Comparing a Master of Health Administration vs. a Master of Public Administration

A career in healthcare leadership offers you the chance to serve your community and be part of one of the nation’s most rapidly expanding fields. From local to national levels; private to public sectors; independent to Fortune 500 companies—healthcare managers design, implement, and oversee the systems, policies, and agendas that keep people healthy.  

A Master of Health Administration (MHA) and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) are both excellent options if you’re interested in expanding your healthcare employment opportunities. Either program will enable you to take on leadership, management, and policy-development responsibilities in healthcare. 

Here we’ll compare an MHA vs. an MPA to understand the distinct ways each program readies students for success. Starting with establishing the core components of the MHA and MPA programs, we’ll review the course offerings and look at the variations in admissions criteria. Finally, we’ll explore the demand for MHA and MPA graduates across the US healthcare industry.

MHA vs. MPA: At a glance

Your choice to pursue an MHA or MPA will depend on which aspects of the healthcare industry appeal most to you. MPA programs are rooted in broad public policy and administrative issues, while MHA programs maintain a particular focus on the healthcare industry. An MPA is an ideal choice if you have a strong interest in healthcare policy, and an MHA is most beneficial for students seeking comprehensive insight and knowledge of the healthcare sector.

MPA programs offer core classes in public policy and administration, so your cohort will include students that study all areas of public policy, and you will encounter a broad variety of policy interests among the faculty. On the other hand, MHA programs offer the opportunity to learn alongside students who are either working in or plan to work in the healthcare industry, which will give you insight into real-world healthcare issues by learning from healthcare-focused faculty and peers.


Program goals and strengths
  • Strong emphasis on management and leadership
  • Depth and breadth in knowledge of the healthcare industry
  • Strong emphasis on management and leadership
  • Depth and breadth in knowledge of various public policy arenas 
  • Managing organizations, teams, and operations
  • Healthcare policy, strategy, and operations 
  • Applied, practice-based focus
  • Organizational, operational, and administrative management
  • Qualitative and quantitative statistical methods
  • Concentration in healthcare, finance, policy, nonprofit, and other sectors
Skills emphasis
  • Day-to-day healthcare operations and administration
  • Accounting, budgeting, and financial management
  • Human resources management
  • Healthcare law and policy
  • Quality improvement
  • Administration of public and nonprofit organizations
  • Influence, development, and implementation of laws, policies, and regulations
  • Program evaluation and implementation
  • Financial management and analysis
Career preparation
  • Manage healthcare organizations
  • Develop evidence-based strategies and improve organizational performance 
  • Collaborate with leaders within various relevant sectors to reduce disparities
  • Influence and implement healthcare policies
  • Analyze specific problems that leaders and managers face with respect to public policy
  • Apply statistical methods to management, policy, and decision-making
  • Gain an understanding of local, state, and federal policies 


Admissions requirements for MHA and MPA programs vary by institution. Here are some of the common requirements we’ve identified: 

Education: You must possess a bachelor’s degree to enroll in either program. However, specific academic requirements—such as minimum GPA, undergraduate course study, and standardized test scores (i.e. GRE or GMAT)—vary depending on programmatic factors, such as reputation, number of applicants, and whether the program offers concentrations. 

Work Experience: Most MHA and MPA programs ask that you have at least one year of professional experience. MHA programs typically require that your experience prior to enrollment be related to healthcare. MPA programs often consider a variety of professional work and volunteer engagements as relevant experience because they may encourage career changers to apply. In this case, the program may require a career-changing applicant to provide evidence of an interest in public policy.  

MHA vs. MPA curriculum

Understanding the unique aspects of MHA and MPA curricula will help you decide which program most appeals to you.

MHA Curriculum

Healthcare managers must have strong leadership skills, with the ability to communicate clearly and manage effectively across diverse teams. They work in conjunction with various stakeholders—doctors, nurses, lawyers, and other administrators. MHA curriculum typically includes:

Healthcare Organization Management: CEOs and program managers must have the ability to manage resources and timelines to execute their programs within budget. Resource allocation and management is a critical accounting skill. 

Law and Ethics: Leaders in healthcare organizations may encounter patent laws, manufacturing standards, and ethical issues, such as in pharmaceutical development. Once out of the program, students are prepared to tackle many common, and complex, legal and ethical questions.

Marketing and Strategic Communication: Healthcare organizations require newsletters, press releases, advertisements, market strategies, and more. While this is not a primary responsibility for healthcare leaders, it is important for them to understand how to market their services and communicate effectively with prospective and current patients and other key stakeholders, including physicians and insurance firms. 

MPA Curriculum

The MPA core curriculum will reflect courses that come from a general policy perspective and provide wide-range application, allowing students the option to pursue a career in multiple sectors, though you can choose a concentration by selecting specialized electives. You’ll gain exposure to healthcare, but also hone general leadership, management, and finance skills that will help you add value to any sector. The MPA core curriculum includes:

Leadership and Management Strategy: Leadership consists of both managing people and setting a vision and strategy for your company. A foundation in leadership and management will prepare you to lead diverse teams effectively, work collaboratively with various stakeholders, and move your organization forward. 

Administrative Oversight: In a public service leadership role, you will oversee various administrative functions, such as finance, budgeting, accounting, human resources, and other day-to-day operations. You could also be responsible for leading research and evaluation teams that study the impact of social programs and services to determine their effectiveness. You’ll gain insight into these administrative functions which will allow you to successfully navigate the public sector.  

Comprehensive Policy Application: You will gain a holistic view of policy arenas and learn how they can influence each other. For example, you will study the relationship between healthcare and education. This comprehensive understanding prepares you to take on unique challenges and influence policy shifts when necessary.

You can find MHA and MPA programs that are offered online and on-campus, as well as on a full-time or part-time basis. How quickly you want to complete the program and whether you plan to continue working while you pursue your master’s degree will determine which program structure will best meet your needs. 

Demand for MHA and MPA graduates

There is no shortage of healthcare manager roles. As of 2016, there were 352,200 healthcare managers in the US and we’ll see nearly 72,100 additional roles added by 2026, as estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 Completing an MHA or MPA program qualifies you to affect real change, allowing you to commit yourself to fulfilling work. It’s no surprise PayScale reveals that both MHA graduates2 and MPA graduates3 report significantly high levels of job satisfaction.

MHA and MPA graduates are qualified for healthcare careers in a variety of settings, including hospitals, government agencies, and universities. Leading-edge healthcare providers fall among top employers for MHA graduates, while government, policy, and humanitarian organizations may favor employees who completed an MPA, depending on the role you pursue. 

NYU Wagner’s Online Master of Health Administration and Master of Public Administration in Health Policy and Management

An MHA and an MPA prepare students for careers that provide excellent salary potential, high job satisfaction, and unique opportunities in healthcare. An MPA will boost your healthcare career by priming you with a broad understanding of leadership, management, finance, and public policy. An MHA—distinguished by specialized classes, healthcare-focused professors, and a unified cohort—will place students directly into the complexities and challenges particular to healthcare.  

If you plan to pursue an MHA or MPA, consider New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. We have an on-campus healthcare management-focused MPA program and an online, part-time MHA for working professionals with the same resources and faculty, along with innovative online tools and instructional methods.

Learn about NYU Wagner's Online Master of Health Administration, Master of Public Administration in Health Policy and Management, and more about what makes each program unique. Initiate the beginning of an exciting and purposeful career, request more information, and get started today.


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