Accredited programs of study typically require students to complete applied experiences as well as course work in areas such as population health, healthcare economics, health policy, organizational behavior, management of healthcare organizations, healthcare marketing and communications, human resource management, information systems management and assessment, operations assessment and improvement, governance, leadership, statistical analysis and application, financial analysis and management, and strategy formulation and implementation. The degree program is designed to give graduates of health disciplines (in particular) greater understanding of management issues and prepare them for senior management roles, and is awarded by many American, European and Australian universities. The degree traditionally focuses on health administration at the local, state, and federal level as well as in the nonprofit sector. This contrasts with the general Master of Business Administration or the Master of Public Administration degrees.
Programs are intended to provide students with the essential knowledge required for senior managerial and planning work in the health services. The objectives of the program are to develop graduates who are: competent general and financial managers, competent planners, knowledgeable about public health and the structure, organization and financing of health care systems, knowledgeable about society, law and ethics, and competent in quantitative skills.
In most countries, applicants are required to hold minimum a three-year undergraduate degree and have a minimum period of professional experience in the health system. The curriculum, however, varies between universities.
Although many colleges of business, public health, and/or health sciences in the United States have degrees with health administration content, only a minority have been accredited through the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME), which is the only accreditor recognized by the United States Department of Education for these programs. CAHME accreditation requires programs to meet a set of standards related to areas such as program resources, faculty preparation, curriculum content, and post-graduation career success, and also helps to ensure that the programs are well integrated with the practice communities their graduates will work within.
Applicants to accredited programs are required to hold a four-year undergraduate degree prior to enolling. Some universities offer dual MHA/MBA degree programs, which may be completed concurrently or sequentially. Some MHA programs do not require professional experience prior to enrollment; however most programs require work experience, such as internships or fellowships, as part of their graduation requirements. Some MHA programs use a blended lecture and online format, allowing people to continue working while they pursue the MHA degree. There are also a few universities, including many for-profit universities, that offer MHA programs completely online; however, these programs are not currently eligible for CAHME accreditation because of concerns about the effectiveness of online programs as an analog for developing interpersonal and team-based skills which are more typically face-to-face in their use in post-graduation professional roles.
Most MHA-equivalent graduate programs in the United States are offered by schools of public health, business, allied health or, less frequently, by schools of medicine. Programs in schools of public health or business tend to have a more 'traditional' structure; courses are typically taught by academicians and have a focus on theory as well as analysis. Programs housed in schools of allied health or medicine tend to have a more applied focus, with more courses taught by practitioners (healthcare executives) and may also offer more opportunities for students to gain practical work experience while completing their studies.
In the United States, the official academic honor society for MHA graduates is Upsilon Phi Delta.
In Australia the Master of Health Administration (MHA) may be divided in two parts; the first part awards a postgraduate diploma of Health Service Management, and, depending on the outcome, diplomates may be permitted to continue to the second part which culminates in the MHA degree. Course structures, and may be either research or coursework based. The Master of Health Administration is considered the benchmark qualification by the Australian College of Health Service Executives Unlike elsewhere, the MHA is not intended primarily for medical practitioners (who have courses provided by their professional organisations) but is open to graduates of any discipline wishing to pursue a career in health administration. Owing to the wide variety of course nomenclature in Australia, some Universities offer the course as a Master of Business(Health Administration), abbreviated to MBus(Hlth).