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Trends in Healthcare Management Education

Trends in Healthcare Management Education

Adjoining our new series on Healthcare Management, where we discuss the fundamentals of the HCM field as well as the most effective approaches to HCM training, is today’s article on the current trends in Healthcare Management Education. For learners interested in pursuing healthcare management and administration, there are several possible paths. Choosing the right one requires an understanding of how the different degree programs in HCM are similar, how they are different, and what those differences really mean for learners’ career paths. 

Types of HCM Degrees

Healthcare management and administration undergraduate degrees have been popular in the U.S. and the U.K. for decades. Typically received as a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, these degree programs used to take the shape of a traditional four-year track. Today, many HCM and administration degrees can be expedited through online programs and can be received in as little as 18-months. However, while these undergraduate programs can open doors for entry-level positions, Master’s degree programs in HCM prepare learners for career advancement and leadership within healthcare systems and offer opportunities for specialization.

There are three general approaches to teaching HCM at the post-graduate level: the MBA in Healthcare Management (MBA-HCM), the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), and the Master of Science in Healthcare Management (MSHCM). Let’s dive into these three degree programs in more detail. 

HCM EducationMBA in Healthcare Management

Like other subdisciplines of the MBA, an MBA in Healthcare Management grounds students in effective business practices and provides an in-depth overview of the business world on the whole, including:

  • Business development
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Marketing
  • Management
  • Strategy

For the Healthcare Management specialization, learners are tasked with applying these best practices and principles to the healthcare industry, at both a systems- and facility- level. Understanding the unique requirements, opportunities, and challenges that healthcare entities – such as a hospital or private practice – face is essential for their success. But equally as important is knowing the in’s and out’s of strategic management and administration. Thus, the MBA in Healthcare Management begins with business basics, helping learners build a solid foundation of business principles, and then applies these lessons and skills to the world of healthcare. 

“Students may find that they are very much an MBA student focused on the breadth of business practices and knowledge as set by the Fortune 500 companies of the world, and then applied to healthcare management.”

Michigan State University

While the majority of students who enter these programs come from a business background (i.e. undergraduate business degree), it is helpful if they have some exposure to healthcare settings. Indeed, some of the most successful students for this particular field of study are those that already have some degree of clinical healthcare experience and who want to move into more business-centric roles, like healthcare marketing or finance. Thus, the degree can help expand students’ career development options in the healthcare industry. Likewise, the MBA in Healthcare Management also ensures broader career application and flexibility and can be a valuable credential for those who may decide to pursue career opportunities outside of clinical health services, such as health insurance, pharmaceuticals, and beyond. 

Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)

In contrast to the above, the Master of Healthcare Administration degree offers more of a healthcare-first focus. These programs are most often housed in schools of public health, allied health, or even by schools of medicine, immersing the degree program in a clinical health setting. While the MBA in Healthcare Management begins with business and teaches future practitioners to apply business principles in a healthcare setting, the MHA grounds learners directly in that setting from the very beginning.

MHA principles can be applied at the department, facility, or systems level, and heavily emphasize applied healthcare topics. Courses and subdisciplines common to most MHA programs include the following:

  • Healthcare finance 
  • Healthcare economics
  • Health policy and regulations
  • Population health & epidemiology
  • Legislation & ethics
  • Health systems management

This applied healthcare curriculum will be the emphasis of any MHA program over and above the adjoining business courses, such as financial analysis and management, human resource management, marketing and communications, and strategic business management. This strong emphasis on healthcare fundamentals may or may not be the best fit, depending on the individual learner: 

“While some students prefer the specificity of the MHA courses, depending on background and depth of experience and knowledge, a greater business focus may be beneficial” 

Michigan State University

Master of Science in Healthcare Management (MSHCM) 

Presenting a middle ground between the two fields of study discussed above comes the Master of Science in Healthcare Management (MSHCM). The MSHCM is an interdisciplinary approach that emphasizes the fundamentals of business and healthcare management in equal measure, teaching healthcare management that is elevated and optimized by the most effective and relevant business skills, theories, and strategies. 

The MSHCM is practitioner-focused, designed for individuals who wish to work or are currently working in responsible management positions in a wide variety of medical and healthcare institutions. Program curricula tend to emphasize critical reasoning, data-driven decision-making, and process improvement. Typical courses include: 

  • Organization of the Healthcare Value Chain
  • Resources Management
  • Project Management
  • Administrator Leadership
  • Quality Improvement Strategies in Healthcare

MSHCM programs heavily emphasize quantitative methods and data analysis as a means of innovating and optimizing the delivery of health services. Learners in MSHCM program are provided with skills and knowledge needed to improve the quality and productivity of healthcare facilities, such as critical thinking for decision-making and problem-solving; communications and interpersonal effectiveness; leadership and innovation; and strategic thinking. 

Similarities between different HCM degrees

While these degree programs have slightly different emphases on business management versus healthcare management versus administration, the relevant training needed to excel in each field are similar enough to be discussed concurrently. Since we have now discussed how these programs are different, let’s now turn to their similarities. Namely, the same skill sets will be taught and refined in any of the degree programs discussed above:

MBA-HCM, MHA, & MSHCM all emphasize and help develop the following skills:

  • Analytical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Detail-oriented
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Technical skills

Specifically, in any of the degree programs above, learners can expect to improve the following skills and gain experience in the following duties:

  • Effective communication skills
  • Knowledge of computers and their systems
  • Knowledge of electronic medical records
  • Medical storage information
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Patient reception, processing
  • Office environment and daily operations 
  • Knowledge of current policies on billing, reimbursement, coding practice, banking, financial practice and human resources and hiring

Conclusion

There are a number of educational pathways for learners to take in their journey toward becoming healthcare management leaders. As discussed above, the right path for any individual student will be determined by a myriad of factors, including their specific interests as well as natural their natural aptitude for different types of learning content. For more information on Healthcare Management, read the introduction to our HCM series here and stayed tuned for more topics, including how simulation-based learning can help prepare future practitioners for successful careers in HCM. 

To learn about our very own Healthcare Management training solution, Healthcare Hero, contact us today and request a demo of this hands-on HCM simulation game.

Healthcare Hero


Healthcare Hero puts the learner on a deep dive into the challenges of hospital administration. Developed for one of the world’s leading private hospital networks, the game is ideal for specialist healthcare management programs, or executive training for healthcare providers.

  • Hospital Capacity Management
  • Managing Relationships with Insurers
  • Competitive Strategy
  • Navigating Quality / Cost trade-off