Types of Master’s Degrees in Healthcare
The world of healthcare is constantly evolving. As new technology and regulations change how care is delivered and patient data is managed, healthcare professionals who understand these changes are in high demand. If you want to start or advance a healthcare career, exploring the different types of master’s degrees in healthcare is a good first step.
As the healthcare industry advances, its workforce is often changing too. Today, medical institutions need leaders who know how to make evidence-based decisions, who understand best practices for safe and equitable patient care and who can leverage new technologies to improve care delivery and the health of a community at large.
No matter what direction you hope to take your healthcare career, earning one of the many master’s degrees in health-related fields can give you the skills and experience to stand out in this growing industry.
Before choosing your degree path, it’s important to explore the types of master’s degrees in healthcare and the impact earning an advanced degree could have on your future.
The Impact of Earning a Master’s Degree in Healthcare
The field of healthcare is not only changing – it’s growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in healthcare jobs is projected to grow 16% between 2020 and 2030, creating about 2.6 million new jobs in just 10 years.
If you want to be part of this fast-growing industry, earning a master’s degree can give you a competitive edge.
While there are plenty of entry-level jobs in healthcare for workers with an associate degree or bachelor’s degree, leadership positions often seek applicants with more advanced education, said Rebecca Arsenault, DHA, MS, RN, FACHE, an adjunct faculty member of the graduate healthcare administration program at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
“To really advance a career, healthcare organizations expect people to have a master’s degree,” she said. “It is becoming a minimum expectation…Having that master’s degree on your resume is a real competitive advantage.”
A master’s degree can also boost your lifetime earnings and career potential.
According to BLS data, master’s degree holders earned an average of almost 18% more in their weekly earnings than bachelor’s degree holders in 2021. Jobs for graduate degree holders are also rising across many fields – projected to grow 16.4% by 2030.
So, which healthcare master’s degree is most in-demand? It depends on the job you want.
What is the Best Master's Degree to Get in Healthcare?
When it comes to finding the healthcare master’s degree that is right for you, it’s important to consider where you want to work, the type of job you want to have and the overall career potential a degree can provide.
Keep reading to learn more about some of the top types of master’s degrees in healthcare.
Master of Science in Healthcare Administration
With a master’s in healthcare administration, you could play an important leadership role in the delivery of quality patient care.
In a healthcare administration degree program, you'll explore key business topics, including finance and economics, law, policy, informatics and strategic planning. You'll also learn how these concepts can be applied to the complex and evolving world of healthcare.
Healthcare managers can take on top administrative roles in hospitals, physician’s offices, long-term care facilities, insurance companies and more.
“The opportunities are endless in healthcare administration right now,” said Arsenault. “There’s an overwhelming demand, particularly for healthcare administration-related roles.”
According to Arsenault, some of the jobs you could get with a healthcare administration master’s degree include:
- Clinical lab supervisor
- Executive director of a home health agency
- Hospital chief executive officer
- Long-term care facility administrator
- Medical billing supervisor
- Medical supplies manager
- Nursing home administrator
- Outpatient clinic supervisor
It's important to note that some of these positions may also require a doctoral degree.
While salaries vary depending on the job you want and where you work, medical and health services managers typically have strong career potential.
According to BLS data, the median annual salary for medical and health services managers was $101,340 in May 2021. Jobs in this field are also rising, expected to grow by 32% between 2020 and 2030 – significantly faster than the average for all occupations.
Master of Science in Health Information Management
From hospitals and doctor’s offices to outpatient labs and nursing homes, healthcare facilities are charged with securely storing and managing patient data. And as technology advances, more and more data is being collected.
Do you want to help lead an organization’s efforts to securely store and effectively analyze medical data? Then a health information management master's degree could be one of the best types of master’s degrees in healthcare for you.
“We don’t always think about the amount of data that a health organization has to manage – and has to manage appropriately,” said Arsenault. “It has to be handled by someone with the expertise and critical thinking skills that one gets from a master’s degree program.”
According to Arsenault, some of the jobs you could get with a health information management master’s degree include:
- Data quality manager
- Health information management administrator
- Medical records director
- Research analyst
- Systems administrator
According to BLS data, health information management and data management jobs have strong job growth and earning potential. Jobs for health information technologists are projected to grow 11% from 2020 to 2030. The median annual wage for health information technologists was $51,840 in May 2021.
Leadership roles in the field tend to earn even more. According to BLS data, health services managers working in hospitals earned a median annual salary of $119,450 in May 2021.
If this career path interests you, you might wish to learn more about what health information management is.
MBA in Healthcare Administration
When exploring the types of master’s degrees in healthcare, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree might not be at the top of your list. But an MBA can provide key leadership skills that can help you start or advance a healthcare career.
With an MBA in Healthcare Administration, for example, you could gain fundamental business skills and learn how to apply them to leadership roles in hospitals, clinics, medical offices, healthcare corporations, insurance companies and more.
Earning an MBA could give you the skills and experience you need to take on leadership roles across many areas of healthcare, including:
- Business analytics
- Clinical administration
- Healthcare finance
- Marketing and promotions
- Project management
Armed with a broad-based business skill set, graduates of MBA programs are in high demand. According to a 2021 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) survey, the hiring of MBA graduates in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry was projected to increase in 2021 compared to 2020 levels (GMAC PDF source).
So, if you're wondering whether you should get an MBA if your career goals are in healthcare – you certainly could.
Which is Better, an MHA or MBA in Healthcare?
When it comes to master’s degrees in health-related fields, determining which program is right for you depends on the role you want, said Arsenault.
Both a master's degree in healthcare administration and an MBA in a healthcare field will offer key learning in leadership, technology and regulatory, legal and ethical considerations. But the two degrees do differ, said Arsenault.
A traditional healthcare administration degree typically focuses on the delivery of patient care and the administrative functions that assist with that process. An MBA degree, on the other hand, focuses more on the business processes needed to run a healthcare organization.
No matter which path you decide to take, you'll have an opportunity to learn how to make evidence-based decisions and gain in-demand leadership skills.
“These are two equally important roles in the world of healthcare," said Arsenault. "They have to work side by side.”
Master of Public Health
If you want to help solve complex health challenges and improve the health and wellbeing of your community, then a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree could be one of the best master's degrees in healthcare for you.
In an MPH program, you can gain the skills you need to lead illness and disease prevention efforts, build community wellness programs and advocate for public health policy.
If you’re interested in working in population health on a global scale, a global health-focused MPH degree can help you explore and understand the worldwide impacts of public health policy and health education.
“Public health is everything from food to exercise to the environment to emergency and disaster response,” said Dr. Leanne Skehan, DCN, MPH, MBA, a clinical faculty member of public health programs at SNHU. “Public health is everywhere.”
According to Skehan, a public health master’s degree could help you find leadership roles in the field at a local, state and national level.
Some of these roles include:
- Community health specialist
- Director of disease prevention and control
- Director of infectious disease
- Health policy expert
- Program evaluator
- Public health investigator
Like many other master’s degrees in health-related fields, earning an MPH can expand your opportunities for career growth and income. Jobs for community health workers and health educators are projected to grow 17% from 2020 to 2030, according to BLS data. Health education specialists earned a median annual wage of $60,600 in May 2021.
Epidemiology roles are also on the rise, thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the evolving approach to disease prevention. Jobs for epidemiologists are projected to grow by 30% between 2020 and 2030, according to BLS data. Epidemiologists earned a median wage of $78,830 in May 2021.
“A master’s in public health - just like a master’s in many other fields - just expands your opportunities and opens up a much more diverse set of public health job opportunities,” Skehan said.
Learn more about what you can do with an MPH degree.
Nursing Master’s Degrees
If you want to advance a career on the clinical side of healthcare, then a master’s degree in nursing could be right for you. It can help you specialize in a specific area of the field and gain key leadership skills.
With a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, you’ll gain a key credential in demand in the competitive and ever-changing nursing field.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nurses are more often taking on leadership roles in today’s healthcare field. Earning an advanced nursing degree can give you a leg up when seeking one of these important roles.
Some nursing master’s degrees include:
- Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN): With a nurse practitioner master’s degree, you could prepare to work as a family nurse practitioner. According to BLS data, nurse practitioner jobs are projected to grow 52% between 2020 and 2030. Nurse practitioners earned a median salary of $120,680 in May 2021.
- Healthcare Quality and Safety (MSN): With a master’s degree in healthcare quality and safety, you can develop the skills you need to improve the quality of patient care in hospitals and other medical institutions. According to BLS, the employment of nurses with advanced skills and other medical and health services managers is projected to grow 32% through 2030.
- Nursing Education (MSN): This master’s degree program can help you prepare to teach and train the next generation of nursing professionals. According to BLS, nurse educators earned a median salary of $82,040 in May 2021. Find out how you can become a nurse educator.
- Nurse Executive Leadership (MSN): With a nurse leadership master’s degree, you can gain key leadership, strategic planning, human resources and finance skills that can help you prepare to lead a nursing team as a registered nurse. Jobs for registered nurses are projected to grow 9% between 2020 and 2030, according to BLS. Registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $77,600 in May 2021.
- Population Health (MSN): If you want to explore the connection between nursing practice and health policy, a nursing master’s degree with a focus on population health could be a good fit. You will learn more about what population health management is with a population health degree, helping you land roles in a public health department or assist with community health programs in a hospital or other medical institution.
If you're a nurse looking to advance your career, learn more about what an MSN degree is and how it could benefit you.
Choosing Between Different Types of Master’s Degrees in Healthcare
If you’re ready to advance your healthcare career, it can be challenging to decide which degree program is right for you. When deciding between master’s degrees in health-related fields, it’s important to consider what you hope to achieve with your career and what you’ll learn in each program, said Arsenault.
But, no matter what healthcare master’s degree you choose, you’ll gain key leadership and career skills and give yourself a competitive edge when applying to healthcare jobs.
“A master's degree gives you an opportunity to learn about more complex knowledge and to apply a high level of critical thinking to your future work,” Arsenault said.
A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU healthcare program that can best help you meet your goals.
Danielle Gagnon is a freelance writer focused on higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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