What is the difference between an MHA and an MPH?
March 15, 2021
Breaking down the difference between a Master of Health Administration and Master of Public Health.
After completing a Bachelors Degree in a field of social science, population health, or another similar degree, a logical next step for a student considering a graduate degree could be a Master of Health Administration (MHA) or a Master in Public Health (MPH). While both of these degrees concern health and health care, they diverge in the focus of the coursework. An MHA program and curriculum is primarily concerned with the business of health care organizations, such as hospitals, health care systems, and agencies. An MPH is much more focused on the health science aspect of health care, with a more research-forward approach.
There will most likely be overlap in the material and coursework in both programs, as both of these degrees hark back to the central public health principles of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health and efficiency. How these degree programs approach and pertain to these principles is unique between them. The types of careers available to those whom obtain an MHA versus an MPH are uniquely specified as well. If you already have a dream job or career path in mind, it could be helpful to browse the organization's staff list and see what the degrees are that are held by those employees. As MHA coursework covers more medical industry subjects and basic business and management principles, those interested in the research and analysis of public health programs and efforts might be better suited pursuing an MPH.
Having an MPH does not close all doors to employment opportunities in a management or administrative role! Master of Public Health programs oftentimes have interior departments of Health Policy and Management, Health Systems Management, and other concentrations that cover several of the same concepts an MHA program would. Although certain employers might be specifically searching for candidates with one degree over the other, tailoring your graduate coursework and gaining industry experience (through research or internship roles) could be cause for exception. The primary difference between the two programs is that the Master of Public Health is concerned with administrative solutions while the Master of Health Administration is concerned with market-based conditions of the health care system. The preventive trope of public health is more apparent in the curricula of MPH programs and is geared more toward the central goal of improving the health of populations. Some of the courses an MPH pursuant can expect to take fall within the realm of foundational public health ideas, including: biostatistics, ethics in research, research methods, public health law, and epidemiology. In an MHA program, the curricula might look more like a business course schedule, with courses in health care finance, statistics for health care, economic concepts in health care, and financial accounting for health care organizations.
In essence, many jobs in the public health sector that require a graduate degree can be competently held by an individual with either an MPH or MHA degree. It is important to consider career choices post-graduation to make sure you are not effectively eliminating opportunities by pursuing a degree with less relevancy to what you want to do. There are ample online resources, such as example course schedules, that are accessible online and can help you make this determination. With the right industry experience tacked onto your graduate degree, almost no avenue in the job market is inaccessible!
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