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MHA vs. MBA: Which is Right For You?

As healthcare professionals look ahead, many find themselves searching for a graduate program to expand their leadership opportunities and enhance their knowledge. Earning a master’s degree is one way to potentially increase your earning potential while improving your skill set and marketability. 

In healthcare, professionals are often faced with two graduate degree programs to choose from: a Master in Health Administration (MHA) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Both options open up a world of possibilities, but there are key differences between the programs you’ll want to consider before making a decision.

In this blog, we examine the similarities and differences between an MHA and an MBA and provide tips on determining which program is right for you.  

What Does an MHA and MBA Have in Common?

Both degrees can help you further your career in health administration or services. 

Mountasser Kadrie
Dr. Mountasser Kadrie

Wake Forest University School of Professional Studies faculty member Dr. Mountasser Kadrie explains, “The MBA and MHA degrees open up many possibilities and represent a time-tested learning framework to enhance graduates’ career profiles and earning potential.”

Both programs offer students an opportunity to develop a foundation of principal business concepts ranging from finance and risk management to human resources and leadership. The intention is to help professionals shape their organization in response to the demands of stakeholders, and the evolving industry landscape. 

Individuals with either degree can be found in a variety of settings, including hospitals, insurance management, government agencies, and more. As a professional degree program, students can expect to spend 2-3 years in school regardless if they’re pursuing an MBA or MHA.  

What Are the Differences Between an MHA and an MBA?

There are several key differences between the two programs. For starters, an MBA is considered a generalist graduate degree, whereas an MHA is more specialized. 

While some MBA programs offer concentrations in fields (such as healthcare), the curriculum and courses are designed to be more broadly applicable across industries and professional contexts. It allows more freedom for anyone who plans to transition into a different industry. 

An MHA, on the other hand, is more specialized and focuses on the specific needs, opportunities, and challenges unique to the healthcare industry. All the program materials and activities are healthcare specific.

Some specific areas covered in an MHA that would not be addressed in an MBA program include:

  • Managing health systems 
  • Improving quality and equity in health care delivery
  • Understanding and applying healthcare law and policy 
  • Pursuing patient safety and quality of care outcomes 
  • Applying health policy to administration and management

Another important difference to note is who typically pursues each program. In any MBA program cohort, you will find a wide range of industries represented. However, people who pursue an MHA degree typically already work in healthcare. 

How to Determine the Right Program For You

Before deciding which graduate degree program is right for you, ask yourself a few questions. 

1. Am I planning to continue a career in healthcare?

If the answer is “no”, then an MBA might be your best route.

“An MBA prepares learners with more in-depth and comprehensive foundational skills about common business functions and best practices than is possible in an MHA program,” explains Dr. Kadrie. “Graduating with an MBA makes it easier for graduates to transition into a broader range of industries.”

2. Am I interested in advancing my career in healthcare into a leadership role?

If the answer is “yes”, then an MHA can help you do that. 

Dr. Kadrie explains, “Earning an MHA offers graduates a deep and comprehensive understanding of the industry’s issues and dynamics. It’s also an excellent selling point for graduates to increase their mobility, career transition, and advancement within the healthcare industry.” 

3. Do I want to make impactful change at the healthcare organization I work for? 

If the answer is “yes”, it’s time to consider an MHA. These programs are designed to engage with diverse learners to prepare them for leadership roles in healthcare administration, including making a positive impact on patient outcomes. 

At Wake Forest SPS, Dr. Kadrie believes the Master in Health Administration program achieves that mission: “The curriculum is designed for professionals who aspire to develop the knowledge, competencies, and skills necessary to become leaders in the ever-changing healthcare industry.” ‘


Advance your career with an online Master of Health Administration degree program from Wake Forest University’s School of Professional Studies. Request more information today.