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Consider This: Is an Online MHA Worth It?

When making the decision to pursue an online MHA, the bottom line is whether or not it’ll be worth your time, money, and energy. To know if it’s worth it for yourself, this guide will walk you through the six things you should consider. Spoiler alert: we think you’ll decide it’s worth it.

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A smiling female healthcare worker in blue scrubs using a laptop at a desk with a striped wall in the background.

If you work in healthcare or are drawn to serving in the healthcare industry, you most likely value helping others and making a meaningful impact on their lives. Healthcare administrators get to do this every day on a grand scale. The policies and procedures that they develop and implement have the power to improve access, outcomes, and equity in the facilities they manage.

Perhaps you are considering earning your master of healthcare administration so that you can enter a leadership position or broaden your management skillset, but you wonder if an MHA is worth it. The truth is, right now is a fantastic time to embark on this particular educational endeavor in healthcare administration. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for medical and health services managers are expected to grow 28% in the next ten years. Furthermore, the widespread availability of quality online programs makes this goal more attainable than ever. In addition to a stellar education, these programs offer prospective students affordability, flexibility, and convenience, and many of them can be completed in two years or fewer.

To help you weigh the value of an online Master of Healthcare Administration and decide whether it is the right decision for you, we have prepared the following guide which walks you through the six most important factors to consider before your decision. Although we think you will find that an online MHA is completely worth it, take your time to engage with the information here and arrive at your own conclusions.

Consideration 1: Your ‘Why’

Before embarking on any major undertaking, it is advisable to check in with yourself and analyze your motivation for doing so. This is because finding your “why” can help keep you focused on your goal and ready to surmount any obstacles that stand in your way. Although every student who pursues an online MHA has unique reasons, most of them fit into some of the general categories described in the section below. Give them a look and see which one best describes your motivation.

Career and Professional Advancement

If you are passionate about healthcare but desire to climb the rungs to a leadership role, an MHA can help you get there. In fact, you may discover that you have trouble breaking into healthcare leadership without it—according to the University of Minnesota, a master’s degree is a common requirement in job opportunities with healthcare delivery and financing organizations. Obtaining your MHA is worth it because you will be eligible for jobs that require a master’s and become a stand-out applicant for leadership opportunities with lesser requirements.

Career Change

There are many reasons a career change might be in order—shifting values, following a passion, or looking for more opportunities or higher salary potential. And fortunately, even if you don’t have experience in healthcare administration, an MHA can facilitate your career transition by giving you an in-depth understanding of industry essentials, such as the insurance-based reimbursement system, government regulations, medical ethics, and more. Furthermore, earning your MHA online will provide you the flexibility to continue working in your current career while paving the way toward your new one.

Company is Encouraging Continued Education

Many companies encourage employees to continue their education in order to develop their professional skills. But instead of simply taking a few courses or getting a new certification, embarking on a master’s program will truly deepen your professional knowledge and result in a more well-rounded educational experience. Companies that actively work to promote their employees’ professional development may also offer tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement, which can make an advanced degree an attractive and accessible option.

Leadership, Management, and Specialization Skills

Earning an MHA can enhance your career by polishing your leadership and management skills. For example, Regis College notes that MHA students learn how to navigate and make decisions in many different areas of healthcare, including public relations and marketing, healthcare quality management, financial analysis, and strategic management of healthcare organizations. On top of that, some MHA programs also offer the option to specialize in a specific area. For example, the University of Scranton offers specializations in health informatics and global health.

Learning Flexibility

One of the main reasons students choose online MHA programs is because of the flexibility they offer. As an online student, you typically will not have to report for classes at a scheduled time, making it easier for you to study at a convenient time as long as you meet the deadlines. Furthermore, the flexibility of online learning also makes it possible to continue working while earning your degree, which is a distinct advantage.

Consideration 2: The Cost of Your Degree

There is no avoiding it—getting a degree comes with a price tag. However, instead of viewing this mysterious number through a haze of confusion and terror, it is better to confront it directly so that you can get a clear picture of the various factors that will impact your bottom line. Continue reading below to explore these distinct components and get a better understanding of how much your online MHA might cost.

Application Fees

Most graduate schools charge a one-time application fee when you submit application. This fee covers the costs associated with processing each application, and it helps the school ensure that only serious candidates are applying. The average cost of these fees is anywhere from $50 to $170, so if you are applying to several schools, these fees can add up to a sizeable chunk. However, if the fee presents a financial hardship for you, most schools will allow you to obtain an application fee waiver if you can prove financial hardship.

Course Materials

Course materials are books, equipment, and other supplies that are required for different classes. According to information from various universities, such as the University of Illinois, University of Michigan, and High Point University, the average cost of these items is around $1,200 to $1,800 per academic year. Since most graduate programs take about two years to complete, you will spend this amount twice over the course of your degree program.

Graduation Fees

When you apply to graduate, you will pay a one-time fee which, according to an article from USA Today, can range from about $40 up to $400. This fee pays for expenses such as degree audits, printed diplomas, diploma cases, and mailing costs.

Technology Fees

The purpose of technology fees is to purchase and maintain the hardware and software necessary to serve students and provide instruction. Schools have different methods of assessing these fees—by semester, by course, or by credit—and the actual amount assessed varies quite a bit. For example, Texas College charges $300 per semester, Point Park University charges $120 per 3-credit course, and Walden University’s technology fees are $170 per quarter or $230 per semester. To understand how these charges will affect your overall price tag, look for a list of fees on your school’s website.

Tuition

It’s no surprise that the biggest cost associated with earning an MHA is tuition. This is the amount of money you pay for the actual instruction you receive. According to U.S. News & World Report, attending an in-state online school can cost anywhere from $6,500 to $36,000, but out-of-state students can expect to pay $26,000 to $75,000 total. However, some schools do not differentiate tuition costs for their online programs and charge a flat rate regardless of residency status.

Residency Requirements

Some MHA programs require students to complete residencies at healthcare facilities that enable them to put their skills to practical use. This deepens the student’s understanding of the tasks that the job requires, and the experience makes them more marketable to prospective employers. Although some residencies, such as the one through The University of Memphis, are paid, others may require you to pay fees. For example, the University of North Carolina charges a $450 internship fee and professional training fees between $500 and $550.

Transfer Credits

Some schools allow you to transfer graduate-level credits if they satisfy program requirements and meet certain qualifying criteria. This can save you a significant amount of money if you have previously completed at least some graduate work. For example, Walden University will allow you to transfer up to 25 credits toward an online MHA.

Consideration 3: Your Financing Options

Once you’ve calculated the approximate cost of your online MHA, the next thing to figure out is how you will pay for it. Fortunately, there are many sources of funding available that can help you achieve your educational goals. Keep reading below to get the details on loans, grants, and a few other options that you may not have considered before.

Crowdfunding and Fundraising

Crowdfunding and fundraising involve raising money via donations, usually through platforms such as GoFundMe or Kickstarter. This option is fairly easy to set up, and the funds don’t have to be repaid. However, it is unlikely you will be able to raise all of the funds you need, and it may be uncomfortable asking family and friends for donations.

Employer Tuition Assistance

Some employers offer tuition assistance in order to develop their employees’ skills and improve retention. Usually, this requires the employee to pay costs upfront and then be reimbursed by the company after each semester. This type of funding does not have to be paid back, but it may come with certain conditions and contracts. For example, the employee might be obligated to continue working for the company for a certain amount of time after being reimbursed.

Fellowships and Assistantships

A fellowship is a merit-based scholarship, whereas an assistantship is a paid work experience through which a graduate student earns tuition credit and a stipend. Both fellowships and assistantships are extremely competitive, so there is no guarantee you will land one. Although assistantships require you to work some hours, they are particularly advantageous for gaining experience and networking opportunities.

Savings and Personal Funds

Any money you are able to put aside for your education will serve you well because you won’t have to stress about paying back money right after graduation. Although it may mean you’ll have to do without some extras, look at your budget and see if there are any areas where you can cut back to save money. Consider starting an education savings account or 529 savings plan.

Scholarships and Grants

Grants and scholarships are both sources of education funding that do not require repayment. Grants are usually awarded based on financial need, but scholarships are generally merit-based awards. These types of funding may be quite competitive, and they may not be enough to cover all expenses.

Student Loans

There are two main types of student loans—federal and private. Federal loans are funded by the federal government, and private loans are obtained through a bank, credit union, or school. Federal loans have some distinct advantages over private loans: income-driven repayment options, fixed interest rates, public service loan forgiveness, and no credit check. However, both federal and private loans must be repaid with interest, so it’s best to exhaust all other funding options first.

Tuition Payment Plans

Many schools offer tuition payment plans that allow you to pay your tuition in installments (usually through a third-party tuition payment plan service company). These payment plans often have a modest enrollment fee, but they are cheaper than student loans because they do not charge interest. Although they cover direct costs such as tuition and fees, they do not address additional expenses like books and supplies.

Consideration 4: The ROI of an Online MHA

When evaluating whether an online MHA is worth it, perhaps the most important factor for you to consider is the ROI (return on investment) of your degree. You will invest your money, time, and effort into earning your degree; in order for it to be a sound investment, you will need to get more out of it than you put into it. This concept is usually viewed in terms of financial payoff—which is obviously important—but there is much more to it than that.

First of all, earning an MHA online does come with potential and substantive financial rewards. According to Payscale.com, the average base salary for an individual with an MHA degree is $82,000 per year, whereas the average base salary for someone with a bachelor’s in healthcare administration is $68,000 per year. But aside from the money, ask yourself what else you stand to gain that cannot be quantified in terms of dollars. That is, how else might this degree improve the quality of your life? Might you experience greater job satisfaction? Better work-life balance? The possibility of career advancement? You also stand to gain the pride of developing yourself personally and professionally, and the chance to better align your career with your core values. So, when considering the possible ROI for your online MHA, be sure to make a well-rounded evaluation that goes beyond your bank account.

Consideration 5: Benefits of an Online MHA Program

When exploring the many benefits offered by online MHA programs, you might be wondering why everyone wouldn’t choose to take the online option. After all, they offer learners flexibility, convenience, a lower price tag, and much more. Continue to the section below to learn more about these advantages and many others that make online MHA programs completely worth it.

Geographic Independence

Thanks to the ever-increasing interconnectedness of the world through the internet, your physical educational goals. You can attend a quality program and earn your degree from anywhere in the world without ever stepping foot on campus.

Lower Cost

Studying online can help you cut costs when compared with in-person programs. For starters, the tuition rates for online programs are typically lower than those of traditional programs. Furthermore, online students can avoid additional expenses such as transportation, housing, and on-campus costs like parking and facility usage fees. Online students may also save on course materials in cases where electronic files replace the need for physical textbooks.

Flexibility and Convenience

Online programs also fit your life by offering flexibility and convenience. First of all, most online programs offer rolling start dates, which means that you can begin your studies at any point during the year. And in the case of asynchronous programs that allow you to access your coursework at any time, you can maximize the flexibility. On top of that, studying online means that you are not tied to a physical location, so you can take your studies with you wherever you go (as long as you have your device and an internet connection).

Self-Paced Learning

Most online degree programs offer asynchronous learning options, which means that you do not have to report to class at a set time. This style of instruction enables you to complete your studies on your own time. As long as you submit your assignments by the specified due dates, you have the freedom to move at a pace that works for your life and learning style.

Consideration 6: Choosing a Top Program

If you’re still hanging in there by this point, you clearly have more than a passing interest in earning your MHA online. You have already taken stock of most of the major considerations, so the only thing left to do now is to start checking out some programs to find the one that is right for you. In fact, we’ll help you begin your search by spotlighting the top three online MHA programs out there. Check them out and see what you think!

The 54-credit online master of health administration program at Tulane University is tailored to early- to mid-career healthcare professionals who value equity and access and have a strong desire to enter leadership positions in order to fight disparities. Students are thoroughly prepared through the program’s well-rounded curriculum, which includes leadership of healthcare organizations, applied analytics, healthcare economics, and more. Much of the instruction is asynchronous, but the program also incorporates some live synchronous sessions that allow for discussions, case studies, and exercises. After completing the program’s foundational courses, students move on to an applied practicum experience that enables them to gain real-world experience and apply their management skills. This requirement can be completed in the student’s local area, and the school provides assistance with placement.

Tulane’s online MHA is one of the top 20 best healthcare management programs in the nation, and the outcomes speak for themselves—within one year after graduation, 99.7% of alumni are working, volunteering, or continuing their studies. The estimated tuition for the program is $86,724.

The online MHA program offered through the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California Los Angeles prepares students to enter leadership roles through which they can improve health outcomes and the efficiency of operations in healthcare facilities. Prospective students need a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 as well as at least three years of professional experience in any industry. There are multiple start dates throughout the year and a part-time option to accommodate students who are working full time. Although much of the course material is delivered asynchronously, the program is actually a hybrid model that requires two in-person immersions and a one-term capstone experience that addresses a real-world healthcare issue. These requirements must be completed on the UCLA campus and around the Los Angeles area.

According to one of the program’s web pages, Fielding is ranked the #9 school of public health by U.S. News & World Report and has been accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) since 1960. The total tuition for the program is $61,050.

Western Governor’s University offers a 12-course master of healthcare administration program that is suited to students who value person-focused, culturally relevant care as well as innovation and sustainability. The program’s structure truly puts pacing into the student’s hands. In fact, students can complete the MHA in as 12 months because students can advance as soon as they pass each assessment. Content is delivered mainly asynchronously with the exception of a few live discussion sessions. Furthermore, the student-led culminating capstone project enables students to virtually collaborate with healthcare leaders on real-world issues.

WGU is regionally accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and it is an exceedingly affordable option. The tuition for a six-month term is $4,755, so students pay $19,820 to finish the MHA in two years. However, because the program is truly self-paced and accepts qualifying transfer credits, it is possible to finish in much less time than that and save even more money. In fact, the student loan debt of 2022 WGU graduates was less than half the national average. Furthermore, WGU grads tend to see significant increases in their salaries after graduation. Within two years of graduation, alumni report an average salary increase of $22,200. Within four years, this amount increases to $29, 200.