowledge you gain should include:

  • An understanding of health care business technology
  • The ability to manage and develop a multidisciplinary team
  • Problem-solving, customer service, and marketing proficiencies
  • Strong financial abilities like budgeting, planning, billing, and more
  • Basic knowledge of health care law and regulations.

Q: What if I only have a two-year degree? Can I still get into a Health Administration program?

A: Schools are beginning to offer AS-to-MHA bridge programs to students working in the health care field, but these degrees are still a rarity.

Specialization FAQs

Q: What is the difference between a specialization, concentration, track, and area of emphasis?

A: Generally, terms like “specialization,” “concentration,” and “track” refer to the same concept of a focused master’s degree. Phrases like “area of emphasis” tend to indicate a similar concept on a less-intensive scale. All types of focus can help you learn and develop skills to advance in a specific area of your field.

Q: Is one MHA degree specialization better than the other?

A: The best specialization for you is the one that inspires your passion as a mission-driven professional. Explore your options and choose the MHA program electives that can meet your biggest goals for achievement and opportunity.

Q: Is one specialization growing faster than others?

A: The informatics specialization has exploded over recent years as hospitals and health care providers shift from paper documentation to electronic medical records. If you have an interest or background in information technology, this path could be the right choice for you.

Q: Are there certain electives I should look for in online MHA degree concentration?

A: Your choice of electives should support the specialization that you have in mind. For example, if you’re interested in clinical research, you might want to explore biostatistics as an elective. On the other hand, if you care more about practice management, analytics courses might help your focus. Some of today’s most popular electives include:

  • Biostatistics
  • Compliance
  • Data Analytics
  • Health Care Ethics
  • Human Resources
  • Innovation
  • Leadership
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Program Management
  • Public Health Policy
  • Risk Management
  • Technology

Q: Do I need to take a specialization or concentration in my MHA courses?

A: If you’re not sure what direction you want to take with your MHA career, you can study as a generalist with broad knowledge across a number of areas. If, on the other hand, you have a passion for a certain area of study, you’ll likely want to look for MHA program electives that meet your goals for specialization.

MHA Degree Field Studies FAQs

Q: Why would I have to visit campus if I am enrolling in an online MHA degree?

A: Colleges and universities frequently offer short weekend sessions, one-week residencies, or workshops for their online graduate students. These sessions give you a chance to interact with your cohort or fellow students, engage in collaborative group work experiences, and meet your professors face-to-face.

Q: Is there a difference in choosing a degree program with an experiential component versus one without?

A: If a school requires work experience as a condition of enrollment for its Master of Health Administration degree, it is unlikely that there will also be an internship component. However, there will still be an on-campus residency or workshop requirement if the program is accredited by CAHME.

Q: Will an internship or capstone experience help me with licensure, certifications, or employment?

A: Hands-on experience that gain during the course of your online MHA degree field studies can add value in helping you sit for exams, apply for certifications, and meet your career goals as a health care leader.

Q: Who organizes the experiential learning and field studies requirements?

A: If you are required to engage in outside activities beyond a school-sponsored residency or workshop, the institution should provide guidance. However, you may also need to use your own network to find an internship that fits your needs.

Q: Can my current employer provide health administration degree field work?

A: You can certainly request an internship as part of your current employment, provided that your company does work related to your MHA degree studies.

Q: What kind of employers or organizations offer internships to health administration master’s students?

A: Depending on where you live, you might discover an internship opportunity in one of these settings:

  • Hospitals and health systems
  • Ambulatory care clinics
  • Physician group practices
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Eldercare communities
  • Behavioral health facilities
  • Home health agencies
  • Health management organizations
  • Insurance companies
  • Medical equipment/device manufacturers
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Biotechnology firms
  • Government agencies
  • Not-for-profit groups

Q:  Can I get paid for my MHA degree field studies work?

A: Some companies offer paid internships, often during the summer months. If there is an organization that interests you, look at its careers website for a college or campus section. That is where you will find information on internships and other opportunities for students and new graduates.

Licensure and Certification FAQs

Q: What certification is best for me?

A: If you’d like to acquire certifications to bolster your resume, you should look into the Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional (cHAP) credential offered by AHCAP as a first step. Later, as you gain finance and revenue cycle experience specific to the health care setting, you can pursue certifications offered by AAHAM. Finally, FACHE certification is reserved for only the most accomplished Health Administrators and is a goal you may want to strive for over the long term.

Q: Are certifications national or conferred by the state?

A: ACHE, AAHAM, and AHCAP certifications are nationally recognized throughout the health care industry. Licenses, on the other hand, are conferred at the state level.

Q: Will I be ensured a pay increase when I become certified?

A: There is no guarantee that your efforts will pay off immediately. However, as you evolve your career, your health administration credentials should allow you to qualify for better-paying opportunities.

Q: How come only nursing home administrators require licensing?

A: Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are closely regulated by the states in which they are located. There is also a patient-contact element to the nursing home administrator role, thus placing it in the category of a licensed health care professional.

Q: How can I be sure that my online MHA degree will prepare me for licensure or certification?

A: Look for degree descriptions that state that the school’s curriculum prepares you to sit for specific exams related to your desired career path.

Careers and Advancement FAQs

Q: What is the industry outlook for health care as a whole?

A: In November 2016, investment firm Charles Schwab forecasted that the industry would continue to perform to market predictions, with no wild swings in either direction. Positive indicators for the health care sector include an aging society with ongoing needs and generally strong balance sheets. [38]

Q: What is health administration career outlook?

A: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job category that includes health administration is growing faster than average, at a rate of 17 percent through 2024.

Q: What jobs require certifications or licensure?

A: Most MHA degree jobs do not require licensure, with the exception of nursing home administrator. Some positions may require certification as a condition of employment. However, many professionals choose to pursue certification for personal enrichment over the course of their careers.

You can find more information in the Licensure/Certification section of this guidebook.

Q: What type of salary can I earn with an online MHA?

A: Health administration salaries vary based on a number of factors. The BLS reported the average median salary as $94,500, based on May 2015 data.

Q: Do I need to get a master’s degree to work in Health Administration?

A: Most Health Administration careers will require a master’s degree, and the investment can be well worth it. In general, across all fields of study, research shows that the average annual salary for someone with a master’s degree is $82,000 versus only $65,500 for a bachelor’s degree credential. [39]

Q: Are there other degrees that I should consider?

A: If you are interested in a Masters in Health Administration, you might consider a hybrid MBA/MHA or MHA/JD degree. The Master of Public Health (MPH) is also an option if you are interested in health care policy and practices on a more universal scale.

Please see the Program Alternatives sections of this guidebook to learn more.

Featured Degrees
Adventist University of Health Science – Master in Health Administration

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University of Cincinnati – Master in Health Administration

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University of Southern California – Master in Health Administration

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Online Degree FAQs

Q: Is an online MHA degree the same as an on-campus program?

A: Online degrees typically offer the exact same educational foundation as their traditional degree counterparts. CAHME officially began accrediting fully online programs in 2015.

Q: Are all CAHME-accredited online MHA degrees also hybrid programs?

A: All CAHME programs require an on-campus or residency experience of some kind. This does not technically qualify as a hybrid program.

Length of Degree FAQs

Q: What is the online MHA degree timeline?

A: Full-time students can complete an online MHA in as few as two years, whereas part-time students may take twice as long, finishing within three to four years.

Q: How many courses and credit hours will I have to take each semester?

A: The number of courses or credits you take will depend on seat availability and how much time you are willing to commit each semester. Fast-track degrees may offer four-credit-hour courses to help you accelerate through the program.

Q: Does the timeline extend if I want to pursue a specialization or concentration?

A: You should still be able to complete your online MHA degree in between two and four years even if you pursue a specialization. You may even be able to transfer credits toward your degree from previous coursework, decreasing the overall time it takes to graduate.

Q: What happens if it takes me longer than the anticipated MHA program length?

A: Colleges and universities usually have a cutoff point after which you would need to reassess your ability to continue on, or otherwise complete your degree elsewhere. There are also implications in terms of financial aid. Some loans may have a repayment period that begins while you are still trying to finish your degree. Make sure you know what restrictions are in place before you enroll.

Q: How are exams taken in an online learning environment?

A: Exams are usually taken at an offsite testing center, under the supervision of a proctor. Testing centers are housed at local community colleges or national testing center company sites.

Tuition and Fees FAQs

Q: How much does it cost to get an online MHA degree?

A: Depending on the school that you choose, the cost of your online MHA degree tuition can range from as little as about $12,000 per year to about $50,000.  

Q: Are there other costs to consider outside of tuition?

A: The National Association of College Stores estimates that the average student spends more than $600 on books and digital downloads each year. You can also expect to incur costs to attend a brief on-campus residency, which is required of all CAHME-accredited programs.

Q: Can I qualify for a grant or scholarship?

A: The U.S. Department of Labor supports a scholarship and grant funding website, CareerOneStop, which lists a number of opportunities for graduate students. [40]

Admission Requirements FAQs

Q: Do I need a specific bachelor’s degree to get into an MHA program?

A: While a business, finance, mathematics, or health care degree may be preferred, most admissions departments look at the entirety of your application — including education, experience, test scores, and references. If you don’t have a degree in one of the aforementioned fields, you can still pursue additional information about online MHA degree admissions.

Q: Why do some schools require work experience in their MHA program requirements?

A: While much can be learned from previous degree programs, certain topics require real-world experience. Most EMHA programs for executives require current work experience in a relevant position.

Q: Do all online MHA programs require entrance exams?

A: No. Some schools forego the GRE or GMAT requirement with the understanding that working professionals look to online degrees for convenience and flexibility.

Q: What if I need to take prerequisite courses before enrolling?

A: The school’s enrollment counselor or admissions officer should be able to provide options for you to take the required coursework, either with their school or via another channel.

MHA Accreditation FAQs

Q: How important is MHA accreditation when comparing schools?

A: Accrediting bodies hold colleges and universities to a higher standard, ensuring that they deliver on the promise of a quality education. The accreditation process looks at all aspects of the academic experience — curriculum, faculty, societal impact, equal opportunity, and more.

Q: Does regional accreditation make a difference?

A: Regional accreditation is especially important for those who want to transfer credits at some point in their studies, either to another Master of Health Administration program or to another type of degree. In most cases, regionally accredited colleges and universities will only accept credits from other schools with the same distinction.

Q: What accreditations should I look for in an online MHA degree?

A: In addition to regional accreditation, the degree should also be accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). CAHME accreditation is the gold standard for health administration degrees including Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and Master of Public Administration (MPA).

Q: What does CAHME look for when deciding to grant accreditation?

A: CAHME bases accreditation on a variety of factors such as program flexibility, innovation in teaching, student-centered education, diversity of offerings, and academic performance and results.

Q: Do CAHME-accredited programs cost more?

A: All MHA degrees vary in affordability to some extent, and CAHME-accredited programs are no exception. It is important to investigate each school that interests you, and weigh program goals and outcomes against overall costs. There are dozens of programs to choose from, and you can search for CAHME-accredited programs by state on the organization’s website. [41]

Q: Do employers look at academic accreditations when deciding whom to hire?

A: Accreditations give employers confidence that the job applicant has received a quality education that meets or exceeds industry standards. They add credence to a resume, identifying the candidate as someone who has invested in gaining the necessary skills and knowledge. More than 90% of graduates from CAHME-accredited programs are placed in a health care management job within three months of graduation. [31]

Alternative Degree FAQs

Q: What is the advantage of a dual degree?

A: A dual degree may necessitate an increased time commitment to fulfill all requirements. However, the payoff for the additional time and effort comes via a greater scope of knowledge, with the opportunity to diversify across two career areas or specialize in a role that merges both degree fields. For example, an MHA/JD degree would potentially qualify you for a health care administration or legal career or a position in health care law.

Q: How do the different degrees impact my career options?

A: The health care field continues to grow at a rapid pace. Any of these degree choices can help you gain the skills you need to work within an industry that represented nearly 18% of America’s gross domestic product in 2015. [42]

Q: Do the different degrees have licensure requirements?

A: Administrative-focused degrees do not normally require licensure unless the role involves direct patient contact. The MSN does require a nursing license in the state where you will be working. A dual JD/MHA degree will also require licensure if you want to practice law.

Q: What about certifications for these degrees?

A: The MPH offers the opportunity to sit for the Certified Public Health (CPH) exam from the National Board of Public Health Examiners. The CPH credential was first offered in 2008. Since that time, more than 4,500 professionals have received certification. [43]


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