What is the Difference Between an Executive Master of Health Administration (Executive MHA) and an MBA in Healthcare?

The business side of healthcare - EMHA or MBA
The business side of healthcare - EMHA or MBA

Experienced healthcare managers and practitioners earn graduate degrees to enhance their career prospects. For a long time, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in healthcare was viewed as an important asset for professional growth. The introduction of the Executive Master of Health Administration (Executive MHA) added a more focused option for this high-growth industry.

Completing a graduate degree around your busy schedule requires valuable time and energy. Your consideration of an MBA or Executive MHA should focus on what degree opens the most fulfilling career options for you. The best starting point for selecting an MBA or Executive MHA is to understand their differences.


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Choosing Between an MBA or Executive MHA for Your Career

The MBA is a long-standing credential in the business world. The first Canadian MBA was conferred in 1948. However, MBA and Executive MBA programs have only recently added healthcare courses as electives.

Adding electives on healthcare administration to a graduate degree may be insufficient for the challenges of this complex industry. An Executive MHA program centers all of its leadership and business lessons on current trends in healthcare. The chart below differentiates Executive MHA and MBA programs based on areas of concentration, courses, and candidates:

Executive MHA

  • Concentrates on the convergence of business and healthcare
  • Healthcare core courses designed with future industry needs in mind
  • Fellow graduate candidates are looking for healthcare leadership positions to build on their industry experience

MBA in Healthcare

  • A broad exploration of the business world with incidental study of healthcare
  • Healthcare electives and business core courses
  • Fellow graduate candidates possess healthcare experience but want skills necessary for other industries

Selecting between an MBA or Executive MHA depends on your long-term career goals. An MBA with a healthcare specialization skims the surface of the topic while imparting skills required in other industries. Executive MHA graduates are ready to handle strategic planning and day-to-day leadership in healthcare because of their focus on industry trends.

Team of healthcare professionals conducting a meeting

Building In-Demand Skills with an Executive MHA 

The decision on whether to choose an MBA or Executive MHA rests in part on what skills you need for your desired career path. MBA in healthcare graduates develop competencies in major areas of the business world, often with a focus on healthcare The typical MBA curriculum includes courses like:

  • Accounting
  • Business Ethics
  • Finance
  • Operations Management
  • Organizational Behaviour

These skills don’t fit perfectly into most healthcare careers even if they overlap with some areas of administration. Executive MHA candidates learn from experienced faculty and visiting industry experts how to lead in a constantly changing field. Practitioner and patient expectations of healthcare experiences reveal skills met by Executive MHA curricula.

The Tools for Success in Health Administration Careers

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) observed and surveyed 35,000 healthcare professionals to find out which skills are necessary for success. This research revealed the following five skills that are most important for healthcare leadership:

  1. Leading Employees
  2. Resourcefulness
  3. Straightforwardness and Composure
  4. Change Management
  5. Participative Management

Healthcare leaders need to quickly adjust to changing conditions while engaging their teams. These skills prove invaluable when addressing the health needs of their patients and clients. Ipsos Reid found the following expectations of Canadians for their healthcare experiences:

  • 84% of respondents held higher expectations of healthcare than other public services
  • 82% of respondents expected to use health resources more within the next decade
  • 75% of respondents saw the Canadian health system as one of the best in the world

In short, Canadians expect their health services to be the best of the best. MBA programs, even with a healthcare specialization, focus on success in business settings without spending a lot of time on what it takes to succeed in healthcare. Executive MHA graduates are best prepared to make data-driven decisions on service innovations and improvements.

Executive MHA Career Paths and Candidates

The ideal candidates for an Executive MHA program are experienced managers and practitioners who want to stay ahead of industry changes. There isn’t a single Executive MHA career path because graduates complete research and practical experiences that work in multiple areas. Your ideal Executive MHA career path also depends on your starting point.

Specialists and private-practice doctors interested in improving or expanding their businesses benefit from Executive MHA degrees. Running a practice is made easier with the tools and management lessons taught by Executive MHA programs. With this degree in hand, doctors combine advanced leadership skills with their clinical acumen.

The Executive MHA degree prepares experienced managers for executive roles at hospital systems. Professionals in the pharmaceutical and medical supply industries also use Executive MHA degrees to move up the ladder. Executive MHA programs are particularly useful because candidates network with experienced colleagues.

Canada’s healthcare system relies on knowledgeable administrators at the provincial, territorial, and federal levels. Executive MHA courses focus on health technology, analytics, and policies that aren’t covered by MBA programs, even those with a healthcare specialization. Public-sector managers and leaders of government-supported care providers use these lessons to better serve the public.

The Lasting Value of an Executive MHA Degree

Anyone considering an MBA or Executive MHA to advance their healthcare career has to consider the return on their investment. An oft-used measurement of ROI for graduate degrees is salary. For example, the Economic Research Institute (ERI) lists an average salary of $139,006 for hospital executives in Canada. 

Salary is an important measure of a degree’s value but it isn’t the only consideration. Healthcare professionals entered the field because they want to improve patients’ health. As they rise through the ranks, they can also empower their teams toward improved outcomes.

Various studies have found that high-quality leadership can not only increase employee satisfaction but patient outcomes. A 2017 review in Healthcare summarized how leaders can use experience and education to achieve these improvements:

“Health care organizations need to ensure technical and professional expertise, build capacity, and organizational culture, and balance leadership priorities and existing skills in order to improve quality indicators in health care and move a step forward.”

Patient and employee satisfaction are critical elements of measuring success in leadership. Executive MHA graduates also achieve satisfaction with their own careers when they reach executive positions.

Doctor meeting with healthcare administration professional

Advancing Your Executive MHA Career Path at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa

An Executive MHA program turns experienced healthcare professionals into forward-thinking industry leaders. The choice between an MBA or an Executive MHA is now clear; now it is time to find the best program for your needs. The Telfer School of Management (Telfer) offers the first and only Executive MHA in Canada.

Telfer produces data-driven innovators through its online Executive MHA program. Your courses at Telfer touch on themes essential in today’s healthcare industry including:

  • Data Analytics and Information Technology
  • Healthcare Systems and Policy
  • Innovation and Change in Healthcare
  • Leadership and Management

Online Telfer Executive MHA graduates stand apart from the competition thanks to Telfer’s national reputation. The school holds accreditations from venerable institutions like the Association for MBAs and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. 

Telfer offers an on-campus capstone session and virtual workshops with industry experts to create a unique online Executive MHA experience. This innovative program combines advanced research with real-world lessons to produce well-rounded healthcare leaders. 

Find out more about Telfer’s online Executive Master in Health Administration today.