Healthcare administrators manage the business operations of hospitals, clinics, and other health services organizations. They keep things running smoothly and efficiently to ensure the best level of care for patients. Advancing to high-level healthcare administrator roles often calls for a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) degree. Many working professionals are now turning to online MHA degree programs for their flexible class structure. To help you get started on your search for an online MHA program, we’ve put together a list of this year’s top accredited schools, starting with comprehensive descriptions of three of the very best.
New York University
The goal of New York University’s online Master of Health Administration degree program is to provide its graduates with a solid foundation of real-world leadership skills that can be applied directly and immediately to their careers. This seven-semester (28-month) part-time program is designed to allow students to maintain their current full-time professional employment by combining live, online lectures and discussions with additional asynchronous and offline coursework. Additionally, students are required to attend a single, two-and-a-half-day on-site “immersion experience” on NYU Wagner’s campus in New York City. The curriculum culminates in a project in which students work as a team to solve real-world problems through use of a healthcare system simulation.
Admission into the program requires a minimum of one year of full-time professional experience along with current employment in healthcare management or a closely-related U.S. healthcare field. A minimum 3.0 GPA on previous undergraduate studies is recommended. Application requirements include submittal of a current resume or CV, two letters of recommendation, and two essays (one exploring the complexities of a specific healthcare issue, and one detailing the applicant’s professional goals).
University of Southern California
Designed for mid-career management and clinical healthcare professionals, USC’s online Executive MHA program takes an integrated thematic academic approach to leadership and accountability in health services organizations. Program study for this 36-credit hour program is delivered online through a combination of on-demand video lectures, synchronous video conference sessions, course assignments, and class discussions via social network platforms and discussion boards. In addition to online coursework, students participate in two short intensive residencies on USC’s Los Angeles campus at which students attend lectures and meet with faculty, peers, and professionals employed in the healthcare administration field.
Minimum program admissions requirements include both a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of five years of professional experience in either healthcare or a closely-related field. In most cases, applicants with a GPA below 3.0 on their most recent 60 credit units of college-level coursework will not be admitted. However, meeting minimum application requirements does not guarantee admission into the program. Acceptance is determined through an assessment of a number of criteria including impressive professional and managerial experience, prior academic accomplishments and community service, strong letters of recommendation, and a persuasive written statement of purpose.
Colorado State University
Customized study is a key feature of the online Master of Health Administration degree offered by Colorado State University’s CSU Global program. The MHA curriculum consists of 24 to 27 credit hours of core healthcare administration coursework in subjects such as Healthcare Information Systems, Healthcare Finance, and Operations Management. Students additionally complete 12 credit hours in one of a wide range of specializations, including subjects like Project Management, International Management, Population Health, and Finance. CSU also offers a number of degree path options that allow students to earn certificates and complete specializations along the way to earning their MHA degrees. Another key feature of this MHA program is that all degree work can be completed 100% online through asynchronous course study.
Admission into CSU’s online MHA program requires a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited college or university. An undergraduate or graduate GPA of 3.0 or higher is preferred. Students not meeting standard admissions requirements may still be admitted by meeting certain provisional admissions requirements.
Online MHA Program Spotlights
Hearing straight from schools can make all the difference as you try to decide which online MHA program is best for you. We reached out to program directors at several universities to let them share what makes their online MHA programs stand apart and how the curriculum prepares students for a successful career after graduation.
Program Director, Master of Health Administration and Assistant Professor, School of Health Sciences
Master of Health Administration
What’s your involvement at Northcentral University with online learning?
In my role I manage the operations of the MHA program using synchronous technology for mentoring and engaging learners in our NCU one-to-one model of student engagement. Additionally, I work closely with the instructional design and curriculum assessment teams to ensure that the program reflects current and contemporary content per our accreditation standards.
What makes your online MHA program stand out from other programs?
The MHA program was developed and designed to mirror both industry and professional competencies. Our program aligns with the high standards for graduate programs per the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) and we embed Interprofessional Education (IPE) and the National Center for Health Care Leadership competency model (NCHL) into our curriculum. Our program is an associate member of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) and was named New Program of the Year in 2019. Our assistant dean was recently named Faculty Member of the Year for 2020!
We also participate in the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Higher Education Network and in 2018 we started a chapter of Upsilon Phi Delta, the national academic honor society for health administration students. Faculty and students in the MHA program have the opportunity to collaborate, present and publish on industry related topics.
How does your online MHA program prepare students for successful careers in the field?
Students are provided with ample opportunities to practice and demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities that employers require of their employees in the healthcare industry. For example, graduates of the MHA program will be qualified for careers in various types of health service organizations, such as hospitals, ambulatory settings, home health agencies, and government agencies.
We have a Program Advisory Council (PAC) which consists of leaders and administrators with a wide variety of healthcare experience. The primary purpose of the PAC is to ensure our program includes the content and exposes students to the information they will need to become leaders in their prospective positions.
What support services do you offer students enrolled in your online MHA program?
NCU offers an array of student support services including but not limited to:
Academic and Finance Advising
Center for Teaching and Learning
Academic Success Center
Educational Materials and Resources
Office of the Registrar
IT Service Desk Team
Institutional Review Board
Well-Being and Safety
Any other information you’d like prospective students to know about your MHA program?
The SHS has a Student Advisory Council (SAC) that serves as a liaison between students, faculty, and administration in the School of Health Sciences. SAC members work to evaluate and provide feedback/recommendations for the MHA program. The MHA students also participate in an annual Day of Service where they are encouraged to work within their individual communities to make difference.
What’s your involvement at West Coast University with online learning?
I have been involved with online learning since 2011 when the MHA program was in a bookend format through the transition into fully online in 2016 and the introduction of the BSHA program online.
What makes your online MHA program stand out from others?
Our program is 100% online and mobile-friendly which can provide you with the flexibility to learn on your own schedule anywhere at any time. Although our program is online, it’s heavily student-centric where you can receive student support, gain access to the dean, career services, a success advisor and admission reps who are all available to you to help prepare you for success. West Coast University strives to support our students every step of the way. What makes us stand out is our program has accelerated and working professional options available to you. Our time to completion for MHA program is in as little as 12 months. Many of our students have obligations and responsibilities, so we understand how tough it is to balance everything. At West Coast University, there are partner grants available for those who qualify, and we can help find internships in California when it’s time for students to get the hands-on experience they need.
How does your online MHA program prepare students for successful careers in the field?
The mission of the MHA program is to prepares graduates with multidisciplinary skills required for entry-level managerial positions in hospitals, long-term care facilities, medical group practices, and other health care facilities. Our online program is designed to provide the fundamental knowledge required to prepare our students as supervisors or managers in the healthcare industry including planning, directing, coordinating and supervising the delivery of healthcare products and services. Our curriculum is based on the Healthcare Leadership Alliance (HLA) 5 cored competencies to include courses in finance, marketing, informatics, strategic planning, hospital administration, leadership, project management, and entrepreneurship.
What support services do you offer students enrolled in your online MHA program?
Our students not only get access to me, the dean, they also receive continuous support from our career services department, our 24-hour access to library, Blackboard Mobile App and eTextbooks to take wherever you go! At West Coast University, we prepare our students to go to the next level of leadership, and we strive to provide our students the education to take the next step in your career by offering support beyond graduation. We continuously support our students even when they have obtained a career.
Our Career Services Department provides ongoing assistance with professional and career development workshops to guide our students and graduates to help prepare for professional success. We also offer students an immersive Interprofessional Education (IPE) through courses that integrate IPE. We focus on the four core competencies of interprofessional collaborative practice: Values/Ethics for Interprofessional Practice, Roles and Responsibilities, Interprofessional Communication and Teams and Teamwork. Hands-on experience is an important part of building leadership skills. That’s why West Coast University offers MHA students a variety of internship opportunities—leveraging our relationships with the Red Cross, local organizations, and International internship partners to help place you in a rewarding and intellectually challenging environment.
Any other information you’d like students to know about your MHA program?
There are many benefits to earning an advanced degree, which may include job security, flexibility and increased earning potential. Without an advanced degree in this field, it can be very difficult to progress upward. This is a super exciting field where you gain limitless learning possibilities from finance, marketing, HR, quality control, infectious control, risk management, and director roles just to name a few. It’s a rewarding field to be a part of, and this is a great way to dip your toes into different roles in the health care industry.
What Types of Online MHA Programs Are Available?
Not all online MHA programs are created alike, and that’s a good thing because MHA students are not all looking to get the same things out of their degree studies. Finding the right program type can play a big role in a student’s academic success. Here’s a quick look at the various types of online MHA programs available to help you find the one that’s the right fit for you.
Fully-online MHA programs allow students to complete all degree requirements entirely through distance learning. Be careful, though, as some programs that advertise themselves as 100% online may require one or more brief on-campus residencies, an in-person internship, or other in-person activities. Fully-online programs are particularly good for full-time working professionals who need to fit their studies into already tight work and life schedules. They are, of course, the only option for degree seekers living in locations that make in-person attendance impossible. Course delivery may be asynchronous (meaning students can access and complete coursework at anytime), synchronous (requiring online attendance for classes or other activities at specifically-scheduled times), or a combination of both. Most fully-online MHA curriculums are structured for part-time study and are designed to be completed in two-and-a-half to four years.
Hybrid (or blended) degree programs combine online and in-person coursework. In-person classes are typically offered on the school’s main campus, but in some cases may be available on satellite campuses or at other designated locations. As with fully-online programs, course delivery may be asynchronous, synchronous, or a combination of both. Hybrid programs also typically include some on-campus residencies and/or other in-person participation. Some programs may offer a full-time study option that can normally be completed in two years or less. However, most feature part-time curriculums that, like full-time programs, are designed to be completed in two-and-a-half to four years. Hybrid programs are a good choice for students who prefer some face-to-face interaction with instructors and fellow students, but who also require or want to take advantage of the convenience and flexibility afforded by online study.
Whereas the standard MHA is geared toward students either seeking to enter or who are in the early stages of their careers as healthcare administrators, the EMHA is geared toward mid-career healthcare administrators intent on advancing into top-tier administrative positions. Not surprisingly, therefore, the work experience requirements for admission into EMHA programs are more restrictive than with standard MHA programs. It is not uncommon for EMHA programs to require four, five, or more years of relevant healthcare management experience for program entry. The structures and time requirements of online EMHA programs (delivery formats, on-campus residencies, etc.) are similar to those of standard online MHA programs.
MHA with No GRE
In the past, admission to a MHA degree program (or any master’s program, for that matter) almost always required submission of an acceptable GRE or GMAT score. Times have changed, though. Many MHA programs today no longer require taking either the GRE or GMAT, relying instead on an assessment of other application requirements, such as demonstrated work experience, a solid undergraduate GPA, prior academic and/or professional distinction, letters of recommendation, and a persuasive statement of purpose. Below are just a few of the online MHA programs that do not require taking the GRE or GMAT for admission:
Online MHA programs sometimes feature specialization or concentration options that allow students to tailor their studies to include a particular subject of interest and enhance their attractiveness to employers. Here are a few of the most popular specializations currently being offered by MHA programs.
Organizational Leadership and Development
Students develop an advanced understanding of how to structure their organization’s services and resources through the study and practical application of organizational concepts, theories, and trends. Leadership skills gained allow students to create solutions to meet the ever-changing needs of their organizations and communities, as well as incorporate innovations in the healthcare marketplace.
Population health is concerned with the health outcomes of discrete and identifiable groups of individuals within larger communities. The population health specialization prepares students to understand and analyze data on these groups to better address their unique healthcare needs, taking into consideration such factors as economic insecurity, social status and social bias.
Accounting is an important but often overlooked concern for healthcare administration professionals. The accounting specialization provides students with the skills to understand and meet the budgetary challenges of their organizations. Topics typically covered include healthcare informatics, corporate governance, financial statement analysis, forensic accounting and fraud examination, taxation, information management systems, and legal and ethical issues.
Students will likely find some overlap regarding topics covered between accounting and finance specializations. The main difference between the two is that the accounting specialization is aimed more toward internal monetary and budgetary concerns, while the finance specialization focuses on the healthcare organization’s external, bigger picture financial issues. Subjects covered include financial analysis and decision making, business valuation and asset pricing, strategic planning and reporting, and marketing.
Healthcare administrators are often called upon to spearhead important specific projects for their organizations. The project management specialization prepares students to take on and successfully manage such projects, from initial design stages through project completion. Topics typically covered include project planning, management strategies, risk management and mitigation, contracts, and procurement.
The human resources specialization prepares graduates to apply human resource theory and principals to the creation and implementation of HR programs and strategies within healthcare organizations. Topics include staffing and employment, business and workforce management, employee compensation management, human resource development, human resource technologies, and legal and ethics issues.
Which is Better, an MHA or MBA?
Anyone searching for a graduate-level degree in the healthcare leadership field has more than likely run across several MBA degree programs specializing in healthcare management or administration. And finding such programs leads to the inevitable question, “How does an MBA with a Healthcare Administration concentration differ from an MHA degree?” Generally speaking, an MBA with a Healthcare Administration concentration prepares business professionals to apply advanced banking and investment skills to their work with client healthcare organizations. An MHA, on the other hand, provides current healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to carry out the administrative operations of healthcare organizations as a direct employee.
There is, of course, major overlap regarding the topics covered and skills developed in these two degree programs. So, if you are still unsure which one is best for you, consider the following:
Choose the MHA if …
You intend on pursuing an administration or management career at an organization within the healthcare field.
Your main professional focus concerns the management of healthcare services and systems.
You think of yourself as a “people person.”
Choose the MBA if …
You want a career in banking or investment management that deals with organizations in the healthcare industry. You may also work with other non-healthcare industries as well.
Your main professional interests are in the areas of banking and finance, particularly in how they apply to the healthcare business.
You think of yourself as a “numbers person.”
A Look at MBA/MHA Dual Degree Programs Online
You’ve carefully examined your career goals and interests. You’ve taken a close look at programs for both MHA degrees and MBA degrees with a Healthcare Administration concentration. Still, neither degree seems to be quite the right fit. The right answer may be to earn both. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent schools out there that offer online MBA/MHA dual degree programs. These programs allow students to gain the knowledge and skills provided by both degrees individually, but in much less time.
Below are three examples of MBA/MHA dual degree programs that can be completed either fully or partially online:
The program lengths given below are typical of MHA programs offered online. The most accurate answer to this question, however, is that completion times vary – sometimes substantially – from program to program. So, be sure to carefully review the curriculums and graduation requirements of any and all MHA programs you’re considering before you enroll.
1 ½ – 2 Years
2 ½ – 4 Years
1 ½ – 2 Years
2 ½ – 4 Years
MHA/MBA Dual Degree
2 ½ – 3 Years
4 – 5 Years
What Do You Learn in an Online MHA Program?
The purpose of MHA program coursework is to provide students with comprehensive skills and training in a broad range of topics that, taken together, make up the duties of an effective administrator of a large and complex healthcare organization. Those duties include:
Improving the quality and efficiency of the organization’s delivery of healthcare services.
Developing and carrying out organizational policies, goals, and objectives.
Representing the organization to governmental agencies, investors, governing boards, and the local community at large.
Overseeing the recruiting, hiring, training, and supervising of employees.
Ensuring that the organization stays up-to-date regarding healthcare-related technologies and trends, as well as the ever-changing needs of patients.
Managing and ensuring the organization’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
5 Popular Courses in Online MHA Programs
Healthcare Financial Management
An examination of fundamental finance concepts and theories, along with practical strategies that can be applied to real-world challenges to ensure an organization’s continued financial viability. Topics typically covered include marketing and resource development, cost analysis, data analytics, budgeting, and asset valuation and pricing.
Health Law and Ethics
Comprehensive look at the legal principles, laws, and regulations that apply to healthcare practices. Among the subjects covered are patient rights and consent requirements, professional liability, legal reporting, and the certification and licensing of healthcare professionals. Students are additionally introduced to fundamental ethical concepts and practices related to healthcare leadership.
Students in this course examine the range of marketing theories, concepts, and strategies as they relate to healthcare networks and organizations. Focus is placed on the fundamentals of effective marketing through the study of topics such as marketing research and analysis, market segmentation, global marketing concepts, and the development of specific marketing plans.
This course provides an overall survey of the theories and concepts of healthcare policy and their application to the policy-making process. Students are taught how to create, develop, and manage policy plans and initiatives, as well as how to analyze plan outcomes.
Human Resource Management
Study of the concepts and practices that lead to effective human resource administration and leadership. Specific topics covered include: staff recruiting, hiring, compensation, and incentives; HR organizational structures; diversity issues; and effective communication between administrators, HR department staff, and employees.
What Can You Do with an MHA Degree?
MHA graduates can find challenging, in-demand, high-paying leadership and management careers in clinical settings like hospitals, medical clinics, doctors’ offices, and nursing homes. Careers can also be found in a wide range of non-clinical settings with governmental agencies, insurance companies, medical equipment suppliers, professional consulting firms, and more. Below is a small sampling of the job titles MHA graduates have in today’s employment market. All salary and job growth figures are taken from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.
How Affordable Are Online Master’s Degrees in Healthcare Administration?
Tuition prices and other costs associated with pursuing an MHA degree vary significantly from program to program depending on a variety of factors. In most cases, for example, students can expect to spend more on a program offered by a private school than one offered by a public school. Online MHA programs at public universities may offer a discounted rate for in-state residents. Below are examples of tuition prices (current as of fall 2019) taken from three online MHA programs: