By Kara Sherrer
If you’re researching healthcare masters degrees, you’re probably a bit overwhelmed by all the potential options. There’s the Master of Healthcare Administration, MBA in healthcare, Master of Public Health, Master of Management in Health Care, Master of Science in Healthcare… the list goes on. To help prospective students determine the best masters degree to get in healthcare, Burch Wood, Director of Health Care Programs at Vanderbilt Business, explains the four questions that candidates should ask themselves.
Where do you want to work in healthcare?
Some masters programs prepare students to launch or continue careers in specific areas of healthcare. For instance, the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) is tailored to candidates who want to start a career in the delivery side of healthcare, such as managing hospitals. A Master of Public Health (MPH) is a good choice if you’d prefer to go into political or advocacy work. Other programs, such as an MBA with a healthcare concentration, are more versatile and can prepare you for several different careers within healthcare. Narrowing down what healthcare career paths you want will in turn help you select the best masters degree for your goals.
“Typically (the MHA) is very focused on just the hospitals and things like that. It doesn’t cover a lot of other things you might get into if you were in an MBA and wanted to go into the healthcare industry. It is almost completely focused on delivery… It’s fine if you if you’re going into the healthcare space and you plan to be there the rest of your life, (so if) you know that right from the beginning it works for some people,” Wood said.
What stage of your career are you at?
Whether you’re a recent college graduate or a mid-level manager looking to accelerate your career, there’s a different healthcare masters program out there for you. On the lower end of the experience spectrum, MHA programs usually attract recent college graduates who want to earn an additional credential before launching a career in healthcare delivery. MBA programs are targeted more to candidates who already have 3-5 years of experience and are seeking to make a career switch or accelerate their promotion opportunities. For more senior healthcare professionals seeking to increase their business knowledge, a Master of Management in Health Care (MMHC) might make the most sense.
“The Master of Management in Health Care is designed for mid-career people in healthcare who want to stay, but who never got the chance to get a get a formal business training… They usually leverage (the degree) to better management or better administrative roles,” Wood explained.
Do you want business training or not?
Some programs are focused solely on educating students on the “healthcare” part of the healthcare industry, while others also incorporate business fundamentals. As the names suggest, programs like a Master of Healthcare Administration, Master of Public Health, and Master of Science in Healthcare are going to concentrate almost exclusively on their chosen aspects of healthcare. On the other hand, an MBA in healthcare or a Master of Management in Health Care will ground students in business fundamentals while also covering healthcare essentials.
“The people in administration and healthcare industry see the benefits of having full business degree and have had decided to invest in it,” Wood said. “Healthcare is a very broad industry, so it takes a while for big changes happen. But most people see the benefit of having an MBA degree over an MHA in the long run.”
How long of a program are you looking for?
The above factors will probably help you solidify your decision, but if you’re still on the fence, you should consider how long the program will take to complete (and the associated tuition). Most degrees take either one or 2 academic years to complete, which varies between 9 and 21 months. The Master of Management in Health Care takes 12 full months to complete, though participants do keep working full-time while they’re in the program.
We hope this guide helps you answer the question “what is the best masters degree to get in healthcare for me?” To learn more, check out our article that explains the difference between an MBA in Healthcare vs. a Masters in Healthcare?