Benefits of an MS in Healthcare Administration vs a Traditional MBA

Last Updated September 24, 2018

Advances in technology and medicine are causing rapid changes in the healthcare industry, meaning the demand for highly skilled leaders is likely to grow. Federal projections call for employment of healthcare administrators and executives to increase by 22% nationwide from 2010 to 2020, much higher than the 14% average for all occupations.

In order to equip themselves for career opportunities in administration or leadership, healthcare professionals can consider earning a master’s degree.

Although a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) traditionally has been considered a pathway to such positions, a graduate degree in a more specialized field can offer additional advantages.
For example, while MBA programs provide a generalized education, covering topics like finance, organizational behavior, operations and human resources, a Master of Science (MS) in Healthcare Administration can prepare students for the particular challenges of the healthcare industry.

Even MBA programs that feature healthcare concentrations typically emphasize broader business concepts, with some coursework on the business of healthcare. Classes likely will include students who are not pursuing healthcare MBAs.

MS in Healthcare Administration courses, meanwhile, address the particular challenges of managing in a healthcare setting. Such programs are designed to equip students with skills such as: implementing healthcare policies; using data and statistics to improve the delivery of healthcare; and evaluating the impact of healthcare project management. Students learn many of the same concepts as their counterparts in MBA programs but apply them to healthcare settings.

Students have the opportunity to develop in-demand skills in areas such as data analysis, healthcare policy, and legal and ethical issues in healthcare. Some programs may offer specialized tracks of study in areas including gerontology, forensic health, strategic leadership and health informatics.

Admission Requirements

MBA programs usually require applicants to have earned a bachelor’s degree. Most also require passing scores on the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) or GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test), while many recommend that applicants have two or more years of work experience.

Entry into an MS program generally requires a bachelor’s degree, a minimum GPA of 3.0 in previous coursework, and letters of recommendation from teachers, employers or academic advisers. Some universities may allow students to enter their programs without having at least a 3.0 GPA if they have a few years or more of relevant employment experience.

Specialized MS programs may have additional requirements, such as successful completion of classes in statistics, math or computer science, as well as the submission of a personal essay about why the applicant is pursuing this career.

Health Care Leadership Career Paths

The healthcare field is changing faster than many other industries, particularly as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age and begins to require more top-quality care. Talented and skilled leaders will be needed to organize and manage staff, information and service delivery in many healthcare settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Public health departments
  • Health insurance companies
  • Nursing homes
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Surgery centers
  • Clinics
  • Health care associations
  • Consulting firms
  • Universities and research organizations

A graduate degree in a discipline such as health management can open up career opportunities in numerous areas of responsibility, such as medical staff relations, resource management, and project and policy development. Prospective students already working in the healthcare industry can consider online degree programs, which offer flexibility and convenience to busy professionals.

Advancing to positions with greater responsibility usually requires on-the-job experience. Mid- to upper-level positions include head of finance, director of nursing administration, government relations supervisor or medical staff relations manager. With the appropriate experience and education, advanced interpersonal skills and a proven managerial record, top leadership roles, such as vice president or CEO, may be within reach.

Healthcare leadership is a growing field that offers rewarding and exciting career opportunities. Pursuing a specialized graduate degree, such as an MS in Healthcare Administration, can provide a strong foundation for professional success and personal fulfillment.