Healthcare Administration

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master of Healthcare Administration?

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master of Healthcare Administration?
Healthcare administration is a career that combines passion and purpose with a high earning potential and bright future. Image from Unsplash
Rina Diane Caballar profile
Rina Diane Caballar June 11, 2019

An MHA degree lets you choose your own adventure, but you’ll need to know a few things first. We’ve got program formats, degree requirements, and more covered so you can stop daydreaming—and start making moves.

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Getting Ahead with a Master of Health Care Administration Degree

Do you have A-plus leadership skills and love devising ways to make things more efficient? Are you looking to create a positive impact by improving healthcare services in your community? Or maybe you’re considering a move up in your career as a
healthcare professional
. Whatever the case may be, a master’s degree in healthcare administration (MHA) might be the right path for you.

Healthcare administration is a career that combines passion and purpose with a high earning potential and bright future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for medical and health services managers is $99,730, with the top 10 percent earning as much as $182,600. Employment is expected to grow much faster than average, at a rate of 20 percent by 2026.

Wondering what a master’s degree in healthcare administration could mean for you? Here’s what you need to know.

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“I’m Interested in Healthcare Administration!”

Health administration undergraduates sometimes start out in admissions, marketing, risk management, managed-care analysis, or other non-clinical staff positions and work their way into higher-level administrative roles. While it’s possible to work in healthcare administration without an MHA, it can take a lot longer to climb the managerial ladder without a master’s degree. (source)

According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018, the median wage for health service managers was $99,730 per year, with the highest 10 percent in the field earning over $182,600 in base pay. Employment opportunities for health services managers is expected to grow by 20 percent by 2026. This growth is much faster than growth for other occupations. (source)

University and Program Name Learn More

Master of Healthcare Administration Program Overview

As a graduate student in an MHA program, you’ll gain a competency-based education in ethical standards and healthcare policy, finance and management, healthcare information systems, healthcare regulations and compliance, and leadership and strategic planning, among other courses. You can also specialize in areas like health informatics, health policy and management, long-term care, and maternal and child health.

Prerequisites for a master’s in healthcare administration

To get started in a health administration master’s program, you’ll need:

  • A bachelor’s degree in health administration, health management, nursing, public health, or a related field
  • A bachelor’s in business administration or health sciences might also be worthwhile
  • Some master’s degree programs may expect you to have work experience in the health industry, while others may accept you without a healthcare background

Time Required to Complete a Master of Health Care Administration

A master’s degree in healthcare administration typically requires around 40 to 60 credit hours, along with an internship or residency.

How long does a full-time master of healthcare administration program actually take?

Full-time students can generally finish an on-campus MHA program within two to three years. As a full-time student, you’ll likely complete a healthcare internship during your third year or the summer between your first and second year. An internship is a valuable way to apply the skills you’ve learned throughout your program while gaining practical experience.

The third year of Xavier University’s master of health services administration degree program, for example, includes an eight to 12-month paid administrative residency. Tulane University’s master of health administration program also requires a year-long residency.

Pursuing a master’s degree in healthcare administration full-time allows you to focus on your coursework and likely finish your degree more quickly. You’ll also be fully immersed in your program, which could make it easier to form bonds with your cohorts.

On the other hand, full-time education requires you to manage the cost of a master’s in healthcare administration without the backing of a full-time salary. Additionally,, if you paid anywhere near the average tuition as an undergrad student, you may be dealing with college debt.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the average tuition for an MHA degree program can range from $6,500 to $36,000 for in-state students and $26,000 to $75,000 for out-of-state students. Students looking for help with costs can seek out scholarships, grants, financial aid, or private loans.

To fast-track your master’s degree, look into accelerated programs like Johns Hopkins University, which offers an intensive master of health administration program through one year of academic study and one year of residency.

How long does a part-time master of healthcare administration program take?

Compared to full-time students, part-time students may take around three or four years to complete an MHA degree. Part-time students can take advantage of executive programs, which are designed to accommodate working professionals through on-campus evening or weekend courses, a mixture of online and on-campus courses, or a fully online course load.

For instance, the University of Alabama at Birmingham offers an executive format through its MSHA program. Courses are mostly online and three times a year, students are required to visit the campus for a week. This program also includes an immersive capstone experience, where students visit national and international healthcare organizations to apply their knowledge and skills.

The University of Minnesota’s executive master of healthcare administration is similar and allows working professionals to pursue their degree through a mix of on-campus coursework and online learning. This program takes 25 months to complete and includes students with work experience across many aspects of the healthcare industry.

Pursuing a part-time master’s degree in healthcare administration might be the best option if you already have a job in the healthcare industry or simply want to continue earning a full-time salary to pay for your degree. Not that part-time education is necessarily easier. Online healthcare administration degree programs offer flexible hours, but balancing study and work is a challenge.

If you’re currently employed, see if your company provides tuition reimbursement programs to help fund your degree. This may come with strings attached, such as being required to continue working for your employer for a number of years after graduation or that you must pursue a program of their choice.

Choosing the right MHA program

Earning a master’s degree in healthcare administration takes time, money, and effort—but chances are, it will be worth it. As you search for programs, be sure to keep commitments like work, family, or even existing student loans in mind. This way, you’ll set yourself up for a degree that aligns with your educational goals and guarantees your success in a career providing quality healthcare to all kinds of people.

Look for programs backed by nationally or regionally accredited programs. Take the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education, for example. With CAHME accreditation, you’ll be guaranteed a program that meets or exceeds measurable criteria in terms of education quality and practice. This route will also help you gain greater access to federal financial aid and later, prove to a broad range of prospective employers that you bring a valuable skill set to the table.

What can you do with a healthcare administration graduate degree?

Once you’ve earned your master’s degree, you can work in hospitals, healthcare centers, public and private health organizations, and nursing and long-term care facilities. Positions for MHA graduates include:

  • Clinical manager
  • Health information manager
  • Healthcare executive
  • Hospital administrator
  • Nursing home administrator

Most states require healthcare administrators to pass a licensing or certification exam before beginning work, particularly within healthcare organizations such as nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. It’s best to check with your state for specific licensure requirements.

As a healthcare administrator, you’ll work closely with doctors, nurses, and other medical teams to deliver efficient health services. You’ll create strategies for improving services, ensure compliance with healthcare laws, manage staff, monitor budgets, and organize records. It’s a lot to take on, but your behind-the-scenes work is crucial to an organization’s ability to provide quality healthcare.

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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