The Master in Public Health (MPH) and Master in Healthcare Administration (MHA) appear to be very similar degrees. But while they do share certain subjects, they are actually different degrees. The biggest similarity is that both degrees focus on healthcare. As a result, they generally have a number of core courses in common. However, the rest of the curriculum is very different. If you want to complete a master’s degree in a healthcare related field, therefore, you need to understand the specific differences between the two programs.
The MPH Program
The MPH is a degree program that trains people for a public health career. Public health is a highly interdisciplinary field. Its focus is on disease and health within populations. The field describes, discovers, and responds to new and existing disease patterns. They also focus on developing, financing, evaluating, and operating community health programs.
Generally speaking, it takes two years to complete an MPH degree. That being said, there are now some accelerated programs as well, which means the degree can be completed in 12 to 18 months. The degree is often offered online, as it is targeted at those who already have management positions in the field of healthcare.
The curriculum of the MPH degree looks at sociology, science, and various organizational topics. Core courses usually include the social and behavioral aspects of health, epidemiology, environmental health sciences, biostatistics, healthcare administration, sociology, healthcare systems and financing, quantitative and qualitative research methods, program evaluation, law and ethical issues in public health, and any other topic that is linked to both health and society.
While enrolled in the program, students are instructed in qualitative and quantitative research methods, targeted specifically at issues within public health. Usually, they can also choose from a range of concentration areas, which means students are able to choose a specialization outside of the core curriculum. The concentration areas that are offered vary from one school to the next, which is why it is very important to look into them in order to apply to the right school.
Graduates have a range of interesting career opportunities open to them, which are suitable to a variety of interests and skills. Someone can find a public health job in the private sector as well as the public sector. They often hold responsibility over planning, researching, and implementing a health program and monitoring it, as well as conducting studies, performing research, and running the overall administration of health services. As an MPH graduate, you can find work within federal, state, and local government agencies, the military, health clinics and departments, community based organizations, as well as national and international health agencies.
As an MPH graduate, you will become a community advocate, ensuring groups and individuals are able to achieve the best possible health outcomes. You will help to ensure that diseases are prevented and illnesses no longer occur through policies, educational programs, research, and more. Your job will be to prevent bio-terrorism, pandemics, and epidemics. You will also make sure that food and water are safe for human consumption. The degree program is seen as one of the highest credentials within this field and you can expect to hold a top level executive position.
The MHA Program
The MHA degree program trains people to become managers of health related organizations and programs. Unlike the MPH degree, the MHA does not have a strong focus on disease. Rather, its emphasis is on delivering healthcare services. The MHA degree, for many, is actually more similar to the Master of Business Administration (MBA) than to the MPH. This is because it is a business degree, albeit with a strong focus on the healthcare sector.
Those enrolled in an MHA degree program will learn to develop their business management and leadership skills so that they become more competitive in the new, market based, healthcare delivery system. Usually, it takes two years to complete this degree program, although accelerated programs are also available. Like the MPH, it is often possible to complete the degree online, as it is targeted at the working professional.
Different schools have designed the MHA degree program in different ways. Hence, some schools will have a stronger focus on public health or public policy, whereas others will not. Generally speaking, the emphasis of the MHA curriculum would be on the business element of healthcare delivery systems. It also includes ethics, policy, law, and medical informatics. When comparing it to the MPH, you will see that the MHA does not focus as strongly on the science of health. Rather, it focuses on business, including marketing, management, accounting, and finance. Some of the most commonly included courses that you will study during your degree program include quality management and performance, marketing and strategic planning, accounting, HR management, healthcare administration leadership, hospital or nursing home administration, accounting, and healthcare financial management.
After obtaining an MHA degree, graduates can become hospital or other healthcare institution managers. They will often manage a department such as public relations, health policy implementation, human resources, or finance. Top level career options, such as CEO within a healthcare organization, are open to MHA degree holders.
How to Choose Between the MPH and the MHA
Choosing between the two degree programs depends on you as an individual, where your interests lie and what direction you want your career to take. If your passion lies in public health, and you want to make sure solutions are provided, then the MPH is the most relevant degree. If, however, your interests lie more in the administration and management of the healthcare system itself, then the MHA is the better option.
When it comes to making a decision between an MPH and an MHA, only you can really know what is right for you. If you are passionate about working very closely on stopping the general public from getting sick, if you want to think about solutions to ensure this, then the MPH is the degree for you. But if you are more interested in operating and financing a healthcare organization, particularly through the various healthcare reforms, then the MHA is more likely to be the right choice for you.