MPH vs. MHA: 5 Key Differences

High-achieving health services professionals often seek a postgraduate education to help them advance their careers into roles where they can take on greater levels of responsibility. With the many options for master’s degrees, many of these ambitious people must compare the benefits of an MPH vs. MHA. degree. By studying the key differences between a Master of Public Health and a Master of Health Administration, prospective students can determine if MHA degrees are the most suitable choice for professionals seeking health care leadership positions.

Master of Health Administration

The average Master of Health Administration (MHA) program is designed to teach students how to manage health care organizations, such as hospitals and nursing facilities. Through their coursework, these students study many of the core principles of operating a business. After learning the foundational skills and concepts, students can find out how to apply these principles in a health care environment.

Master of Public Health

The Master of Public Health (MPH) trains students to investigate health-related issues within a particular population. This involves studying the techniques that public health professionals typically use to discern patterns of disease in communities. Apart from learning to identify these patterns, students also learn how to respond to them by designing and implementing community health programs that aim to solve targeted populations’ health-related problems.

MPH vs. MHA: Different Coursework Concentrations

Students have their own reasons for pursuing a master’s degree. Those who are interested in a degree program that emphasizes a diverse range of health care leadership opportunities may be better suited for receiving their MHA. Others who want a degree with a deeper science curriculum may prefer to choose an MPH. Both degrees come with possible concentrations that can help graduates pursue a career that lines up well with their individual career goals, such as epidemiology for MPH students or health informatics for students enrolled in MHA programs.

MPH vs. MHA: Different Curricula

These degrees are both related to health care, but few of the required courses in the two programs overlap. While the MHA curriculum generally has a strong emphasis on the business side of health care organizations, the MPH curriculum focuses on health-related sciences and research. While an MHA student learns how to manage teams of health care professionals, the MPH student learns more about diseases and research methods.

MPH vs. MHA: Different Career Paths

The MPH and MHA prepare students for different roles after graduation. For MHA graduates, obtaining a job as a health services manager (or similar role) is a likely career outcome. As for MPH graduates, finding a hands-on science-oriented job in a field like epidemiology is more likely than a health care management position.

● Epidemiologist. Epidemiologists coordinate disease prevention programs in communities. They collect information from community members and use it to determine which health issues need to be addressed. Then the epidemiologist will collaborate with other health care professionals to help policymakers produce an actionable health policy. An epidemiologist usually needs at least a master’s degree to be considered for hire. Typically, students interested in this career will earn an MPH with a concentration in epidemiology. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were only 6,100 active epidemiologists in the United States in 2016, and their median salary was $70,820.

● Health Services Administrator. This job entails the management of health care organizations. Professionals in this occupation have a diverse range of responsibilities that they must balance, including completing human resources management tasks, organizing company records, and monitoring an organization’s budgets and finances. To qualify for most health services administrator roles, applicants should have a master’s degree in a business- or health care-related field, preferably an MHA. In 2016, the median salary of 352,200 people working in this role was $96,540. The BLS projects 20 percent (72,100) more jobs to be created for this occupation from 2016 to 2026.

MPH vs. MHA: Different Work Environments

Depending on their education, MPH- and MHA-prepared health care professionals may work in different environments. Health care professionals with an MHA are more likely to be working in a leadership role in an office setting at a health care institution, where there is substantial employee interaction. Health care professionals with an MPH have a wider range of potential work environments, including government facilities, hospitals, and colleges/universities. Depending on their specific role, MPH graduates are also more likely to be required to work from a lab or research facility.

MPH vs. MHA: Different Skills

An MHA curriculum is structured to help students build a different set of professional skills compared with the average MPH curriculum. If students are more competent in leadership, communication, and decision-making, they may be better served by an MHA degree. Similarly, if they excel at analysis, evaluating statistics, and conducting research, their careers would likely benefit more from an MPH degree.

When professionals are making the MPH vs. MHA decision, they should note that both programs offer valuable skills that can be used in several unique occupations. Those considering advanced education options should determine which program will best complement their current skill sets. For prospective students who believe they can excel in a management-oriented role, earning a Master of Health Administration may help set them apart from their peers and help them find a rewarding job following graduation.

Learn More

The master’s of health administration offers students a graduate degree with a flexible career path that often includes leadership roles in health care organizations. Program graduates understand how to make health care run efficiently so facilities can deliver outstanding patient care with ideal patient outcomes. Regis College offers an online MHA degree program that students can complete in as few as 24 months.

Recommended Reading

What Is an MHA Degree?

Benefits of Earning Your Health Administration Master’s Online

5 Career Specialties for Health Administrators


Bureau of Labor Statistics, Epidemiologists

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

American College of Healthcare Executives