Master’s in healthcare administration (MHA)
With a master’s in healthcare administration (MHA) you can have a significant impact on a healthcare facility, working to improve the patient experience from behind-the scenes. Through leading organizations, weighing in on policy, and introducing new technologies, administrators also help to shape the future of the healthcare sector.
The outlook for the health administration sector is excellent. Medical and health services management roles are projected to grow at a rate of 32% between 2020 and 2030. The average annual salary is $101,340, making this an in-demand and well-paid area.
What is an MHA?
A master’s in health administration (MHA) is a 1-2 year graduate level degree for candidates who want to improve their management and health administration skills. The focus is on key healthcare topics, leadership, and the development of business-related skills – such as finance and marketing.
Why get an MHA?
An MHA can lead to work in hospitals, adult care facilities, or government organizations. Roles can range from operations, human resources, to finance. With some work experience, health administrators may move into policy, education, and executive roles.
The role of a healthcare administrator might include:
- reducing disparities between patients based on income, ethnicity, and location
- integrating technology into hospitals, clinics, outpatient centers and patient homes
- assisting with the mental healthcare crisis by providing access to people in need
- balancing the rules and regulations governing medicine with patient needs
- analyzing data to develop new metrics that standardize patient care
The table below shows the short-term economic performance of an MHA degree. The average MHA salary is significantly higher than bachelor-holder earnings. The debt-to-earning ratio is also positive. Stay in the field and you are likely to earn more over time, improving this ratio further.
Debt and earnings
Graduate degree premium
Earning over bachelors
Annual debt repayment
The figures above give an indication of the debt incurred by graduates, and their salaries 3 years after graduation. The table on the left compares median debt and median earnings. The right-hand table compares how much a master graduate earns over a bachelor graduate 3 years after graduation, after deducting median debt repayments.
How much does an MHA cost?
The table below shows how much an MHA costs at public, private, and for-profit institutions. It also includes earnings 3 years after graduation.
Debt to earnings
Debt to earnings
Debt to earnings
Median earnings and median debt of graduates of this degree program. The debt-to-earnings ratio compares student debt to annual earnings. The lower the debt-to-earnings ratio the better, and total debt should never exceed annual earnings (a debt-to-earnings ratio of 1.0).
Public universities are more affordable than the other institutions. Graduates of these schools make similar salaries to their privately trained counterparts. For a smaller debt-to-income ratio, consider programs at public or nonprofit universities.
How to pick an MHA program
Only consider accredited programs, otherwise medical organizations may not recognize your qualification. The main accrediting body is the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education.
Also check your program specializes in your area of interest. Examples of specializations on offer include:
Prepares a person to manage the operations of a healthcare organization. Students learn the basics of finance, accounting, and marketing.
For candidates interested in teaching the next generation of administrators. It also prepares students to train employees, a skill required in many healthcare administration positions.
A growing elderly population means an increased requirement for healthcare administrators who understand the needs of in-home care, senior living communities, and hospices.
Most healthcare administration roles are technology-based. This specialization teaches students to use technology confidently and intelligently.
Public health and policy
For students who dream of influencing healthcare legislation, specializing in public health and policy is a great place to start. This specialization tends to be more theoretical than others.
Financial aid and scholarship options for MHA students
Begin your search for financial aid with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to discover what federal aid you are entitled to.
Once accepted onto a program, meet with the resident student financial aid officer at your college. They can help you to explore other funding options, such as scholarships and grants.
MHA graduates may be eligible for loan forgiveness programs, where their debt is wiped clean after working in the field for some time. Check out Public Service Loan Forgiveness to discover more about this initiative.
What to expect from an MHA program
Most MHAs take 1-2 years to complete. Some schools require students to complete an internship, often in the form of a capstone project.
Types of master in health administration programs
The MHA can appear under several different names:
- Master of Healthcare Administration
- Healthcare Administration
- Master of Science in Healthcare Administration
- Master of Arts in Healthcare Administration
What courses are there in a master’s in healthcare administration program?
Most programs require core coursework in patient care and operations. These courses may include:
- Healthcare management
- Epidemiology and public health
- Information technology (IT) systems
- Medical databases
- Corporate finance
- Quality assurance
A comparatively large percentage of MHA students complete their degree online. This is likely due to no clinical-work requirements. The increased flexibility appeals to working professionals who want to continue with their job while studying for the degree.
Master’s in healthcare administration
The above table shows the percentage of programs available either completely in person or fully online. Figures that do not add up to 100% indicate the existence of hybrid programs.
Many students are already choosing the distance learning option, and with ever-advancing technology, these courses are likely to become even more widely available in the future.
Healthcare administration careers
Within the healthcare administration field there are a wide range of careers to choose from. An MHA can increase your options further and lead to advanced positions. For example, you might become a medical and health services manager, responsible for overseeing a clinic, department, or practice. There is also the option to move into related industries, such as healthcare management firms, pharmaceutical organizations, or health insurance companies.
Next educational steps
Tests and certification are not required to become a healthcare administrator because these are business rather rather than clinical positions. However, to gain a competitive edge in the job market, some graduates continue their education with:
- Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional
- Certified Professional in Health Care Risk Management
- Board of Governors Exam in Healthcare Management
With an MHA, you can take on management roles at almost any healthcare organization. A license is not required to become a healthcare administrator unless you want to run a nursing home, become a social worker, or secure an advanced nursing position.
Master’s in health administration FAQs
Is it worth getting a master’s in healthcare administration?
An MHA can open the door to multiple business-related positions in healthcare. Graduates pay off their student loan at a reasonable pace, making this program an excellent financial investment.
What are the duties of a healthcare administrator?
Generally speaking, healthcare administrators oversee operations, make financial and policy decisions, influence or run HR departments, and ensure the best possible patient care.
Is healthcare administration competitive?
It is important to excel in school to secure the most lucrative jobs. However, with a predicted job growth rate of 32% between 2020 and 2030, there are many employment opportunities in the healthcare administration field.
Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals (AHCAP)
Supports executive assistants and administrative assistants who assist healthcare leaders.
National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE)
If you want to become a healthcare principal, founder, or president, the NAHSE can help you get there.
American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM)
For those interested in finance, IT, data, and legislation. The AAHAM also contains useful information for candidates getting their MHA in these areas.