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Comparing the differences between MHA and MBA degrees

By Cooper Nelson

At a glance

Most healthcare professions require at least an associate degree, and for those who want to pursue senior positions in a hospital or clinic, a master's degree may be necessary. If you want to focus on business or administration, there are two postgraduate degree options you may want to consider: a Master of Health Administration (MHA) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA). (At University of Phoenix, a dual degree is also available: the Master of Health Administration/Master of Business Administration.)

Though the MHA and MBA overlap in some ways, the overall focus of each is quite different. The MHA focuses specifically on managing a healthcare facility, while an MBA provides the business skills for a range of business functions. So, you need to choose the one that best matches your career plans.

Here’s a look at the details of these two postgraduate healthcare degrees. 

What is a master's in health administration?

The Master of Health Administration is a specialized degree that focuses on the specific skills and knowledge needed to thrive on the administrative side of the healthcare industry.

Here are the details of an MHA program:

  • Focus: Students learn how to manage teams of healthcare professionals, make operational decisions, ensure legal compliance and address the financial and business needs of an employer.
  • Topics taught: Courses include healthcare policy, healthcare law and medical ethics. Students also learn about informatics systems, risk management, quality control and healthcare human resources. Strategy and finance classes are part of the curriculum as well.
  • Job opportunities: An MHA can help prepare students for careers as a health management information director, health manager and practice administrator.
  • Benefits: Many senior administrative positions require a master’s degree. Graduate degrees are also linked to higher salaries across industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical and health services managers earned between $60,780 and $205,620 in May 2021. In addition, the demand for qualified administrators is projected to grow by 28% between 2021 and 2031.

If an MHA sounds right for you, there are specific steps to qualify for and enroll in a program. 

Obtaining a master's degree in health administration

You need a bachelor’s degree — preferably in a healthcare field — to qualify for an MHA program. When you enroll, you need to decide if you would like to take general courses or specialize in a specific area, such as compliance or informatics.

You’ll also need to find an accredited school and make sure you meet its requirements. These might include achieving a specific GPA during your undergraduate studies. The MHA at University of Phoenix, for example, is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME®).

Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)

PO Box 911 Spring House, PA 19477 301-298-1820

Graduate programs may not require a specific bachelor’s degree, but you need to be familiar with healthcare topics since most master’s degree programs will dive deeper into the subject matter.

Some master’s programs may overlap with the MHA. It is possible to learn about healthcare administration while completing a master’s degree in nursing, for example. But, depending on your circumstances and career goals, it might be equally advantageous to apply for an MHA program once you have a nursing degree.

At University of Phoenix, it takes approximately 17 months to earn your MHA degree if you study full time. The degree program requires 36 credits. 

What is an MBA?

MBA stands for Master of Business Administration. This popular degree program prepares students with professional work experience to become leaders or managers in their industries. One area of specialization can be healthcare management.

  • Focus: MBA programs focus on leadership, decision-making, strategic development and management.
  • Topics taught: In this program, students study finance and management topics, value creation and marketing, adapting management styles, human resources, leadership, analytics and digital environments, business law, budgeting and accounting.
  • Job opportunities: An MBA can help prepare you to become a business manager, operations director, hospital administrator or any other executive or management position.
  • Benefits: An MBA can be beneficial if you want to ascend to a senior decision-making role with an organization. Operations research analysts earned between $48,690 and $160,850 in May 2021, according to BLS.

The salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Just as in an MHA program, an MBA program also has certain requirements you need before enrollment. If you’re interested in either program at University of Phoenix, visit to learn more about prerequisites. 

Obtaining a Master of Business Administration

For one, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field to qualify for an MBA program. You also need to meet the GPA requirements set out by your chosen graduate school. Additionally, you may want to consider having some professional experience under your belt when applying for an MBA program, which often focuses heavily on management and leadership skills and offers networking opportunities.

Unlike MHA programs, MBA programs typically require applicants to earn a certain score or higher on the GMAT Exam or the GRE test. (University of Phoenix, however, does not require applicants to take any graduate exams.)

MBA programs may also offer areas of specialization. For example, if you are interested in healthcare management, you would select that track during your admissions process.

At University of Phoenix, a traditional MBA program usually takes 16 months. However, you might get credit for previous experience or courses you have already taken, which can shorten the length of a program. Visit the program page for information on the cost of attendance. 

University of Phoenix also offers a dual degree known as the Master of Health Administration/Master of Business Administration. This program takes approximately two and a half years to complete.

What's the difference between an MBA and an MHA?

Although an MBA and an MHA have a lot of overlap, especially if you choose an MBA and plan to pursue a health management career, there are some important differences. The most notable is that an MBA focuses on a wide range of business and decision-making concepts, not just in healthcare, while an MHA focuses explicitly on healthcare leadership and operations management.

If you’re deciding between the two, the choice depends on what you want to do with your degree. If you have a healthcare background and would like to work in the field at a management level, then an MHA is the more fitting choice. An MBA is more focused on general business and financial aspects.

Hybrid programs that combine MHA and MBA studies, meanwhile, allow you to study both healthcare operations management and broader business skills. If you would rather focus on patient-facing or clinical work, you can pursue an advanced nursing degree.

Benefits of earning a graduate degree

There are plenty of reasons to get a master’s degree, but here are just a few:

  • More opportunities for career enhancement. Some employers require a master's degree to apply for management and leadership positions.
  • The ability to demonstrate to potential employers your dedication and commitment to the field.
  • Networking opportunities with other industry professionals.
  • Better preparation to tackle leadership roles in your industry.

The key to graduate degrees is to choose the one that best fits your career goals. 

Choosing the right degree for you

Although earning a master’s degree has a number of benefits — including higher pay than a bachelor’s degree — you’ll need to take the right steps to ensure you choose the course of study most suitable for you. Here are some tips to assist in your decision-making:

  • Evaluate your values, interests and passions to select postgraduate programs that will prepare you to pursue a career that aligns with these areas.
  • Research the professions that interest you, including their potential earnings and job projections, on the BLS site.
  • Find a school that meets your needs. If you need flexibility, you may want a place that offers online courses or classes to fit your study-work-home balance.
  • Find a major that aligns with your abilities and past courses of study.

Weigh the pros and cons of either degree option to help inform your decision and provide you with the confidence you need to move forward with your choice.

Interested in learning more about careers in healthcare? Read about how to succeed in health information management on our blog!

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