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Deciding Between an MHA Degree and an MSN Degree

Both a Master of Healthcare Administration and a Master of Science in Nursing can prepare you for an in-demand career.

The healthcare industry is growing quickly. So quickly that it’s projected to grow at a faster rate than any other U.S. industry in the coming years.* But not all healthcare jobs are the same. If you’re currently in the healthcare profession or are thinking of making a career change, you can put yourself in position for the best jobs by enrolling in the right healthcare degree program. Two of the best degrees to earn are a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Which one is right for you? Here’s how they differ and how they’re alike.

Differences Between an MHA Degree and an MSN Degree

Area of Study


: A master’s in healthcare administration program can prepare you to be a leader in healthcare management. You’ll explore the latest in healthcare policy and management techniques, and you can develop the professional competencies healthcare organizations need from their leaders. An MHA program can prepare you to:

  • Assess the components of the healthcare delivery system in the U.S.
  • Appraise delivery of healthcare strategies and solutions.
  • Analyze decisions that impact the healthcare delivery system, such as laws, mandates, court decisions, and policies.
  • Analyze the responsibility and operations of healthcare organizations in patient care outcomes and business performance.

: A Master of Science in Nursing program can prepare you for a patient-care-focused leadership role. You’ll learn how to positively influence the quality of patient care, develop innovations and apply them to healthcare practices, and use education to lead other nurses and improve the overall health of patients and communities. In addition, an MSN program will allow you to specialize in a number of fields, such as:

Career Possibilities

  • Ambulatory surgery center director
  • Compliance or business operations director
  • Group practice administrator
  • Academic program or departmental administrator
  • Hospital or health services administrator
  • Assistant administrator
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Materials management director
  • Director of business functions, such as marketing, operations, and planning
  • Health information manager
  • Director of managed care
  • Director of managed care business development
  • Director of patient access
  • Medical and health services manager
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse educator
  • Nursing faculty
  • Administrative nurse faculty
  • Nursing instructor
  • Patient educator
  • Staff development manager
  • Staff educator
  • Continuing education specialist
  • Clinical nurse educator
  • Clinical supervisor
  • Consultant
  • Case manager

Similarities Between an MHA Degree and an MSN Degree

High Demand

Whether you earn an MHA degree or an MSN degree, you’ll be putting yourself in position for some of the most in-demand jobs in the U.S. Currently, the demand for medical and health services managers—a common occupation for those with a healthcare administration degree—is growing at a much faster rate than the average for all occupations, and top professionals in the industry earn an average of $96,540 a year.‡

The outlook for those with their master’s degree in nursing is just as favorable. Employment of nurse practitioners, for example, is expected to increase by 31% in the coming years, and those in the profession commonly earn more than $100,000 a year.‡

Online Learning Options

It used to be that going to nursing school or graduate school required you to take time off from work or attend night classes. Thankfully, online education has changed the way working adults can earn a degree. When you enroll in an online MHA program or an online MSN program, you can complete most of your coursework from home on a flexible schedule that can allow you to fit in your studies around your job and personal responsibilities.

Adding to the advantages of online learning, many of the best online universities offer unique learning platforms designed to make earning your degree even more convenient. If a Master of Healthcare Administration is right for you, you can earn the degree through a competency-based degree program. Rather than enrolling in predetermined courses that require a set amount of time to complete, a competency-based degree allows you to master specific skills in your field of study at whatever pace works best for you. It’s a great way to potentially earn your degree more quickly and for less expense.

There are also additional advantages if you enroll in an online master’s in nursing program. For example, if you’re an RN, you can choose an RN to MSN program. Through an RN to MSN online program, you don’t have to earn your bachelor’s in nursing before applying to the master’s program. This makes it much more feasible for working nurses to earn their master’s in nursing online.

With the healthcare industry growing so rapidly, there’s plenty of opportunity for those motivated to get ahead. The right online degree can help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to take full advantage of these opportunities.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online Master of Healthcare Administration and Master of Science in Nursing programs. Expand your career options, and earn your degree on a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections: 2014–24 Summary, on the internet at

†Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.

‡Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers; Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners; Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2015–2016 Edition, on the internet at

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,