Administering Effective Leadership: MHA vs. MBA

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Leadership requires strong communication, the ability to motivate others, and a desire to enact change. A strong leader manages employees, respects the work each person does, and fosters positive growth within an organization. Two graduate degrees that help professionals advance from entry-level work into management and leadership positions are the Master of Health Administration (MHA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA). These degrees can provide a boost to your career and prepare you for industry-specific success in a leadership position. Read on to see where they can lead, and learn the key differences between an MHA and an MBA.

A hospital administrator leads a meeting.

Master of Health Administration Overview

Healthcare goes far beyond the doctors and nurses who treat patients. Countless others contribute in a variety of institutions, including insurance companies, government organizations, and nonprofit entities. Taking on a leadership role in the field requires years of training and an education that focuses on management skills specific to healthcare.

An MHA program such as Maryville University’s online master’s in health administration includes courses on healthcare marketing, healthcare technology, healthcare information systems, and healthcare human resources. Students also study legal and ethical issues in healthcare management, which complements the leadership skills that contribute to success in the workplace.

What Do MHA Graduates Do?

There are exciting and challenging career paths available to those with an MHA. Graduates can impact healthcare at just one facility, in a local community, or even on a national level. Equipped with strong communication skills, a deep understanding of the healthcare landscape, and ample experience in the industry, they can put their business knowledge to practical use. On a day-to-day basis, this may involve managing teams, proposing new initiatives, and implementing policies.

Business knowledge, combined with an understanding of the needs and specific requirements of unique populations and healthcare organizations, allows MHA graduates the opportunity to create meaningful change. They may also participate in government or advocacy work, working to improve the healthcare system by implementing policy.

Types of careers:

  • Assisted Living Facility Manager
  • Government Lobbyist
  • Healthcare Analyst
  • Healthcare Coordinator
  • Healthcare IT Executive
  • Healthcare Marketing Manager
  • Healthcare Strategy Consultant
  • Health Services Manager
  • Hospital Administrator
  • Nonprofit Administrator
  • Nursing Home Administrator
  • Private or Public Healthcare Administrator

Master of Business Administration Overview

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is different from an MHA in its focus and intended outcomes. An MBA is for business professionals seeking to advance in fields such as finance, marketing, management, human resources, and information technology.

Typically, MBAprograms, such as Maryville University’s online master’s in business administration, feature core courses covering ethics, leadership, and organizational development. Students often complete these courses before working on a concentration such as financial services, marketing, or project management. By the time they graduate, MBA recipients have a deeper understanding of the business world from multiple angles, as well as an in-depth education in one specific area that will help them focus their job search and make them more appealing to employers.

What Do MBA Graduates Do?

MBA graduates are ready to use their new leadership and management abilities to enter the business world or move up in their current companies. They can work in various sectors, including finance, advertising, marketing, healthcare, information technology, media, retail, consumer goods, and venture capital. No matter what field they enter, a business administration program prepares them to lead people and help organizations continue to evolve in the ever-changing business landscape.

Types of careers:

  • Financial Manager
  • Advertising Manager
  • Business Executive
  • Consultant
  • Brand Marketing Manager

Similarities Between an MHA and an MBA

Both the MHA and MBA are for people who want to advance professionally, have a positive influence on their workplace, and enter leadership positions in their chosen fields. These degrees teach students how to work collaboratively with others, manage teams effectively, make sound decisions, and communicate with integrity. Both graduate degree programs are open to people with a variety of undergraduate degrees, and there is no single “best” path to prepare for either one. In each case, students will take a selection of core courses and then specialize in a specific area of interest.

Differences Between an MHA and an MBA

Similarities aside, the MHA and MBA are far from interchangeable. The differences between the MHA and MBA relate to the curriculum focus and intended career paths after graduation. While both degrees instill positive leadership values, there are key points of differentiation.

Degree Focus

The main difference between the two degrees is in specialization. The MHA focuses on a specific industry: healthcare. Those who seek an MHA should anticipate remaining in healthcare, as their coursework addresses the business needs of that field.

The MBA, on the other hand, prepares graduates to lead in a variety of industries. An MBA program typically focuses on several specific aspects of business, such as accounting, financial services, and management. While some MBAs offer a healthcare administration specialization, graduates can apply their new skills to a variety of fields, including healthcare, finance, and education.


Both the MBA and the MHA offer different opportunities for specialization. Because of the distinct focus of an MHA, specialization centers on the needs of the healthcare industry. In the case of Maryville University’s online master’s degree in health administration, specialties include data management, healthcare strategies, population management, and senior services.

The wider array of fields that look for candidates with an MBA lends the degree to a different set of specializations. For example, a student who enrolls in Maryville University’s online Master of Business Administration can choose a concentration in accounting, cyber security, financial services, general management, health administration, human resources management, information technology, marketing, or project management.

Public Influence and Career Opportunities

For individuals looking to enter public policy, an MHA includes courses in community health, healthcare policy, economics, and population health management. This coursework promotes thinking about how healthcare policy can have a broad impact on patients. Such scope can lead to positions in government or nonprofit organizations, where MHA graduates can work toward policy change and help meet the needs of underserved populations. With so many opportunities, MHA recipients are well-positioned to affect the healthcare field at individual facilities or on a broad scale.

It is possible for MBA graduates to enter the government and nonprofit sectors, but the degree program focuses more on developing business competence. Coursework tends to offer a variety of specializations, including accounting, cyber security, and marketing, which aim to improve how graduates network, lead, and communicate. The degree doesn’t generally tie business and public policy together in the way the MHA does.

MHA vs. MBA: Which Is Right for You?

If you’re a healthcare professional looking to move into a more challenging role or a business-minded employee who wants to learn leadership skills, a master’s degree can help you pursue those goals. Check out Maryville University’s online Master of Health Administration and online Master of Business Administration for two degree programs that can prepare you to advance into a management position in either field.

Maryville University, Master’s in Business Administration Online

Maryville University, Master’s in Health Administration Online

Monster, Where Can You Work with a Master’s in Healthcare Administration?

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U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

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