Is it Necessary to Have an Undergraduate Degree in Healthcare or a Related Field in Order to Pursue a Master’s in Health Administration?

In the United States, an MHA is a post-graduate degree, so in most cases it is necessary to have an undergraduate degree in healthcare or a related field in order to pursue a Master’s in Health Administration. Your experience as a clinical nurse can often count toward college credits in a bachelor of science program, potentially paving the way for an advanced degree.

Health Services Management Education Requirements

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare professionals normally need a Bachelor’s in Health Administration to enter nursing management. While an associate’s degree in nursing prepares students for working with patients and doctors, a BHA program includes accounting, management, human resources and budgeting courses that prepare students for hospital management and post-graduate studies. Health administration degrees typically also cover economics, law, ethics and information systems.

Administrative positions require two to three years of advanced training as well as one year of administrative internship. Registered nurses with advanced training can enter a master’s program while working toward a position such as a nursing supervisor or assistant nurse manager. A BSN is common for these positions but not always required. However, advancing beyond these positions requires a BSN and usually an MHA.

Jobs Available for Master’s in Health Administration Graduates

Most MHA holders enter hospital administration or become clinical nursing specialists. A specialist is a registered nurse with broader authority and responsibilities, including the ability to diagnose patients and prescribe treatments and medication. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that healthcare administrators made over $88,000 per year on average in 2012, so half of all graduates can expect to earn more. The top 10 percent of earners made over $150,000 per year.

After obtaining a Master’s in Health Administration, you can begin working toward a position as a Nurse Manager, and then you can set your sights on a Director, Vice President or Chief Nursing Officer position. These upper-level positions require an MHA as well as a national certificate in nursing management. It generally takes 3 to 5 years to become a Nurse Manager, 5 to 7 years to become a Director and 7 to 10 years to become a Vice President or CNO.

Working Directly With Patients or Outside of Administration

If you prefer to continue working with patients and families, you may want to consider becoming a clinical nurse specialist. This position requires advanced medical knowledge and experience as a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree. You must complete a Master’s in Health Administration before becoming certified as a clinical nurse specialist, but your degree can also lead to other jobs outside hospital administration. Careers in consulting, human resources, forensic nursing and infectious disease control management are all available to MHA holders with experience in the healthcare industry.

While it is necessary to have an undergraduate degree in healthcare or a related field in order to pursue a Master’s in Health Administration, interests and experience is also a factor. These programs cover advanced subjects that assume you have the knowledge obtained in a bachelor’s program, so you will greatly benefit by working hard during your undergraduate years.