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My Arnold School

Health Services Policy & Management

Welcome to the Department of Health Services Policy and Management, Arnold School of Public Health. Health care is one of the largest industries in the country and accounts for about one-fifth of the economy. In 2011 the whole world taken together spent about $7.6 trillion dollars (in PPP dollars) on health, more than 10% of income of the world. 

If the current rate of growth continues, the health sector will become the largest industry by 2018. With increasing health resource utilization, it is even more important to organize and manage the system in an efficient manner. The Department of Health Services Policy and Management, through its teaching and research initiatives, is directly addressing the future needs of the health sector by preparing individuals for positions in health services management, policy, public health leadership, research, and education. We offer a cutting-edge, hands-on learning environment for our students – both traditional students and active professionals who are returning for career enhancement. 

Our faculty are closely involved with national and international professional groups, as well as local health care organizations. Our extramural-funded research portfolio has increased consistently over the years, especially in areas related to rural health and health disparities. In this interconnected world, our focus is becoming increasingly global as we search for innovative approaches to solving local population health concerns with lessons learned from all around the nation and the world. Despite differences in health systems across countries, the building blocks of health systems are universal, and all need improved management practices and rigorous policy analysis. Both of these areas – health services research and policy – are the core training and learning objectives of the department.

Having our department within the Arnold School of Public Health enables us to focus on training managers, researchers, and educators for careers to enhance population health through better management of public and private health care organizations. The department offers two master degree and two doctoral degree programs. These programs provide focused educational offerings for successful careers in different types of health care organizations. Our Master in Public Health Program prepares students for management in public agencies and non-governmental organizations. The Master in Health Administration prepares students to become effective managers in a changing market environment. Both of our master degree programs integrate classroom learning with real-world practical training by placing students in internships or graduate assistantships with local health care organizations. Finally, our doctoral programs prepare researchers, policy makers, and teachers of the future.


Master of Health Administration (MHA)

The Master of Health Administration (MHA) program prepares students for a career in the management of health services organizations in the private and public sectors, ranging from direct service providers (hospitals, clinics, long-term care settings) through the ancillary industries (health insurers, quality review organizations). In addition to the core public health disciplines, the 58-hour MHA program provides training in management, accounting, finance, information technology, quantitative methods, leadership, and evaluation and planning – all geared for healthcare organizations.

The MHA is offered in a full-time format for regular students, and in a part-time format for working professionals. Most of the courses are offered in the late afternoons and evenings, thereby permitting people who work full time to attend with minimal disruption of their work obligations.

The MHA program at the University of South Carolina is a dually accredited program - by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) and by the Council for Education in Public Health (CEPH).

CAHME logo 

Deciding whether the USC MHA program is a good fit
The Department of Health Services Policy and Management offers two masters programs, the MHA and the Master of Public Health (MPH). The MHA program is more business and organization-management oriented, while the MPH program is more public health agency/program/community health oriented in its content.

Applicants should consider their preferences and aptitudes for managerial roles in organizations when choosing between the MHA and MPH programs. Volunteering at a local hospital or large physician practice (or other care setting) or interviewing healthcare executives/managers at a local hospital can help applicants to understand the roles of healthcare managers. This will help you to know which degree is a good fit for your career.

What are the typical career paths for healthcare managers?
Individuals from a wide range of undergraduate majors and minors can expect to succeed in health administration, given the many career opportunities the field offers. Healthcare institutions include primary care practices, hospitals and allied services, long-term care facilities and health insurance companies. Within a health organization, MHA graduates can be employed in finance and business development, operations management, information technology management, quality of care management, including Lean and Six Sigma applications, human resources, community relations and field programs, social responsibility, and many other roles.

Graduation and Job Placement Rates
The MHA program has a record of 95-100% graduation rates since 2003. In the prior three academic years, 100% of full-time students completed the program within two years of enrollment. Our program has consistently had 95-100% job placement rates in either administrative fellowships or entry level management positions in healthcare or allied organizations within 3-6 months of graduation. For AY2015-16, MHA graduates 91% acquired full-time jobs/administrative fellowships within 3 months of graduation and 96% within 6 months.

Each year about 3-5 graduating students (out of 15-25) obtain nationally competitive administrative fellowships at major health care systems or centers throughout the United States. These fellowships are designed to train new graduates across the hospital system for rapid advancement to leadership positions. In recent years the fellowship locations included the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Montefiore Medical Center (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY), Kaiser Permanente, Wake Forest Medical Center in North Carolina, Palmetto Health and Bon Secours Health System in South Carolina, and Bon Secours in Virginia to name a few. Of 23 graduates in AY2015-16, five students obtained administrative fellowships.

Educational Goals and Content
The USC MHA program prepares healthcare managers with both the competencies required to manage effectively in a market–driven healthcare system and an understanding of the approaches needed to address the social and population health responsibilities of healthcare organizations. The goal is to prepare: (1) individuals without previous health services management experience for entry-level managerial positions and facilitate their advancement into senior management; and (2) experienced health service professionals for promotion and further career advancement.

MHA Curriculum and Pre-requisites
The MHA is a 58-semester-hour program. All students should have completed an undergraduate accounting course or acquired competency in basic undergraduate accounting through private study of a textbook prior to enrollment. The curriculum requires:

Management................................................... 31 hours
Accounting and Finance..................................... 9 hours
Quantitative Methods.......................................... 3 hours
Public Health PUBH 700....................................... 3 hours
Managerial Epidemiology.................................... 3 hours
Health Planning................................................. 3 hours
Approved Electives............................................. 3 hours
Management Residency..................................... 3 hours

Admission Criteria and Application Requirements
All applications for the MHA program must be submitted through the Schools of Public Health Application Service (SOPHAS).

The Department is not allowed to make any exceptions.

  1. A Bachelor’s degree is required before enrollment, with an official transcript of undergraduate work. Pending completion of the degree, an official transcript of all coursework taken to date is required.
  2. Official Graduate Record Examination scores (GRE) or GMAT scores must be submitted. Applicants with a terminal degree (MD or JD or PhD) can be considered for waiver of GRE/GMAT scores on a case-by-case basis.
  3. Foreign applicants whose native language is not English must submit TOEFL scores (Test of English as a Foreign Language). If prior academic work in the United States illustrates that the student is proficient in English, this requirement may be waived, with the concurrence of the Graduate School.
  4. Two letters of recommendation must be submitted from persons who can reflect upon the applicant’s prior academic and/or professional performance.
  5. A career goal statement and a current resume must be provided.

Grades and standardized test scores
In general, applicants to the MHA program should have an undergraduate GPA of at least a 3.0 and combined verbal and quantitative GRE scores of at least 295 (or the equivalent GMAT score). However, we use a portfolio approach to evaluate applicants, assessing each applicant’s GPA in undergraduate and previous graduate work (if applicable), GRE/GMAT scores, reference letters, previous professional experience, and career goal statement. This approach allows us to accommodate the limitations of standardized tests. It allows us to balance a somewhat lower GRE score with a much higher GPA, experience in or motivation for a healthcare career, and/or strong letters of recommendation.  The incoming class of fall 2014 had a median GRE score of 301 and median GPA of 3.3.

Conditional Admission to the MHA Program
When certain strengths in an applicant’s portfolio are encouraging, but standardized test scores or GPA are lower than requirements, a conditional admission is offered. Conditionally admitted students must attain a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the first semester in order to continue in the program. To ensure adequate written communication skills, incoming MHA students with a verbal GRE score below 150 combined with a writing test score below 4.0 (or an analogous GMAT score) should satisfy another condition: They should complete English 463, Business Writing, an advanced technical writing course offered in the Moore School of Business, or an equivalent course with prior approval by the MHA Program Director. Students with a conditional admission are asked to undertake no more than 10 hours a week of graduate assistantship work in the first semester to maximize their success.

Tuition and fees
Applicants are advised to review the tuition and fees carefully. There is a one-time matriculation fee for HSPM graduate students over and above the university fees and Arnold School of Public Health fees. The fee is billed to students around the middle of the first semester. Applicants should also plan for summer enrollment and tuition because required courses are offered in the summer.

“Earn while you learn” - Opportunities
A key strength of our MHA program is that, subject to availability and to economic conditions, we identify opportunities in healthcare organizations in the greater Columbia area for students to interview for compensated graduate assistantship (GA) positions (10-20 hours a week). Graduate assistantships provide a small stipend, usually ranging from $1,500-$2,000 per semester for 10 hours a week, prorated to the hours worked up to a maximum of 20 hours a week. In addition, out-of-state students who have a graduate assistantship have their tuition reduced to in-state rates.

Historically, almost all full-time students have been hired as GAs beginning with their first semester and all were placed at least in some semesters. However, applicants should note that placements and locations are affected by general economic conditions, the needs of potential sponsoring organizations, the student’s educational background (major) and work experience, and the student’s initiative and enthusiasm displayed during the interview. It can take until the middle of the first semester (or beyond depending on the above factors) to complete GA-ship interviews and placements. To maximize chances of being placed in a healthcare or allied organization, applicants are encouraged to volunteer at a healthcare organization if they do not have prior work or internship experience.

Job placement benefits of graduate assistantships
Because of the near-universal placement of students in GA-ship positions in the past, our graduates’ job acquisition rate has been very high, many within 0-3 months of graduation, and most graduates within six months. All applicants should be aware that the graduate assistantship will cover only a portion of the tuition and fees. Applicants should plan financially accordingly and also plan to finance their living costs during the program. We are working to increase funds available for scholarships. At present, we have limited scholarship opportunities.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.