MHA vs. MBA: Which Is Right for You?

A strong leader can make a world of difference in any business or organization. However, learning how to become one can be challenging, requiring the foundational knowledge and practical skills to take on the job.

A variety of paths are open to professionals interested in senior leadership roles. Master of Health Administration (MHA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs can set graduates up for success but involve different skill sets. The differences in an MHA vs. MBA may not be immediately obvious, since both are advanced degrees in administration. Nevertheless, they are by no means interchangeable, and choosing the right program can make all the difference in finding a rewarding career.

MHA: Master of Health Administration Overview

An advanced degree ideal for candidates interested in healthcare administration careers, an MHA prepares graduates to handle the day-to-day operations of medical facilities and make a positive impact through careers in healthcare policy. With opportunities to work in a variety of institutions, from medical facilities to private or public practices, in community clinics or government agencies, MHA graduates can improve the lives of many.

Pursuing an MHA is a great steppingstone for professionals looking to build successful careers on the administrative or policy sides of healthcare. An MHA can help graduates pursue opportunities in the following roles, among others:

Many candidates choose an MHA program after gaining work experience in the medical field. A Master of Health Administration helps students build on that foundation to master the key business and leadership skills they’ll need to make the transition into healthcare administration.

MBA: Master of Business Administration Overview

Like an MHA, an MBA prepares graduates with business and leadership skills. Crucially, one of the main differences in an MHA versus MBA is specialization, with an MHA preparing candidates specifically for careers in healthcare, while an MBA can open doors in a variety of industries.

An advanced degree that encompasses a broad scope of industries and careers, an MBA can help graduates gain a competitive edge when seeking out senior, managerial, or administrative roles. With the opportunity to build advanced skills in areas ranging from leadership and communication to marketing and project management, accounting, financial services, and cybersecurity, MBA graduates can be assets to organizations in multiple roles, including:

Many Master of Business Administration programs offer students the opportunity to specialize in a certain industry or concentration, allowing them to explore the field they’re passionate about and build the skills they need to reach their personal and professional goals.

MHA vs. MBA: Similarities

Future business leaders who pursue an MHA or MBA often have similar goals: taking the next steps in their careers and competing for senior or leadership positions. Both degrees prepare graduates with valuable knowledge and skills to make the transition into administration and management. Some of these skills and abilities include:

  • Communication skills
  • Time management and organization
  • Leadership and delegation skills
  • Understanding of budgeting, marketing, and policy
  • The ability to hire, train, and manage employees

While the focus of an MHA vs. MBA may be different, many of the roles and responsibilities required of graduates are the same. Both degrees can help prepare professionals to manage others, projects, budgets, and policies.

MHA vs. MBA: Differences

The main difference that emerges when professionals are considering an MHA vs. MBA is related to the industry in which they want to specialize. While both degrees can provide students with the opportunity to take a specialized interest in certain aspects of management, such as finance or human resources, the broader scope of an MHA is focused on healthcare, whereas an MBA focuses on business industries.

Both advanced degrees are useful, and many of the insights and skills gained in an MHA or MBA program are transferable; however, the more a candidate specializes and hones their knowledge, the more profound an impact they can make in their organization.

For example, employers within and outside the healthcare industry value candidates who understand marketing, cybersecurity, information technology, and project management. However, a candidate who understands the challenges specific to these programs and issues within healthcare can be better suited to a healthcare administrative job than a candidate who is less familiar with the field.

Ultimately, what sets apart an MHA versus an MBA is not the quality of education but the professional goals graduates set for themselves.

How to Choose the Right Degree

Choosing the right degree can be challenging, as both programs have the potential to open new doors and provide graduates with exciting career opportunities.

Depending on an individual’s professional aspirations, however, not all advanced degrees are created equal. Clear long-term goals are a vital part of selecting the correct program. They can come in the form of day-to-day responsibilities, job location or work environment, and, importantly, desired specialization.

Some graduates may prefer to live in a city, while others may be driven to make a difference in local or rural communities; some may prefer remote work to an office setting. Prioritizing the type of future a graduate would like to create for themselves is a key part of choosing the right program.

Choosing an MHA vs. MBA

A multitude of options are open to graduates who are driven and motivated to take the next steps in their careers. Determining whether they should pursue an MHA versus MBA can come down to a few key elements.

Prospective students who are passionate about healthcare, from improving the lives of patients in a medical facility to making substantive changes in healthcare policy, can benefit from earning an MHA. The degree can show potential employers that a graduate is invested in the healthcare field. Medical and health services managers earned a median annual salary of $101,340 as of May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In contrast, an MBA is a valuable option for those seeking either a more versatile administrative degree or one that allows them to choose a concentration in another industry such as finance, cybersecurity, information technology, or marketing. The median annual salary for management occupations was $102,450 per year as of May 20201, according to the BLS, making an MBA a potentially worthwhile investment for those interested primarily in management and considering transitioning between industries during their careers.

Achieve Your Goals with an MHA or MBA

Choosing to pursue an advanced degree and build the skills and knowledge for a leadership role can be challenging and incredibly exciting. Whether it’s an MHA or an MBA, this step can be the key to opening new doors for passionate and motivated graduates.

For graduates looking to make a positive and substantive difference in healthcare administration, a program such as the online Master of Health Administration from Maryville University can equip them with the tools they need to succeed. A fully online program offering four concentrations and a collaborative learning environment, Maryville’s MHA was designed to prepare you for real-world challenges. Make a difference in healthcare with an MHA from Maryville University.

Recommended Reading

MHA vs. MPH: Comparing Advanced Healthcare Degrees

Risk Management in Healthcare

Rural Hospital Closures: How COVID-19 Impacted Hospitals


Indeed, “25 Jobs You Can Do with an MHA”

Investopedia, “When Is an MBA Worth It?”

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

Payscale, Master of Health Administration (MHA) Degree

U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Occupations

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

Be Brave

Bring us your ambition and we’ll guide you along a personalized path to a quality education that’s designed to change your life.