MBA vs. MHA: Which Degree is Right for You?

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There are many similarities and differences between a master’s in business administration (MBA) and a master’s in health administration (MHA). Before choosing a program, it’s important to examine the curriculum offered in each one. You should also be aware of the kinds of careers you’ll be eligible for after graduating, as well as the potential salaries you can earn.

Business graduate student receiving their degree.

The differences between an MBA and an MHA

If you’re seeking a master’s degree and considering going into the healthcare industry, you can benefit from both an MBA and an MHA. But which one is the right fit for you?

The biggest difference between the two is that MHA programs are more specific to the healthcare industry, while MBA programs are more general. Since you’ll pick up many of the same skills in either program, many people will get an MBA to keep their options open. It’s important to keep in mind that even if you’re certain you want a career in healthcare, you still might be a better fit for an MBA.

Now, let’s get into the key areas you should consider before deciding:



At most colleges, both MBA and MHA programs take around two years to complete. When it comes to the types of classes you’ll take and the professors you’ll learn from, the curriculum will be noticeably different. However, no matter which degree you pursue, you should pick up these basic professional skills:

  • Adaptability
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Problem solving and analytics
  • Project management
  • Ability to leverage technology
  • Strategic thinking and planning
  • Interpersonal communication

MBA programs are designed to give you the necessary knowledge and experience to become a leader in the business world. You’ll develop an in-depth understanding of business enterprises and learn how to solve complex problems that apply to all industries.

Some degrees, such as Northeastern University’s Online MBA program, will include a range of concentrations to pick from, depending on your particular interests and desired career path. This gives you the opportunity to customize and focus your curriculum on the areas that inspire you, whether that’s finance, marketing, or healthcare management. Let’s say you’re aiming to become an entrepreneur, so you enroll in Northeastern’s Online MBA program. Your course options will include entrepreneur-specific electives, such as Managing Operations in Early Ventures, New Venture Creation, and Global Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

You won’t have as much freedom in designing your own curriculum if you enroll in an MHA program. The purpose of an MHA degree is to provide you with the education and skills necessary to prepare you for employment in a leadership position at a healthcare organization. Rather than including general subjects like finance, marketing and innovation, most courses in your curriculum will be healthcare related.

Here are some examples of courses you’ll be expected to take for an MHA degree:

  • Introduction to Healthcare Administration
  • Healthcare Law
  • Financial Management in Healthcare
  • Ethics of Healthcare
  • Policy in Healthcare
  • Healthcare Technology


MBA career options and salaries

Graduating with an MBA versus an MHA will play an essential role in the types of jobs you become eligible for. With an MBA, you’ll have a wider range of careers to choose from, since MHA programs only prepare you for jobs in the healthcare industry. Being eligible for careers in multiple industries will help you compete for a wider range of jobs with higher salaries.

In general, professionals with MBAs tend to earn more than those with MHAs. The average salary for an MBA graduate is $86,000 a year, while the average salary for MHA graduates is $82,000.

Here are some of the most common jobs for MBA graduates along with how much they typically earn in a year (all of these salaries were provided by PayScale):

Accounting Manager

Accounting managers oversee the financial operations of an organization. They usually work in a corporate setting, managing the company’s income and expenses with organized reporting methods. Their responsibilities are similar to that of a tax consultant or auditor. The average annual salary for someone in this position is $70,500.

Business Analyst

The primary responsibility of a business analyst is to keep an organization competitive and profitable in ever-changing markets. They look closely at a business’ processes and then come up with new strategies to improve functionality, increase profits, and/or reduce costs. These positions are usually paid around $84,000 a year.

Marketing Manager

Working as a marketing manager involves paying attention to industry trends and leading campaigns with the intention of bringing in new business and increasing revenue. It also requires a good understanding of a company’s ideal clientele and the typical customer’s journey. This type of position tends to earn an annual salary of $83,000.


MHA career options and salaries

These are some of the most common jobs and salaries for MHA graduates:

Clinical Supervisor

Clinical supervisors are responsible for managing the general operations of a medical clinic, such as a doctor’s office. The day-to-day work largely depends on the type of clinic and the number of patients they treat. These positions are usually paid around $58,000 per year.

Public Health Program Manager

Public health program managers work to oversee the functionalities and activities of a healthcare facility or a department within the facility. Daily tasks may include keeping records, requesting budgets, and coordinating with healthcare administrators. These professionals typically earn a salary of $65,000.

Operations Assistant

Operations assistants perform administrative duties in medical clinics. They manage records, coordinate organization-wide meetings, assist with patient accommodations, and more. The average annual salary for this job is $43,000.

In most organizations, you need a master’s degree to be eligible for C-level corporate jobs, like chief executive officer (CEO) or chief financial officer (CFO). These titles are usually the highest earners at a company. For example, the average annual salary for a CFO in the U.S. is $148,000.


Highest paying jobs for MBA and MHA graduates

Here are five of the highest paying jobs for MBA graduates:

  • Investment Banker
  • Financial Manager
  • Sales Manager
  • Information Technology Manager
  • Senior Product Manager

Alternatively, these are five of the highest paying jobs for MHA graduates:

  • Health Information Manager
  • Hospital Administrator
  • Hospital CFO
  • Pharmaceutical Product Manager
  • Healthcare Consultant


Northeastern University’s Online MBA in Healthcare Management

As mentioned earlier, you don’t need an MHA to have a successful career in healthcare. In fact, many people earn MBAs and go on to become CEOs and CFOs of various health organizations. If you’re aiming for a healthcare career, consider enrolling in Northeastern’s Online MBA program. It allows you to pick from eight different concentrations, including Healthcare Management. This customized program provides many of the same resources as an MHA program, while still incorporating a traditional MBA education. This approach provides flexibility after graduation and for the rest of your career.

For example, let’s say you work for several years managing a health clinic and then decide to switch industries. An MBA will give you more freedom in this transition, since you’ll have a business acumen that expands beyond just healthcare. D’Amore-McKim’s Online MBA in Healthcare Management will include learning about the history of healthcare in the U.S., how to utilize budgets for health organizations, and how to maintain personal health records.

Upon completion of the program, you’ll have the skills necessary to lead teams and manage daily business operations within healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and pharmacies. You’ll also become an expert in subjects that don’t center around healthcare, but are still critical to any business environment, such as finance, marketing, sustainability, and international management.

If you enroll in the program and choose Healthcare Management as your concentration, here are some of the courses you’ll take:

  • Health Finance
  • Healthcare Industry
  • Strategic Decision Making for Healthcare Professionals
  • Introduction to Health Informatics and Health Information Systems

If you’re currently deciding between pursuing an MBA or an MHA, there’s a lot to consider. You have to think about the types of courses that seem interesting to you, what kind of job you want after school, and how much money you hope to make. If you’re certain that you want to build a career in healthcare, then enrolling in an MHA program is a good option. But if you want more flexibility in the future, you should consider an MBA.

Learn more about Northeastern’s Online MBA in Healthcare Management program by speaking with an enrollment advisor.


Recommended Readings

Northeastern’s Online MBA Curriculum

Salary Guide: What to Expect with an MBA

Northeastern University Online MBA Program



Healthcare Management Degree Guide – Five High-Paying Jobs in Healthcare Management

MHA Guide – Entry Level Jobs in Health Administration

MHA Degree – Salary for Master in Healthcare Administration

Noodle – The Journey Toward Leadership: What you will learn in an MHA Degree Program

The Best Schools – Ten Best Jobs for MBA Graduates