If you work in healthcare administration – or want to work in the field – chances are that you’ve noticed that the management level, higher-paying jobs generally require an advanced degree of some sort. Employers like hospitals, healthcare systems and biomedical or pharmaceutical companies prefer employees who have a solid background in the fundamentals of managing the people and processes specific to healthcare.
The problem stems from, however, the multiple options for getting an advanced degree in healthcare management, especially when it comes to choosing between a MBA with a concentration in healthcare administration or management, or a Master of Healthcare Administration degree. Both options are attractive to employers and will give you extensive knowledge of the field, but which one is right for you depends on your own specific career goals and interests.
The Difference Between a Concentration and a Degree
Depending on the schools that you are considering, you’ll have several options. One common option is the MBA healthcare management concentration. In a program like this, you’ll study basics that apply to all businesses to build a foundation of knowledge, and for your electives, take several courses that relate to healthcare. You’ll graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary to manage and lead in a healthcare facility, but it will be focused more on the business aspects of healthcare – finance, budgeting, marketing, etc.
Degree programs that lead to a Master of Healthcare Administration, on the other hand, are completely devoted to healthcare. You will take courses in the business of healthcare, but also in subjects such as ethics, law, issues and trends, as well as the leadership and organization found within healthcare environments.
Which is Right for Me?
Choosing between a MBA with a concentration or an MHA degree largely depends on your experience and career goals. MHA programs often appeal to those who have a degree in another healthcare related field and some experience working in a healthcare environment. For example, a nurse who wishes to move into a management role might seek a MHA degree to gain the necessary organizational management and business skills.
MBA programs often appeal to those who wish to move into a healthcare administration career from another field or want to grow within their existing role. For example, someone who works in the accounting or finance department might seek the MBA to get more knowledge and experience within that role, and an understanding of how to apply that knowledge in a healthcare setting.
However, the choice is really yours to make. Some experts argue that when you have an undergraduate degree in healthcare administration or a related field, seeking the MHA is redundant, and you will be better served to seek a MBA with a concentration in healthcare administration or management, such as that offered by Scranton University online. However, if you have a degree in another field and some experience working in healthcare, the MBA in Healthcare Administration will enhance your knowledge and experience and better prepare you for a leadership role in healthcare, but also give you a business background that applies to any industry.
While either advanced degree can open up opportunities in healthcare management careers, there are some differences. In general, those who hold a MHA tend to work in administrative positions overseeing personnel, or managing service and quality. If you hold a MBA with a concentration, you may have more opportunities in specialized areas of healthcare management; for example, you might work in hospital finance or marketing, depending on your undergraduate degree and experience.
However, in either case, earning an advanced degree does increase your earning power. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare administrators who hold advanced degrees generally earn well over $70,000 per year, and some more elite positions pay over six figures, making the investment in your education very worthwhile.
When trying to decide which type of degree to pursue, review job postings and descriptions for the type of jobs that you are interested in, and choose the degree program that best fits the requirements for your career goals. Expect to be challenged and inspired in either program, and build the knowledge and skills you need for a long and satisfying career in the healthcare field.
About the Author: Jill McDonald is working toward an MBA in healthcare management. She previously worked in public relations.