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 a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree with those of a Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree. By evaluating an MPH vs. an MHA, prospective students can determine which degree is the most suitable choice for professionals seeking health care leadership positions.
What Is a Master of Health Administration?
The average 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.
What Is a Master of Public Health?
An MPH program 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, Different Curricula
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 choose to pursue an MHA. Others who want a degree with a deeper science curriculum may prefer to pursue 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.
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 Salary
The salary ranges for professionals with an MPH compared to those with an MHA can vary based on a number of factors, such as whether an individual works for a public, private, or nonprofit entity; the geographical region in which the position is located; and an applicant’s experience level. Other factors, such as the career path an individual chooses upon earning their degree, can also impact annual earnings. For example, whereas graduates with an MHA degree tend to have a health care-related career path, MPH graduates may pursue careers in epidemiology, health policy and management, or public health education.
MPH vs. MHA: Different Career Paths
MPH and MHA programs prepare students for different roles after graduation. For MHA graduates, obtaining a job as a health services manager (or a 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.
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), employment of epidemiologists is projected to grow by 5% between the years 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the average growth projected for all occupations. The BLS notes the median annual salary for epidemiologists was $74,560 in May 2020, although earners in the top 10th percentile had salaries of more than $126,040.
Health Services Administrator
This job entails the management of a health care organization. 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.
The BLS classifies health services administrators under the category of medical and health services managers. Employment of health services administrators is projected to grow by 32% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual salary for medical and health services managers, including health services administrators, was $104,280 as of May 2020, according to the BLS. Earners in the top 10th percentile made more than $195,630 per year.
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 assessing an MPH vs. an MHA, professionals should note that both programs teach 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 set. 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.
Choose an Advanced Degree That’s Right for Your Career
The online Master of Public Health program at Regis College offers students a graduate degree that prepares them for a career path that can include leadership roles in epidemiology, health education, population health promotion, or population health management, among others. The online MPH program can be completed in as little as 24 months, and provides graduates with the skills to become change agents within the communities and agencies they work for.
Discover how Regis College’s online Master of Public Health can help you reach your goals.