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A Master of Health Administration can help you prepare for leadership and administrative opportunities within the health care sector. Many students who choose an online MHA degree are working professionals with either business or health care experience.
An MHA degree will explore all aspects of health care administration along with external industry forces. Health administrators are on the front line of transformation in a data-rich environment that is impacted by health trends, consumer demands, legislative changes, technology needs, and the expectations of multiple stakeholders.
An MHA degree offers broad-spectrum appeal to leadership-minded professionals with and without health care experience. As such, the program focuses on the business, managerial, and technical aspects of day-to-day operations for a medical organization, as well as the social and ethical aspects of health care delivery. Specific learning outcomes include:
In a 2014 article titled “Wanted: Hospital CEOs Without Health Care Experience,” U.S. News & World Report uncovered a trend toward hiring executives from business, banking, finance, insurance, and other non-traditional sectors. As the health industry goes through major changes with board members expecting quantifiable results, skills sets in productivity, business development, and financial management are in great demand.
A Master of Health Administration program is designed to prepare students with the knowledge and competencies necessary to succeed in health care leadership. Accredited programs typically feature courses focused on both business and the unique intricacies health care policy, organizational behavior, health care economics, management, and communications. Most programs will require experience in either business or health care for admission, although there are other pathways to entry, such as a background in technology or communications.
The National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL) proposed these competencies in their Health Leadership Competency Model.  They can serve as a guideline for what you should expect to be addressed in an MHA program. These include:
Health care remains one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, continuing to outpace previous performance and thriving in an atmosphere of innovation and disruption. The health care sector now accounts for 15.3 million jobs, including nearly five million in hospitals, which means that an MHA degree can prepare you to work in an industry that shows no signs of slowing down. 
When you’re ready to pursue a master’s degree, you need to consider all information at your disposal. Pay special attention to the specific topics covered throughout the degree program and how they relate to the career you want to build. In addition, the factors below should contribute to your choice of programs.
Hospital administration is essentially the leadership, management and administration of a health system or organization. Health administrators fill many roles within the world of health care. Careers for those with a degree in health administration reach beyond simply becoming an executive or entering leadership in a hospital, health system or clinic. Opportunities include but are not limited to roles in government, policy-making and regulatory agencies, nonprofit, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, insurance, technology, organizational development, and more.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that health administration employment will grow 17% between 2014 and 2024, much faster than average. That growth will occur in the work spaces such as:
The Master of Health Administration is designed for health, business, and technology professionals from a diverse range of educational backgrounds who want to build a career in leadership or management within the growing field of health care. The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates a 17% growth rate from 2104 to 2024 in the job category of Medical and Health Services Managers, a category which includes health administrators. Earning an MHA presents an opportunity for career advancement for those already working within the world of health care as well as those in other industries who are looking for a shift.
There are several important factors to consider if you choose to pursue an online MHA degree. Some of these considerations include:
By the nature of online learning, most online MHA programs will be asynchronous. This means that you are able to complete your reading, discussions, and assignments at a time that is convenient for you. Synchronous program require you to be online at certain times for lectures or discussions. This is something you should pay close attention to when choosing your MHA program.
Your cohort consists of your classmates. During some MHA programs, you will stay with the same classmates throughout the entire program — from the first class through graduation. In other programs, you will be introduced to new students each with class depending on your electives and what order classes are chosen.
If you’re currently working in a health system or in a leadership position, you may have the option to enroll in an Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) program. Make sure to look through each program’s admission requirements thoroughly. In addition, many EMHA programs are specifically designed to accommodate working professionals.
Several factors have convened over recent years to increase the number of career opportunities for MHA graduates. Ongoing influences and emerging trends include:  
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates a 17% growth rate from 2104 to 2024 in the job category of Medical and Health Services Managers, which includes health administrators. In fact, the entire health sector created a record 474,700 new jobs in 2015, a 53% increase over 2014.  As of May 2015, the median salary for Medical and Health Services managers was $94,500, with the highest 10% earning more than $165,380.  According to the BLS, Medical and Health Services managers earned a median salary of $94,500 per year as of May 2015.
Your salary may be partially affected by your geographic location. Below are the 10 highest-paying states for careers in health administration: 
The term “health administrator” is an umbrella phrase that actually encompasses several different types of roles with a wide range of median salaries:  
According to the BLS, 37% of Health Administrators worked in a traditional hospital setting as of May 2015. Physician practice offices and nursing home/residential facilities both came in at 10%of employment, with government agencies and home health care rounding out the rest. Locations and work spaces to consider in your career search include:
Knowledge gained through an online MHA degree and subsequent experience can also set you on an alternate path forward within a related field. Businesses that partner with hospitals and health systems can present opportunities for health administrators seeking to expand their scope. Some of these businesses include: 
Typical MHA courses will focus on change management, accountability, professionalism, performance measurement, analytical thinking, communication, strategic thinking, human resource management, finance, and process improvement. While every online MHA degree is structured differently, there are foundational courses that frequently appear in the core curriculum: 
Electives are an additional tool to help you hone your expertise and knowledge in a particular subset of health administration. Many students will choose electives that align with their desired career path or that provide complementary education.
Electives will vary by university, but common topics include:
Most MHA programs will consist of a combination of business and leadership courses put into the framework of health care. Much of the degree program will focus on building leadership competencies, improving technical skills, and preparing students to think about health care at both an organizational and a systemic level.
Experiential-based learning opportunities will depend on a student’s area of specialization but typically involve the implementation of health administration methods and concepts through practical application.
Upon completion of the degree program, graduates should be able to demonstrate vision, provide direction, innovate, influence change, and improve and optimize organizational performance from a position of leadership within a health organization. Additionally, graduates should be able to communicate effectively, manage relationships, and demonstrate an overall knowledge of the health care systems and policy.
Depending on the online MHA degree program you choose, you may be offered the opportunity to choose a concentration, specialization, or track. While the term “concentration” is typically more commonly used, these terms typically refer to the same opportunity to direct the focus of your studies.
If applicable, the concentration or specialization you choose will dictate which courses you take. A concentration can help you specialize your practice and the direction of your career.
This is an excellent option if you already have clinical experience in a hospital setting and understand the patient experience and delivery of quality care.
Leadership and management
This specialization is focused on the behind-the-scenes operations of an organization, with an emphasis on the business of health care. Subject matter will include finance, insurance, human resources, marketing, and related topics.
Health informatics will immerse you in the world of patient data. Curricula for this concentration will typically include information management, security, applications, electronic medical records regulations, and ethics surrounding data access. The demand for health informatics workers is projected to grow at twice the rate of employment overall. 
Policy and law
This specialization focuses on legislation and regulation, with an emphasis on government policy, federal and state regulations, and the impact of health care laws.
If you have strong financial skills, consider an MHA degree specialization that delves into hospital accounting, budgeting, planning, analysis, cash flow, investments, donations, and related fiduciary activities.
An MHA with a specialization in human resources can teach you about assessing, recruiting, and hiring clinical and non-clinical talent. These curricula also cover the intricacies of payroll, benefits, training and development, employee communications, conflict management, labor law, unions, and other key HR topics.
A public health specialization is concerned with disease patterns, preventive care, and the societal impact of health disparities. MHA courses might include epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, sociology, and related subjects.
The research specialization focuses on research teams, pharmaceutical company relationships, patient participation regulations, federal oversight, and the human impact of experimental treatments. This track can provide valuable skills in terms of pursuing a career in higher education where there is a research component to your work.
The curriculum of a Master of Health Administration program may require an experiential learning or field-study component. Often referred to as an internship, residency, practicum, or capstone course, this requirement can help fill the gap for students who do not have work experience in the health care or business sector.
It is also important to note that all CAHME-accredited programs, including online MHA degrees, require an on-campus or field learning component as way to build leadership skills and develop a collaborative workstyle. 
The Chronicle of Higher Education conducted a study in conjunction with American Public Media’s Marketplace to determine what employers look for in hiring new graduates. While education is an important focus, an internship or experience was valued at a higher rate than academic credentials. This is especially true for management roles. 
Health care employers value internships/experience (38%) over academic performance (30%). The Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) offers a short list of high-profile internships that are available for MHA students. These include: 
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Master of Health Administration programs will typically require between 45 and 70 semester credit hours, depending on your program’s residency requirements and other conditions for graduation. Your program’s composition will vary, but likely components of the curriculum include required or core courses, elective courses, and a capstone or experiential learning option.
Even within a particular school’s degree program, the number of courses required may vary based on the concentration you choose, your prior work experience, your number of transfer credits, or other such factors.
It is expected that full-time students will be able to complete the required health administration courses in about two years, including summer sessions. However, many online students are working professionals with active careers who can only attend classes on a part-time basis.
For part-time students, the typical length of degree studies can be about three to four years. A three-year timeline is often achievable with summer sessions. Data indicates that 63% of online graduate degree students in 2015 were also working full-time, with another 15% working part-time. 
Some colleges and universities offer accelerated “fast-track” MHA online course schedules through Executive MHA (EMHA) programs that can be completed in as little as one year.
These EMHA programs are restricted to students who demonstrate top academic performance, a high level of business savvy, and leadership potential within their current health care career. Studies are far more intense because of the compressed length, and courses typically require a greater commitment of time and effort over the short term.
Most students are familiar with degree timelines that offer fall and spring enrollment periods. This remains the traditional structure for typical on-campus enrollments, and is known as a “non-carousel” program. Online MHA degree programs can offer up to six enrollment periods per calendar year.
The flexibility of online MHA degrees allows colleges and universities to extend enrollment throughout the calendar year. This “carousel” approach means that you do not have to wait to begin your studies, because enrollment periods are offered every eight weeks or so. Carousel benefits include: 
With the popularity of online Master of Health Administration degrees on the rise, schools are receiving applications from potential students who have diverse employment backgrounds. In many instances, hands-on work or internship experience in the health care or business sector is an expectation of admissions officers, particularly for top-quality MHA programs that have strict enrollment requirements. Not all programs will require prior experience, but most will require you to get experience via an internship or residency before you graduate.
Roles in accounting, technology, human resources, marketing and other functional areas may provide some of the practical experience and transferrable skills that MHA degree programs demand. Active membership in professional organizations, volunteer activities, certificate courses, and in-house continuing education can also prove beneficial.
The Master of Health Administration is part of a family of degrees designed to meet the needs of students interested in health care leadership careers. There are a number of MHA alternatives including:
An MBA provides a strong business operations background for aspiring executives. Some programs will offer a health care concentration. However, the health administration curriculum will not be as comprehensive as that presented by an online MHA degree.
The MPH offers a broader focus on health care and its effect on people and communities in terms of disease patterns, preventive care, and societal impact. Coursework is rooted in science and the social sciences, with an emphasis on epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, sociology, and more. 
An MPA degree is similar to the Masters in Health Administration, except that it is directed at all types of public and nonprofit organizations, not just hospitals and health systems. Areas of emphasis include urban planning, community development and international relations, as well as foundational leadership skills.
Nurses have the option of moving into administrative roles by enrolling in an MSN program. Clinicians interested in leadership can find a path through nursing management, up to the highest level of achievement as a chief nursing officer.
Many colleges and universities offer dual degree choices for those who want expand their education across disciplines. Examples include:
Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.
Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online MHA degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.
You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.
There is only one organization recognized to grant accreditation for health administration degrees: the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). CAHME began offering online MHA program accreditation in 2015. Today, more than 90% of graduates from CAHME-accredited programs are placed in a health care management job within three months of graduation. 
The mission of CAHME is “to serve the public interest by advancing the quality of health care management education.”  The organization ensures that students receive a relevant and robust educational experience that has been fully vetted against the highest of standards.
Employers look to CAHME as the benchmark for quality when reviewing the academic credentials of prospective hires. There is a presumption that the MHA degree holder will have the necessary skills and competencies to lead in today’s complex and ever-changing health care industry.
The position of health administrator does not typically require licensure. The one exception is in the long-term care sector, where nursing home administrators must be licensed in the state in which they are employed.
Nursing home administrators are licensed by the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB), which oversees licensing, credentialing, and regulation throughout the sector. There are two types of licensure available via an exam process: Nursing Home Administrator (NHA) and Residential Care/Assisted Living Administrator (RC/AL). 
NHA licensure has been administered for decades, with more than 2,000 professionals sitting for the exam each year. RC/AL licensure was made available in the year 2000. Hundreds of long-term care professionals working in states that require licensure sit for the exam each year, along with others who voluntarily take the exam to improve their credentials.
Exam requirements vary by state in terms of required degree and number of contact hours. Information for your state can be found on the NAB web site.
For some career positions, a specific certification may be a condition of employment. Certifications, required or not, can add value to your resume.
To achieve Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE) credentials, a professional must meet strict standards for “academic preparation, health care management experience, ACHE tenure, passing the Board of Governors Examination in Healthcare Management, continuing education, references, and community and civic involvement.”  In 2015, 57% of new ACHE members held a Master of Health Administration degree.
The AAHAM offers five different health care administration certifications that follow a “career ladder” structure. Exams measure steady improvement in patient financial service and revenue cycle proficiency, culminating with Certified Revenue Cycle Executive status. AAHAM certifications have the option to substitute a degree in lieu of work experience, which is good news if you seek a faster path to credentialing. 
AHCAP certification has a strong academic focus, which makes it ideal for professionals who have earned a master’s in health administration. The AHCAP exam measures the substantive skills necessary to receive designation as a Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional (cHAP). Achieving this certification means that you demonstrate exceptional talent, commitment, and value in the field. 
When we think of a hospital or health care, we tend to think of the doctors and nurses who provide direct patient care. There are, however, myriad people who work in health care organizations mostly behind the scenes making sure health services are available and accessible. The growth of health administration as a career field has run tangential to the development of medical science and the growth of hospitals in the United States.
According to the book Careers in Healthcare Management: How to Find Your Path and Follow It, by Cynthia Carter Haddock, Robert C. Chapman, and Robert A. McLean, “Early hospital administrators were called ‘superintendents’ and typically had little specific training for their jobs — many were nurses who had taken on administrative responsibilities.” 
This trend continued through the late 1800s and early 1900s until the number of hospitals had grown so significantly that the need for trained professionals became critical to the success of health systems across the United States. According to the book, “In 1929, Michael Davis [proposed] a two-year graduate degree curriculum in hospital administration. The first year of this curriculum was centered on coursework in accounting, statistics, management, economics and the social sciences, and the history of hospitals and the health professions, with limited practical observation. The second year was mostly spent in practical work with some coursework in business policy, public health, and labor relations.” 
Awareness around the need for health administrators was evident and shortly thereafter, graduate programs in health administration began popping up across the United States throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Today, two-year MHA programs are common in universities across the world.
There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.
For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.