Deciding Between a MHA and a MPA: Which One Is Right For You?

View all blog posts under Articles

healthcare professional poses in front of a hospital

If you have solid experience as a healthcare professional, you may be considering a master’s degree to advance your career and broaden your options. Career advisers may recommend a Master of Health Administration (MHA) or a Master of Public Administration (MPA).

As a healthcare professional, you understand the career advantages of having an MHA or an MPA. However, you may not have decided which degree program is best for your career goals and personal interests. While pondering educational options, this may be the perfect time to explore the differences between an MHA and an MPA.

The Differences Between an MHA and an MPA

At first glance, you may see the similarities between an MHA and an MPA. However, there are notable differences between the degrees. The differences may help you decide which to pursue.

The obvious similarity is the focus on healthcare. Both degrees offer courses that can broaden medical knowledge. Beyond these similarities, each master’s program has unique and distinct curriculum requirements.

One of the major differences between the programs can be seen in their areas of focus. An MPA program emphasizes specific health concerns related to public health, while an MHA degree focuses on the management of a healthcare organization.

Caring for the Public: Healthcare Professionals with an MPA

Whether you are an established healthcare professional, a medical doctor or someone new to the field of public health, you may be considering pursuing an MPA.  Coursework in the program covers a range of complex public health issues, such as infectious diseases, environmental hazards and access to medical care.

One notable distinction of healthcare professionals with an MPA is their focus on the type and quality of public care delivered. Public health professions are particularly concerned with the prevention of illnesses and diseases.

An MPA degree is designed to teach students the core disciplines of public healthcare, including health education, biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology and health services administration. Most MPA programs include classroom training and real-world exposure to public healthcare environments.

Career Options with an MPA

Public healthcare professionals work to improve the health of the community. The opportunities for healthcare professionals with an MPA are growing, as the medical community and public health policies are changing and promoting an emphasis on preventing illness and disease, rather than just treating them. MPA programs prepare graduates to work for public health agencies, hospitals, research organizations, social service agencies and other organizations committed to disease prevention and improving healthcare services for communities

MPA graduates often become community advocates who promote public health and safety awareness. Job duties may include planning and implementing health programs, performing research, conducting studies and administering health services. The MPA offers students the opportunity to hold a variety of positions, such as clinical infectious disease specialist, childbirth health educator, communicable disease analyst, environmental health director and other positions that support medical care and services for the public.

According to PayScale, the reported salary range for medical managers, epidemiologists, healthcare consultants and other healthcare professionals with an MPA is $63,000 to $109,000 as of June 2019. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) identifies the rising need for public health service professionals as they predict the demand for healthcare professionals with an MPA will grow 20 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Leading a Healthcare Facility: Healthcare Professionals with an MHA

An MHA has an entirely different focus: the business of healthcare. This master’s program is comparable to an MBA, with a curriculum that is designed to prepare students for a career managing health-related programs and organizations.

Duquesne University’s online Master of Health Administration program offers students a broad range of high-level business skills that can be applied to the healthcare industry. The online Master of Health Administration prepares students with malong with business skills related to collecting and managing data to address problems and provide solutions. The program offers three areas of concentration: Health Informatics and Data Analytics, Healthcare Compliance and Risk Management and Population Health.

High Demand: Healthcare Professionals with an MHA

According to the BLS Outlook for Healthcare Occupations, health administration ranks as one of the top ten fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs in the healthcare industry. The high demand for healthcare professionals with an MHA has resulted in a surge of students enrolling in Duquesne University’s online Master of Health Administration. It’s also a major reason why healthcare professionals who want to change their career or advance into leadership roles are pursuing an MHA degree.

The healthcare and social assistance sector is the fastest growing area of the American economy, according to the BLS, which also explains the rise in student enrollment in MHA programs. Healthcare professionals in management or administration understand that an MHA degree can lead to career advancement and a higher-paying salary.

Graduates in healthcare administration can find jobs with employers that range from home healthcare organizations, outpatient care centers, mental health organizations and rehabilitation centers to group physician practices, clinics, nursing homes and elder-care facilities.

The MHA is a comprehensive degree that teaches a wide range of skills as reflected in the potential titles held by graduates—administrator, director of business development, executive director, practice manager, vice president and chief nursing officer. In these roles, the healthcare professional will plan, direct and coordinate health and medical services for a hospital, medical facility or physicians’ practice.

The Rise and Growth of MHA Healthcare Professionals

The demand for healthcare professionals with an MHA is expected to grow. The BLS predicts a 17 percent growth in jobs from 2014 to 2024, much higher than the 7 percent projected for all occupations. The median annual wage for medical and health services managers was $99,730 in May 2018.

An MHA degree positions industry professionals for leadership roles in healthcare organizations.

If you envision yourself as a leader or executive in a healthcare environment, Duquesne University’s online Master of Health Administration program can help prepare you to succeed.

Career Advancement Opportunities with an MHA or an MPA

Whether you decide to advance your educational goals with an MHA or an MPA, either program can broaden medical knowledge and provide great career options with a positive forecast of continued growth. With the MPA, you can work in a public health environment with opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives and perhaps prevent the spread of disease. The MHA can position you to manage a healthcare facility and impact the quality of care provided.




Duquesne University, Online Master of Health Administration

PayScale, Master of Health Administration (MHA) Degree

PayScale, Master of Public Health (MPA) Degree

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

U.S. Bureau of Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook: Healthcare Occupations