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Care-Driven Degrees: MBA in Healthcare Management vs. Master’s in Healthcare Administration

If you’re seeking to advance your career in healthcare, you have a lot to think about. Managing records, overseeing personnel, and providing patients with the best possible care are key responsibilities performed by healthcare managers and administrators. As you investigate graduate programs, you will likely encounter two potential options: a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus on healthcare management and a Master of Health Administration (MHA).

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These degrees may seem similar at the outset, but there are some key differences between an MBA in healthcare management and a master’s in healthcare administration. While both degrees prepare graduates for high-level positions in healthcare, an MBA offers a broader education on general business leadership, and an MHA targets a specific industry. Read on to learn more about these two degree paths to determine which program suits you best.

MBA in Healthcare Management Overview

Even though an MBA in healthcare management focuses on one industry in particular, the degree includes a broader business focus. In addition to completing core coursework tied to the healthcare industry, students take courses in accounting, finance, and economics. A healthcare management focus also includes curriculum that addresses medical terminology, human resources management, and epidemiology. MBA students specializing in healthcare management can develop skills in leadership, critical thinking, and communication.

What Does an MBA in Healthcare Management Allow You to Do?

Graduates with an MBA in healthcare management often work in a hospital setting, but they have other options, too. They might find work at a research institution, pharmaceutical company, or government agency. Because the MBA is a broader degree that includes a focus on financial management, marketing, and operational efficiency, graduates also may pivot outside of the medical field.

Types of careers:

  • Policy analyst. These professionals spend much of their time researching and writing, examining different policies and investigating how they work in a specific organization or through a specific community health program.
  • Pharmaceutical project manager. Working with private pharmaceutical companies, these project managers oversee the development of new medicines or methods of treatment, from the initial research phase to marketing and distribution.
  • Nursing home administrator. A nursing home administrator oversees all clinical and administrative affairs in a nursing home facility. This includes managing personnel, budgets, and planned activities for residents.

Master’s in Healthcare Administration Overview

Focus is the primary consideration when weighing a master’s in healthcare administration vs. an MBA in healthcare management. MHA coursework focuses on topics specific to healthcare. This is ideal for students committed to understanding healthcare operations and working in a leadership role. Programs such as Maryville University’s online Master of Health Administration emphasize the skills necessary to thrive in the field through courses on population health management and healthcare human resources, for example.

What Does a Master’s in Healthcare Administration Allow You to Do?

Those who receive an advanced degree in healthcare administration play an essential role that allows healthcare businesses — whether hospitals, private practices, or insurance companies — to run smoothly and provide optimal care for patients. Healthcare administrators ensure efficiency in patient care, training, and technology integration, as well as supervise employees, keep morale high, oversee budgets, and make facility upgrades as needed. Graduates from a healthcare administration program work in medical settings such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, home healthcare services, and nursing homes.

Types of careers:

  • Pharmaceutical project manager. These professionals are involved in all aspects of the development, testing, and implementation process of pharmaceuticals. They ensure each step in the process runs smoothly and every individual and department has what they need.
  • Hospital administrator. In this position, graduates can expect to oversee many aspects of hospital administration, such as managing staff, budgeting, and meeting the best possible standards of care.
  • Medical and health services manager. Sometimes also called healthcare executives, these high-level administrators oversee the operations of an entire medical facility or specialize in managing a specific clinical area or department.

MBA in Healthcare Management and Master’s in Healthcare Administration Similarities

Advanced degrees that focus on healthcare, such as an MBA in healthcare management and an MHA, allow professionals to develop a deeper understanding of the business of healthcare. These degrees cover topics such as information systems, human resources, and financial management. Each degree program prepares students to pursue high-level healthcare positions, including medical and health services manager and hospital administrator.

Students in these programs refine skills and competencies essential for leadership in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and other medical facilities, including critical thinking, communication, and analytical competency. Depending on the state in which they live and employer, graduates may need to earn a certification or license for employment.

MBA in Healthcare Management and Master’s in Healthcare Administration Differences

The main differences between an MBA in healthcare management and a master’s in healthcare administration pertain to the coursework involved, the resulting career paths, and the environments in which graduates might work. While graduates of both programs can pursue leadership positions in healthcare, and many potential job titles overlap, these two degree programs differ.

Coursework

An MBA program involves general business management concepts and leadership skills that apply to a broad spectrum of industries. While MBA programs with a concentration in healthcare management do focus on one industry for some coursework, the degree as a whole remains broad.

An MHA, on the other hand, has a sharper focus on management concepts related to healthcare throughout the degree program. Because the entire degree relates to the healthcare field, students approach all coursework through that lens. This allows for a deeper look at how leadership skills can influence the future of the industry, patient outcomes, and more. In addition, a master’s in healthcare administration offers specialties that provide students an opportunity to concentrate on one specific area of healthcare, such as senior services or data management.

Career Paths and Work Environment

While both degree programs allow graduates to take on a leadership role, the work environments may vary. MBA graduates tend to work outside of healthcare. Those with a specialization in healthcare management may work in healthcare settings, but they also may work for nonmedical businesses or research institutions.

On the other hand, because healthcare administration programs provide highly specialized training, graduates almost always work in healthcare settings. Often, they pursue a work environment aligned with their specific specialty and enter leadership roles that rely on their keen communication and decision-making skills.

MBA in Healthcare Management vs. Master’s in Healthcare Administration: Which Is for You?

Each degree can lead to rewarding career advancements, and the right path depends on your specific interests and goals. If you’d like to learn more general business skills applicable to a variety of fields, an MBA may be the right choice. But if you know your passion lies in healthcare, and you’re eager to specialize in a specific area of the field while deepening your knowledge and honing your skills, an MHA is the better option. Explore Maryville University’s online Master of Health Administration, which can prepare you to thrive as a leader in healthcare.

 

Sources:

Houston Chronicle, “The Starting Salary of a Master’s in Healthcare Administration”

Investopedia, Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Maryville University, Master’s in Health Administration Online

Maryville University, Online MBA in Health Administration

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