The difference between a PhD in health care administration and a doctor of health administration

May 2, 2019

Health administration is an ever-evolving field.

Rapid shifts in public policy, emerging care models, pay-for-performance initiatives, changing demographics, and advances in information and patient care technology are just a few of the changes impacting the profession.

To become a leader and influence change in this field, you may want to consider a doctoral program in health care administration. Among your choices you will find: a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and a Doctor of Health Care Administration (DHA).

What is the difference between a PHD and a DHA, and what type of position or career do they prepare you for?

Both are terminal doctoral degrees that focus on research. However, the type and purpose of the research differs significantly.

A PhD focuses on developing original research. In other words, it’s about creating new knowledge. Graduates of PhD in Health Care Administration programs are prepared to seek positions as an academic researcher or professor.

A DHA focuses on applying the best available evidence to solve problems in the field. This is often referred to as applied research. DHA graduates typically seek careers as administrative leaders in health care organizations.

Many universities offer either the DHA or the PhD in Health Care Administration.

Capella University’s Doctor of Health Administration Program

Capella’s DHA program covers a wide variety of health care administration aspects, including finance, health care policy, laws and compliance, human resource management, and leadership and the art of managing people.

A DHA will give you the knowledge and skills to manage organizational transformation and change processes, implement strategic planning and administration strategies, and support vision and ethical leadership decision-making.

Core courses include:

  • Collaboration, Communication, and Case Analysis for Health Care Doctoral Learners
  • Innovative Business Practices in Health Care
  • Strategic Financial Management in Health Care
  • Evidence-Based Research Methods in Health Administration

Programs may set all required courses or allow you to choose an area of specialization–such as leadership or policy–where you’d take courses in:

  • Contemporary Leadership Roles in Health Care
  • Strategic Vision and Planning Health Care
  • Evidence-Based Leadership in Health Care
  • Policy Advocacy and Analysis
  • Health Care Leadership Excellence in a Consumer-Driven Market
  • Patient Safety, Accreditation, and Regulation in Health Care
  • Global Health Policy

Common career outcomes include leadership roles within a variety of health care settings, such as clinics, hospitals, medical device companies, insurance companies, and home health service agencies.

Related job titles to explore*:

  • Chief medical officer
  • Clinical manager
  • Health director
  • Compliance officer

Employment settings to explore*:

  • Hospital
  • Social advocacy organization
  • Health insurance carrier
  • Government—federal, state, local
  • Ambulatory health service

Capella offers four DHA specializations:

All DHA programs at Capella are aligned with the nationally recognized National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL). Capella is also a participant in the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Higher Education Network.

*Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography, and degree field, affect career outcomes, and Capella does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, or other career growth.

You may also like

How to uncover and address inequities in health care

A nurse at the intersection of finance and health care

Start learning today

Get started on your journey now by connecting with an enrollment counselor. See how Capella may be a good fit for you, and start the application process.