Healthcare organizations are businesses, and businesses need leaders who can adapt to the changing medical landscape. Artificial intelligence, big data, telehealth, and other technological advances continue to shape healthcare for the better — so long as professionals at the top manage their organizations well. Healthcare managers and healthcare administrators oversee personnel, shape workplace culture, and create settings for providing patients with the best possible care.
Two popular graduate programs for prospective managers and administrators in healthcare are the Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Healthcare and the Master of Health Administration (MHA). Both degrees prepare graduates for leadership positions in healthcare, but are structured in different ways. Professionals looking to run a healthcare organization should consider these two degree paths, MHA vs. MBA, and the job outlook for graduates from each program, including MHA vs. MBA salaries.
Master of Health Administration (MHA) career paths
Graduates with a master’s in healthcare administration develop a focused understanding of operations and leadership roles in the healthcare field. Typical classes for MHA students emphasize the knowledge needed to thrive in medical administrative settings, such as courses on healthcare human resources and population health management.
With degrees focused on administration in healthcare settings, MHA graduates find work in medical settings such as doctor’s offices, home healthcare services, nursing homes, clinics, and hospitals.
Whether working in hospitals, private practices, or insurance companies, those who earn an advanced degree in healthcare administration often go on to work in essential roles, ensuring that operations run smoothly in their organization.
Some examples of other emerging healthcare businesses in which MHAs may find work include:
Healthcare app creation
Hospital equipment distribution
Medical billing services
Medical record management
What do MHA graduates do?
Key responsibilities of professionals with an MHA include:
Ensuring efficiency in patient care (by streamlining administrative processes)
Integrating and adopting new technologies for their organization (such as new charting systems and telehealth programs)
Keeping morale high
Training new employees
Careers for MHA graduates
MHA graduates have many different career opportunities, especially as healthcare continues to grow and evolve as an industry due to an aging population and rapid technological advances.
Graduates with an MHA degree may find successful careers as:
- Hospital administrators: These professionals oversee hospital business needs. Hospitals often staff hundreds of employees who are responsible for managing staff, creating budgets, and evaluating and improving patient care standards.
- Medical and health services managers: These high-level administrators oversee operations for entire clinical departments, such as an oncology department, or medical facilities, such as a radiology lab.
- Nursing home administrators: These administrators oversee logistical and clinical affairs in a nursing home facility. This includes budgeting, managing personnel, and planning activities for residents.
For prospective graduate students who are considering an MHA vs. an MBA, the decision about which degree to pursue may come down to degree focus: The MHA provides a much narrower focus on administration in healthcare, while the MBA affords graduates with a broad business background that prepares them to become administrators in healthcare settings and beyond.
MBA in Healthcare career paths
In contrast to the MHA, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Healthcare degree boasts a wide-reaching business curriculum. In addition to coursework in healthcare management, students take courses in accounting, economics, and finance — courses that may prepare graduates to work in the ever-evolving healthcare industries, and other industries as well.
Coursework in an MBA in Healthcare program may include:
Accounting for Managers
Healthcare Economics and Policy
Healthcare Decision Modeling and Simulation
Customers, Markets, and Organizations
Managing People and Processes
Principles of Finance and Law for Managers
Strategy and Leadership
What graduates with an MBA in Healthcare do
Graduates with an MBA in Healthcare have many options. They can work in hospital settings, or they might find work at a government agency, a policy or research institution, a not-for-profit organization, or a pharmaceutical company. Because the MBA is a broader degree that focuses on financial management, marketing, and operational efficiency, graduates also may pivot outside of the medical field.
Earning an MBA in Healthcare can also position graduates with an entrepreneurial drive to develop telehealth apps and software, create innovative healthcare technologies, or collaborate across disciplines in burgeoning fields such as big data and AI.
Careers for MBA in Healthcare graduates
Graduates with an MBA in Healthcare may work in a wide range of settings. When it comes to an MHA vs. an MBA in Healthcare, MBA graduates can thrive in all of the roles available to MHA graduates and more, given the breadth of courses in business they take while earning their degree. In addition to working as a hospital administrator or a medical and health services manager, graduates with an MBA in Healthcare may also find successful careers as:
- Policy analysts: Working at a government agency, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or in a think tank as a policy analyst is one viable career option for an MBA in Healthcare graduate. These professionals spend their time researching and writing, examining the effects of different healthcare policies and advocating for making organizations safer, more efficient, and more equitable.
- Pharmaceutical project managers: In this role, MBA graduates can expect to be involved in the development of new medicines or treatment methods. They may work on the entire development pipeline, from the initial research phase to testing, marketing, and distribution. These professionals ensure that all departments and teams have the resources they need to complete pharmaceutical development projects.
- Management consultants: These professionals help healthcare practitioners and organizations identify ways to enhance patient care, improve patient safety, and reduce costs. Typically, management consultants analyze existing operations and make recommendations for change in accordance with national and state regulations.
- Financial analysts: MBA graduates may also pursue a finance-oriented career, assessing the financial condition of a healthcare business or asset to determine whether it is a sound investment.
Focused MHAs vs. broad MBAs in Healthcare
The main differences between an MBA in Healthcare and an MHA pertain to scope: The MHA is focused solely on healthcare settings while the MBA in Healthcare prepares graduates for a variety of business settings, including healthcare.
While both degree programs allow graduates to take on a leadership role, the work environments for graduates of each program may vary. MBA graduates tend to work outside of healthcare. Those with a specialization in healthcare may work in healthcare settings, but they also may work for nonmedical businesses or research institutions. Each degree can lead to rewarding career paths.
MHA vs. MBA salary
What about pay? Who makes more on average, MHA graduates or MBA graduates? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual pay for healthcare managers was $104,280 as of May 2020. According to PayScale, the median annual salary for MBA graduates was $91,000 as of October 2021, while MHA graduates earned $79,000.
Given that the healthcare field continues to grow and evolve due to an aging U.S. population and advances in healthcare technology, professionals who are assessing an MHA vs. an MBA ought to consider the type of setting they would prefer to work in after graduation, or, if they are already working professionals, which focus is best suited to their current setting and career aspirations. For those who know they only want to work in healthcare, an MHA may be a better option. For professionals who would like to develop a greater breadth of business administration and finance knowledge, an MBA in Healthcare may be a better fit.
Pursue an MBA in Healthcare degree online
The online MBA in Healthcare degree offered by Northern Arizona University in partnership with OpusVi equips healthcare professionals with the skills and knowledge they need to effectively lead teams and address modern healthcare challenges. With its low price point and flexible online learning structure, the program is designed to be accessible to a diverse range of healthcare professionals looking to advance their careers.
Informed by healthcare experts, the program’s curriculum combines foundational business topics with industry-specific trends. Students have the opportunity to work on applied healthcare projects and real-world case studies, giving them the tools to apply their newfound expertise to pressing issues in healthcare.
Learn more about the MBA in Healthcare degree from Northern Arizona University and OpusVi. With an MBA in Healthcare, graduates will develop the comprehensive business knowledge needed to manage teams and address modern healthcare challenges.
- Firsthand, “Career Opportunities for MBA Graduates in Healthcare: Discover Your Path”
- Investopedia, “Master of Business Administration (MBA)”
- Monster, “Where Can You Work with a Master's in Healthcare Administration?”
- PayScale, Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree
- PayScale, Master of Health Administration (MHA) Degree
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers
Northern Arizona University and OpusVi partner to launch online MBA in Healthcare costing less than $20K
CommonSpirit Health launch $3 million equity scholarship initiative with OpusVi
Data-driven healthcare: How data drives healthcare business decisions
The National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives (NALHE) and Dignity Health Global Education (DHGE) are aligned in their mission to increase access to high-quality education and equity in healthcare