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Online Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

May 6, 2021

Nursing & Healthcare


men in healthcare

If you’re ready to launch or accelerate a leadership career in healthcare, you’re likely weighing your degree options.

A master’s degree can open new doors for higher-level management or leadership positions and can also put you in a prime position for multiple job prospects. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates very strong demand for health services managers and healthcare executives through 2026, with an impressive 17% projected growth rate.

But which degree program is right for you?

The good news is there are several types of healthcare degrees that can qualify you for a management career in the medical field. But with all the options out there, finding the right match can be confusing.

This guide compares a Master of Health Administration (MHA) vs. a Master of Health Leadership (MHL) to help you make an informed decision when picking the right program for you.

What is a Master of Health Administration?

An MHA is a degree program that focuses on business management within the healthcare system. It prepares students to develop, plan, and manage healthcare operations within facilities and across systems. The curriculum usually involves basic business courses and some industry-specific subjects. 

Other areas of study might include subjects like:

  • Ethics
  • Accounting
  • Human resources
  • Strategic planning
  • Healthcare delivery
  • Medical informatics
  • Health policy
  • Microeconomics

What Careers Can I Pursue with a Master of Health Administration?

The most common jobs for those with an MHA include: 

  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Division Director
  • Unit Administrator
  • Senior Analyst
  • Financial Officer
  • Information Officer

What is a Master of Health Leadership?

An MHL program teaches students how to drive innovation and lead effectively within a healthcare organization. It explores the healthcare industry through comparison research, application of disruptive leadership concepts, and advanced technology applications.

Through WGU’s accredited MHL program, you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with leaders in the healthcare industry to identify opportunities for improvement, propose solutions, and perform a business analysis. You’ll also examine the use of technology to improve outcomes in patient-centered care.

What Careers Can I Pursue with a Master of Health Leadership?

As you’ll see, the following career outcomes for the MHA and MHL are similar:  

  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Chief Operations Officer
  • Clinic Manager
  • Department or Division Director
  • Department or Division Manager/Supervisor
  • Healthcare Executive 

However, if you go the MHL route, you’ll be equipped to pursue other high-level leadership roles, including: 

  • Medical and Health Services Manager
  • Healthcare Administrator 
  • Hospital Administrator 
  • Nursing Home Administrator 
  • Clinical Manager
  • Health Information Manager 
professional woman typing at computer

Should I Get an MHA or an MHL?

Ultimately, it comes down to the kind of job you want. Both degree programs teach similar subjects so, instead of comparing the curricula, think carefully about your career goals and which one will align best with those aspirations. For example, an MHL might be the better fit if you’re seeking a healthcare leadership role, like a clinic manager or hospital director. Leadership skills and other soft skills are often needed in employees at these levels, and an MHL can offer those management techniques and strategies in the curriculum. Additionally, value based care is critical as a differentiator between MHA and MHL programs—value based care is a key component in MHL programs that are focused more on leadership, which may be a great fit for you.

What Are Employers Looking for in Healthcare Administration Degrees?

  • Strategic Planning
  • Budgeting
  • Health Administration
  • Behavioral Health
  • Quality Management
  • Performance Improvement
  • Mental Health
  • Program Development
  • Managed Care
  • Case Management
  • Auditing
  • Utilization Management
  • Business Development
  • Medicare
  • Population Health
  • Social Work
  • Billing
  • Clinical Practices
  • Psychology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Financial Analysis
  • Performance Appraisal
  • Electronic Medical Record
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Clinical Supervision
  • Management
  • Leadership
  • Operations
  • Communications
  • Coordinating
  • Innovation
  • Problem-Solving
  • Customer Service
  • Integration
  • Interpersonal Communications
  • Written Communications
  • Presentations
  • Decision-Making
  • Research
  • Business Administration
  • Scheduling
  • Teamwork
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Mentorship
  • Verbal Communication Skills
  • Microsoft Office
  • Program Management
  • Influencing Skills
  • Quality Assurance
  • Negotiation

When considering a healthcare degree program, it’s important to pick one that will equip you with the skills and knowledge employers are looking for. 

At WGU, our career-focused curriculum is designed to set you up for real-world success. When you complete our MHL degree program, you can feel confident knowing you’ve mastered the top skills employers are looking for. 

WGU's Master of Health Leadership Degree

Our MHL degree program is designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. It focuses on quality improvement of person-focused, culturally relevant care with an emphasis on professionalism, technology, and ethical practice.

Some of the specific subjects taught in WGU’s MHL program include: 

  • Leadership, innovation, and management
  • Healthcare systems
  • Healthcare quality
  • Financial management
  • Healthcare analysis
  • Risk management
  • Health information technology
  • Community health 

If you're looking for a management or executive-level position in healthcare, an MHL from WGU is an ideal choice. Here’s why:

It’s affordable.

Our low, flat-rate tuition covers as many courses as you can complete each six-month term. Plus, you can continue working at your full-time job or maintaining your responsibilities while pursuing your online master's in health leadership.

You can accelerate.

Our unique competency-based education (CBE) learning model measures skills rather than time spent in a classroom. Students progress through courses as soon as they can prove they’ve mastered the material, rather than advancing only when the semester or term ends.

It’s flexible.

Our all-online, career-focused Master of Health Leadership program fits seamless with your current lifestyle. You can study and work independently with support and instruction from WGU faculty.

It’s respected.

WGU’s top accreditations—the same accreditations as many state universities—are valued by both employers and peers. You can feel good knowing you’ll get a quality education that’s respected by your industry.

The bottom line: If you’re trying to decide between the two degree options, the career outcomes and job outlook are similar. However, if your goal is to move into a high-level healthcare leadership role, an MHL program will better equip you for that career path. 

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One online university. Four colleges. Flexible degrees.

Our focus on your success starts with our focus on four high-demand fields: K–12 teaching and education, nursing and healthcare, information technology, and business. Every degree program at WGU is tied to a high-growth, highly rewarding career path. Which college fits you?

Want to see all the degrees WGU has to offer? View all degrees