Master’s in Health Administration Degree Programs
If your career goal is to find a senior position in the fast-growing field of health management, you’ll need to complete a master’s degree. This specialized professional program prepares you for a variety of advanced careers in a dynamic, fast-changing field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health administration is one of the fastest-growing sectors, with a projected growth rate of 20% between 2016 and 2026. With a master’s degree, salary potential also increases exponentially when compared to the earnings that come with a bachelor’s degree. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, the median salary for health and medical administrative services professionals increases from $55,000 with a bachelor’s degree to $80,000 with a master’s degree.
On this page you will learn more about getting a master’s in health administration, including:
- What you can do with a master’s degree in health administration
- How to get a master’s degree
- Difference between Master of Health Administration and Master of Business Administration
- Admission requirements
- The types of courses you’ll take
- How to choose a program
- Online master’s programs
- Licensure and certification
- Resources for students and professionals in the field
What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration?
A master’s degree in healthcare administration is often required for advancement to higher-level positions. Once you’ve achieved your master’s, you will open the door to the potential for a number of career pathways that wouldn’t be available with just a bachelor’s. Here are just a few examples of the different directions your career could take.
Different Career Paths in Healthcare Administration With a Master’s Degree
- Hospital administration: Hospital administrators are senior-level staff that oversee the management and quality of a healthcare facility. Positions include communications officers, hospital CEO, quality assurance officers, and human resources administrators.
- Long-term care administration: Long-term care administrators are the senior-level staff who oversee nursing care facilities.
- Health policy and advocacy: Health policy experts work in a variety of sectors to advise and write policy, work with politicians, advise healthcare institutions on policy, and advocate for healthcare policy reforms on behalf of non-profits or communities.
- Pharmaceutical administration: Pharmaceutical administrators oversee the operation and quality of pharmaceutical companies.
- State and federal government administration: Healthcare administrators for state and federal government agencies work in a variety of capacities including public policy, quality assurance, and public health.
- Medical equipment manufacturing: Medical equipment administrators oversee how medical equipment is designed and manufactured, work with healthcare facilities on their equipment needs, and ensure patient safety through company technologies.
- International development: These healthcare administrators work with international development organizations in areas such as public health and healthcare treatments.
How to Get a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration
Because a master’s degree can lead straight to a specific career path, it’s important that your first step be to choose the right program for you. Most programs have a slate of core courses required by all students, with the option of additional specialty tracks, concentrations, or specific pathways.
Programs typically take two years to complete with a full course load, but many now provide the option of extra flexibility in the form of part-time coursework. Programs often require an internship and/or capstone project to demonstrate your cumulative learning upon completing the coursework.
Master of Health Administration Versus Master of Business Administration
While there are variations across degree titles, the most common are the Master of Healthcare Administration (M.H.A.) and the Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.).
The simple difference between the two is that an M.B.A. provides a broad perspective of business in general, while the M.H.A. focuses on business as it relates to healthcare.
Thus, in an M.B.A. program you might take business courses such as accounting, finance, economics, marketing, management, and technology and information systems. There are master’s programs that offer a concentration in health administration, however, which is why this degree is one you might want to consider.
On the other hand, an M.H.A. program might focus on courses such as healthcare delivery and scheduling, health policies, ethics, and business management. If you are interested in working in hospitals or other healthcare facilities, this degree is probably for you.
Admission requirements can vary by program, so it’s important to look closely at them before applying. Typically, admission requirements include the following:
- An application for admission to the program
- A bachelor’s degree
- Above-average GRE or GMAT scores (In general, an undergraduate GPA below 2.75, an excellent GMAT test score is imperative)
- A resume or CV
- Letters of recommendation
- A statement of purpose
- Work experience — Not all programs require it, but some like to see between one to three years of work experience
Types of Courses You Will Take
section, courses are likely to vary depending on which degree program you are enrolled in. However, in an M.B.A. program with a concentration in healthcare administration, you will take many of the same healthcare courses as you would in an M.H.A. program. Some of these might include:
- The American healthcare system: Provides a foundation of the U.S. healthcare system — both the history of and current practices
- Foundations in business leadership and operations: Introduces business and organizational theories from the perspective of administration and management within healthcare
- Law and ethics: Focuses on best practices for positive patient outcomes, risk management, and ethical issues in relation to the healthcare sector
- Healthcare informatics: Introduces the intersection between IT and healthcare — many programs offer concentrations in this area because of the complexity of technology in healthcare and health data management
- Healthcare policy: Focuses on the history and evolution of healthcare policy and how it is created
- Biostatistics: Provides the knowledge and skills to read, understand, collect, interpret, and translate statistics and scientific data
- Non-profit organizational management: Delves into the distinct business mechanisms of non-profit management in the healthcare sector
- Capstone project: The completion of a culminating project — be it a research project or an internship — that demonstrates cumulative learning throughout the master’s program
How to Choose a Master’s Degree Program
Make sure to take the following considerations into account when choosing a master’s program:
- Accreditation: Accreditation ensures the quality and legitimacy of the program in your field. Independent, discipline-specific accrediting agencies review programs with a high set of standards to ensure the quality of your healthcare management education. Look for accreditation from the following organizations: Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) and the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA).
- M.H.A. vs. M.B.A.: If you are certain you want to be involved in the healthcare sector and want everything you learn in a master’s program to be applicable in the field, then an M.H.A. could be for you. However, if you like the idea of a more generalized business education that can still be applied to healthcare, look for M.B.A. programs with concentrations in healthcare administration.
- Consider specialty or concentration offerings: Each master’s program is unique, so look for one that offers a targeted focus or concentration in your particular area of interest. If you’re not sure what area of the field you’d like to specialize in, look for more generalized programs.
- Online vs. in-person: Decide whether you’re open to learning through online coursework or if you’re better suited to in-person programs. Refer to our discussion of advantages and disadvantages to online degree programs.
- Financial aid/tuition fees: Graduate programs tend to offer a wide array of financial assistance — including loans — but look beyond the standard. Some programs might offer graduate assistantships that include tuition remission.
- Connections to specific healthcare institutions: Many programs have connections to — and in some cases formal agreements with — specific healthcare systems. If you want to work at a specific institution, look for one with connections to your graduate program.
Online Master’s Programs
With the growth of the healthcare industry, there is likewise a growth in online master’s degree programs in healthcare administration. This has opened up educational opportunities to students globally. In most programs, you’ll find the same high-quality education that colleges and universities offer in-person, in a convenient, flexible online format. Note that online programs are hybrid, meaning there is a real-world component that has to be completed offline.
Review the advantages and disadvantages and decide what’s best for you.
Advantages of online master’s programs:
- The flexibility is unmatched — you can take courses as they fit into your schedule, and work from your own home.
- You’ll have a wider variety of high-quality master’s programs available to you because you’re not limited by geographic region.
- The overall cost of education will be cheaper because you’re not spending money on transportation or moving costs.
- You can keep working while you go to school. Not only does this work well for your budget, but you can directly apply the lessons from your master’s coursework to your current job or field, setting you up for immediate growth in your position.
Disadvantages of online master’s programs:
- You won’t have as much face-to-face time with faculty and students.
- You’ll need a great deal of self-discipline and time management skills to work with the flexible schedule.
Licensure or Certification
Each state has different licensure requirements for healthcare management positions. In most cases, licensure or certification is not required, but it can help with job prospects. You should check each state’s requirements for your profession. The one field that does require licensure due to federal guidelines is nursing home administration. Beyond that, there are few across-the-board requirements.
Many professional organizations offer certification, such as the Certified Professional in Healthcare Risk Management (CPHRM), Certified Medical Manager (CMM), American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) certification, and Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS). Certification can provide you with a deeper learning experience and give you an edge when applying for a job.
Resources for Healthcare Administration Students and Professionals
Whether you’re on the road to earning your master’s in healthcare administration or you’re already in the field, there are many resources available to help you advance in your career and to maximize your work in the program. See our Healthcare Administration Resources page for more information.
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