Health care administration is a rapidly growing industry with strong employment opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected 17 percent growth in positions for medical and health services managers from 2014 to 2024. But what degree do you need to stand out from the crowd of new applicants in the field?
Degree options: The MBA versus the MPH versus the MHA
There are three main advanced degree options here – the Master of Business Administration (MBA), the Master of Public Health (MPH) and the Master of Health Services Administration (MHA):
- With an MBA, you get a broad background in management and – at some programs – the option for a health care administration specialization.
- In contrast, the MPH is more focused on topics like epidemiology, biostatistics and public health biology.
- The MHA is somewhere between the MBA and the MPH; it is most likely to include courses in health care finance, marketing and project management.
While it is possible to break into health care administration with only a bachelor's degree, these advanced degrees open up additional opportunities in leadership, with higher pay. The BLS pegged the 2016 median salary for medical and services managers at more than $96,000. PayScale has come to similar conclusions, finding that health care product managers have a median annual compensation of almost $87,000, along with bonuses that can reach $17,000 and profit sharing up to $12,000.
Let's look at how these three degrees stack up against each other in terms of their respective curricula and job market utility:
The MBA with concentration in health care administration
A health care-oriented MBA is a powerful credential for students interested in upper-level management, as well as for current hospital and clinical administrators seeking to sharpen their managerial expertise, broaden their knowledge of finance and understand the sector's unique information systems. These core skills, developed in an MBA in health care administration program, have become more attractive to health providers as industry positions have become increasingly complex and focused on cost controls.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated annual per capita health spending in the U.S. at nearly $10,000 in 2015. The relatively high expenses of the country's health care system, combined with its complicated mix of private and public payers (insurers), have created many openings for MBAs who may be able to restructure day-to-day operations. For example, an MBA holder might help implement a roadmap to value-based reimbursement instead of the fee-for-service business model providers have traditionally followed.
In honing their skills as managers, MBA students on the health care administration track may study:
- Corporate social responsibility.
- Accounting for decision-makers.
- Health care delivery and information systems.
- Budgeting, planning and finance.
- Strategic management.
Right now, MBAs are in great demand, with 78 percent of respondents to the 2017 GMAC Poll of Employers saying they planned to hire them. As the U.S. population continues to age and the health industry evolves, there should be numerous opportunities for MBA holders with specialized knowledge of health care.
The MPH and the MHA
These two degrees are similar because they are specific to the health care sector, unlike the MBA, which is one of the most widely recognized credentials across all fields. All three options cover some of the same concepts – e.g., health care information systems – but differ in the additional coursework they may require.
"Right now MBAs are in great demand."
Students on the MPH track may have to enroll in classes covering classic public health practices such as the use of biostatistics and methods of disease control. MPH curricula also emphasize biology and environmental science. An administrator with an MPH might be well-positioned to publish research, conduct studies and roll out new health services.
The MHA includes many familiar MBA topics related to finance and management. At the same time, it may have more health-specific content than the typically broad MBA. A key consideration for MHA students is the familiarity of employers with the degree, which is less well-known than either the MPH or the MBA.
Which degree to choose?
The degree to choose is the MBA with a Health Care Administration concentration. The MBA offers a broader scope of knowledge that can be applied many different ways. At the same time, the MBA with a Health Care Administration concentration adds the necessary course work to benefit your career in the health care industry. Finally, the MBA has the most brand recognition in the business world.
Explore your health care administration options at GMercyU
Gwynedd Mercy University offers an accelerated online MBA in health care administration, allowing you to conveniently complete all requirements even if you are simultaneously working full-time. With this degree, you are equipped to be a leader in a vital and rapidly evolving industry. Learn more about your options for this specialized MBA on the GMercyU program page.