2021 Editor’s Choice: Top Picks for the 15 Best CAHME-Accredited Executive MHA Programs


If you survived 2020 while working in healthcare, no one needs to tell you how critical experienced and expert healthcare administrators are. During the COVID-19 pandemic, executives found themselves burning the candle at both ends as their facilities came up short on 29 out of the 40 basic drugs used to treat the disease. At the same time they were dealing with staff shortages, and not enough personal protective equipment to go around for the staff they did have, and in some cases even scrambling to put together field hospitals at sports stadiums and fairgrounds. Then came strikes in certain locations as nurses protested unsafe working conditions and thorny ethical considerations all over the country as medics and clinicians ran into the inevitable conflicts between the duty of care and patient safetywhen proper protective gear isn’t available.

Maybe you were inspired by the leadership you saw, or maybe you came away from the whole thing convinced that you could do better. But in between burnout, attrition, and a staffing shortage that has been building in healthcare for years, one thing is for sure: there is going to be a big demand for new blood in the healthcare administration field.

And we’re not the only ones seeing the writing on the wall. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an amazing 32 percent jump in employment among medical and health services managers between 2019 and 2029. And those projections were published before COVID exploded onto the scene so they don’t reflect the full magnitude of the demand we’re likely to see in the coming years as vaccines roll out and whole new operational protocols are built into the way healthcare gets done.

A good proportion of those new healthcare managers are going to get the education they need to take on the challenges of the industry through master’s degrees in healthcare administration, either following a straight path from their undergraduate program in health administration or even transitioning over from management positions in public health, public administration or even business. But if you are already working in a clinical role or on the administration side of healthcare in some capacity, finding the time to attend a traditional MHA program may put it completely out of reach.

That is, until you find out about Executive MHA degrees.

These programs are specifically designed for individuals in your exact position; already enjoying a healthy career on the clinical or administrative side of healthcare and ready to do big things in a higher-level management role. They understand exactly how chaotic your day can be already and that you can’t just drop your job to put two years into a master’s degree. And with CAHME accreditation behind them, these executive programs offer a convenient but completely effective education that will light the afterburners on your healthcare management career.

An executive master’s degree offers an education that revolves around your job, not the other way around. While they are not cheap, they give you the kind of flexibility you need to pursue an advanced education without falling behind in your current career progression.

That means cutting down on extraneous coursework to make the program faster and more condensed, leaving out the courses you could probably teach as someone who has been working in healthcare for years and who has seen it all from the inside. It means compressing campus visits into only a few intensive sessions per year or per semester, or even moving the majority of courses online, where you can take them asynchronously at any time they fit into your busy personal and professional schedule. And they accommodate the sort of real-world interests that are probably motivating your desire for the degree in the first place: projects and research in areas that are critical to your field and your chances for promotion.

Despite the fast-pace and the accommodating schedule, you know you are getting the best in healthcare administration education with any of these elite programs because each of them holds a coveted CAHME accreditation. At this point, you’re already likely very aware that CAHME (the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education) is the one specialty accreditor recognized by the Department of Education as having the kind of professional expertise and industry relationships to be able to validate the quality of an MHA curriculum and the qualifications of the instructors who teach it.

How We Decided Which Executive MHAs Deserved to Be Called the Very Best

Our standards for EMHA degrees were far higher than just finding those with CAHME accreditation, however. As executive programs, they are designed to cater to the cream of the crop in the healthcare industry… practicing professionals who already have three to five years of fast-paced medical experience under their belts. You and your future cohort of fellow students aren’t the kind of people who will get snowed by marketing language or unrealistic promises. You’ve already seen the industry from the inside, and you know enough to demand the best in a master’s-level education.

So we went the extra mile to narrow down these programs to those that are worthy of your attention. The final 15 we selected all passed our stringent investigations in these areas:

Convenience and Flexibility

We are extremely aware of just how hard it is to pursue an elite master’s degree while you are still working full-time as a healthcare professional. Your time is valuable, and you can’t afford to waste a minute on random registration problems, pointless classroom attendance, or mandatory after-class mixers.

We looked for schools that completely clear the decks of any extraneous or unnecessary administrative or attendance requirements to find the ones that maximize your exposure to critical concepts, provide unique learning opportunities, and do it all in the most flexible manner possible. Although this often involves those asynchronous, time-shifted online classes, we also understand that not everyone learns well online, so we also brought in plenty of traditional, on-campus programs that come in either hybrid or intensive weekend or summer formats to help you schedule your attendance more easily. Even better are the programs that let you pick and choose. You’ll find them all here.

Of course, even many of those traditional in-person programs have been shifted online over the course of the past year out of an abundance of caution in response to the pandemic. Things are fluid right now in the education space with regard to campus closures and remote curriculum delivery, so though we stay true to how schools describe their programs, you could very well find that programs have made changes that aren’t immediately reflected in the descriptions on their websites.

Rockstar Instructors and Guest Lecturers

The most important qualification in any kind of master’s program is the faculty. You can’t learn a thing if you’re not learning it from someone who has the right kind of communication skills, the empathy, and the expertise to get the point across in ways that allow you to understand and assimilate concepts. The best instructors are not only experts in the field of healthcare administration, but also accomplished educators, with academic chops to back up their real-world performance. Frequently, they also have groundbreaking research backing them up, deep thinking that has and will continue to shape the development of the profession.

Finally, every program benefits from outside perspective and expertise. We looked for programs that involve the larger healthcare administration community, bringing in fresh blood and movers and shakers from outside academia to give you insights into the cutting-edge of real-world administrative concerns, from leadership trends to the latest in beating back large-scale ransomware attacks on healthcare facilities.

Schools With Top Reputation in the Field

For the most part, it’s not actually much of a mystery in healthcare administration which schools are the best. You see their graduates routinely taking some of the top executive posts at some of the most prestigious healthcare institutions, running major government agencies, serving as advisors to leaders and global institutions. Reputation is earned, and we looked for schools that have it, with prominent listings in public rankings like U.S. News & World Report and Modern Healthcare.

You can also tell a lot about a school by where its graduates end up, so we took into account the published figures for students who either used their degrees to land new executive jobs or earned a promotion in their current organization.

Industry Connections and Unique Opportunities

You can tell a lot about a school based on the healthcare organizations and agencies that work with them… partnerships and relationships with major regional healthcare organizations, labs, or research agencies can put you in the front-row seat for some of the most important developments taking place in the field and open up unique immersion experiences in places that you’d never otherwise have access to.

These schools have connections with major medical centers, government agencies like the CDC and FDA, and even with international healthcare organizations that can give you invaluable insights and perspective from seeing how other countries address healthcare challenges.

We also picked out programs that managed to sneak in a little something extra—although executive MHAs tend to be very linear and prescribed, a program that offers extra concentration options or a particularly innovative capstone process was sure to draw our attention.

Research Contributions That Lead the Industry

Contributing to research projects is really the only way to place yourself directly on the leading-edge of the innovation that happens in medical and health services administration. Thought-leaders in the industry come up with new economic models, different organizational methods, and fresh ideas for analyzing and improving community health through careful analysis and experimentation – and it all takes place at the leading universities you’ll find on this list.

Graduate students are an important part of these efforts, and that means if you pick one of these executive MHAs, you get a leg up on the competition through your early exposure to some of the developments that are going to shape the industry in coming decades. Better yet, you’ll have the opportunity to help create and perfect some of those developments yourself. If you want a CV that is going to make executive hiring committees call you with an offer before you get out of the building, participating in research efforts at one of these universities is a sure way to get it.

Strong Admission Standards

Most EMHA programs are run, for simplicity, on a cohort basis—you and other students entering at the same time will progress in lockstep through the same series of classes over the two or so years of the program.

That has a lot of benefits, since you get to know your cohort and make valuable professional connections that will serve you well over the course of your career, but those close connections also make it more important than ever that you are surrounded by the right people. One slow learner can hold up the entire cohort.

So we looked for programs that have strong admissions criteria, making sure that you are surrounded by fellow students with strong educational credentials and full-time experience under their belt who will get up to speed fast and challenge you rather than holding you back.

Our Pick for the 15 Best Executive Master of Healthcare Administration Degrees for 2021

While all those elements were the ones that we found to be important in selecting the top EMHA programs available in the country today, we’re well aware that every student has a different decision-making process that goes into selecting a program.

So we have taken the time to list out some of the elements that may help you make your decision quickly based on factors like cost, availability, or qualifications. We give you the total program cost so you have some idea what kind of hit your checkbook is going to take over the course of the degree plan. We also tell you what the course format is, whether it involves entirely online, on campus, or hybrid course options so you can find a degree that fits your lifestyle. And we list the experiential requirements for admission so you don’t waste time applying to places that you haven’t yet accumulated the time-in-industry for.

With this information and these descriptions, as well as the assurance that you are looking at some of the best options for executive MHA degrees in the country, it shouldn’t take you long to narrow it down to the perfect fit for your career and your success.

With very few universities offering CAHME-accredited executive MHAs as it is, this list was created as an addendum to our top picks for traditional MHAs to ensure we present health administration graduate students at different career stages with the precise degree they’re looking for. If you already have a bachelor’s degree and a couple years of experience in healthcare, you’ve come to the right place to find the best MHAs in the business designed with your situation in mind.

 

George Washington University

Milken Institute School of Public Health
Washington, D.C.
Website

MHA@GW (hybrid)

Program cost: $88,250

  • Bachelor’s degree and two years of full-time health sector experience (or three years of full-time experience in any industry) required
  • Housed within the Milken Institute School of Public Health, which was ranked 12th in the nation among health administration graduate programs by S. News & World Report in 2018
  • Online courses are supplemented with three immersions at top D.C. healthcare organizations

The George Washington University MHA@GW is where seasoned health administration professionals hone their skills for advancement and increase their value to the organizations they serve. Since 2014, George Washington has been providing this top tier health administration graduate degree, and has managed to fine-tune it to near-perfection and earn a stellar reputation in that short period of time. The MHA@GW features plenty of perks for upwardly mobile professionals looking to rise through the healthcare administration ranks. The online courses delivered through eight, ten-week learning modules ensure a convenient, flexible program for working professionals, while a location in our nation’s capital, the epicenter for health policy law, administration, and regulation, sets the stage for invaluable immersions at not only some of the region’s top healthcare providers, but with government health agencies and non-profits too.

 

Medical University of South Carolina

College of Health Professions
Charleston, SC
Website

Executive MHA (on-campus, hybrid)

Program cost: $55,320

  • Bachelor’s degree and two or more years of healthcare experience preferred (or comparable professional work experience); a minimum of one or more years of healthcare experience required
  • Ranked among top healthcare management programs by S. News & World Report
  • Truly flexible program delivery features your choice of on-campus or online delivery in a full- or part-time design

The Medical University of South Carolina Executive MHA delivers a convenient, yet highly immersive graduate experience for emerging leaders in healthcare. Offered in either a part- or full-time on-campus format or in a part-time/full-time hybrid format, students here have the option of either taking 2-3 courses on-campus each semester or taking online courses that are supplemented with once-monthly weekend campus visits. Whichever program design you choose, you can feel good knowing that the Medical University of South Carolina has a lot of experience producing graduates with all the qualifications and acumen it takes to succeed in upper-level management positions. Studying the art and science of health administration at an actual medical university where physicians and other providers earn their stripes through residency training gives you unparalleled access and opportunities for meaningful collaboration, all in a program designed to accommodate the needs of today’s busy, working professionals.

 

Saint Louis University

College for Public Health & Social Justice
St. Louis, MO
Website

Executive MHA (hybrid)

Program cost: $71,048

  • A bachelor’s degree and proof that you’re working to advance your career in healthcare are required
  • Ranked among the top 15 graduate programs for healthcare management in the nation by S. News & World Report
  • Option to earn a certificate in Health Care Quality and Performance Excellence at no additional cost

Saint Louis University’s Executive MHA features a hybrid program design that seamlessly blends distance learning with monthly, on-campus experiences to produce a truly comprehensive graduate course of study for working professionals with their sights set on top-level executive positions. There’s no denying this program’s history of success, which includes a reputation as one of the most esteemed – and established – health administration programs in the nation and a ranking among the top 15 graduate programs for healthcare management in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Since 1947, Saint Louis University has been a pioneer in health management education, and its Executive MHA continues this legacy of excellence by offering a certificate in Health Care Quality and Performance Excellence at no additional cost.

 

Texas A&M University

School of Public Health
College Station, TX
Website

MHA, Executive Track (on-campus)

Program cost: $53,539

  • Bachelor’s degree and at least 5 years of increasing responsibilities within health services or related industries required
  • Once-monthly on-campus courses are designed with working professionals in mind

Texas A&M University’s MHA with an Executive Track is designed for motivated, mid-career professionals like you looking to expand your skillset, elevate your knowledge, and take your healthcare career to the next level. This flexible course of graduate study, which features courses that are taught just one weekend a month at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, is designed with busy, working professionals in mind and is part of the esteemed School of Public Health, whose research expenditures have topped $100 million since the school’s inception.

 

Texas Woman’s University

College of Business
Denton, TX
Website

Executive MHA (on-campus, hybrid)

Program cost: $21,200

  • Bachelor’s degree and prior management experience required
  • Outstanding record of student success includes a program completion rate of 92% and a job placement rate (with three months of graduation) of 96%
  • Flexible program design includes on-campus and hybrid courses offered at the Dallas and Houston campuses

Texas Woman’s University’s Executive MHA takes the school’s residential MHA and kicks it up a notch. Unlike the residential MHA, practicing professionals like you will begin the program by taking Level 2 courses and then complete the program on your timeline and in the order you choose. Whether on-campus or hybrid, Dallas or Houston classes are best for you, TWU’s Executive MHA has everything you need to succeed. The MHA here is also customizable with your choice of a Business Analytics or Global Health emphasis to match your professional goals.

 

University of Central Florida

College of Community Innovation and Education
Orlando, FL
Website

Executive MHA (online)

Program cost: $33,998

  • Bachelor’s degree and at least three years of relevant experience in healthcare management required
  • Online cohort design ensures convenience and flexibility while producing an academic experience that’s rich in communication and collaboration
  • Superb support and guidance delivered by your own personal enrollment coach

The University of Central Florida’s Executive MHA is where healthcare management professionals gather in a convenient cohort classroom design (just 30 students to a cohort) that delivers outstanding collaboration and personalized learning. From examining current leadership theory to better understanding healthcare quality and risk management, the coursework here is designed to address contemporary topics in healthcare administration and produce innovators and leaders who can deftly tackle them. The program features just two online courses per semester to best accommodate busy, working professionals. As an Executive MHA student here, you’ll work with your own personal enrollment coach who will help you navigate the process and support you throughout your academic experience.

 

University of Illinois at Chicago

School of Public Health
Chicago, IL
Website

Executive MHA (hybrid)

Program cost: $60,864

  • Designed for professionals with extensive clinical experience or managerial healthcare experience
  • The only CAHME-accredited Executive MHA in the Chicagoland area
  • Features a convenient hybrid design that combines online synchronous sessions with four, on-campus weekend visits each semester

As the only CAHME-accredited executive MHA program in the Chicagoland area, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Executive MHA is designed to bring together the region’s emerging clinicians and executives to study advanced concepts in improving clinical outcomes and organizational efficiency. Offered through a convenient, hybrid design that combines synchronous online sessions with four, on-site weekends per semester, the Executive MHA delivers on its promise of convenience, flexibility, and outstanding opportunities to connect and network with your peers. An MHA Speaker Series, which explores contemporary topics in healthcare and leadership through no less than 14 talks by leading industry executives, rounds out this comprehensive course of graduate study.

 

University of Iowa

College of Public Health
Iowa City/Des Moines, IA
Website

Executive MHA (on-campus)

Program cost: $55,000

  • Program selection is based on each applicant’s qualifications
  • Outstanding record of student success: 92% of all graduates “advanced to leadership” through promotions or new jobs within nine months of graduation
  • On-campus courses are delivered one at a time to suit working professionals

The University of Iowa’s Executive MHA is ideally focused on strategic healthcare leadership and conveniently structured to ensure outstanding collaboration with other future leaders. Designed to suit today’s busy working professionals, the Executive MHA features on-campus courses that are delivered one at a time by esteemed instructors and current healthcare leaders. The executive cohort features a diverse blend of students in an intimate cohort environment that’s limited to just 20 students. The success of this top-ranked program is clear: As of 2018, 92% of all graduates “advanced to leadership” through promotions or new jobs within nine months of graduation.

 

University of Michigan

School of Public Health
Ann Arbor, MI
Website

Executive MHSA (hybrid)

Program cost: $49,080

  • Students must have been employed in a responsible position for at least five years prior to enrollment and display a record of academic achievement in their undergraduate/graduate work
  • Flexible hybrid design features a blend of online lectures with on-campus intensives
  • Accelerated program design takes just 20 months to complete

The University of Michigan’s Master of Health Services Administration (MHSA) degree, which is part of the School of Public Health’s Executive Master’s program in Health Management and Policy, is a highly focused course of graduate study that features carefully selected courses designed to meet the needs of emerging managers, leaders, and analysts in healthcare. Thanks to a convenient and flexible hybrid program design that combines online study with nine, weekend, on-campus intensives, you’ll be able to earn your MHSA without compromising your professional responsibilities. In just 20 months, the MHSA will prepare you for senior-level healthcare leadership positions through a blend of online lectures and superb, in-person experiences that allow you to connect and network with like-minded peers interested in advancing both their careers and the delivery of healthcare.

 

University of Minnesota

School of Public Health
Minneapolis, MN
Website

Executive MHA (hybrid)

Program cost: $68,544

  • Requires at least three years of management or clinical leadership experience in a healthcare organization
  • Ranked #2 in the nation among healthcare management graduate programs by S. News & World Report
  • Accelerated, primarily online design ensures the best in flexibility and convenience for today’s busy healthcare professionals

Built on a legacy of academic excellence, the University of Minnesota’s Executive MHA is where emerging healthcare leaders in healthcare administration head for the best in program design, convenience, and flexibility. As the longest-running MHA program in the nation, the University of Minnesota has refined this graduate course of study to include only the most contemporary issues in healthcare administration. They’ve also designed it in an accelerated format (takes just 25 months to complete) and included a primarily online course delivery (includes a small number of on-campus sessions) to suit the needs of today’s busy professionals. A cohort design focused on student diversity ensures the finest in peer communication and collaboration.

 

University of Missouri-Columbia

School of Medicine
Columbia, MO
Website

Executive MHA (hybrid)

Program cost: $35,300

  • A minimum of two years of technical, clinical, or administrative experience in health care or the health sciences (nursing, home health care, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, laboratory medicine, clinical engineering, information systems, etc.) and current employment required
  • Ranked among the largest MHA programs in the U.S. by Modern Healthcare in 2018
  • Option to complete a dual degree with the executive MS in Health Informatics

Whether your background is clinical or administrative in nature, the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Executive MHA is designed to advance your career and position you among the nation’s innovative, forward-thinking leaders in healthcare. The MHA is focused on the integration of clinical and managerial competencies and features a program design that accommodates the busy lives of today’s professionals. Through a combination of online study and monthly weekend sessions, you’ll enjoy the flexibility and convenience that comes with distance-based study while also benefitting from invaluable on-campus experiences where you’ll connect with your peers and faculty members. A research project completed over the program’s two summers rounds out this comprehensive course of graduate study.

 

University of Nevada Las Vegas

School of Public Health
Las Vegas, NV
Website

Executive MHA (online)

Program cost: $30,790

  • Previous experience in administrative or managerial health care positions, five years of professional experience, or a terminal degrees (e.g., MD, DDS, DNP, DPT) in healthcare and practice experience required
  • Delivered primarily online for the best in convenience and flexibility
  • UNLV has been recognized by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education as “very high research activity” – one of just 130 institutions in the U.S. to earn this honor

The University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Executive MHA is the highly effective path to a career in senior healthcare leadership for emerging leaders like you. Its largely online program design (requires just two on-campus immersion experiences during the first and last semester of the program) ensures a convenient and flexible course of study that allows you to earn your MHA while still meeting your professional responsibilities. Self-assessments through individual projects and a final portfolio allow you to examine the professional competencies you’ll need to reach your career goals.

 

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Gillings School of Public Health
Chapel Hill, NC
Website

Executive MHA (hybrid)

Program cost: $44,062

  • Bachelor’s degree, current employment in the health or human services field, at least three years of experience in healthcare or public health required
  • Consistently ranked among the top three programs in the nation by both S. News & World Report and Modern Healthcare
  • Hybrid design features live online classes and rigorous, on-campus workshops and simulations

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Executive MHA addresses the needs of today’s dynamic, demanding healthcare system by preparing emerging leaders to assume some of the top positions in administration. Designed to improve your leadership skills and hone your decision-making skills, UNC Chapel Hill’s Executive MHA is rigorous, challenging, and ideally designed for working professionals like you. Synchronous online courses combined with on-campus workshops and Applied Leadership Integrative simulations three times a year ensure a well-rounded program that takes just two years to complete.

 

University of Washington at Seattle

School of Public Health
Bellevue, WA
Website

Executive MHA (hybrid)

Program cost: $69,984

  • Ideal candidates have at least seven years of clinical experience, with some exposure to management responsibilities or leadership
  • Consistently ranked among the top MHA programs in the nation by S. News & World Report
  • Collaborative cohort model and student team activities provide exciting opportunities to connect with peers and explore concepts in leadership

The University of Washington at Seattle’s Executive MHA is focused on the business of healthcare and on the leaders who understand its complexities and effectively manage its delivery. The Executive MHA features two years of part-time study that includes once-monthly weekend sessions at the Bellevue campus that are supplemented with online learning, webinars, and team projects. A cohort learning model provides students with a collaborative academic experience, while assigned “teams” of students participate in exercises that explore leadership competencies.

 

Weber State University

Dumke College of Health Professions
Ogden, UT
Website

Executive MHA (online)

Program cost: $29,140

  • Bachelor’s degree required and at least two years of supervisory experience preferred
  • Impressive 95% completion rate among the programs’ 2019 cohort of students
  • Fully online course delivery offers the best in convenience and flexibility

Weber State University’s Executive MHA offers a level of convenience few other MHA programs do: a fully online program design. With timely topics covering healthcare information technology, healthcare ethics, finance/accounting, and more, the Executive MHA brings together working healthcare managers and executives with WSU’s esteemed faculty and provides them with the decision-making, organizational, and technical skills needed to assume top-level administrative roles in healthcare organizations.

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