If you’re interested in becoming a leader in the healthcare industry, heading back to school for a master’s in healthcare administration (MHA) is a smart move. Coveted positions at the intersection of business and healthcare typically require this degree; an MHA also delivers a considerable boost to professionals who want to advance more quickly.
As a result of technological developments, legislative advances, and an aging baby boomer population, healthcare professionals with MHA degrees can rest assured that their skills will remain in demand for the foreseeable future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of medical and health services manager jobs will grow by 18 percent by 2028, adding about 71,600 new jobs.
Joining the ranks of medical and health services managers can be a lucrative career move. According to BLS data, the occupational group pulled in a median annual income of $100,980 in 2019, with the top 10 percent of workers earning more than $189,000.
Employees with an MHA tend to outearn those with less education by a considerable margin. According to PayScale compensation data, professionals with a master’s degree in health administration make an average annual salary of $77,103. In contrast, those with a bachelor’s degree in the same field pull in an average of $60,081 per year.
From comfortable salaries to stability—not to mention the opportunity to better the experiences of patients and practitioners alike—there are countless reasons why pursuing an MHA pays off. But before you can enroll in a program, you’ll need to navigate the application process—admission requirements and all. Let’s take a look at the essential components that MHA degree programs typically request.
Our guide to master of health administration admission requirements covers:
Application fees for MHA programs tend to fall into the $50 to $90 range. The fees cover the cost of the selection and admission process—and for some schools, help ensure that only students who are serious about enrolling will apply.
While most schools require students to cover these fees, some graduate-level programs in the field provide applications free of charge. Others offer application fee waivers to students who meet various criteria; recipients include those in financial need and military veterans. Some schools waive fees for students who visit their school before applying, or even for those who provide all required materials by the school’s application deadline.
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. (
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. ( )
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Though most MHA programs do not require applicants to hold a bachelor’s in a specific area of study, students typically hold accredited four-year undergraduate degrees in such healthcare-related topics as biology, nursing, human resources, and business administration.
Students whose background is outside healthcare or healthcare administration may be admitted conditionally, pending completion of foundation courses (which are not credited toward the MHA). These courses often cover such subjects as statistics or financial accounting. In many cases, the MHA program offers these courses during a preliminary session, usually over the summer.
Most MHA programs require students to provide official transcripts from all previously attended degree-granting institutions. These documents act as full, official records of students’ academic history, including course titles and grades. They should cover students’ undergraduate experience and, if applicable, any completed graduate coursework.
While minimum undergraduate grade point average (GPA) varies from program to program, most schools require applicants to have earned to have completed their bachelor’s with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. More selective MHA programs may set their minimum well above that.
These “cutoffs” are often easy to find on program websites. They are usually located either on their application requirements or FAQ pages. These pages may recommend students with a GPA below the specified minimum to submit their GMAT or GRE test scores or retake foundation courses.
The majority of master’s programs in healthcare administration require prospective students to have at least two to three years of professional experience in the healthcare system. However, some schools waive the requirement. This occurs more frequently for students in online master of health administration programs.
The online MHA in health systems management at George Mason University, for instance, notes that field experience in healthcare is not mandatory but is considered in the admissions process. The online MHA program at Regis College is another example, one known for an “all-inclusive admissions approach” that encourages students from all disciplines, backgrounds, and experiences to apply.
Most MHA programs require a personal statement as part of their application process. Many schools suggest a minimum word count of anywhere from 500 to 1,500 words.
Writing a personal statement can be challenging even for veteran essay writers. However, personal statements also represent an excellent opportunity to highlight your reasons for applying and the character traits you think will contribute to your success. They also allow you to discuss career goals and relevant past experiences in healthcare delivery or healthcare management. In short, they provide you with the means to distinguish yourself among the many other applicants.
MHA admissions requirements typically include letters of recommendation. Most schools ask prospective students to provide two or three from previous employers and/or instructors. A letter of recommendation provides a vehicle to communicate your qualities that can’t be inferred from grades and test scores.
Most MHA programs also require students to submit an academic resume or curriculum vitae (CV) with their formal application. If a program doesn’t indicate a preference for one or the other, students typically choose which document to submit.
While both documents contain a brief history of an applicant’s accomplishments, experiences, and skills, a CV usually highlights a more detailed account of their academic history and professional background. It’s also common for CVs to be two or more pages long, while resumes usually allow for a maximum of two pages. The two also tend to be formatted differently, although neither has a universally standard format.
Alongside academic and professional accomplishments, student resumes and CVs should include:
MHA programs may also require students to meet additional requirements as part of the admissions process. These criteria may include:
Many graduate programs in the healthcare administration realm require students to submit a copy of their GRE or GMAT scores as part of the application process. Both are used to measure applicants’ verbal, quantitative, and critical thinking skills, though they differ in content, scoring structure, and other areas.
While these test scores have been a prominent requirement among most graduate programs for decades, their prevalence in academia is gradually declining. In recent years, some MHA programs have pulled the GRE from their list of admissions requirements. Others have opted to grant GRE/GMAT waivers to applicants who meet certain qualifications, such as those with a high undergraduate GPA, extensive professional experience in healthcare or business, or a graduate degree in another field.
When applying to MHA programs in the United States, prospective students whose native language is not English typically need to certify their English language ability. To do so, they’re usually required to submit their scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam.
Some schools may waive this requirement for students who hold a degree from an accredited institution where English is the primary language of instruction. Others may allow international applicants to bypass the requirement after they complete a recognized intensive English language program.
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