What is a MHA?

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Earning an MHA (Masters in Healthcare Administration) degree will set you on the path towards being a leader in the field of healthcare. You are likely to get to work in a doctor’s office, hospital, home health agency, nursing home, or any other such institution. It is widely recognized that the MHA is one of the best degrees for those who want to get involved in this field of work.

As a health administrator, health service manager, or healthcare manager, you will be at the helm of healthcare systems, directing their operations. You will hold responsibility for facilities, services, budgets, programs, relations with other organizations, staff, and more. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are currently some 333,000 people working in this field, although not all of them have an MHA, or even a master’s degree. The BLS also expects that there will be a 17% growth in demand in this particular field between 2014 and 2024.

What Is the MHA Degree?

The MHA degree is a professional rather than an academic degree. You will gain competencies and knowledge to take on a career in managing health services organizations, consultancy, or public health infrastructure. Usually, the program is mainly classroom-based rather than following the practitioner-teacher model, which is more common in schools of medicine and health professionals.

Students usually have to complete courses on subjects, such as:

  • Healthcare economics
  • Population health
  • Organizational behavior
  • Health policy
  • Healthcare marketing and communication
  • Management of healthcare organization
  • Information systems assessment and management
  • Human resource management
  • Governance
  • Operations improvement and assessment
  • Statistical analysis and application
  • Leadership
  • Strategy formulation and implementation
  • Financial analysis and management

Usually, people who enroll in an MHA degree program are already working in the field of health, but they want to move out of the practitioner field and into management roles. The degree sets itself apart from the Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees because it focuses specifically on health administration in nonprofit, federal, state, and local level.

An MHA degree program intends to give students all the necessary knowledge to take on a role in senior management within health systems and the overall health sector. The objective is to make sure graduates are competent financial and general managers and planners, and that they understand the structure of public health, understanding how healthcare systems are financed and organized, and how this relates to law, society, and ethics.

To be accepted into an MHA degree program, you will usually be required to already hold a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. What is classed as a ‘relevant field’, however, varies greatly and can be anything relating to healthcare, politics, business, economics, sociology, and so on.

It is very important that you find a program that is properly accredited. This will guarantee that your degree is valid not just in this country, but often also abroad. Furthermore, it guarantees that the standard of your education is really good. There are two accrediting bodies that are good for MHA programs, the first is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), and the second is the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Accreditation (CAHME). Very few programs across the country are AACSB accredited, which is the gold standard in accreditation for business programs.

How Is the MHA Different from the MBA?

A lot of people wonder what is the difference between the MHA and the MBA programs, or at least they struggle to determine which one of the two degrees is better for their career development. Choosing between these two degrees can be very difficult and it should be based on your particular career expectations and goals. The MBA degree is a more general business degree, which means that you will have more transferable skills. On the other hand, because your skills won’t be specific to the field of healthcare, it means that you will be less in demand in the healthcare industry. If you know that you are interested in health, healthcare delivery, and health policy development, therefore, the MHA is the better degree for you.

There is currently a very strong demand for healthcare managers and it is believed that this demand will continue to be strong over the next 10 years or so. Additionally, top earners, who are almost exclusively graduate degree holders, often earn six figure salaries. In fact, salaries according to the BLS can range from $75,000 to $250,000.

Interestingly, there is a fear that the U.S. educational system will not be able to develop sufficient qualified healthcare managers to meet demand. With the baby boom generation retiring, people living longer, the new healthcare reform agenda, and increasing demands on the quality of the healthcare delivery system in general, it is vital therefore that more people look into obtaining degrees like the MHA.

There have been a number of new mandates, such as the requirement to keep medical records electronically, which means that people with the right experience and skills are in high demand. Furthermore, there is an increase in demand due to wounded warriors returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who have a serious requirement for specialized healthcare, as well as mental healthcare.

Deciding to enroll in an MHA degree program is an important decision and one that you should not take lightly. Take your time to compare the different programs that are out there and whether you meet the admission requirements for the program of your choice. Most importantly, make sure that the program is fully accredited.

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