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MHA vs. MBA: What are the Differences?

June 24, 2019  |  Category: Articles, Healthcare Administration

The healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing in the US. The number of healthcare jobs is expected to increase 18% by 2021, meaning that there will be 2.4 million new healthcare jobs by that year.

If you already work in healthcare, you might be interested in finding ways to advance in your field and to move up the career ladder. Earning a master’s degree is one way to expand your career options and to increase your earning potential, as well as improve your skill set and marketability.

As you start to investigate master’s degree programs designed for healthcare managers and executives, you might notice two options available. One is an MHA or a Master of Healthcare Administration. The other is an MBA or Master of Business Administration. If you’re going to work in healthcare, which one is a better path for your future?

Knowing the differences between the two degrees and what your career goals are can help you choose the one that’s the best fit for you.

What is an MHA?

An MHA degree is a graduate-level degree that is designed to help people become leaders in the healthcare field. Typically, the people who pursue an MHA degree are already working in healthcare. They might be clinicians who are looking to transition to an administrative or executive role or people working in administration who would like to move up to management or executive level positions.

The focus of most MHA programs is specific to healthcare. Some of the courses offered in an MHA program might include:

  • Strategic Leadership in Healthcare
  • Patient Care Management
  • Healthcare Finance
  • Healthcare Strategic Planning & Decision Making

Ethical Issues and Public Policy

What is an MBA?

Compared to an MHA, which is a specialist degree, an MBA is usually a generalist degree. You can enroll in an MBA program no matter what industry you work in or are interested in. Although the scope of many MBA programs is broad, some do allow students to specialize in fields such as healthcare. If an MBA program has a healthcare specialization, you’ll likely take the same general courses as students in other specializations, then enroll in electives that cover topics of concern to the healthcare industry.

Some of the courses you’re likely to encounter in an MBA program include:

  • Marketing Decision Making
  • Organizational Theory and Behavior
  • Statistics and Modeling
  • Financial and Managerial Accounting for Managers
  • Managerial Decision Analysis
  • Technology for Business Transformation

How Do You Enroll in an MHA or MBA Program?

The requirements for earning an MBA or MHA may be slightly different. It’s also worth noting that specific admission requirements can vary from school to school and from program to program. Some MBA programs will only consider applicants who have taken the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) while other programs do not require test scores.

Many MBA programs also require you to have already earned a bachelor’s degree by the time you begin the program. The same is occasionally true of MHA programs. Some MHA programs will accept students who have earned an associate degree and not a bachelor’s degree. Usually, people with associate degrees will need to take bridge courses before they begin the official MHA program.

You don’t need to be working in the healthcare field to enroll in an MBA program, however, many MHA programs expect students to have some experience in healthcare before they are admitted to the program. That is particularly true when students are admitted to an MHA program without a bachelor’s degree.

Can’t Decide Between an MHA and an MBA?

While an MBA is the clear choice for some students and an MHA is the obvious pick for others, you might find that both options are appealing to you. You might want to help shape the future of healthcare, but also develop skills that will help you succeed in any business environment.

With AHU Online, you can have the best of both worlds. We’ve recently partnered with Stetson University to create a dual MHA/MBA program, which is 100% online.

Upon completing the program, you’ll walk away with two degrees, an MHA-SI from AHU Online and an MBA from Stetson University. The dual degree will help you prepare for a variety of job opportunities and will give you a competitive edge over similar candidates who have just an MBA or just an MHA.

Another benefit of the dual-degree program is that you can finish it in about the same amount of time it would take you to earn a single degree. You can earn an MHA/MBA in just two years, with 54 credit hours. The combined degree also costs a lot less than two separate master’s degrees.

If you’re ready to continue your education and don’t want to limit yourself, the dual degree might be just right for you. To learn more about our innovative dual MHA/MBA degree program, speak with an admissions counselor today.


  1. Healthcare Occupations, Bureau of Labor Statistics, last updated April 12, 2019,