By earning a Healthcare Master of Business Administration (HCMBA), healthcare professionals can become better qualified to pursue senior-level positions in the field. Like a general MBA, the HCMBA can potentially improve graduates’ expected career earnings by equipping them with the in-depth knowledge and advanced skills required to take on supervisory roles and the career autonomy that accompanies them.
The benefits of an MBA in healthcare attract candidates of all professional backgrounds, from physicians to business executives. Individuals who are interested in pursuing an online Healthcare MBA should understand the skills they can develop as well as the career outcomes they often attain by earning their degrees.
What to Consider When Contemplating an MBA in Healthcare
Like most graduate degrees, the HCMBA program is designed to provide the expertise and experience that can help its graduates qualify for additional opportunities and advance in their careers. Before enrolling, though, it’s important for prospective students to consider:
- What specific skills and competencies they hope to gain: An HCMBA can be the right path toward better business acumen as well as improved understanding of technologies, regulatory processes and research practices in the healthcare sector.
- How a healthcare MBA program compares with a standard MBA: A typical, non-healthcare-focused MBA generally will cover core topics in finance and management, but won’t provide the additional background relevant for medical professionals.
- Whether the program is compatible with their overall schedule: MBAs are often earned by students juggling numerous other personal and professional commitments, a situation that can be a challenge. Choosing an advanced program that emphasizes flexibility, such as an online program, and that allows part-time study or offers multiple enrollment periods can alleviate some of the stress in finding a healthy work-life balance.
After evaluating these criteria, many students choose the online HCMBA because of its combination of rigor and convenience. They also come to the program from diverse backgrounds.
Areas of Study in a Healthcare MBA Program
Thanks to a partnership between the George Washington University (GW) School of Business and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), HCMBA students can explore in-depth topics that fulfill the program requirement for 12 credit hours of healthcare-specific elective courses. At SMHS, some of the possible elective options are:
- The Clinical Research Industry: Covers clinical trials, with an eye toward the project management principles, team dynamics and decision-making models that determine their success.
- Epidemiology: Explores the causes of diseases and health outcomes within specific populations, providing a foundation for the understanding of public health issues.
- Health Information, Quality and Outcomes: Focuses on healthcare informatics and information systems and how these technologies affect clinical and administrative decision-making.
- Healthcare Quality Analysis: Examines the concept of quality in healthcare, including its role in driving improved care delivery and regulatory compliance.
- Introduction to Global Regulatory Affairs: Reviews relevant legislation and public policy and how they shape clinical trials, reviews, and approvals of medications and medical devices.
- Issues and Trends in Health Systems: Surveys a range of current issues in health policy, payment and care delivery that impact both U.S. and global health systems.
- Medicines Development: Dives into the extensive processes by which modern medicines are researched, developed, tested, reviewed and approved for public use.
- Patient Safety Systems: Investigates the common sources of error in patient care along with solutions, such as new medical technologies, for addressing these issues.
- Regulatory Strategy in the Development of Drugs and Biologics: Offers a global perspective on how drugs and biologics are developed to conform to a wide range of rules and regulations.
Elective course options at GW are always changing, and the availability of individual offerings varies by year. In addition to the 12 credit hours of healthcare-specific electives, MBA students must complete the same allotment of general electives. The electives for the latter requirement can be drawn from the law, international affairs, public health and nursing curricula of the other professional schools at GW.
Who Benefits from Earning an Online Healthcare MBA?
There are many career paths that benefit from an MBA in healthcare. The HCMBA attracts students from industries such as pharmacy, pharmaceuticals, government, management consulting and insurance. Occupations are similarly varied and include nurses, medical administrators, project managers, surgeons and directors of medical services.
HCMBA students from these backgrounds benefit from the program’s rigorous curriculum, convenient fully online learning format and applied focus. Throughout their studies, students get valuable exposure to real-world situations in which to apply business methodologies and best practices to healthcare issues.
The idea of a medical doctor earning an MBA might seem counterintuitive at first, given how much time physicians have already devoted to a bachelor’s degree, medical school and a residency before they begin to practice. However, the benefits of an MBA in healthcare can merit the extra investment in time, money and effort. They include the following:
Financial and Operational Expertise
Running a private practice isn’t easy. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), self-employed physicians represented 44% of all patient care physicians in 2020, a decrease from 53.2% when the studies began in 2012. Many physicians choose to work in larger medical groups, such as hospitals, wherein many of the responsibilities and liabilities are spread out throughout the organization. Those who choose to pursue private practice, however, often have more control over their schedule, income and overall job autonomy.
An HCMBA can help in two ways in this context.
First, it can provide crucial business acumen on everything from accounting to marketing. Physicians with MBAs can leverage this expertise to optimize their practices for today’s highly competitive environment, where it can be difficult to maintain autonomy and independence from larger providers.
Second, an HCMBA can sharpen the skills needed to succeed as an administrator in a hospital or medical group setting. This business model is becoming increasingly common as of late as the number of doctors in private practice has declined over the past 10 years.
Effective healthcare administration requires close collaboration, often across multiple teams. Physicians, nurses, administrators, information technology (IT) staff, maintenance personnel and other stakeholders are essential to the day-to-day operation of a hospital or medical office.
One of the many benefits of an MBA in healthcare is that physicians are better equipped to take on the leadership roles that contribute to team success. HCMBA courses in topics such as organizations and human capital, strategic management, decision-making, and data analysis build a solid foundation for overseeing modern healthcare processes.
On a more technical level, the healthcare-specific coursework of the HCMBA is invaluable in navigating the administrative challenges facing today’s providers and payers. Major issues, such as handling changes in reimbursement, ensuring proper staffing (there could be a shortage of 100,000 doctors in the United States by 2030), and responding to the ongoing opioid crisis, require the type of deep knowledge and experience developed in the HCMBA track.
Additional Technical Skills
The multiple graduate certificate options in the GW HCMBA offer opportunities to specialize in a variety of technical niches across healthcare. For doctors looking to advance their careers in specific areas of interest, such as translational research or patient safety systems, these certificates add another dimension to the core skills developed in the HCMBA degree program.
Healthcare administrators play a crucial role in the organizations, facilities and healthcare systems they manage. As the need for specialized medical facilities grows with the aging population, candidates with advanced education, such as an HCMBA, are in high demand. The ability to be an effective administrator requires not only a solid foundational knowledge of the care provided to patients but also the ability to organize and oversee care delivery.
According to 2021 data from PayScale, healthcare administrators earned a median annual salary of about $71,100 before bonuses or other compensation. With their ability to manage both medical practitioners and the patients they treat, graduates with an HCMBA are able to fulfill administrative roles in a variety of healthcare organizations, taking on a fulfilling role with the potential to improve the lives, health outcomes and well-being of many.
Pharmaceutical Project Manager
Pharmaceutical project managers work with other experts, such as biomechanical engineers and developmental scientists, to develop products and pharmaceuticals from concept to completion. To effectively manage the development of medical projects, managers draw upon their medical and scientific knowledge as well as their organizational skills.
While many programs focus solely on either medicine or business, the benefit of an MBA in healthcare is that graduates can develop their knowledge of both areas in tandem, making them valuable candidates to a variety of different organizations. According to PayScale, the median annual salary of pharmaceutical project managers was around $95,700 in 2021.
Choosing a Healthcare MBA Curriculum That’s Right for Your Goals
With a broad spectrum of choices for both healthcare-specific and general elective courses, an MBA in healthcare empowers students to shape the degree to fit their own aspirations. At the same time, they still gain the necessary foundational knowledge for careers in healthcare leadership through core topics, such as finance, accounting, management, and other essential principles of modern business.
Designed with busy professionals in mind, the customizable and comprehensive online HCMBA from GW was created to provide a distinguished and rigorous program while allowing students to maintain work-life balance. With its diverse network and experienced faculty, GW’s HCMBA can equip students with the skills required to pursue exciting new professional goals. Discover what you can do with an MBA in Healthcare today.