What Is an Executive Master of Health Administration Degree?

View all blog posts under Articles

The health care field is constantly growing and evolving. The current systems and technologies in use today were unheard of just a few years ago. Technology moves from development to testing to commonplace faster than many people can keep up. Health care administrators are also subject to these rapid changes and technological innovations. They need to learn to apply new technologies to maximize their health care delivery and organizational performance. The best keep pushing themselves to learn the newly-available tools and are excited to adapt to new trends.

One way that health professionals can expand their horizons and increase their knowledge to be more effective is with an Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) degree. Knowing what this degree offers and how it will help can give you the information you need to see if it is right for you and your career goals.

What Is an Executive MHA Degree?

An Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) degree caters to working professionals who want to advance their knowledge of the health care field. The tracks between an EMHA and an MHA are similar, but the course outlines and styles often differ. EMHA courses cater to working professionals. They offer an unparalleled opportunity to distinguish yourself as a remarkable leader in a time of profound change.

The course style isn’t the only difference between an MHA and an MHA. Because EMHA programs cater to working professionals, the material can pull from their in-depth experience. Oftentimes, previous health care experience is a requirement for students to gain acceptance into the program.

Did You Know?

Students hold, on average, 10 years of health care experience when they apply for an EMHA degree, though plenty of graduates have more or less depending on their career paths.

While full-time graduate students might focus on theory, members of the health care workforce can describe their experiences and actively apply their lessons to their day-to-day lives. Many students believe that work experience reinforces the lessons they learn in the classroom because they see the concepts in action. The curriculum is designed for fast-moving professionals needing to apply theoretical and practical lessons — bringing immediate value to both the student and their organization.

Who Can Benefit From an Executive MHA?

Students sign up for Executive MHA (EMHA) programs from a variety of fields. Classes are filled with professionals from diverse backgrounds who can increase the value of discussions and offer their unique insights into the workforce. Typically, the average EMHA student has entered their field and worked for several years to understand the inner workings of the profession. They are currently in management roles and are looking for executive transformative health care leadership opportunities. A few common channels that students come from include:

  • Advanced Clinicians in Management planning to grow their careers.
  • Insurance professionals looking to advance within their organizations.
  • Senior care professionals who are affected by Medicaid.
  • Military members who have a health care focus.
  • Nurses looking to take on leadership roles.
  • Professionals who work within health care companies and medical organizations.

As you can see, these fields vary widely. A nurse who treats trauma patients brings different experiences to the table than a member of the military, though they also have similarities. These professionals can teach health care providers and insurance professionals about field work while they learn more about administrative perspectives.

Similarly, EMHA professionals come from diverse backgrounds. Students will learn not only from long-term academic professionals but also from people who have spent their careers in the field. Oftentimes, these professors remain mentors long after students graduate.

Through the online EMHA program, students spend just as much time working together and learning from each other as they do listening to their professors. This collaboration makes them effective professionals with a deeper understanding of the field and strong communication skills, and it helps close the gap between online and in-person learning.

A student graduates with his EMHA degree.

What Do EMHA Students Learn?

EMHA programs strive to align their curricula with student needs and the changing health care field, ensuring their materials are relevant and useful to those who enroll. Students work to become leaders in the health care industry. The program prepares students for handling both business and patient-facing issues, as they may find themselves responsible for ensuring the organization they choose to work for runs smoothly while also prioritizing excellent patient care.

Some Executive MHA graduates go on to change how health care facilities are run, improving processes and creating better environments for those who work there. These staff improvements lead to better patient care, better outcomes, and a more comfortable environment during likely-stressful times. To prepare students, USC focuses on five key industry goals:

  • Innovative Leadership: Developing executives who can learn means developing executives who can enact change and motivate people to do their best. Leadership is an essential part of any EMHA program.
  • Cost Effective Care: Finance is an essential part of health care administration and a valuable skill for a professional but is particularly important for executives in their fields.
  • Efficient Management and Administration: Data analysis, financial management, Six Sigma, and Lean methodologies all help health care organizations operate efficiently, reducing waste and ensuring projects are completed on time.
  • Patient Safety and Quality of Care: Better training and coordination of clinical services lead to better patient outcomes and improved health care experiences.
  • Organizational & Clinical Effectiveness: Students learn about information technology and how these systems can improve patient care, personal data security, and office operations.
  • Emerging issues: Students discuss and learn about emerging issues in health care financing brought about by federal and state regulatory requirements.

Even a high-level understanding of these concepts can better prepare students to succeed in the health care field and improve their current workplaces for better patient care.

What Makes an EMHA Program Successful?

The Executive Master of Health Administration degree is modern, challenging, and dynamic – just like the health care industry itself. As such, the USC online EMHA degree focuses on specific themes that form the pillars of the entire program, including:

  • Advancing Careers: Through partnerships with prominent leaders in the health care industry, the USC online EMHA provides unique first-hand experience and mentorship opportunities.
  • Balanced Life and Learning: Students are able to balance their coursework with their professional workloads and personal lives. They control when they work on their studies and in what time zone.
  • Supportive Network: Faculty and staff work as resources for students to advance their knowledge. In addition, students form a tight community to learn together and offer insight when others are having difficulty.
  • Modern Learning Environment: USC uses the latest learning tools and theories to provide the best experiences for students. From understanding social networks and mobile learning to being exposed to modern health care technologies, students are prepared to enter a constantly evolving, technologically advanced health care industry.

Why Should Students Pursue an EMHA Now?

EMHA and MHA degrees aren’t new, but more students than ever are considering advancing their careers to improve the health care industry. Over the past few years, the health care field has changed dramatically and is expected to grow exponentially in the next decade.

Did You Know?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in health care fields is expected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, adding about 2.4 million new jobs. This rate is significantly faster than most other fields in the American economy, and the trends are replicated across the globe.

Many people are attracted to the health care field because of the potential salary. The median annual wage for health care professionals in 2017 was $64,770, significantly higher than the national average of $37,690.

According to The Atlantic, the health care industry became the largest employer in the United States at the start of 2018.

“In the last quarter, for the first time in history, health care has surpassed manufacturing and retail, the most significant job engines of the 20th century, to become the largest source of jobs in the U.S.”

Multiple factors contribute to this growth. Changes in American health care require additional administration, while population increases mean there are more people to care for. As health care improves, people are living longer, which means demand for elder care is increasing.

All of these new employees need leaders. The people who currently work in the health care field will train, manage, and organize the employees of tomorrow. A person with the right training, education, and experience can make a difference and shape the face of the health care industry.

The University of Southern California Executive Master of Health Administration (EMHA) degree focuses on creating a generation of knowledgeable health care administrators. If you’re ready to take the next steps to grow your career and improve your local health care services, visit the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and discover how an online EMHA degree program can help you reach your goals.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 23% job growth for all health care administrators from 2012 to 2022 – considerably more growth than most other occupations.

This ebook gives context for modern health administrators to lead transformations in their organizations and enact policies of consequence



Master of Health Administration Degrees

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Atlantic