If you want to advance your career in health sciences, but you’re unsure whether a Master of Health Administration (MHA) or Master of Health Science (MHS) degree would be right for you, read on. We spoke to Kathy Wood, PhD, MBA, who directs both programs at USAHS, to find out where the MHA and MHS overlap, where they differ, and what career paths graduates take.
Are you on a clinical or administrative path?
The Master of Health Science is “for clinicians who are seeking to advance their clinical practice through research and education,” Dr. Wood says. The program has four specializations, all of which have a clinical spin. You can choose the generalist track or specialize in Athletic Training, Health Informatics, Executive Leadership, or Teaching & Learning (with the optional EdD Bridge Program).
The Master of Health Administration, on the other hand, focuses on the business side of healthcare. You will learn new strategies for improving systems of operations, finance, research, policy, and other key functions of healthcare organizations. You can follow the generalist track or specialize in Health Informatics.
Where the curricula appear to overlap, they are actually distinct. For example, the MHS’ Executive Leadership specialization centers around clinical operations, whereas “the entire MHA program is basically a degree in executive leadership,” Dr. Wood says. Both programs offer a specialization in Health Informatics—but the spin is different. According to Dr. Wood, students in the MHS Health Informatics specialization focus on clinical data about patients, while their MHA counterparts examine patient demographics, billing, and other more administrative functions. In addition, the final projects focus on different areas—clinical for the MHS, business for the MHA.
What is the next step on your career trajectory?
See this infographic for a visual representation of how the MHS and MHA programs could map to your professional goals.
Dr. Wood says the MHS prepares graduates to pursue roles in professional athletic associations, educational institutions, hospitals, clinical research firms, and a range of other healthcare settings. “If you’re an athletic trainer who wants to enhance your credentials, a healthcare entrepreneur, or a clinical practitioner moving into leadership, the MHS is for you,” she says. “Our graduates are working as healthcare educators, human resources managers, quality managers, project managers, wellness educators—a wide variety of positions. Or you can start your own practice as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or athletic trainer.”
By contrast, the MHA is designed for future healthcare administrators or executive leaders. “Our students include current administrators who are looking to advance, medical practitioners who want to move into administration, and some career changers,” Dr. Wood says. In the MHA, you can gain the tools and credentials you need to pursue management and leadership roles in hospitals, clinics, managed care facilities, and more.
Do you plan to earn your doctorate?
Dr. Wood says that many students use the MHS as a stepping stone to a doctoral program. You can take advantage of our MHS to EdD Bridge Program and earn your Doctor of Education (EdD) faster. In our specialized EdD program, clinicians learn to build healthcare curricula. The MHA can also be a stop on the way to a doctorate, but this is less common, Dr. Wood says.
What do you want to focus on for your final project?
Typically, MHS students choose a clinical topic for their comprehensive project, while MHA students choose an administrative topic for their capstone project. The comprehensive and capstone projects are similar in scope and rigor; both involve close collaboration with a faculty mentor, and both are opportunities to apply your knowledge on the job or in another real-world setting. In the MHA, an optional internship complements the capstone course.
Which certifications do you want to earn?
In the MHS, the ImPACT® Trained Athletic Trainer (ITAT) certification is available for students who complete the Evidence-based Management of Concussion course, part of the Athletic Trainer specialization. Students in the Health Informatics specialization may earn the Certified Specialist in Business Intelligence (CSBI), which is offered through the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), and a Neehr Perfect Certificate of Completion.
For the MHA, the Certified Revenue Cycle Representative (CRCR) certification (also offered through the HFMA), is available for all students in the program. Students in the Health Informatics specialization may earn the CSBI certification and a Neehr Perfect Certificate of Completion.
Do you want to earn your master’s on an accelerated timeline?
Standard pathways are available for both programs; the expected time to completion is 6 trimesters, or two years.* Both the MHS and MHA feature accelerated pathways with self-paced courses that award credits according to competencies, as well as other options to accelerate your time to graduation.
Do you want to practice interprofessional collaboration?
Core courses in both programs are taught within an interprofessional education (IPE) model, in which you will get a chance to practice teamwork with students across healthcare disciplines.
*Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress, credits transferred, and other factors.
Master of Health Science (MHS)
USAHS’ Master of Health Science program is delivered online, with optional on-campus immersions. Broaden your knowledge of evidence-based practices, develop the expertise to lead your peers, and enhance your credentials in the fast-growing industry of healthcare. The program offers four specializations: Athletic Training, Health Informatics, Executive Leadership, and Teaching & Learning with the optional MHS to EdD Bridge Program. Choose among accelerated and traditionally paced options and earn your advanced degree while keeping your work and life in balance.
Master of Health Administration (MHA)
USAHS offers an online Master of Health Administration (MHA) program designed for working healthcare professionals who want to improve systems of operations, finance, research, policy, education, and other key functions of healthcare organizations. The program is taught online, with optional on-campus immersion weekends and an optional internship. Whether you choose the traditional or accelerated track, or our specialization in Health Informatics, you will gain real-life experience and expand your professional network. During your capstone project, you will work with an industry mentor.