MPH vs. MHA Degrees: Choosing The Right One for You

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The Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Health Care Administration (MHA) are two degree programs focused on equipping health professionals with the skills, knowledge and tools necessary to improve health outcomes at local, national and international levels. Although the curriculum of both programs overlap in areas (e.g. health financing or public policy), both degree tracks are distinct in their learning outcomes. When comparing the MPH vs. MHA, prospective students should understand how those outcomes prepares them for advancement in their chosen field. The MPH emphasizes disease research and health intervention and mitigation, while the MHA focuses on leadership, organizational management and health services administration within the healthcare industry.

There Are Several Ways To Earn An MPH or MHA

Because the MPH and MHA are professionally oriented degrees, many universities have launched online and hybrid (both online and on-campus) options to provide working students with greater flexibility around their graduate education. Most public health schools also offer students the ability to choose a concentration area for these degrees. Both programs usually take full-time students approximately two years to complete, but students also have the option to study on a part-time basis.

A Typical MHA Degree Program

The MHA degree program emphasizes facility administration and coordinating the delivery of health care services. Students should consider an MHA if they are interested in learning how to manage the legal, financial, and administrative aspects of health care businesses and organizations.

MHA Curriculum

MHA students can develop their business management and leadership skills, which are critical for the successful administration of a health care organization. This degree program typically includes the following courses:

  • Hospital administration
  • HR management
  • Health care administration leadership
  • Quality management and performance
  • Health care financial management
  • Marketing and strategic planning

Career Prospects

Through the MHA, students can hone their skills in leadership, finance and organizational communication. Developing practical industry-skills better positions them for career progression into the executive management level of health care organizations. Many graduates have the potential to qualify for mid- to high-tier positions in the following types of health care organizations:


  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Medical practices
  • Home health care agencies
  • Public health departments and agencies
  • Skilled nursing agencies
  • Insurance companies

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary in 2017 for a medical and health services manager was $98,350.

A Typical MPH Degree Program

The MPH is a good choice for people who want to pursue careers in disease prevention, research, education or health promotion. The MPH curriculum explores health issues and policy (e.g. lack of access to health care), diseases (e.g. cardiovascular disease) and research methodologies, teaching students how to identify trends and patterns and respond accordingly through community health programs, preventative initiatives, emergency response and more.

MPH Curriculum

Curriculum for an MPH degree traditionally includes courses in public health science, social and behavioral health, health policy and health care organization. Students learn how to evaluate existing public health programs, identify improvements and plan the implementation of new programs to meet a community’s health needs.

A typical curriculum may include the following courses:

  • Biostatistics
  • Epidemiology
  • Environmental health
  • Health care management
  • Public health financing
  • Health care program evaluation
  • Qualitative and quantitative research
  • Public health law
  • Behavioral and social health

Career Options

MPH career paths are diverse. On the one hand, some professionals develop, implement, operate and evaluate community health programs. On the other, some work in research, such as biostatistics or epidemiology. The MPH can also lead to employment avenues at the local, regional, state, federal level, along with international opportunities with health organizations throughout the world. Graduates with an MPH may pursue positions in local clinics, community-based organizations and in the military.

A master’s degree is typically required even for entry-level epidemiologists, as their work requires a firm grasp of advanced statistics, mathematics and a variety of sciences. But for career-driven public health professionals, pursuing this career can certainly pay off in the long term; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, epidemiologists earned a median annual income of $69,660 in 2017.

Learn More

The online Master of Public Health program at the University of Nevada, Reno can help give students the tools they need to enter the health care profession with a firm grasp of key concepts and training. Find out more about our comprehensive curriculum and apply today.


Suggested Readings

MPH vs. MBA: Choosing the Right Degree

Master of Public Health (MPH) Curriculum

University of Nevada, Reno Online Master of Public Health



CDC Foundation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

American Journal of Public Health

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Epidemiologists