MHA vs MPH Differences and Similarities

A Master of Health Administration (MHA)  and a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree have some similarities, as they both are concerned with the health of the public, and there are also many differences. Both are focused on health care, but the curricula for both are quite different.

Overview of a Master of Health Administration Degree

The MHA degree is one of the most common master’s degrees for the student or professional who wants to manage a health care organization. The MHA degree is not nearly as focused on diseases as the MPH is; the MHA degree is largely focused on health administration and how to run a health care organization as a profitable business organization.

Note that the most common master’s degree for healthcare executives is an MHA degree, so if that is your career goal, this is likely the best choice for you.

MHA Curriculum

Students in an MHA program will focus on honing their business management and leadership skills that are important in a health care facility. Some of the most common courses in an MHA program are:

  • HR management
  • Quality management
  • Strategic planning and marketing
  • Hospital administration
  • Accounting
  • Healthcare financial management
  • Healthcare administration leadership

Some of your program’s content could have some classes that relate to public health and public policy. The curriculum for an MHA degree often is centered on the business of health care, law, policy, and medical informatics.

Many graduates of an MHA program move into careers as healthcare administrators and often focus on roles such as HR management, implementation of new health policies, PR and finance. Many MHA graduates also are in good position to move into roles as CEOs or CFOs of health care facilities.

Online MHA Degree Option

For the student who wants to pursue an MHA online, we recommend Penn State World Campus, which offers a Master of Health Administration in Health Policy and Administration. It will provide you with a strong health care business administration management education. It also will expand your business qualifications for a challenging leadership role in health care. Some options do not require a GRE for MHA.

This two-year, online degree program is a collaboration between Penn State World Campus and the Penn State Department of Health Policy and Administration and the School of Public Affairs. This is a highly effective partnership that allows students to connect with faculty from a very highly ranked program, with more than 30 years of experience in guiding health administration students.

You should consider applying if you have experience in health care and want to improve your business management skills. It is recommended that you have at least five years of work experience in health care.

This online degree program is built upon the strength and success of the MHA program on campus, which was set up 25 years ago. It recently was awarded a seven year re-accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education or CAHME. This is the premier health administration program accreditation organization.

The online learning module used by Penn State World Campus allows you to fit your MHA degree into your busy schedule. Most of the classes can be taken when you like, as there are few classes with set schedules.

The majority of graduates of this highly regarded program eventually become managers or executives in these areas:

  • Hospitals
  • Health systems
  • Medical practices
  • Clinics and outpatient facilities
  • Home health agencies
  • Skilled nursing centers
  • Insurance companies
  • Public health agencies

Your required courses include:

  • Financing Health Care
  • Introduction to Health Services Organizations and Delivery
  • Leadership Ethics in Health Services Organizations
  • Health Services Organizational Behavior
  • Financial Management in Health Institutions
  • Managing Health Care Operations
  • Human Resource Management in Health Care Organizations
  • Management of Health Services Organizations
  • Change Leadership in Health Services Organizations
  • Individual Studies
  • Health Care Marketing
  • Population Health and Quality Management in Health Services Organizations

Overview of Master of Public Health Degree

If you are less interested in the administrative and business aspects of healthcare and are more interested in the prevention of diseases and illnesses, a master of public health could be a better fit for you. This field is concerned with the measures that need to be taken to improve health for large groups of people.

You still may take some health administration classes in some cases, but in a public health program, you will take courses primarily focused on disease prevention and related areas.

Many public health career graduates will work in research centers, public health offices at the local and state levels, laboratories, government health departments, and nonprofit organizations.

Some experts advise that the public health degree is better suited for a student or professional who already has a medical or health care background.

MPH Curriculum

Public health professionals focus on describing, discovering and responding to various disease patterns, and they also evaluate and operate public health programs. The most common curriculum for an MPH degree is based upon public health science, sociology, and organizational topics.

Typical courses in an MPH program include the following:

  • Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Behavioral and social health
  • Qualitative and quantitative research
  • Public health law
  • Environmental health
  • Global health

Professionals with an MPH degree often work as public health researchers, biostatisticians, epidemiologists and public health educators, among other related roles.

Online MPH Degree Option

A good choice for your online MPH degree is Creighton University. The online MPH program will give you the strategies, skills, and experience to create public health programs that are effective for the most at-risk populations, as well as those who do not have the access to health care that they need. Some options do not require a GRE for MPH.

This online MPH program provides you with cutting edge tools and techniques to help you to make a major impact on the public health sector for many years. This extremely robust and rigorous online curriculum will provide you with these skills:

  • Identify major health problems and needs of at-risk populations
  • Evaluate the ways in which you can meet the public health needs of at-risk populations
  • Show competency to carry out major public health efforts across many settings
  • Plan, implement and evaluate public health programs that identify major public health needs in a given community
  • Assess public health conditions and promote population health
  • Communicate research findings and findings from practical experience on major public health problems

You can choose from two specialities:

  • Health Policy and Ethics: You will focus on bioethics, health law and health care reform. Also, you will explore the economic, societal and cultural forces that can create inequity in public health and overall well being.
  • Public Health Services Administration: You will develop the leadership and management skills that you need to work in management and other leadership positions in public health organizations.

Creighton University features an expert MPH faculty that brings a massive amount of public health knowledge and experience to the virtual classroom. These are highly distinguished faculty that have worked with many top tier public health organizations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Association of EMS Educators.

Also note that this program is 100% online, so you will be able to balance both your work and family obligations. If you attend the program full time, you can expect to graduate in 2.5 years.

There is no on site residency required for this MPH program. You will, however, apply all of the knowledge and skills that you have learned in your classes in a practical experience in the last semester of the program. You will work with a public health professional in your area that will provide you with the training and experience so that you can enter the public health field soon after graduation.

This program also is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, or CEPH. This is the most respected accreditation body for public health programs in the US.

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Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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