MBA vs MPA vs MHA Degrees Which is Best?

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - May 22, 2018
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Many experienced professionals decide to earn their master’s degree to get a higher level position with more responsibility and a bigger paycheck. Data shows over time that many master’s degrees result in better jobs and income. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states a typical master’s degree holder will make $12,000 more per year with their advanced degree than a person with only a bachelor’s degree.

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Many of the best paying and highest responsibility positions in the business world mostly go to professionals with their master’s degree. Three of the most common master’s programs are the MBA, MPA and MHA. Which one is best for you simply depends upon your career goals.

This article describes what each graduate degree is, and provides an example of a quality online program where you can earn that degree.

Overview of MBA Degree

An MBA involves the study of business management – the process of directing and organizing resources, which includes people, materials, finance and information.

Effective business managers must well understand these functions and how they relate to one another. They also must understand how a quickly changing market affects each of them. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, the modern business manager is part business forecaster, part problem solver, part direct supervisor and part example to others.

Earning an MBA gives you the skills to be a dynamic business leader in most industries by developing advanced management skills in decision making, financial planning, quantitative analysis, forming policy and managing others.

If you are interested in a healthcare management career, you can choose to earn an MBA with a concentration in healthcare management. This degree is more general business focused than the MHA degree described below and the coursework could apply to other industries to some degree. The core MBA courses will generally be applicable to any industry. The MHA degree is specifically focused on the healthcare industry, including the foundational courses.

Below are some of the courses you may take in an MBA program with a focus on healthcare:

  • Finance and accounting
  • Economics
  • Policy and law
  • Risk management
  • Strategic management
  • Project management
  • Business data analytics in healthcare
  • Conflict management in healthcare
  • Operations management in healthcare

Common job titles for those with an MBA in healthcare are: Healthcare consultant, strategic project manager, hospital administrator, pharmaceutical brand manager, corporate development officer (healthcare).

If you are interested in your online MBA, we highlight a good online option for you later in this article.

Overview of Master of Public Administration (MPA)

There is a need for skilled managers and leaders in all types of organizations, including those in the public sector. A master’s degree in public administration is the accepted and respected degree for upper level public service professionals. By earning this graduate degree, you can gain the essential skills you need to be an effective leader in a public organization.

The MPA degree is usually the best fit for those who want a long term career working for government agencies or nonprofit organizations.

Below are some of the typical courses you will take in an MPA program:

  • Public organization and management
  • Governmental fiscal decision making
  • Research methods
  • Human resources in the public and nonprofit sectors
  • Introduction to public policy analysis
  • Organizational behavior

Common job titles for an MPA holder are; Public health manager, city manager, city planner, director of governmental administration, community health educator, marketing director, chief financial officer, director of administration.

If you are interested in your online MPA, we highlight a good online option for you later in this article.

Overview of Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)

Professionals who are interested in  working in healthcare administration specifically often choose to earn their MHA degree. This type of degree may be a good choice if you want to be a healthcare executive or the director of a hospital or medical system.

The MHA is solely focused healthcare administration for a hospital, nursing home or medical practice. With the typical MHA program, you will be attending your classes with other healthcare professionals like you.

There may be a few general administrative courses, but most of the courses will be in the healthcare field.

Below are some of the courses you can expect in an MHA program:

  • Introduction to the US healthcare system
  • Current topics in healthcare
  • Legal and ethical issues in health services management
  • Managed care and health insurance
  • Fundamentals of budgeting and financial management
  • Quantitative tools for managers
  • Financial management in healthcare

Some common job titles for professionals with an MHA are: Clinic manager, facility manager, hospital administrator, nursing director, healthcare operations manager, healthcare consultant, healthcare executive.

Remember, the MHA offers a deeper dive into healthcare management and leadership than an MBA. Its core curriculum does involve business classes, but the core courses are focused exclusively on the healthcare market.

Most MHAs take two years full time to complete, and there are many accredited online options available. We highlight a good MHA option below.

Online Options for MBA, MPA and MHA

Now that you have learned the differences between these three graduate degrees, here are some good online options to consider to further your education.

MBA Degree Options

Southern New Hampshire University is a non-profit university that offers an online MBA in Healthcare Management that will help you to gain a competitive edge in the healthcare industry.

The coursework will help you to develop the skills that you need to manage the many complexities of modern healthcare systems. Also, you will develop the theoretical background to solve challenging issues that arise in healthcare organizations.

Require courses in this two year, fully online program include:

  • Healthcare Informatics
  • Topics in Health Administration
  • Social and Organizational Issues in Healthcare
  • Mathematics and Statistics for Business
  • Economics for Business
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis
  • Human Behavior in Organizations
  • Accounting and Financial Analysis
  • Marketing and Strategy

MPA Degree Options

Villanova University offers a respected Master of Public Administration that allows students to pursue their public policy passions where you will gain an excellent foundation in core public administration competencies through interactive classes that focus on strategic public administration planning and how to effectively manage public and nonprofit organizations.

Major learning objectives are:

  • Structures and dynamics of formal, complex public organizations
  • Financial management of nonprofit and government organizations
  • Personnel management strategies and best techniques for public and nonprofit organizations
  • Leading statistical tools for analyzing data and doing research
  • Best practices for managing city and non profit organizations.

Once you are enrolled in this program, you can choose a specialization – either general MPA, nonprofit management or city management.

This program is fully accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA). This means the program is of the highest quality in the public administration education space.

MHA Degree Options

The University of Southern California and the Sol Price School of Public Policy offers an Executive Online Master of Health Administration that is appropriate for mid-level clinical and management professionals.

This program has been designed to prepare the nation’s and world’s leading healthcare professionals, with many graduates moving on to positions such as director, senior manager, vice president, medical or health services manager. You will learn how to become a healthcare executive who can shape alternatives for healthcare organizational excellence, implement new healthcare technologies and make decisions that will have a positive effect on the bottom line.

Required courses include healthcare economics, operational efficiency processes in healthcare organizations, and quality of care.

This program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

In summary, each of these master’s degrees will provide you with ample job opportunities. You will just need to decide if you are interested in a management position in regular business, an administrative management position in healthcare, or a management role in a public sector organization.


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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