MHA vs MBA – Which is Right for You?

The health care industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and across the globe. With global spending on health care projected to increase by 5%, through 2023 and job growth in the U.S., the need for knowledgeable health care professionals is prevalent.

Accordingly, seasoned professionals have the opportunity to leverage their specialized knowledge and industry connections to fill the demand for health care experts. Additionally, many health care professionals pursue an advanced degree—such as an MHA or MBA—to gain access to a wider breadth of employment opportunities. 

Both a Master of Health Care Administration (MHA) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) offer the tools and qualifications needed to excel in the administration and management sector of the health care field. It’s important to learn which of these two distinct programs suits your unique career and personal goals.

In this article, we analyze MHA vs. MBA programs to equip you with the information needed to make that choice. Read on to learn about the key differences between the programs and discover the right path for you.

George Washington University

Milken Institute School of Public Health


Master of Health Administration

With GW’s online Master of Health Administration program, MHA@GW, you can earn your degree and become a health care leader in as few as 24 months. Bachelor’s degree required. No GRE/GMAT required.

  •  Complete online in as few as 24 months
  • Bachelor’s degree required
  • No GRE/GMAT scores required


Program Comparison of MHA vs. MBA in Health Care

Either an MHA or MBA can open up a slew of opportunities. Nonetheless, before the job opportunities, graduation or even enrollment, you must determine whether an MHA or MBA will fit your career goals. In this section, we’ll explain the differences and how to assess which vehicle will bring your objective to fruition.

Program Overviews 

Both MHA and MBA programs can be beneficial for professionals seeking greater employment opportunities. Nonetheless, each has particular advantages dependent on individual career goals.

To summarize, Master of Business Administration programs ground students in effective business practices with a detailed overview of the business world. An MBA in health care management adds the specialized focus of management within the health care industry to the general MBA degree, applying these business management and administration fundamentals to the unique requirements of health care.

In contrast, Master of Healthcare Administration programs prepare students for niche industry administration roles. An MHA program prioritizes health care–specific knowledge with coursework that applies directly to the industry like health care law and health care informatics as opposed to an MBA where knowledge is general to the business world.

Ultimately, the health care industry is heavily regulated and requires professionals with specialized knowledge to meet the unique demands and challenges of the industry. 

In summary, an MBA is a general degree that prepares students to work in the business sector across many industries. If the individual is not committed to work in the health care industry, an MBA may be more appropriate. An MHA is a comprehensive degree that is ideal for professionals pursuing advanced health care leadership and executive positions.

Curriculum Differences

DegreeCurriculumProgram LengthKey Focus
The coursework required when pursuing an MHA is heavily health care–focused as opposed to the more business-focused MBA. You can expect health care–intensive classes such as health care information systems, health care quality management and essentials of public health.

Additionally, business classes with a health care slant make up a significant portion of the course array. These can include strategic marketing for health care organizations and health care finance.
The program length for a full-time MHA student ranges from 18 to 24 months. The flexibility provided by online MHA programs means there are more options for fitting this pursuit into your schedule. If you opt to pursue the degree as a part-time student, anticipate a timeline closer to three years.
An MHA offers specialized instruction for those seeking a deep dive into the health care industry. It centers around providing students with a deeper understanding needed to tackle complex issues in the public health field.
While an MBA in health care allows students to specialize, the bulk of coursework for each student is the same regardless of concentration. This means you’ll primarily take courses covering core business areas like finance, marketing, economics, accounting and operations.

Then, you will delve into specific electives that address the healthcare industry and provide working knowledge. Typical courses include public health systems and healthcare risk management.
The program length for a full-time MBA student is about two years. This timeline applies to both online MBA healthcare programs and traditional ones, but it can vary depending on the school. Part-time students typically make a three-year time commitment.
The MBA in health care has a heavy business focus that provides strategic and managerial skills. Secondarily, it includes instruction in the health care sector and insights as to how this intersects with business disciplines.

Admissions Requirements and Prospective Students

MBA and MHA programs are advanced degree programs that require a considerable amount of work, more so than bachelor programs. Like other advanced degrees, acceptance into an master’s program requires the following:

  • GPA of 3.0 or better
  • Resume
  • Bachelor degree from an accredited college
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Personal statement

Keep in mind that specific degree programs may have different requirements.

The greatest difference in admission requirements for MHA is work experience. Some MHA programs require work experience that is applicable to the field. Admissions offices appreciate a strong base of knowledge that can be built upon in a structured degree program. 

Additionally, it is preferred that the working experience specifically be in the health care industry. Usually, having two or more years of strong work experience in the health care industry is sufficient. There are also some schools that may require applicants to be currently working full-time in the health care sector or have a certain number of years of management experience.

MHA vs. MBA Salary Outlook and Careers

A common inquiry in the MHA vs. MBA debate revolves around potential earnings. So, which graduate degree yields higher salaries? Both MBAs and MHAs open doors to some of the highest-paid public health jobs, such as health care administrators. 

MHA Career and Salary Outlook

By 2028, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 1.9 million new jobs will be added to the health care industry, including health support and technical occupations and health care practitioners. Likewise, the demand for health care administrators will increase to supplement growing medical practices. The industry outlook is prime for professionals who seek advanced degree opportunities.

Individuals in this profession are often employed by hospitals, government agencies, outpatient care centers, and residential care facilities. Common roles include health care program director, chief operating officer and practice administrator. The median salary for health care services managers was $99,730 in 2018, with senior professionals earning as much as $182,600.

MBA Career and Salary Outlook

A Master of Business Administration in healthcare is a very flexible degree that offers a broad range of job opportunities. Additionally, the flexibility of the role allows for greater job mobility.

Individuals with an MBA in health care often find work in lucrative workplaces like insurance companies and pharmaceuticals. Popular careers include policy analyst and pharmaceutical project manager. Because of the wide range of careers—additionally, the various employers—for MBA graduates, the median salary is difficult to calculate. Nonetheless, to demonstrate the financial opportunity in an array of industries, the median salary for a government health services manager is $110,460.

MHA vs. MBA: Which Meets Your Expectations?

Getting a degree, either an MBA or an MHA, can be rewarding. If you’re struggling with which degree to choose, think about your desired career outcome or ideal industry to work in. 

Consider an MHA degree if:

  • You’ve determined to pursue a career in public health or health care.
  • You are currently working in health care and want to accelerate your career and attain leadership roles
  • You want to immerse yourself in the intense curriculum of health care to keep yourself updated with this complex and fast-paced industry.
  • You look forward to access to this network of professionals with varying levels of knowledge that can aid in your professional development. MHA programs are composed of advisors and colleagues with experience in the health care industry.

Consider an MBA in health care degree if:

  • You have an interest in health care but desire the flexibility of pursuing other industries. 
  • You prefer a working knowledge of the health care world as it relates to business.
  • You are looking for a comprehensive business background and want to possess the business acumen needed to serve in a managerial capacity in a wide array of roles.

The health care industry is teeming with potential for industry professionals seeking greater career opportunities. The growing market and exponential demand mean a positive recipe for success. With an advanced degree—like an MHA—the possibilities are endless.