Healthcare Administration

Is an MHA or an Executive MHA The Right Program For Your Healthcare Career?

Is an MHA or an Executive MHA The Right Program For Your Healthcare Career?
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Noodle Staff December 3, 2018

Perhaps you’ve always had an interest in healthcare, but are more interested in controlling the finance side of things than you are in working at the bedside. Or maybe you already worked in healthcare as a nurse or healthcare provider, and want to expand your administrative skills by learning what goes on behind the scenes in your medical facility or hospital.

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No matter where your interests and experience lie, a degree in healthcare administration can help you expand your knowledge in the healthcare field and develop in a career that has lots of growth potential. However, you may be wondering which type of healthcare administration degree is right for you. Let’s explore the differences between the two major healthcare administration programs: the MHA and the Executive MHA.

MHA vs. Executive MHA: Similarities and Differences

The MHA, or Master’s of Healthcare Administration, is typically a full-time program for those who have minimal healthcare experience. Courses are usually delivered on campus. Along with coursework, these types of programs may have a residency or fellowship period during which students gain experience in real-life healthcare settings.

On the other hand, most Executive MHA programs are designed for professionals who are already employed in a healthcare-related fields and/or executives looking to advance their management careers. Class structure may involve mostly online sessions to accommodate professional students’ work schedules, as well as some on-campus time here and there. The length of an Executive MHA program may be similar to that of a traditional MHA — around two years — but on-campus attendance will likely be limited to 30 days or less over the course of the degree.

Curricula for both types of MHA programs are similar in many ways, with a few key differences. Classes that typically overlap in both programs include:

  • Introduction to Healthcare Systems
  • Health Economics
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Marketing and Planning
  • Managerial Epidemiology
  • Leadership in Healthcare Organizations
  • Health Law
  • Organizational Behavior in Healthcare

While classes unique to an Executive MHA might include:

  • Communications Skills for Business Professionals
  • Global Issues in Healthcare Delivery
  • LEAN Six Sigma Certification

The major differences in coursework between the two programs lies in the fact that a traditional MHA program will include both a variety of introductory courses and an in-depth analysis of those topics. As previously mentioned, it will generally also include a fellowship program to provide students with real-world experience applying the skills they’ve learned in coursework. Since students in an Executive MHA program already have some work experience in their field, this fellowship portion of their degree will be replaced with a certification program or another similar opportunity such as the LEAN Six Sigma Certification program.

Job opportunities after graduation

Upon graduation, an MHA degree will qualify you for a variety of healthcare leadership positions including management roles in hospitals, nursing home facilities, assisted living facilities, and urgent care facilities. Other career options for MHA degree-holders include:

  • Group Practice Administration
  • Research Facility Management
  • Health Network Management
  • Medical Information Management
  • Medical Billing
  • Advocacy Group Management
  • Health Administration for the Federal or State Government
  • Health Insurance Company Administration
  • Law Firm Administration
  • Administration for a pharmaceutical or medical equipment manufacturer

If you earn an Executive MHA degree, jobs opportunities will be similar to those available to MHA graduates. The main difference will be that by virtue of having earned an Executive MHA, you will be entering the job market with more work experience in your field. This will make you eligible to apply for a higher rank and/or earn a higher salary in certain organizations.

Salary expectations

Depending upon your chosen career path in healthcare administration, your salary will vary quite a bit. According to PayScale/Salary, salaries for MHA degree-holders range from around $46k to $112k each year, with an average salary of $75k across all surveyed categories. In addition to your particular position, previous work experience, the state in which you work, and any additional certifications you hold can impact salary potential. Entry-level public health administration positions may lean closer to the lower end of the pay scale, while health information management roles lean towards the higher end of the salary range. Jobs that fall somewhere in-between include those in healthcare facility administration for care facilities, hospitals, or the federal or state government, which range from about $65k to $95k each year.

Pros and Cons of MHA and Executive MHA Programs

There are pros and cons for both MHA and Executive MHA programs, and ultimately your choice will come down to your previous experience and the coursework structure you are seeking. While a traditional MHA program will include a more comprehensive curriculum and a fellowship experience, you will also need to commute to campus for most, if not all, of your classes.

On the other hand, an Executive MHA offers more flexibility because most classes will be taken online. The coursework will be less comprehensive, so you will be expected to enter the program with the experience and skills necessary to advance your pre-existing career in the field of healthcare.

So Which is Better? MHA or Executive MHA?

Both MHA and Executive MHA programs qualify graduates for management positions across all realms of healthcare. Your choice of program, therefore, will largely depend on your current work experience and lifestyle. In the end, either program can get you where you want to go.

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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