MS in Healthcare Management vs. MBA: Which Degree is Right for You?

If you find yourself struggling with this question, you can narrow your focus by asking yourself “What is my desired career path?” If you have chosen to work in the healthcare industry in some management capacity, you might first consider what the American University online MS in Healthcare Management offers. Likewise, if you are undecided about working exclusively in the healthcare industry and are considering other industries, an MBA with or without a healthcare concentration might serve you better.

The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) says that “either degree can open a world of possibilities for your career, so your decision process should include examining the major differences between the two.”

With that in mind, let’s compare the program descriptions and curriculum offerings for both programs at American University:

Course Description: MS in Healthcare Management

The program consists of 30 credit hours taken over a 20-month period, of approved graduate coursework that includes required courses specific to the healthcare industry. The online Master’s in Healthcare Management program prepares you for a leadership career in this complex and ever-evolving field. Those looking to enter mid-to senior-level healthcare management positions, independent healthcare consulting, or healthcare policy analyst and advisor positions, will be well-prepared upon graduation to step into these roles with confidence.

American University’s Master’s in Healthcare Management curriculum is specifically aligned with the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA), Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) and Healthcare Leadership Alliance (HLA) standards.

Course Description: MBA (with/without healthcare concentration or other specialty)

The program consists of 49 credit hours taken over a two-year period and approved graduate coursework that includes required courses comprised of business core courses, a capstone course, global practicum, advanced professional skills, and electives. The full-time MBA program is delivered on-campus or online, and prepares students for managerial careers through teaching functional business knowledge, applied learning through experiential projects, skill-building in analytics, and a global practicum. The program increases understanding of the interrelationships of private and public institutions including healthcare, building critical knowledge and leadership skills to tackle today’s business challenges. The full-time MBA program contains within its required curriculum the business perspectives and core areas required by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Program Differences

Comparing both programs side-by-side demonstrates that while both programs may teach similar subject matter, the difference lies in the approach and focus.

While there may be some overlap in content, American University does offer an MBA with a healthcare management focus. The American University MBA with Healthcare Concentration is primarily a business degree, while the MS in Healthcare Management curriculum is immersed with content that focuses on a heavily healthcare industry-specific and regulatory course load.

Program Curricula

MS in Healthcare Management
(20 months)
MBA (without specialty)
(21 months)
Emerging Technology TrendsFinancial Accounting
Intercultural Communications for ProfessionalsFinancial Management
Professional Ethics & Project LeadershipFinancial Accounting
Client Communications & Professional ConsultingManager in the International Economy
Evaluation SciencesApplied Managerial Statistics
Project Cost-Benefit AnalysisInformation and Technology
Standards & Systems in U.S. HealthcareApplied Production and Operations Management
Principles of Health Information Technology & InnovationBusiness at the Private-Public Intersection
Strategic Partnerships in Healthcare TransformationBusiness Leadership and Skills Workshop
Managing Information Risk in HealthcareManagement of Organizations and Human Capital
Evaluating New Models of Care Delivery & PaymentMarketing Management
Healthcare Strategic Sciences CapstoneCapstone: Strategic Decision Making
 Global Practicum: Global Project Experience

Advanced Professional Skills:

  • Business Insights through Analytics
  • Management Consulting Practices and Methodologies
 Electives: there are an additional eight courses available with either a Healthcare Concentration, Consulting Focus or a Career and Business Communications Focus.

Factors Affecting Program Selection


Both programs at American University, the MS in Healthcare Management and the MBA Program were developed to ensure that each programs’ curriculum follows the recommendations of their appropriate accrediting bodies. For healthcare:

  • The Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
  • Healthcare Leadership Alliance (HLA) standards

For business:

The accreditation process takes many years of program participation to achieve, and both programs have taken steps in this process, which is to mandate the required course work to achieve accreditation and then demonstrate a successful track record of graduates from the program. While the MS in Healthcare Management program is new and pursuing accreditation, the MBA program is already accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (ASCSB).

Faculty Background and Experience

American University has gone to extraordinary lengths to attract faculty who have extensive academic and real world experience in their fields.

This process is bolstered by ensuring that all faculty have advanced terminal degrees pertinent to their profession, as well as decades of actual experience in their chosen professions.

The high caliber of qualified faculty provides students with confidence that the professionals teaching them stay current in their fields and are capable of effectively keeping their students well-informed and engaged.

University Reputation

American University creates meaningful change in the world. With highly-ranked schools and colleges and internationally recognized faculty, AU offers a balance between class time and career-advancing experience in Washington, DC, and beyond. Its students, among the country’s most politically active, distinguish themselves for their service, leadership, and ability to rethink global and domestic challenges and opportunities.

With eight schools and over 150 programs including bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, American University students choose a personalized curriculum of theoretical study and experiential learning, taught by internationally-recognized faculty in courses that take them from the classroom, to the nation’s capital, and all around the globe.

The MS in Healthcare Management is located in the School of Professional and Extended Studies. Dedicated to professional and experiential learning, the School of Professional & Extended Studies (SPExS) offers an array of options for lifelong learners spanning the applied social sciences. Programs range from undergraduate internship-based semester programs to market-driven online master's degrees for professionals at critical junctures in their careers.

The MBA Program is located in the Kogod School of Business. A top-ranked, AACSB-accredited institution, the Kogod School of Business offers undergraduate degrees and graduate programs, including an MBA. Students gain real-world experience through programs grounded in experiential learning and expert faculty that prepare them to lead in all sectors of business: public, private, and nonprofit.

American University Benefits of the MS in Healthcare Management Program

In addition to a rigorous curriculum developed by industry professionals, American University prepares you for career success with additional benefits.

  • Free program-director advising and coaching
  • Free access to the Adult Career Coaching Center (ACCC)
  • Free HIMSS student membership
  • Career focus

American University Benefits in the MBA Program

  • Relationships are built in both the online classroom and during in-person immersion experiences.
  • Students grow and learn from professors, business leaders, and one another.
  • MBA@American emphasizes the importance of connection over competition and focuses on practice-based, experiential learning.
  • Blending online classes and real-world learning, MBA@American offers students around the world a chance to earn a Kogod degree.
  • Online students are full members of the Kogod community, with all the resources and support of our on-campus students.

Healthcare Manager Career Forecast – How Marketable Will I Be?

Another important question that you should ask yourself, is after spending the time and monetary resources necessary to become a healthcare manager, what are my job prospects? Good question!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, Overview of Projections to 2024 (BLS, 2015),

“As a result of the aging population, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a decline in the labor force participation rate over the coming decade. The aging population also will spur an increase in the demand for healthcare services, resulting in the healthcare industry and its related occupations accounting for a large share of new jobs projected through 2024."

National Health Expenditure (NHE) grew 5.3% to $3 trillion in 2014, which is 17.5% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Health spending is projected to grow 5.8% per year for 2015 – 2025 (CMS, 2016). These projections demonstrate a real need for more employees in healthcare, opening up new career options for those interested in healthcare management. Projected employment of medical/health services managers from 2014-2024 will increase 17%, indicating that career prospects for healthcare management will be very favorable.

You might also be interested in knowing what your annual salary expectations should be? According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, this applies:

Quick Facts: Medical and Health Services Managers
2016 Median Pay$96,540 per year
$46.41 per hour
Typical Entry-Level EducationBachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related OccupationLess than 5 years
On-the-job TrainingNone
Number of Jobs, 2014333,000
Job Outlook, 2014-2417% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-2456,300

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2017.

MBA Career Forecast – How Marketable Will I Be?

As with the MS in Healthcare Management Program, the MBA with a Healthcare Concentration can prove to be the right choice as well, again, dependent upon your personal interests.

Ranked as a top-50 business school by Bloomberg Businessweek, the American University Kogod School of Business is recognized for preparing students to succeed after graduation.

Earning an MBA from Kogod continues to prove a wise decision for professionals pursuing satisfying careers and a significant return on investment (ROI) on their education.

In 2016 surveys, the Graduate Management Admission Council reported corporate recruiters’ projections, recent alumni outcomes, and 2016 alumni perspectives that show hard data on the financial value of earning an MBA as follows:

The Value of an MBA

The median starting salary that U.S.-based companies planned to offer recent MBA graduates in 2016.
Reported employment rate of professional MBA graduates in 2015, on par with the previous five years.
9 in 10
U.S. employers that reported plans to hire recent MBA graduates in 2016, compared with 84% in 2015.
2.5 Years
Average time for graduates of part-time, online, and executive MBA programs to recoup their investments.
Median boost—for women and men— between pre- and post-degree salary for business school alumni.
$2.5 Million
Median cumulative base salary earned by business school alumni over a span of 20 years after graduation.

With an online MS in Healthcare Management degree, the healthcare industry offers career availability, stability, upward promotion possibility, geographic relocation, and highly satisfactory pay and benefits that are directly tied to the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry is one of very few that can continue to make all those claims.

With an MBA, the business world offers global opportunities industry wide – including the healthcare industry. A business degree that concentrates on the healthcare industry might be of interest to you if you gravitate more toward the business end of the industry versus the clinical aspects.

Whichever program you choose, at American University you will receive one of the best educations available for your investment, and we are positive you will be happy with your choice.

If you find yourself considering a degree from American University but need more information, reach out and we’ll be happy to answer any question you may have.


American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Website, Career Resource Center at

American University, Master’s in Business Administration Website (2017), retrieved at

American University, Master’s in Healthcare Management Website (2017), retrieved at

Bureau of Labor Statistics Website (2017), Overview of Projections to 2024, retrieved from

Bureau of Labor Statistics Website (2017), Occupational Outlook Handbook, retrieved from

U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services (HHS), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), National Health Expenditure Data Website retrieved from

About the Author

Jack NemecekDr. Jack Nemecek is a full time university Professor who has completed two careers, one in healthcare administration and one in public health. Dr. Nemecek began his career in military medicine as an Independent Duty Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy. After 12 years as an Enlisted man, he was Commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps, as a healthcare administrator. He served on active duty for 22 years, serving in numerous capacities as a senior level healthcare administrator, to include Director of Human Resources, Director of Education/Training, Director of Operations, Director of Administration, and Director of U. S. Navy Healthcare Construction West Coast Operations. Upon his retirement from the U. S. Navy, Dr. Nemecek began another career as a Public Health Advisor with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For another 20 years, he served in numerous capacities including grants management and as Deputy Branch Manager for the Education, Information, and Partnership Branch of the National Immunization Program. He holds a Ph.D. in Public Health from Walden University, an MBA and BBA in healthcare administration from National University, and an AS in Allied Health from George Washington University.

Learn more about how American University’s online Master of Science in Healthcare Management and advance your career. Request more information or call us toll free at 855-725-7614.