MHA vs MSN for Nursing Leadership and Management

Nursing Manager Leader
Nursing Manager Leader

Are you currently a registered nurse seeking a future in nursing leadership and management? If so, this article will serve as a useful guide to assist you in exploring potential educational pathways to your career goals.

There are several different types of programs with varying curricula that are designed to prepare nurses for roles in nursing and health systems leadership (NHSL). With so many options available to choose from, it can be challenging to determine the best degree for nurse management.

Two prominent degrees for a prospective nurse manager are the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) and the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Read on to learn more about the aims and advantages of each as we seek to clarify the MHA vs MSN.

Available Degrees for Nurse Managers

The MHA and MS-HCA (Master of Science in Healthcare Administration) degree programs include a focus on business management that can be applied directly to leadership roles within networks of facilities offering health care services. A nurse manager with this academic preparation seeks to effect change in health care settings, some of which are:

  • Outpatient clinics
  • Hospice care centers
  • Long-term care (skilled nursing facilities and assisted living residences)
  • Home health care services

Likewise, MSN degrees are also available with concentrations in nursing leadership, management, and administration. Students in these programs learn real-world applications for policy and governance while considering the interconnected perspectives of various stakeholders in health systems issues. An MSN degree may open up teaching opportunities for a nurse manager or allow a broader set of opportunities in nursing leadership, including roles such as clinical education, director, or even chief nursing officer.

Other degrees available for prospective nurse managers include Master of Business Administration (MBA) and dual degree programs that use combined approaches in preparing graduates for nursing leadership and management roles. Next, let’s take a deeper look into the advantages of each type of Master’s degree.

Advantages of the MHA Degree

While there are several degrees that may advance your career and help you become a respected and effective nurse manager, the MHA degree is especially useful for those seeking administrative roles.

In an MHA program, you will learn the ethics of client-centered care along with interdisciplinary perspectives and the facets of health care systems that are integrated to serve families and their loved ones. You will also sharpen your business acumen and learn about both the financial and accounting sides of administration while immersing yourself in the growing field of informatics. The flow of information through health care networks is essential to understand and navigate in nursing leadership positions.

Additionally, if you are someone with a desire to understand the rationale behind health care policies and regulations while maintaining a heart of passion for patient advocacy, you may be the perfect fit for an MHA degree. These skills and character qualities will be honed and strengthened as you engage in relevant case studies and internship experiences available in most MHA curriculums.

While you may be feeling excited about how the MHA degree aligns with your ideas about your future in nursing leadership and management, you may still be wondering about the advantages of the MSN degree. Which is the best degree for nurse management when considering the MHA vs MSN? While the MHA is a solid choice, the MSN degree also has strong advantages and can also prepare you for a successful future in health care administration.

Advantages of the MSN Degree

There are many philosophies and theories that give voice to effective nursing leadership and management principles, and an MSN program will have you synthesizing these concepts and using critical thinking skills to apply them to complex issues. A nurse manager with an MSN degree specializing in nursing leadership and management will be able to capitalize and expand on their current knowledge and understanding of the care delivery environment, making them uniquely positioned to lead operational units within the health care system.

Faculty in MSN programs educate students in a variety of topics relative to nursing administration, including:

  • Decision-making that focuses on patient safety and quality care outcomes
  • Financial operations and health economics
  • Strategic planning for the achievement of both short-term and long-term goals
  • Organizational culture and structure

The MSN degree can serve as a foundation for a terminal degree in nursing, such as a PhD or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, and this advancement of education will often expand the available opportunities for those with an MSN.

While there is some overlap in the curriculum content between MHA and MSN leadership programs, the nuances that make each degree pathway advantageous are unique and may be tailored to complement your prior nursing background and match the leadership position you are seeking. Alternatively, there are a couple of other degree paths to consider with their own advantages beyond the MHA vs MSN.

Nursing Student Leadership

Advantages of Business Degrees

For a prospective nurse manager who knows their desired employment position would include a specialty focus in business, it may be fitting to pursue an MBA route to a future in nursing leadership.

The MBA degree may hold an advantage for prospective nurse executives or those with a specific interest in growing an impactful nonprofit organization or with entrepreneurship aspirations. This degree also serves leaders in operational areas where budgeting and financial considerations are prevalent, such as hospitals and surgical centers.

Depending on your end career goal, this - or a dual degree program including an MBA - may be most fitting to fortify your qualifications and make your candidacy stand out in a competitive job market.

Nurse managers work in all types of health care settings, and some manage specific departments while others manage whole health care facilities. No matter which degree path you choose from these options, they all are viable for attaining a successful and fulfilling career in nursing leadership.

Nursing Leadership and Management Positions

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospitals employ approximately 33% of nurse managers, which is a substantial portion of available leadership and management positions. Nurse managers also work in the government sector, private physician offices, nursing home facilities and residential communities. Within these care environments, several common positions are available, including:

  • Supervisory nurse manager positions that focus on management of processes, staffing, and professional development activities of a group of nurses or a single hospital unit
  • Directorship positions that focus on management of all nursing staff and collaboration with leaders of other disciplines within a hospital facility or network
  • Chief nursing officer and presidential positions that focus on strategic planning, high-level administration and finance for cost-effective, quality health care delivery

Higher level positions may require greater business administration focus than supervisory roles and may promise salary increases with executive level responsibilities, but nurse managers with varying levels of experience and both MHA and MSN degrees are found in these positions.

UIndy can help you leverage your clinical practice experience and offers an online MSN in nursing leadership and management with dedicated faculty to prepare you for making a meaningful impact.

Consider UIndy for a Top-Tier Nursing Leadership Program

You can become a dynamic leader by enrolling in the online Master of Science in Nursing-Nursing Health Systems Leadership (MSN-NHSL) program. This program is nationally ranked, with competitive tuition and practicum hours woven throughout the curriculum. Practicum hours are practical learning experiences designed to help you gain competency in the leadership and administrative role and prepare for purposeful work ahead.

The MSN program also offers multiple start dates each year with consecutive semesters to help you progress through your education with the satisfaction of accomplishment along the way. Personalized help and guidance are offered at UIndy with student success advisors and faculty who truly care.

In addition, UIndy also offers a Master of Science in Healthcare Administration (MS-HCA) program to help you complete your education affordably, with online coursework suitable for adult working professionals. This program can be completed over a two-year timeframe with shorter courses than traditional semesters for accelerated completion.

No matter which degree you choose, UIndy has a culture of service and inclusion that supports students comprehensively from admission to graduation.

If you are looking for a place to network and build best leadership practices, look no further than UIndy for your Master’s degree in healthcare administration or nursing health systems leadership today.

Learn more about the University of Indianapolis’s Online MSN-NHSL program