Master’s Degree in Health Administration
The MHA degree represents the pairing of a comprehensive post-graduate business management program with key courses that focus on leadership in the healthcare field. Students incorporate leadership theory and practical tools that apply to healthcare operations, health policy, finance and organizational management. Graduates face challenges unique to the healthcare fields and have the ability to respond to accelerating changes in how healthcare addresses issues in ethics, profitability, resource development, compliance and technology. The healthcare industry comprises some 17 percent of the total U.S. economy and is the fastest-growing sector. MHA programs prepare the next generation of leaders to step up to meet those challenges.
Online Master of Health Administration
Online MHA degree programs are rigorous and demanding. Students should expect to be challenged with curricula that mirror studies at on-campus management degree programs. However, the asynchronous structure of online work allows students to choose when and from where they participate in the program. Streaming multimedia lectures, presentations, discussion threads and collaborative projects are assigned and delivered at any time of day or night.
Online students are spared a commute, parking fees and requirements to sit in a classroom at regular hours. However, they must establish and remain dedicated to keeping pace with assignments, tests and course deliverables. Hybrid programs that combine distance learning with scheduled campus visits offer more structure in scheduling and facilitating peer-to-peer interactions. Yet like campus-based degree programs, hybrids can interfere with students’ working lives and family commitments.
Jen spent seven years as an administrative secretary at a small hospital in upstate New York where she practically ran the finance department. However, her job title and salary did not match up with her duties and accomplishments. Even though she held a bachelor’s degree in accounting, she couldn’t break through the management ceiling. She continued working at her job, but enrolled in an online MHA program with a focus on finance. Jen was allowed to apply her class assignments at her existing job, where she streamlined processes and developed a new IT strategy. Her title today is Finance Director, with wages and benefits befitting of her skills and achievement.
Master’s of Health Administration Courses
Many students can complete the MHA curriculum in two years. Degree work combines studies in healthcare management and operations with labs or internships where students apply their new skills toward solving real-world problems. Internships or administrative residencies often lead to jobs after graduation, or at least provide the opportunity to develop powerful career networks. Professors, mentors and professionals from the field may all contribute to the curriculum, making this degree an evidence- and competence-based program tailored for practical applications. The following course examples reveal the breadth of learning in a master’s of health administration program:
|A comprehensive overview of learning habits, leadership, accountability, and managerial impact on healthcare organizations.
|Health Care Financial Accounting
|An overview of accounting principles and practices in a healthcare setting. Designed for students who have never had an accounting class with a healthcare focus.
|Introduction to Biostatistics
|Students gain a fundamental understanding of the use of statistical analyses used in public health fields. Includes laboratory work.
|Research Methods and Quantitative Analysis
|This course provides a detailed exploration of study design, data mining, data collection and sampling, and methodology for presenting research findings.
|Healthcare Organizational Theory
|Students review theories and concepts related to organizational leadership including strategic planning, governance, process improvement, human resource management and marketing.
|Healthcare: Legal and Ethical Issues
|This course provides an overview of compliance issues, ethics, and legal entities involved in the administration of healthcare programs and organizations.
|Introduction to Healthcare Policy
|What are the interventions used in creating and enforcing policy? This course covers factors including socio/political, environmental, cultural, and bureaucratic that influence outcomes.
|Cost-Effectiveness Analysis in Healthcare Settings
|The course covers analytical tools such as cost benefit analysis, sensitivity analysis, and decision analysis in creating program assessments and remedies.
|Health Information Technology
|This course focuses on the application of health information systems in organizational management, including issues of compliance and patient confidentiality.
|Students explore planning, capital structure, and healthcare process controls related to healthcare and key financial tools.
|What factors go into a thorough assessment of quality in delivering and monitoring healthcare services? Students delve into operations analysis, staffing, supply chain and other critical performance issues.
|Healthcare Delivery Systems
|Students receive a historical and theoretical overview of the nation’s healthcare systems, including service components, population factors, wellness and prevention.
|Human Resource Management
|This class provides an overview of issues in staffing, technology and regulations that impact service delivery in healthcare organizations.
|Students gain insightful tools for planning, executing, and reviewing key activities to assure optimal performance of their organization. Includes an investigation of competitive and economic forces, resources, and trends.
|Strategic Management for Healthcare Professionals
|Students learn tools to assess performance, measure needs, and establish plans for aligning resources to meet the goals of organizational initiatives.
|Under guidance of a mentor, students create a proposal, scope/schedule, and results-delivery plan for a project demonstrating the synthesis of healthcare management skills learned in the degree program.
Master’s of Health Administration Scholarships
There’s nothing like a scholarship to ease the financial burden of attending graduate school. Scholarships, particularly those from well-known healthcare or business sources, can confer prestige to MHA students who are searching for internships or for recent grads shopping for management jobs. The following list is a sample of scholarships dedicated to supporting MHA students:
Scholarship Name/Title: The Bachrach Family Scholarship for Excellence in Health Care Administration
Description: The American College of Medical Practice Executives awards up to $5,000 per year to graduate students enrolled in a healthcare management-related degree program. Students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA to apply.
More Info: http://www.mgma.com/education-certification/education-resources/acmpe-scholarship-fund-program
Scholarship Name/Title: The F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship
Description: The U.S. Army pays 100 percent tuition for a student enrolled in an approved graduate-level health care degree program. Recipients must qualify as a commissioned officer in the United States Army Reserve and commit to an obligation of one year of active military duty for each year the student is supported by the scholarship.
More Info: http://www.goarmy.com/amedd/education/hpsp.html
Scholarship Name/Title: Harry J. Harwick Scholarship
Description: The $5,000 McGraw Scholarship is open to student applicants in their final year of a graduate healthcare management program. The scholarship is made possible by grants from The Foundation of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
More Info: http://www.mgma.com/education-certification/education-resources/acmpe-scholarship-fund-program
Scholarship Name/Title: HCA Corris Boyd Scholars Program
Description: The $40,000 Corris Boyd scholarship can be applied towards tuition and other expenses at any AUPHA full-member graduate school. Applicants must be accepted into a graduate program and be a student of color (African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian American, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Latino/Hispanic, Multiracial).
More Info: http://www.aupha.org/resourcecenter/currentstudents/scholarships/corrisboydscholarsprogram
Scholarship Name/Title: New England HIMSS Dvora Brodie Scholarship
Description: The New England Chapter of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) sponsors annual $5,000 scholarships. Applicants must be an HIMSS member attending an accredited New England college or university and fully enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program related to the healthcare information management systems field.
More Info: http://apps.himss.org/foundation/schlr_brodie.asp
Scholarship Name/Title: Richard J. Stull Student Essay Competition in Healthcare Management
Description: Undergraduate or post-graduate students enrolled in healthcare management programs are eligible for scholarships up to $4,000 from the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Application requirements include an essay that “demonstrates the ability of future healthcare executives.”
More Info: http://www.ache.org/
Scholarship Name/Title: Robert G. Shouldice Scholarship
Description: Shouldice Scholarships are awarded each year, granting $1,000 to students enrolled in graduate-level healthcare management degree programs.The American College of Medical Practice Executives is the scholarship sponsor.
More Info: http://www.mgma.com/
Scholarship Name/Title: The Transamerica Retirement Solutions Leaders in Health Care Scholarship
Description: Open to first- and second-year graduate students who are pursuing degrees in healthcare administration or a comparable program, the $5,000 Leaders in Health Care Scholarship is awarded annually to two recipients. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, academic excellence, and a commitment to community service.
More Info: https://www.ta-retirement.com
Scholarship Name/Title: TYLENOL Future Care Scholarship
Description: Pharmaceutical giant Tylenol awards scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 for students enrolled in healthcare degree programs. In 2013, the company granted a total of 40 scholarships.
More Info: http://www.tylenol.com/news/scholarship
Scholarship Name/Title: Winston Health Policy Scholars Program
Description: Open to current first-year graduate students in their second semester, a total of ten $10,000 Winston Health Policy Scholarships are awarded each year. Awards are based on demonstrated student potential to succeed in health policy at the state or federal levels. Students must attend an AUPHA member graduate program.
More Info: http://www.winstonfellowship.com/scholarships.html
Health Administration Internships and Fellowships
Internships and fellowships provide the connective tissue between MHA students and their post-graduate careers. Internships are temporary training positions which may be paid or unpaid through which students gain invaluable on-the-job experience. Interns work in business, governmental and non-profit healthcare organizations at roles matched to their professional aspirations. Many are placed in strategic or planning roles where they belong to the corporate management team. In addition to earning course credit toward their degree, interns can flex their muscles in actually making policy or recommending lasting change to an existing culture. And they forge partnerships and mentor connections that last throughout their careers. Some take jobs with their internship employers following graduation.
Fellowships, in contrast, are merit-based awards that fund student projects or research efforts under the aegis of sponsoring organizations. For instance, a student may take a fellowship with the National Institutes of Health to participate in its research into HIV/AIDS Health Disparities. A fellowship may also be pegged to a student commitment to work with the agency after graduation.
The list of selected internships/fellowships that follows shows the breadth and depth of working arrangements created for healthcare administration students:
Internship Title: Aetna Graduate Summer Associate Program
Company and location: Aetna, Inc., Hartford, CT
Description: Aetna’s Graduate Summer Associate Program is open to students who have completed one year at an accredited graduate program and who have 3-5 years of related professional work experience. Applicants should have an academic focus in global benefits, corporate development, operational excellence, information technology, marketing/communications, strategic planning or corporate finance.
More Info: http://www.aetna.com/
Internship Title: Business Analysis for PMO Intern
Company and location: Nuance Healthcare, Atlanta, GA
Description: Nuance Healthcare, a medical technology firm, recruits summer interns for the Nuance Communications Program Management Organization (PMO). Interns will configure and arrange tool demos and prototype feature-use guidelines for existing software tools.
More Info: http://www.nuance.com/index.htm
Internship Title: CDC Public Health Prevention Service Fellowship
Company and location: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA
Description: The CDC sponsors post-master’s fellows in public health management to a three-year-long training and mentorship program. Upon completion of their first year, students tackle assignments to public healthcare organizations.
More Info: http://www.cdc.gov/fellowships/CareerInternships.html
Internship Title: Graduate Student Summer Associate Program
Company and location: Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, or Boston
Description: Rand offers paid, 12-week summer internships to students that have completed at least two years of graduate work. Positions are in policy research, economics, sociology and demography, operations research, psychology and information technology.
More Info: http://www.rand.org
Internship Title: Healthcare Administrative Internship
Company and location: JPS Health Network, Fort Worth, TX
Description: Open to master level students enrolled in MHA, MBA, MPH or MSN programs, JPS offers 12/14-week, hands-on internships that provide experience in all healthcare operations from clinical and support rotations to executive-level management. Projects are matched to student focus and skill sets.
More Info: http://www.jpshealthnet.org
Internship Title: Healthcare Analysis Intern
Company and location: Nuance Healthcare, Atlanta, GA
Description: This Atlanta-based healthcare technology firm seeks interns who have achieved graduate school accounting/financial competency to evaluate processes and metrics as part of the management team.
More Info: http://www.nuance.com/index.htm
Internship Title: Partners HealthCare Graduate Internship, Investment Operations
Company and location: Partners HealthCare, Boston, MA
Description: Ideally created for MBA candidates specializing in finance, this internship is with the Operations & Reporting Group. Duties include monitoring expenses and compliance across all investment programs.
More Info: http://www.partners.org/
Internship Title: Public Health Associate Program (PHAP)
Company and location: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Description: The two-year Public Health Associate Program is a paid fellowship/training program open to bachelor’s or master’s degree students who are committed to employment with state, local, tribal, or territorial public health organizations.
More Info: http://www.cdc.gov/phap/index.html
Internship Title: UnitedHealth Group Summer Graduate Marketing Internship
Company and location: UnitedHealth Group, Minneapolis, MN
Description: The summer intern will assess existing marketing strategies as they relate to work product, processes, tool interfaces, internal and external web presence and reporting. After assessment, the intern will develop a comprehensive marketing strategy and communications plan to address shortcomings.
More Info: http://www..unitedhealthgroup.com
Internship Title: Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) Interns/Recent Graduates Program
Company and location: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, D.C.
Description: Open to graduate students in healthcare administration or students working on their master’s degree, these one-year V.A. internships are located across the country with training led by professional V.A. preceptors. Preceptors are medical center and network directors.
More Info: http://www.vacareers.va.gov/
Professional Associations for Health Administration
Health administrators and healthcare workers pursuing management roles find it prudent to belong to one or many related professional organizations. Memberships can provide access to resources on changing laws, best practices, information technology, job boards and calls for papers. Some associations promote professional development conferences and job fairs. Their magazines and online publications keep administrators in touch with practice and hiring trends, regulations, and tools for governance. In some cases, membership in an association is a pre-requisite for a grant or scholarship.
Here are a few associations to explore:
Association name: The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM)
Description: AAHAM is a leading professional organization in healthcare administrative management. It provides resources of information, education and advocacy in the areas of admitting and registration, data management, reimbursement, patient relations, medical records, and more.
More Info: http://www.aaham.org/Home.aspx
Association name: American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE)
Description: ACHE is an international professional society of more than 40,000 healthcare executives from leadership positions in hospitals, healthcare systems and organizations. It is the sponsor of the FACHE credential, signifying board certification in healthcare management.
More Info: https://www.ache.org/
Association name: The Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals
Description: The Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals hosts an annual professional development and leadership conference for healthcare administrative professionals. It also sponsors webinars and certification for the cHAP (Certified Healthcare Administrative Professional).
More Info: http://ahcap.org
Association name: The Health Care Administrators Association (HCAA)
Description: The HCA supports third party administrators hailing from roles with audit firms, healthcare consultancies, insurance carriers, general underwriters, broker/agents, physician hospital organizations, and human resource managers.
More Info: http://www.hcaa.org/
Association name: The Healthcare Financial Management Association
Description: HFMA is a leading membership organization for healthcare financial management executives. Members are employed at C-level roles, as administrators, accountants and managers with hospitals, managed care organizations, clinics, insurance companies and accounting firms.
More Info: https://www.hfma.org/
Association name: Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)
Description: HIMSS is an international cause-based, not-for-profit organization focused on Health IT thought leadership, education, media services, market research events, and more. A majority of members work in IT for healthcare providers, governmental and not-for-profit organizations.
More Info: http://www.himss.org/
Association name: The Institute for Diversity in Health Management
Description: The Institute for Diversity in Health Management supports programs in expanding health care leadership opportunities for culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse professionals. It hosts national and regional leadership conferences, symposiums, education, and offers the Certificate in Diversity Management in Health Care (CDM).
More Info: http://www.diversityconnection.org
Careers for MHA Graduates
Newly minted MHA graduates will find recruiters and organizations ready to talk. With a U.S. Labor Department prediction of 23 percent growth in the professions, qualified healthcare managers and administrators should have a choice of employers that are seeking fresh faces to lead – especially in specialized healthcare fields.
Students who plan to graduate and take one of the 315,500 new jobs in the healthcare management sector may also wish to complete a voluntary certification, such as the Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Professional in Healthcare Management (CPHM) specialties to bolster their credentials. All of the components of a comprehensive MHA degree program – lectures, projects, case studies, internships, research – contribute to a management pedigree that employers are seeking.
Here are a few career options for consideration:
Health Information Manager
MHA graduates with a specialty in Information Technology are drawn to this executive role. The field combines theory and best practices in technology with business management training and clinical skills development. As managers, these healthcare executives oversee the scope, design, implementation and maintenance of IT to solutions to business problems. They keep current in specialties including networks, data security, compliance, billing and records. Health information managers work across the spectrum of private, governmental and non-profit organizations, including hospitals, clinics, federal/state/local governments, research laboratories, universities, HMOs, medical manufacturers, insurance firms, rehabilitation centers, and health advocacy organizations.
Health Disparities Specialist
MHA degree options include the oversight of professional research programs that probe for answers to lingering issues surrounding age, gender, cultural barriers, staff shortcomings, quality control, and other pertinent challenges. Research managers and team executives contribute to a body of evidence that can influence policy and foster successful interventions to reach underserved populations. Managers will find leadership positions with federal health and human service agencies, state health organizations, private and public foundations, colleges and universities.
Public Health Manager
America’s public health workforce helps most Americans in one way or another. Federal, state and community health organizations and service providers prefer to hire management professionals who rise from the inside. Specializing in public health is a great way for employees with human services experience to tailor their MHA toward leading their organizations or advocacy groups. Key academic skills include forecasting, planning, finance, promotions, human resource management and public policy.