How do I get into a master’s in health administration program?

Institutions vary in how they conduct admissions, but all require a formal application. Most graduate programs request proof of past education, test scores and work experience.

What can I do to improve my chances of getting accepted into a Master’s of Public Health program?

  • Take prerequisites required for each program.
  • Completing relevant coursework in business, healthcare, economics, information technology or finance.
  • Gain experience in the healthcare field.

Application Process Timeline

  • Review program requirements.
  • Take standardized tests, as required.
  • Order undergraduate transcripts.
  • Prepare required documentation (i.e., write essay, request recommendation letters).
  • Submit a completed application by the program’s posted deadline.

Note: Program to program you will find there is a lot of variation in the application process. Some only admit students at certain times of year, which may be based on semesters or accelerated terms. Others have a rolling admissions policy that allows students to apply any time and quickly enroll. Completion timelines can also vary across programs within one institution or across a network of schools.


What are the degree options available at the master’s level?

The primary degree available at the master’s level in this field is the Master of Health Administration (MHA). The program is for students new to the field who have little to no experience working in healthcare. The Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA), however, is a restrictive master’s designed for students with previous experience and current employment in health services. Fewer credit hours are required, and the courses are often asynchronous and primarily online. These programs do not require extra internships, unlike the standard MHA, which aims to get students as much on-site work experience as possible.

MHAs learn similar business skills but apply them in hospitals, private practices, consulting firms, and other areas of healthcare. Another degree often confused with the MHA is the Master of Public Health, which differs in its focus on public policy issues rather than the management and administration of private companies.

Related Master’s Degrees

  • Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH): This can be a more research-oriented route into public health work, allowing students to focus on certain specializations that require scientific backgrounds, such as environmental health, biostatistics, or epidemiology.
  • Master of Health Sciences (MHS): This degree option allows researchers to delve further into the study of specialized public health concerns, such as mental health, reproductive health, molecular biology, or biostatistics.

What do the major concepts and coursework look like?

Graduates of health administration master’s programs will have developed skills and knowledge in the following areas:

  • Management of health systems and operations
  • Health economics
  • Health policy
  • Health care quality improvement
  • Finance and healthcare accounting
  • Organizational behavior theory
  • Leadership and communication
  • Standards of appropriate and ethical conduct
  • Management of human resources
  • Management of information resources
  • Statistical and quantitative analysis

Internships

Most MHA programs require students to take part in a 10-week summer internship between their first and second years. This allows students with no experience in the field to put their new skills and knowledge into action. EMHA students do not have to complete an internship.


What about program costs?

The cost of a master’s in health administration varies institution to institution. Factors like whether a school enrolls students part-time or full-time, program format (e.g., online, on-campus, blended) and “in-state” or “out-of-state” status affect the total cost of the degree. In addition to tuition, students should expect to pay application fees and other expenses required by schools.

Getting In

The graduate admissions process typically includes costs related to the following:

  • Application: A nonrefundable fee ranging from $50 to $120 is required when submitting applications.
  • Standardized tests: The GRE test administration fee is $195 and the GMAT exam is $250. Additional fees apply for special handling requests for scores and preparation materials.
  • Interviews: If a student is invited to interview in-person at an institution, they are responsible for all related fees, such as travel and lodging.

Tuition and Fees

MHA programs list tuition estimates in total costs, annual rates and cost per course or credit hour. Keep the following in mind when researching tuition:

  • Online vs. Offline: Tuition rates vary wildly across institutions. Some schools charge more or less for degrees earned through online coursework. The same is true for on-campus and blended programs.
  • Average Costs: The average full-time graduate tuition in 2011 was $14, 993, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Currently, average costs of MHA programs and EMHA programs range from roughly $20,000 to $80,000.
  • Financial Aid: Students can get funding assistance through a variety of sources, including scholarships, federal financial aid, grants and loans. Our scholarship and financial aid guide has more information.

How does accreditation work?

The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is the only organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the US Department of Education to accredit graduate healthcare management programs in the U.S. Accredited schools have been vetted for the quality and content of their programs. Attending a program lacking accreditation from CAHME puts you at risk; your credentials may not be recognized or valued by future employers.

Accreditation factors into:

  • Financial Aid: Federal financial aid is only available to students enrolled in schools with accreditation recognized by the US Department of Education.
  • Opportunities After Graduation: Many employers look for accreditation when evaluating graduates of MHA programs. Graduation from an accredited institution is required if students are interested in pursuing more advanced degrees.
  • Transfer Credit: Most schools do not accept transferred credits from institutions that aren’t accredited.

How do I go about evaluating and selecting a program?

  • Accreditation: Is the school accredited by CAHME?
  • Cost: What is the estimated total cost? Calculate tuition using per course or per credit prices and add any other fees unique to the institution.
  • Curriculum: Does the curriculum address the core competencies in the NCHL Health Leadership Competency Model? According to research conducted by CAHME, it’s the leading model used by accredited graduate programs in healthcare management.
  • Specializations: Do they offer the specialization you’re interested in? Schools vary in their offerings, so carefully read program and course descriptions.
  • Faculty: Are there faculty members with executive experience in your area of interest? Many schools list their faculty by specialization, so it’s easy to find exactly who you would study under. How many years of experience in the field do they have? Have they received any awards or honors? Look for faculty that have conducted significant research or worked for companies you admire.
  • Alumni Success: Does the program list a percentage of graduates that secured jobs and their median salary? Schools with high success rates often post graduate employment survey results. Regularly updated alumni news sites will give you an idea of how graduates are making waves in the field. You can also search alumni associations on LinkedIn to find out where recent graduates are now employed.
  • Format: Do they offer the format that best suits your work and life situation? Some schools are entirely on-campus or online, while others may require short residencies.
  • Job Experience: Does the school require a 10-week internship? What jobs do graduates of this program have now? Previous work experience is key in securing employment in health administration after graduation, so make sure the school you choose helps facilitate internships and on-site experience.
  • Career Goals: Will the program help you reach your career goals? Review our guide to health administration careers for more information about job opportunities.
  • Student Organizations: Are there student organizations focused on your interests? These groups often connect you to important figures in the field, school and community that become your professional network. They also host lectures, attend national conferences (e.g., those sponsored by the American College of Healthcare Executives) and organize social activities.

What are the keys to success once I’ve begun my program?

  • Seek a mentor: Some schools offer mentor programs, matching students to alumni and other professionals who share their interests. These can include managers or executives in large hospitals, medical equipment sales, healthcare nonprofits or state and national health agencies. If your program doesn’t facilitate these connections, seek out alumni with careers you’d like to emulate and request informational interviews with them via email or LinkedIn. You can also reach out to local administrative directors and managers at hospitals, clinics and nonprofit organizations. At the same time, work on establishing relationships with professors who can offer guidance and support.
  • Connect with classmates: Whether your program takes place on-campus or online, your classmates are valuable assets to your education and professional development. Your peers can help you work through assignments when stuck, study for exams and connect with potential employers after graduation.
  • Join Professional Organizations: Professional organizations connect you to important people working in the industry. Some, such as the American College of Healthcare Executives, offer extra educational opportunities, financial aid, fellowships, subscriptions to healthcare management publications and more if you join as a student associate.
  • Subscribe to Publications: Consider subscribing to The Journal of Health Administration Education, a publication of the Association of University Programs in Healthcare Administration. This peer-reviewed, quarterly journal is one of the only in the field and features research, case studies and essays by leading health administration educators and professionals.
  • Organize your coursework: MHA programs are typically rigorous, and though the EMHA course load is lighter, having to juggle a full-time job while in school has its own share of stressors. Budgeting time, keeping a calendar with deadlines and exam dates and meeting regularly with study groups can ease some of the pressure for both full-time and EMHA students.
  • Prioritize self-care: Remember to make time for self-care. Take frequent breaks when studying and plan leisure activities for after; you’ll be more productive and focused when less stressed.
  • Attend Job Fairs: Some programs host job fairs for students to network with recruiters. However, if your program doesn’t, check to see if the business school is hosting one of their own. You’ll still be able to network at an MBA recruitment fair, and there will probably be a few companies from the healthcare industry present.
  • Use Career Services: Many schools offer assistance in preparing resumes, writing cover letters and interviewing for jobs. Some also run seminars and host lectures designed to offer insight into how to get hired at hospitals, clinics, group physician practices and other organizations.