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Online Master’s in Health Administration Degree Programs (MHA Programs)

Health or healthcare administration is a growing field that involves understanding the complexities of the evolving healthcare system and learning to apply sound organizational management and leadership practices to various types of healthcare enterprises. Like other types of businesses, healthcare organizations contend with a broad range of management challenges in areas like staffing and human resources, budgeting and financial reporting, operations and logistics, marketing and consumer satisfaction, and innovations in data and communication technologies. In addition, managing healthcare enterprises requires knowledge of current healthcare policies, regulations, and bioethical standards, as well as familiarity with the economic, social, and market forces that drive change in the industry.

Master’s in health and healthcare administration (MHA) programs explore the array of challenges faced by healthcare administrators. Students in these programs cultivate the technical expertise and critical thinking skills necessary to make informed managerial decisions for hospitals, medical groups, clinics, long-term care facilities, and other private and public healthcare organizations.

What is an MHA Degree Program?

MHA is short for Master of Health/Healthcare Administration, but it may also refer to Master of Science (MS) and Master of Arts (MA) in health/healthcare administration degree programs. These programs offer practice-based training and instruction in the knowledge and skills required to effectively navigate the managerial challenges of the healthcare system. Students in an MHA program learn about national and global healthcare policy, the health insurance industry, ethical concerns in patient care, financial considerations in non-profit and for-profit healthcare businesses, and human, material, and technology resource issues in healthcare operations management. They receive instruction in the use of qualitative and quantitative research and assessment methods, the deployment of healthcare data management and IT systems, and the implementation of quality control and risk reduction measures. These programs are designed to prepare students for management positions in clinics and hospitals, health insurance companies, healthcare policy and consulting firms, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and other healthcare businesses through internships, fieldwork, and applied capstone projects.

Online MHA Degree Programs

Online MHA programs utilize learning management systems (LMSs) to provide a more convenient and flexible alternative to campus-based MHA programs. This may be particularly beneficial for prospective students who are not able to relocate in order to attend an MHA program, and for those who would prefer not to commute to a college or university campus for classes. An LMS is a distance learning platform that allows students to view lectures, participate in class activities, complete assignments, and interact with instructors from anywhere with a secure Internet connection. An online MHA program provides all or most of its didactic instruction and coursework using an LMS and other distance-learning technologies.

Online MHA programs that adhere to accreditation standards outlined by the Commission on the Accreditation of Health Management Education (CAHME) must incorporate a minimum of 120 “contact hours of synchronous instructional time,” which means that students in CAHME-accredited programs must commit to logging on to the program’s LMS for 120 hours of real-time coursework in order to earn their degree. Online programs may also include internships and/or practicums, which can be an important component of training in healthcare administration. Internships and practicums are typically completed in person at a local site approved by the program.

How OnlineEducation.com Identifies and Classifies Online MHA Programs

There are many different types of master’s degree programs in the field of healthcare, including Master of Health Administration programs, and Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Master of Applied Science programs with a healthcare administration curriculum. OnlineEducation.com researches these programs and classifies them based on their curricula in addition to other criteria. Common designations for online MHA programs include:

  • Master of Health or Healthcare Administration (MHA)
  • Master of Science in Health or Healthcare Administration (MSHA)
  • Master of Science in Health or Healthcare Management (MSHM)
  • Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership and Management (MSHLM)
  • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration (MAHHSA)
  • Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA)
  • Master of Science in Health Sciences in Health Care Quality (MSHS-HCQ)

In addition to meeting curricular criteria, online master’s programs in healthcare administration programs must be offered by regionally accredited, non-profit colleges and universities. They must also offer all or most of their coursework online. Programs that require more than two campus visits per year are not currently listed on the site.

What Students Learn in an Online MHA Program

The master’s curriculum in healthcare management has several key components. Students in an MHA program take courses that provide an overview of the healthcare system, the role of insurers and government programs in the system, and the social, cultural, environmental, and economic factors that impact the delivery of healthcare services. They study bioethics, patient rights, and the regulatory environment for healthcare at the state and federal level. This knowledge is integrated with business training in areas that are applicable to the healthcare industry, including finance, marketing, human resource management, professional communication, and organizational leadership.

As part of this training in business, students learn qualitative and quantitative research and assessment methodologies in order to facilitate data-driven decision-making and evidence-based reforms in administrative policies and procedures. They are also introduced to health and medical data collection and storage systems, informatics technologies, and other computer-based innovations in healthcare management.

Most MHA program incorporate an applied capstone project that challenges students to address an issue in healthcare administration using the knowledge and skills they have learned in the program. Some MHA programs require students to complete an internship or practicum at a healthcare organization.

Online MHA Program Courses

While there is variation in MHA curricula, at the master’s level there are core topics that are covered in most programs. The table below draws on actual online program curricula in order to provide an overview of typical online MHA courses.

Course TitleCourse Description
Health AdministrationAn introduction to the principles of management within healthcare organizations and the basic concepts of leadership and organizational theories relevant to the effective administration of these organizations.
Healthcare LawAn examination of legal issues encountered in healthcare by administrators and practitioners, with a focus on liability, legal aspects of medical ethics, and legislative and regulatory factors in healthcare delivery.
Healthcare Economics & PolicyThe use of economic theory to interpret health policy issues; an examination of the role of economics in healthcare management; and the application of microeconomic tools to improve decision-making in the finance and delivery of healthcare services.
Healthcare Organization AdministrationThe structural dimensions of healthcare organizations, contingency factors that impact how managers design their organizations, and the mission, goals, and competitive strategies that are relevant in the healthcare sector.
Healthcare Financial ManagementBudget development, accounting and finance concepts, and other financial issues faced by healthcare managers, including the third-party payer system and incentives created by various payment methods.
Healthcare Statistics & Research MethodsData analysis and statistical methods for research and management decisions in healthcare organizations.
Healthcare InformaticsA survey of current information technologies used for clinical and management purposes in healthcare delivery.
Healthcare Operations & Quality ControlAn examination of the key functions of healthcare organizations from the perspective of risk reduction and quality control, including the adoption of new medical technologies, new information technologies, and other advances and innovations in patient care, harm reduction, and decision support.
Grant Writing & Program EvaluationSkills for preparing and presenting healthcare and social service program proposals, evaluating program effectiveness, and maintaining funding.
Nursing Home AdministrationPlanning, organizing, staffing, directing, controlling, quality improvement, and decision-making for nursing home administrators.
Hospital AdministrationAn examination of organizational structures, integrated systems, and emerging changes in hospital administration, including mergers, joint ventures, affiliations, and managed care arrangements.
Human Resource Information SystemsAn examination of systems that cover workplace and human resource management, including performance and tracking tools, as well as new cloud based public and private systems that are used in personnel management and development.
Integrated Healthcare ServicesA capstone course in which students integrate and synthesize prior coursework and demonstrate competence in health services through the analysis of complex cases in health services delivery and management.

Admissions to Online MHA Programs

While admissions policies vary by program, the basic eligibility requirement for admission to an online MHA program is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. In addition to undergraduate transcripts, applicants may be required to submit GMAT or GRE test scores, two or more letters of recommendation, and a personal goals statement. Some online programs factor an applicant’s undergraduate grade point average (GPA) into the admissions process, and others have a minimum required GPA (usually 3.0 or above). There are online MHA programs that require or prefer applicants with prior professional experience in the healthcare industry, and Executive MHA (EMHA) programs usually require candidates to have at least five years of experience working in a managerial or administrative role. While in-person interviews are rarely required, some programs conduct phone or video interviews with applicants.

Online MHA Program Formats

While all of the programs included on this site offer all or most of their instruction online, there are several differences in program formats and structures that may be important considerations for potential applicants. These variations can affect the relative flexibility and convenience of an online program. They include: synchronous vs. asynchronous instruction; part-time vs. full-time enrollment; and whether or not the program requires students to attend immersion sessions and/or on-campus intensives.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction: These are the two primary modes of online instruction. Synchronous instruction is analogous to traditional classroom instruction in that it requires students to be logged on to a program’s LMS in order to view lectures and participate in course activities in real-time. Synchronous activities take place a designated times and CAHME only accredits online MHA programs that incorporate a minimum of 120 hours of synchronous instruction. Asynchronous instruction does not have a real-time component. In an online course that utilizes asynchronous instruction students can view lectures and complete other coursework at their own convenience, 24-7. While asynchronous instruction offers more flexibility than synchronous instruction, it does require more self-motivation and self-discipline. Synchronous instruction offers less flexibility, but it provides a more structured online learning environment.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time Enrollment: Standard MHA programs are designed to be completed in roughly two years of full-time enrollment (20-24 months), which typically entails taking the equivalent of four to six courses per traditional academic semester. However, many online MHA programs allow students to enroll on a part-time basis provided they complete the graduation requirements within a certain number of years (usually five or six years). Part-time enrollment options vary by program, but part-time students generally take the equivalent of two or three courses per semester. It should be noted that some online MHA programs do not adhere to the traditional academic calendar (fall/spring/summer semesters). Indeed, it is not uncommon for online programs to be structured around eight-weeks terms, during which full-time students take two courses and part-time students enroll in one course. Potential applicants who intend to work while completing their degree or who have other significant commitments outside of school should examine the enrollment options offered by online MHA programs in order to find programs that best fit their scheduling needs.

Campus Visits: MHA programs included on this site offer all or most of their didactic instruction online, and many do not require students to attend on-campus sessions. However, there are online MHA programs that incorporate required campus visits for orientation and/or instructional purposes. These sessions usually last for about a week and involve traveling to the school campus or another designated location. While these in-person sessions may represent an inconvenience to students who cannot or would prefer not to have to travel in order to earn their degree, they can add a valuable face-to-face learning component to an online program. OnlineEducation.com does not currently include online MHA programs that require more than two campus visits per year.