How does a PhD in health care administration differ from a Doctor of Health Administration?

A PhD focuses on creating original research in the field. A DHA focuses on applying existing research to solve real-world, professional problems in health care administration.

Both degrees are needed in the ever-changing, rapidly growing field of health care administration. The arrival of the Affordable Care Act, the growing demands for health care technology and ever present privacy issues are creating monumental administrative needs. 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) in Health Care Administration and a Doctor of Health Administration (DHA).


So what is the difference between a PHD and a DHA?

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


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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


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 include:

  • Health care organization, agency, or system executive
  • Hospital or health care administrator
  • Department or service manager or director
  • Practice administrator
  • Clinic or ambulatory care manager or director
  • Insurance manager or director
  • Long-term or subacute care manager or director
  • Home health services/agency manager or director


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.